Honorary Member 2001:

Cornelis J. Lammers 


Laudatio by Jean-Claude Thoenig

My laudation speech should be called 'Praising combattants in the line of organizational science'. Dear Cor, we have so many reasons to admire and respect you.

At an age and with a status in our community which usually is correlated with re-editing books published earlier in the career or with delivering dull guest talks to scientific conferences and honoris causa ceremonies, you are still creative as ever. You suggest that life is possible after legal retirement. About one fifth of your scientific production has been written once you had retired.

 

Your modesty is exaggerated. When I called you to let you know that EGOS would be honored to have you as a honorary member, you gave me a rather reluctant approval. I anticipated that. You combine the worst profiles a French may have to manage in human relations: you are a Dutch citizen and you share a rather fundamentalist Protestant approach to life. It is also frustrating: you have a remarkable sense for humour French usually do not master. In fact, your modesty is just one side of the coin. As it is rather often expressed in my country, one should look at the other side of the coin. Your modesty is a social construction of a culture. Therefore I feel free not to follow the conventional style of a laudatio.

 

Why this honorary membership? Because we owe you much at two levels: You have been a foundig father of the discipline in the Netherlands, you have played a decisive role in helping EGOS to be created and developed.

 

Cor Lammers is accustomed to play the role of a founding father.

 

He has been a pioneer in the development of modern (after World War II) sociology in his native country, the Netherlands. His books have become a major source of inspiration for what is one of the most active and creative national communities in the field of organization studies. He also has played an important role inside EGOS right from the early days (early 1970s). More than just an ordinary 'SuperEgo', he has given the moral and behavioral example of how to dialogue – debate intellectually and interpersonally between scholars. Part of the EGOS scientific agenda derives from his advice and wisdom.

 

Born in 1928, Cornelis Jacobus Lammers was trained in sociology at the University of Michigan and at the University of Amsterdam (PhD in 1963). In 1964 he became professor of sociology at the University of Leyden. 29 years later, he retired from the same university. As suggested by his 'selected bibliography', he has authored and co-authored 20 major books and about 75 articles in reviewed journals, from the American Journal of Sociology and Administrative Science Quarterly to Organization Studies.

 

In many ways Cor Lammers has become a legend. To some extent there is a fit between him becoming a Honorary Member of EGOS in Lyon and the theme of the Colloquium, 'the odyssey of organizing'.

 

He has built bridges between national traditions, linguistic barriers and competing paradigms. For instance, he has been influenced by the US sociology of the 1950s, rather functionalist oriented, while writing with Jacques van Doorn the book published in 1959 and called 'Moderne sociologie: Systematiek en analyse'. Another well known example of this cross-breeding approach is the article published by Organization Studies in 1990 and called 'Sociology of organizations around the globe. Similarities and differences between American, French, British, German and Dutch brands'. On and on, Cor has been in line with the stereotype of how we perceive Dutch colleagues: a local scholar with a cosmopolitan opening. He has remained faithful to his academic career in the Netherlands. But he practices international eclectism. Such a skill is not just something he keeps for himself or he uses as a mundane asset.

He reads and knows in depth what is written in many countries. And he is able to integrate the various contributions into a systematic as well as a historic framework.

 

He covers general sociology as well as sociology of organizations. Every contribution made by Cor always tries to link a thesis picked in the middle level theories and an original set of empirical data. He reminds us about the fact that, while organizations studies have to generate new knowledge, scholars have not to rediscover the wheel, which means that scientific culture, or knowing the past contributors (past meaning more than 10 or 20 years ago), provides an essential incentive to creativity. He has been and remains a sharp critic of what he considers as not been rigorous enough or as been too much fad-driven research. He goes on reminding us that there are historic roots to our domains and that some cumulative development is part of scientific excellence. Cor really is interested in tracking the development of a discipline, sociology of organizations, which he believes has a core, a common backbone, robust and clearly defined.

 

This suggests that Cor does not show too much enthusiasm for non-Kantian philosophy as far as organizations are concerned. Alain Touraine's contributions got for instance a rather rough treatment, being associated to 'de franse slag'. Cor does not feel attracted by speculative approaches. To some extent, this is in line with his socialization process in the Dutch and Protestant cultures. God cannot be reduced to common ideas, ordinary ideas. Theory is one and indivisible, every human being has equal access to it and it should matter for everyone. Therefore beware not to mess around with it. Well, Cor, for quite a few years, some French authors (catholics, should I add) were perceived as tricky scientists. I now wonder whether you would not have to revise your judgment. At least French scholars nowadays have from time to time the feeling that agnostic Northern and AngloSaxon colleagues commit more sins than themselves do and you would have trouble accepting them. You are a cosmopolitan fundamentalist.

 

Cor has been and remains a creative researcher, starting in the late fifties and early sixtiess with studies on merry events such as evacuation and disaster experiences, general practitioners and their patients, or strikes and mutinies. In the beginning of the third millenium, you deal with armies at war, military occupations and atrocities. One may be puzzled by such a consistent pattern. Is Cor carrying the misery of the world on his shoulder? No. What is impressive is the variety of the issues ha has covered with his research publications. One should add industrial democracy, socialization processes, student unionism, etc., etc. While Cor has made a moderate use of number crunching as well as case studies, he has emphasized the use of one specific source of data: archives and libraries.

 

Last but not least: While Cor Lammers has always showed some reluctance to enter grand theory debates, he often has reminded us that theory of organizations as such is one of the most valid reasons to fight for a discipline which should beware of two dangers: being too much business-oriented, becoming the alibi for some causes and advocates. Cor has never been close to a consulting role, and he has been rather cautious about the idea that knowledge about organizations should be oriented toward management and utility based perspectives. He has chosen to remain in a department of sociology and has remained far away of the business schools connection.

 

Cor, you may feel rather skeptical about the discipline or the field as they are today. Let me express two requests. Be patient, there may come a time again when the trend shall change and your ideals shall get more recognition. And do all you can to remain a citizen of our scientific community as long as possible: We need and respect you as a statesman.

 

EGOS is glad to honor a great sociologist and a tough minded scholar!