What Is the Negotiated Order Theory?

The Negotiated Order Theory is a theory largely used by sociologists. It was designed to counteract critique for which no methods were available for interactionists to objectively gauge interactions in social situations.


The Negotiated Order Theory was developed by Anselm Strauss and a team of his collaborative colleagues in a process that continued to change from 1978 to 1991 with added characteristics by his colleagues, doctors Gray and Maines. Sources of this theory can be found in the works of George Herbert Mead, Herbert Blumer, Robert Park and Everett Hughes. The full extents of the theory can be found in Strauss' writings, "Psychiatric Ideologies and Institutions" and "Negotiations."


Negotiated order can be defined as a depiction of the organisation of societies as the ongoing work of the leaders in any given society rather than a static concept. According to Strauss, social order is "something at which members of any society must work." In other words, negotiated order represents the process of change, along with the contextual nature of order and the constant change of society.


This theory has been used not only by interactionists, but by other types of sociologists looking to explain why societies behave the way they do. Also, it has been associated with the stakeholder theory to explain why stakeholders often will band with others of like perceptions and ideals.