Dynamics of wilful ignorance in organizations

Mats Alvesson, Katja Einola, Stephan M. Schaefer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (SciVal)


Contemporary society is obsessed with knowledge, leaving its less seductive counterpart, ignorance, in the shadows. However, as an expanding literature suggests, it is equally important to understand ignorance and consider its varieties. This study specifies the nature of wilful ignorance in organizations. It does so by (a) making a distinction between the will of an actor and the epistemic properties of ignorance, and showing how these two form a dynamic relationship, (b) linking wilful ignorance to its various drivers and (c) suggesting how our concept of wilful ignorance can be used in the study of organizations. Rather than reducing the phenomenon into a simple to know/to ignore dichotomy, we concentrate on its processual and dynamic nature. Moreover, we explore the complexities and ambiguity inherently involved in all knowing and ignoring as well as the role of agency in reducing the harmful effects of wilful ignorance in organizations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)839-858
Number of pages20
JournalBritish Journal of Sociology
Issue number4
Early online date5 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sept 2022


  • ignorance
  • knowledge
  • organizational dynamics
  • organizational processes
  • organizations
  • wilful ignorance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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