35th EGOS Colloquium
Enlightening the Future:
The Challenge for Organizations
University of Edinburgh Business School
July 46, 2019
Edinburgh, United Kingdom
35th EGOS Colloquium
July 46, 2019
Edinburgh, United Kingdom
The present status of historical organization studies is that of emergent academic movement rather than established
community of practice. For more than two decades organization theorists have pointed to the need for more and better research
that recognizes the importance of the past in shaping the present and influencing the future (Kieser, 1994). Some have identified
a distinct historic turn in organization studies led by scholars who perceive the field to have been constrained
by its orientation towards contemporary cross-sectional studies covering limited periods of time (Clark & Rowlinson, 2004).
By historicising organizational research, it is argued, the contexts and forces bearing upon organizations might
be more fully recognized and analyses of organizational dynamics might be improved.
But how, more precisely, might this be done? What might history tangibly contribute to our knowledge of management and organizations? How might a traditionally empirically oriented discipline like history be incorporated into a traditionally theoretically oriented discipline like organization studies? What might history bring to the management and organization theory party (Clegg, 2006; Clegg & Courpasson, 2007)? These and related questions have been the topic of extensive debate in recent years, giving rise to a number ground breaking publications and avenues for future exploration (Bucheli & Wadhwani, 2014; Maclean et al., 2016; Rowlinson et al., 2014).
The first main contribution of this literature has been to specify the problems inherent in reconciling disciplinary traditions when developing a new academic paradigm. In terms of history and organization studies these are summarized by Rowlinson, Decker and Hassard as three epistemological dualisms: in organization studies the prioritization of analysis, self-generated data and simple chronology differ fundamentally from the prioritization by historians of narrative, documentary sources and periodization.
The second main contribution of this foundational literature is to demonstrate how these differences might fruitfully be overcome. Kipping and Üsdiken (2014) suggest three modes of correspondence between history and organization theory: history as a means of testing theory, informing theoretical perspectives, and lending complexity to theorization. Building on these insights, Maclean, Harvey and Clegg (2016; 2017) elaborate the idea of historical organization studies – organizational research that draws extensively on historical data, methods, and knowledge to promote historically informed theoretical narratives attentive to both disciples. To accomplish this these authors identify five principles of historical organization studies designed to promote a closer union between history and organization theory. These are: dual integrity, pluralistic understanding, representational truth, context sensitivity and theoretical fluency.
The convenors of the sub-theme believe that we are now entering into a new phase in the establishment of historical organization studies as a distinctive methodological paradigm within the broad field of organization studies. Already, there are strong examples of original theorization based on historical analysis and historical sources:
Suddaby, Foster and Quinn Trank (2010) have put forward the construct of rhetorical history as a potentially valuable, rare, inimitable and malleable resource to affirm the importance of a company’s history in shaping opinion and influencing action; with implications for organizational ‘re-membering’ and identity work (Suddaby et al., 2016).
Suddaby, Foster and Mills (2014) draw attention to the need for an enhanced sensitivity to the inherent historical nature of institutions in developing the notion of historical institutionalism.
Mutch (2018) uses history as a means of reframing of institutional logics.
Vaara and Lamberg (2016) emphasize the importance of understanding the historical embeddedness of strategic processes and practices.
Harvey et al. (2011a) put forward a transactional model of entrepreneurial philanthropy based on Bourdieu’s capital theory in an examination of the life of Andrew Carnegie.
Drawing similarly on Bourdieusian theory, Harvey et al. (2011b) explore how tastes are formed, transmitted, embedded and reproduced across generations.
Wadhwani and Jones (2014) underline the role of historical reasoning as a means of illuminating key aspects of the entrepreneurial process by addressing temporal assumptions explicitly and reflexively.
Wadhwani (2018, p. 571) also proposes the concept of historical framing as a means of promoting a ‘historically situated understanding of the literature on framing, social movements and institutional change’.
These examples and many others have lent fresh momentum to the project of historical organizations studies. We invite colleagues in the EGOS community, which has done so much to foster this initiative, to share in our excitement for the future. It is timely now to extend and deepen what has already been accomplished. We invite papers that contribute to the sub-theme in one or more of three ways:
Empirically founded research with a theoretical focus. We are still at an early stage and believe that it is time now to practice more extensively what has been proposed. We are keen to include papers that draw extensively on archival data.
Methodological research. We encourage papers that draw explicitly on historical methods for the study of management, organizations and institutions that demonstrate methodological novelty.
Critical and theoretical research. We welcome contributions that help make a further step change in articulating new critical and theoretical vistas in historical organization studies.
Potential topics for submission might include (but are not limited to):
What new insights can we draw from the literature on rhetorical history and the uses of the past?
The deeper structures and key components of a company’s rhetorical history, and their implications for organizational identity
Historical sensemaking, how the past impinges on the present (and future) in organizational and institutional life
In what ways might micro-historical perspectives and processes help to recast hegemonic meta-narratives?
How might research on organizational processes and dynamics be advanced through historical analysis?
Applying historical constructs in organizational research
The importance of history and time in corporate strategizing
The role of interpretive agency in (re-)constructing an organization’s history
How practically might business history expand its reach to embrace organizational issues with far-reaching social impact and engage with societal challenges?
Archival methods in historical organization studies: uses, advances and challenges
Novel historical methods for the study of management, organizations and institutions
How might historical perspectives enable the rethinking of organizational theories?