At the Intersection of Theory and History: A Research Agenda for Historical Organization Studies

Stewart Clegg, Roy Suddaby, Charles Harvey, Mairi Maclean

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract

In the preface to The Order of Things, Foucault (1970: xv) recites Jorge Luis Borges’ fictional taxonomy of animals to capture the fragmentation and confusing arbitrariness of any culturally determined system of knowledge. Much the same confusion might arise by using the total knowledge of organization theory to construct a taxonomy of organizations, dividing them thus:
“(a) those belonging to the gods, (b) dead, (c) profitable (d) open systems, (e) machines, (f) positive, (g) processes, (h) cows, (i) emotional, (j) performing, (k), imagined, (l), mindsets, (m) enacted, embodied, embrained, (m) et cetera, (n) broken, (o) inimitable, (p) isomorphic, (q) occupying niches, (r) contingencies against dread, (s) structural adjustments, (t) broken hammers, (u) spider plants, (v) brains, (w) cages, (x) animals, (y) psychic structures, (z) classified elsewhere.”
Fanciful? Not really. We have no doubt that each one of these terms might fruitfully be used to develop a whole panoply of theories about what organizations are. In fact, in every case we can think of literatures that do precisely that. Indeed, they do precisely that and much more besides; the imaginaries of theory know no bounds. If we want to signify what is an organization there are far too many ways of answering the question to satisfy a sober and disciplined mind. Such minds are too industriously proclaiming the verity of their schemas and casting scorn on those of others, thus showing the sobriety and discipline of the minds in question.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHistorical Organization Studies
Subtitle of host publicationTheory and Applications
EditorsMairi Maclean, Stewart Clegg, Roy Suddaby, Charles Harvey
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherRoutledge
Chapter13
Pages227-241
Number of pages15
Edition1
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-003-03359-2
ISBN (Print)978-0-367-47121-7, 978-0-367-47122-4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 27 Nov 2020

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