Sub-theme 10: [SWG] Reconsidering ‘Progress’ from a Process Perspective ---> CANCELLED!


Call for Papers

Progress, a central plank in the Modernist agenda, is founded on the assumption that growth, whether this refers to the economy, community systems, knowledge, and/or technology, is a social ‘good’ that is expansive and limitless. Although continuous change and progression is implicit in this idea, it nevertheless depends upon, and has generally been theorized around, relatively stable institutions that serve to maintain the rule of law and democracy in organizing the processes of production, distribution and consumption. Whether that was ever true is debatable, but today’s world is certainly characterized by a fast-paced, kaleidoscopic pluralit y of fluid structures, a mosaic of often independent ‘echo chambers’, where a teleological sense of direction and purpose has been over-taken by frantic and directionless muddling through. Furthermore, the insatiable demand for resources is now very evidently reaching limits that challenge global sustainability, resulting in calls for new theories and new methodologies that bring forward novel ways of organizing more responsibly.
Process theories offer many opportunities to break away from the commoditized and linear temporality that characterizes Modernity and to rejuvenate the notion of progression by focussing on the movements, flows and intensities of living (and organizing) as they arise in the day-to-day experience of just getting on (e.g. Bergson, 1919; Heidegger, 2010; Mead, 1932). By attending to emergence and continuity, Process invites a dynamic and generative theorization that is potentially more able to engage with the fluidity of contemporary organizing and the unfolding progression of organization (Helin et al., 2014; Langley & Tsoukas, 2017). At the same time, Process has only a loose, non-intentional commitment to teleology, which embraces the engaged, co-productive performativity of socially and materia lly situated action. A Process perspective also suggests alternative ways of engaging with power in the pursuit, or undoing, of Progress.
The idea of incremental Progress is often problematized using a dialectical approach that focuses on conflict as the engine of history, creating revolutions that ultimately resolve into human advancement. Departing from this dualistic (and duelistic) approach to domination and emancipation, postmodernism critiques the idea of Progress as a simulacrum, an effect of swirling image-making and remaking activities in which the objective of determining the truth of representations of reality, to sustain and from which to advance, begins to dissolve. Whilst Progress is always towards something, the power to define that something and mask the interests that are served by its pursuit is often hidden in the light of its own spectacle – disturbing Progress consumed as comforting kitsch.
We therefore invite processual explorations of the dark side of Progress – not excluding the dark side of Process – in the form of questioning the assumed linear progression, chronology and teleology of Progress; reconsidering the dimensions of power and performativity; critiquing etymology; analysing discourse that traduces action and suppresses alternatives; historic a l unearthings of forgotten possibilities; unintended, unacknowledged or suppressed negative or serendipitous consequences of Progress in one sphere for another; examining consequences of simplifying goals and outcomes in complex interactive systems; the possibility of incorporating affect and the non-rational into Process without reverting to romantic, superstitious or authoritarian versions of the sustainable; or the human and ecological sustainability of economic and technological progress.
This sub-theme, in line with the purpose of the EGOS Standing Working Group (SWG 10) on “Doing Process Research”, is especially interested in encouraging new empirical contributions that engage with the philosophical underpinnings of Process research and the methodological challenges of catching Progress in flight. Broadly, we welcome submissions that address but are by no means limited to the following topics:

  • How can Progress be reconsidered/challenged from a Process perspective? What new light can be thrown on the notion of Progress in our current times? Can we even still talk about Progress?

  • How can a Process perspective contribute to new methodological approaches/insights (e.g. embodying innovative forms of data gathering, construction, analysis or presentation including film, video, audio, projective drawing etc) in the study of Progress and progression?

  • How can non-dialectical Process thinking drive its own version of Progress? Has history ended? Or are conflict and revolution no longer its drivers? What new conceptualization of Progress can emerge from Process thinking?

  • How can Process perspectives inform a non-successive temporality in Progress? Is there any escape from the relentless ticking of clocktime in an accelerating world?

  • How can narratives, with their in-built temporalities, be used to sustain, reproduce and challenge Progress?

  • Is Progress sustainable and is it responsible? Does “sustainability” in a dynamic environment depend on “Progress”?

  • What is the role of collectives in processes of constructing sustainability? How can collaborative effort generate more sustainable futures?

  • How can we understand the materiality of Progress through a Process lens?

  • Is Progress a universal concept? What are the unequally distributed global and intersectional benefits of Progress?



  • Bergson, H. (1919): Creative Evolution. London: Macmillan.
  • Heidegger, M. (2010): Being and Time. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
  • Helin, J., Hernes, T., Hjorth, D., & Holt, R. (eds.) (2014): The Oxford Handbook of Process Philosophy and Organization Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Langley, A., & Tsoukas, H. (eds.) (2017): The SAGE Handbook of Process Organization Studies. London: SAGE Publications.
  • Mead, G.H. (1932): The Philosophy of the Present. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.