Historical Organization Studies: Advancing New Directions for Organizational Research

Mairi Maclean, Charles Harvey, Roy Suddaby, Stewart Clegg

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Historical organization studies is ‘organizational research that draws extensively on historical sources, methods and knowledge to promote historically informed theoretical narratives attentive to both disciplines’ (Maclean, Harvey and Clegg, 2016: 609). Put simply, it seeks to blend history and organization studies. The present status of historical organization studies is that of an emergent academic movement rather than an 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; Zald, 1993). Some have identified a distinct ‘historic turn’ in organization studies, an epistemological shift 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 and Rowlinson, 2004; Mills, Suddaby, Foster and Durepos, 2016). By historicizing 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.
How, precisely, might organizational research be historicized? How might a traditionally empirically oriented discipline such as history be incorporated into a
theoretically oriented discipline such as organization studies? How might the power of history be harnessed to advance the explanatory potential of organization theory? What might history tangibly contribute to our knowledge of management and organizations (Clegg, 2006; Clegg and Courpasson, 2007)? We are now embarking on a new stage in the establishment of historical organization studies as a distinctive epistemological and methodological approach that develops a historical research strategy within the broad field of organization studies. This book makes a timely intervention that advances the discussion while extending and deepening what has already been achieved. Hence, it offers a mixture of conceptual and theoretically informed empirical papers that help to define the field and to orient it further in future. In this way, the book serves both as a landmark in the development of the field and as an important milestone in building an emergent and strengthening community of scholars. It thereby contributes to the reimagining of historical organizational studies while advancing new directions for organizational research. This chapter takes stock by evaluating the current state of play, explores recent scholarly exemplars on theorized history, while looking at the possibilities offered for future research.
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
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-003-03359-2
ISBN (Print)978-0-367-47121-7, 978-0-367-47122-4
Publication statusPublished - 27 Nov 2020


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