Intertextuality, rhetorical history and the uses of the past in organizational transition

Mairi Maclean, Charles Harvey, John A. A. Sillince, Benjamin D. Golant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (SciVal)
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This paper draws upon archival and oral history research on organizational transition at Procter & Gamble (1950–2009), during which P&G evolved from a multinational to a global enterprise. Intertextuality, the ways in which texts appropriate prior works to produce new texts, illuminates the practical workings of rhetorical history, accentuating interpretive agency. The uses of the past at P&G involved an authorized historical account relating to socialization, invented tradition, and lessons from past experience, facilitating change within continuity. We show that in transforming from multinational to global enterprise, recognition of the value of history to strategy intensified, engendering rhetorically intense variations on time-honoured themes. Our main contribution to theory is to demonstrate how sensitivity to intertextuality casts light on the nature of organizational history as historically constructed through language, subject to the agency of skilful interpretive actors who engage in intertextual adaptation in pursuit of strategic change as purposes and contexts evolve.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4
Pages (from-to)1733-1755
Number of pages23
JournalOrganization Studies
Issue number12
Early online date16 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018


  • historical organization studies
  • intertextuality
  • narrative
  • organizational history
  • rhetorical history
  • strategic change

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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