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This article examines the refusal of two UK manufacturers to adapt their strategic ‘repertoires’ to the recessionary and structural changes of the 1980s. From being industry leaders in 1980, both companies were relegated to overseas control by the end of the decade. Developing both institutionalist and contextualist approaches to organization, the article argues that this fatal resistance to change derived from the deep social structural roots of these two companies' politics and cultures. Conservative managers were able to defy new capitalist logics by drawing upon alternative social structural sources of power, legitimacy and inspiration. The article concludes by considering the implications of this plural structuring of organizations both for organizational theory and for the management of change in practice.