Specificity promises insights of importance for practical action, for the construction and the management of firms, public
agencies, or labour unions. And it seems that the field of organization research has responded more and more to the quest
for applicability of its results. I shall not hazard to answer the question whether this responsiveness developed endogenously
or has been imposed by outside pressures. But whatever caused it, it lies at the heart of the shift in theoretical emphasis
that I have observed.
And what has meanwhile happened to EGOS? That is a story not so much about content as about structure. EGOS has developed from a small informal network into a formal
organization able to sustain a conference like this, and sufficiently self-assured to confer honorary membership upon senior
scholars like me. It still bears the geographical label 'European' in its name, though the boundary this implies is no longer
taken so seriously. But what, you may ask, motivated the formation of the first informal nucleus with its emphatically European
composition and outlook in the first place? Jean-Claude may have a more precise memory of the early times of EGOS than I do.
I vaguely remember an early occasion when Michel Crozier and I, both members of the Committee on Organization Sociology of
the International Sociological Association, discussed the matter informally at an ISA Congress reception, I do not exactly
recall in which year. Neither of us was motivated by an anti-American affect. What we felt we needed was consolidation of
the sparsely developed European organization research, and cooperation among the few persons and centers in Europe where such
research did take place. Of course we were also conscious of the fact that a relevant European heritage exists, going back
to the period between the two World Wars. But what we wanted was to develop organization studies in Europe, not a specifically
European variety of organization theory.
Apparently, as Cor Lammers once corrected me, I did not belong to the small group of persons who first decided to actually
found EGOS, but I joined this group very early on. The other members at that time were Franco Ferraresi from Italy, David
Hickson from the UK, Cor Lammers from the Netherlands, and Jean-Claude Thoenig from France. EGOS was not formally constituted,
it did not have 'members' and statutes, and it had no income of its own. Our meetings were made possible by Clemens Heller
from the Maison de Science de lHomme, who also kindly delegated Elina Almasy to take care of administrative and secretarial
needs. We identified other interested colleagues in our countries and tried to develop a functioning network. I remember I
even tried to convince the European Science Foundation, to whose Standing Committee on the Social Sciences I belonged at the
time, to recognize and support the EGOS network financially. At the time, however, this was an unorthodox idea, and nothing
came of my initiative then. Only several years later the ESF adopted the creation and support of research networks as one
of its major instruments.
Consolidation of the fragmented and underdeveloped field of organization research within Europe was the goal of EGOS, I said.
In this sense, we, the early group of Super-EGOS, as our group jokingly called itself, were fiercely European in outlook.
This was supported by the fact that most, if not all of us spoke several European languages more or less fluently; everyone
spoke English, or course, and several of us spoke Italian, French, and German in addition. Thus it became customary among
us to switch from one language to the other, often in mid-sentence. I recall one incident in a small Paris restaurant where
we had dinner after one of our meetings when, at the end of the meal, the waiter who had heard us talk approached us and,
excusing himself for his curiosity, asked of what nationality we might be. Surprised, but in gleeful recognition, we replied
in a chorus: We are Europeans!
I have attended many EGOS Colloquia since, in Speyer for instance, in Vienna, in Budapest and in Maastricht. It has always
been a pleasure to observe the visible success of the organization, the vitality of the field, and last not least to meet
again friends from the early days and to make new ones. Your invitation to Barcelona provides me with yet another experience
of this sort. Let me thank you for this gift.