My first encounter with Arndt Sorge, as far as I can remember, took place at the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin in 1988. Arndt
was senior research fellow and co-ordinator in charge of the Technology and Entrepreneurial Initiatives area in the Labour
Market and Employment unit. I was starting my PhD research at the same institution. While our career paths have crossed many
times since then, I will never forget my first impression of him: Arndt was sitting in his office behind piles of books, wearing
arm sleeves over a plaid shirt, the remains of a pencil held together with a metal holder stuck behind his ear, whilst small
clouds of smoke bubbled up from his pipe. There were also some model airplanes on display on shelves.
There was something very local looking about him, I thought. Both feet firmly on the ground. Yet, there was also clearly something
that made him stand out in the crowd: he wasn't at all like the typical German scholar. Well, as I came to know Arndt better
and learnt more about his academic achievements, I realized that my first impression was both, right and wrong, and that the
dialectic reasoning could help me resolve apparently contradictory impressions.
Among the scholars of his generation, Arndt Sorge stands out as a truly cosmopolitan and polyglot scholar. There are few German
colleagues of his age who have similar cross-national careers, international research experience and multilingual publication
records. This is even true for the founding generation of Super-EGOS, as they called themselves, of which Arndt was part.
And they were all pretty internationally and European in orientation. In the course of his career, Arndt has held positions
at nine academic institutions in four European countries, not to mention shorter stays as visiting researcher. Apart from
his mother tongue, he speaks fluently and publishes in English, French and Dutch mastering these languages as if they
were his mother tongue, German. There are also entries in Italian and Spanish in his publication list, and knowing his amazing
capability to pick up new languages, I would not be surprised if he had written them, too, or at least edited the translation.
Born in Düsseldorf in 1945, he studied in Freiburg, Cologne and Münster. Already during his time at the University of Münster,
he visited social research institutions in Denmark, Austria and France, including his first visit to the Laboratoire d'économie
et de sociologie du travail in Aix-en-Province. He became a research fellow at St. Anthony's College in Oxford and Henley
Management College. During his time at the WZB in the 1980s, Arndt became a driving force in pan-European research projects
on industrial and organizational democracy, as well as on microelectronics and manpower in manufacturing. Some of his long
lasting and most productive research collaborations with scholars from other countries, such as Malcolm Warner and Marc Maurice,
date back to this time. Subsequently he held professorships at the universities of Maastricht, the Humboldt in Berlin, Tilburg
and Groningen before recently returning to the WZB as director of the Internationalisation and Organisation unit.
The fascinating thing about Arndt is that as he extended his horizon from the German to other academic traditions, he remained
firmly rooted in his own culture and traditions. This did not prevent him, though, from selectively learning from other academic
traditions. In fact, the seriousness with which he engaged in cross-border intellectual exchange and his human and intellectual
curiosity rarely left him a "stranger" to the new academic universe he was exploring. Rather, local colleagues would often
be surprised to the extent Arndt could become a local and assimilate local traditions. Like Simmel's stranger, he was close
and far at the same time, he could look at issues from the insider and outsider perspective, and this position at crossroads
provided some of the sources of his academic creativity. Hence, my first impression about being local and different at the
same time was not that wrong. In many ways, Arndt Sorge is an academic incarnation of what Sidney Tarrow characterised as
a rooted cosmopolitan.
The tension between universalism and particularity, between global and local, broad societal and institutional logics and
more specific functional task requirements are key themes originating from Arndt's interest in cross-boundary social interactions.
These run like a leitmotif through Arndt's academic achievements and his contributions to the scholarly community. There is
certainly not enough space and time here to develop all the dimensions along which Arndt has made outstanding and lasting
contributions to the field of organization studies and the EGOS community over the last 30 years. I will make a modest attempt
to present his lifetime achievements in three different professional roles: firstly, as a scholar, then, as an editor and
finally as an EGOSian.
Let me begin with Arndt's contributions as a scholar. Writing a laudatio about somebody you believe to know quite well has
sometimes surprising and revealing effects. In this case, it brought me to Arndt's doctoral thesis, defended in 1975 at the
University of Münster, with the German title: "Einheitlichkeit und Verschiedenartigkeit industrieller Demokratie im zwischengesellschaftlichen
Vergleich" which roughly translates into "Uniformity and diverseness of industrial democracy in cross-country comparison".
While in 1975 it was by no means predictable that the author would become the cosmopolitan and polyglot scholar of international
recognition that we honour today as EGOS honorary member, the subject and approach taken in this work seems to encompass and
foreshadow key themes that Arndt nurtured and brought to maturity during the following decades. Like a seed contains the size,
colours and forms of the future plant, this PhD thesis contained the germs of the research and publications for which Arndt
is known today and for which he has received international recognition.
First, there are the cross-national variations of organizational forms and practices which he analysed so meticulously in
his comparative studies of work organization and technology in the manufacturing industry, undertaken in cooperation with
French colleagues from Aix-en-Provence and British colleagues from Henley Management College. Theorized as "societal effects",
and presented in a joint article with Marc Maurice and Malcolm Warner in the first issue of the newly founded journal Organization
Studies in 1980, this framework subsequently inspired many European scholars to abandon universal or narrow contingency perspectives
on organizations and to explore the interactions between organizations and societal and institutional contexts.
The publication of the 1980 OS article was a pioneering work in European organization theory; it provided a guiding framework
of how to elaborate the mission of the newly founded journal as an "international multidisciplinary journal devoted to the
study of organizations, organizing, and the organized in and between societies". The article is still a classic today for
everybody who engages in cross-country comparisons of organizations; as of June 2010 it was the 22nd most frequently cited
article in OS. One of the reasons why it keeps being cited - despite more fashionable competing frameworks of recent
date such as the varieties of capitalism approach is that Arndt's article provides a much richer sociological understanding
of how the social and institutional fabric of societies intersects with forms and processes of organizing.
A second leitmotif in Arndt's work deals with the tensions which arise in organizing out of specific functional task related
contingencies on the one hand and broader societal and institutional contexts and professional and organizational politics
on the other hand. The materiality of specific production and service functions and their particularities are seen in Arndts
work as a baseline argument towards which societal and institutional effects, but also micropolitics in subunits of organizations
need to be brought into position. One best way is not associated with the fit between functional needs and specific organizational
forms and practices. Instead, performance is seen as the result of the capacity of actors to link up and combine distinctive
and even opposed task contingencies and strategy elements. The interactions between societal and industry profiles implies
innovation and change of business strategy, organization and human resources.
Ten years after the societal effect article, Arndt was revisiting the agenda with his strategic fit article published in OS
in 1991. This article draws on interactionist and pragmatic theorizing to overcome dichotomies between opposites. Similarly,
Arndt's collaborative work with Offenbeek and Knip on the introduction of nurse practitioners in Dutch hospitals, published
in in OS 2009, engages critically with the contingency approach. The organizational redesign of work structures, while responding
to functional demands of task specificity, leads to different outcomes in different subunits because functional demands are
interpreted differently depending on the local professional and organizational micro-politics prevalent in the respective
A third key theme of Arndts is the interrelation of the global and the local: in many ways, this is an iteration of
universalism-particularities themes. Arndt's book "The global and the local: Understanding the dialectics of business systems",
published by Oxford University Press in 2005, takes up the intrinsic tensions between action systems and institutional design.
A central claim, developed with a splendid mastery of historical detail, is that internationalization processes involve (in
dialectical ways) processes of localization a theme that you find discusses in many of the this year's subthemes and
key note speeches. Hence, societies develop as a recombination of elements of global and local cultures and institutional
elements. Internationalization involves both, moves towards universalisms and particularisms.