XVII ISA World Congress of Sociology, Sociology on the move, Gothenburg, Sweden, July 2010


RC homepage

Research Committee on
Sociology of Organization RC17

Programme Coordinators
Paul du Gay, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark pdg.ioa@cbs.dk and Liz McFall, Sociology, Open University, Milton Keynes, UK, E.R.McFall@open.ac.uk

Congress Programme

Sessions descriptions

Session 1: Hybrid organizations: Identity, change and governance in complex institutional settings

Organizers: Petra Hiller , Fachhochschule Nordhausen, Germany, hiller@fh-nordhausen.de and Kathia Serrano-Velarde, University Heidelberg, Germany, kathia.serrano@soziologie.uni-heidelberg.de
This session calls for papers that examine changes in organizations and in the sociology of organizations related to the phenomenon of “hybridization”. Hybrid organizations are social constructs that mix elements (such as values, institutional logic, and organizational patterns) from different institutional spheres. In the past, hybrid organizations most often referred to particular types of non-profits, network organizations, or Quangos, thereby problematizing the complex embeddedness of those organizations in various institutional settings. However, there is more to the notion of hybridity than what this narrow categorization of organizations entails. Indeed, organization studies show increasing complexity of the external environment that confronts organizations with multiple and contradictory constraints.

Institutional boundaries dissolve and become permeable to new modes of organizing and executing business, service or industry. The distinctions that were widely taken for granted in the sociology of organizations between the public and private sectors, between for-profit and non-profit, between market and hierarchy, seem to disappear. As a consequence, new organizational forms such as interorganizational networks, joint ventures, public-private partnerships, virtual organizations and transnational arrangements emerge and contribute to the disintegration of formal organizational forms. Existing organizational settings have to adapt to new expectations and influences. Hybridization is thus the process by which formal organization integrates behavioral rationales and structural patterns that stem from different institutional/organizational arrangements and which potentially enter in competition or conflict with extant organizational life. For instance, schools and hospitals are increasingly bound by the market logic of performance. Yet, efficiencybased output measurements do not take into account the complexity of an organization’s missions and the professional service culture in place. The introduction of corporate social responsibility into the working logics of for-profit organizations constitutes another example of hybridization. Hence, these hybrid arrangements pose different questions with regard to organizational identity, change, and governance which we propose to address in this session:

Finally, we encourage debate on the methods of sociology: what kind of tools does the sociology of organizations possess to analyze hybridity? Where/how should they be furthered? Papers drawing on different theoretical perspectives as well as empirically informed studies on “hybridization” are welcome.

Session 2: What makes organizations? Performativity, management theory and the practices of organizing

Organizers: Paul du Gay, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark pdg.ioa@cbs.dk and Liz McFall, Sociology, Open University, Milton Keynes, UK E.R.McFall@open.ac.uk
Boosted by a decade or more of theoretical attention in actor-network theory, governmentality, cultural economy and related fields, and more recently by the cataclysmic events in global finance, economic sociology is flourishing. As yet, however, the focus of concentration has primarily been upon finance and more particularly on questions about the relationship between economic theories and market behaviour (Callon, 1998; Mackenzie et al. 2007; Callon et al. 2007): commonly referred to in terms of ‘performatvity’ and ‘performation’. Relatively little attention has so far been paid by those elaborating these performativity problematics  to how economic, managerial and organizational knowledge has an impact on  different forms of organizational practice.

Within Organization Studies meanwhile there has been an emphasis upon shifts from bureaucratic to post-bureaucratic organizations (Heckscher & Donnellon 1994; Reed & Courpasson  2004), a discussion which in turn has been met by scepticism (Harris & Höpfl 2006; McSweeney 2006) as well as by voices arguing in favour of bureaucracy (Godsell 2004; Olsen 2006). Thus some empirical evidence suggests that public sector organizations have become more post-bureaucratic and more akin to their private sector counterparts in terms of management norms, techniques of conduct and types of personae (du Gay 2000, 2007; Pollitt 2008). This is further reflected in the suggestion that there has been a movement towards increasingly mediated environments which seem to encourage public organizations to engage in corporate communication, branding and reputation management practices to ever greater degrees. Accordingly, it has become something of a fait accompli to assume that public and private organizations are fundamentally alike, or, at least they have to become so in order to guarantee their future survival. However we also find empirical tendencies towards reemphasizing the distinctiveness of public sector organizations and management (Pollit 2003) as well as statements arguing in favour of reinvigorating bureaucratic values. These newer developments seem to be connected to public governance as a new overall concept in public management, as well as financial crisis and scandals related to corruption, outsourcing and delegation of public sector tasks.

These patterns of ambiguous developments are often conceptualised as ‘hybrid’, a term which encompasses the idea that organizations, their forms, management as well as their identities are changed from ‘pure’ ideal-types of public or private, bureaucratic or non-bureaucratic organizations to ‘hybrids’ which express and combine different ideal-types and logics. Such a conceptualization is related to epochal forms of thinking in which shifts in organizational forms and practice appear, in some way, as the product of much larger shift towards, for example, knowledge society, post-bureaucracy etc. Such thinking however reveals little about how, precisely, organizations, whether public or private, change, incorporate new practices, develop new initiatives etc. What is the relationship between emerging forms of economic and managerial knowledge and the practices of organizing? Can new theoretical approaches to management, accounting etc be considered performative? What sort of trade-off exists between epochal theories which may capture broad shifts in forms of organizational governance and the detailed descriptive practices of organizing advocated by ethnomethodology and its relations such as ANT?

In this session we want to explore the relationship between management and organizational knowledges and the practices of organising in relation to organizational changes including for example the presumed epochal shift towards post-bureaucratic organizational forms. We call for papers which for example seek to address the following research questions:

Can managerial and organization theory be said to ‘perform’ organizations? What is a performative action in the context of organizations and how might it be tested?  What are the calculative infrastructures that shape organizations and markets?

What are the consequences of taking an explicitly epochal or purely descriptive view when studying both past and present practices of organizing identities; the relationship between bureaucratic and post-bureaucratic management, and the sorts of mediating devices deployed within organizational communication practices?

In what ways are epochal discourses and approaches performative in terms of mobilizing and bringing in to being what they aim to describe and explain? In what ways do such discourses and approaches themselves frame and drive changes in organizational forms?

Session 3: Action and imagination in market encounters
Special session

Session 4: Celebrity society and organizational life
Organizers: Robert Van Krieken, University of Sydney, Australia, robert.van.krieken@usyd.edu.au and Jessica Evans, The Open University, UK, J.R.Evans@open.ac.uk
It is now clear that celebrity is not simply a superficial aspect of consumer culture, that it in fact plays a central role in the structure and dynamics of contemporary social, political, economic and organizational life. Various forms of violence are generally organized around highly visible, charismatic individuals, and political as well as organizational order is increasingly structured in relation to the construction of the celebrity of celebrated leaders.

This session aims to add to the theorization of celebrity within the sociology of culture and consumption, and to take it more seriously as central to the sociology of state formation, organizations, power and recognition. It will look beyond celebrities as unique individuals to examine the circuits of power which produce celebrity as a social, political, economic and organizational phenomenon, as well as the logic underpinning its production, a certain kind of 'celebrity function' or role, independently from the specific individuals who become celebrities at any particular time and place. It will examine the social positions that celebrities occupy how they are constituted as a group, and what underpins celebrity as a central aspect of everyday life. The analysis drawn upon in the session will be coupled to concepts such as visibility, attention, status, recognition, but also power, symbolic capital, the constitution of the self, social networks, and it will approach celebrity as a central aspect of a range of features of modern social life, such as democracy, individualism, state-formation, long-distance intimacy, imagined community, the public sphere, and of course the changing technologies of the mass media. The session will be open, but not restricted to current research on the following topics:

    • the logic of celebrity across differing celebrity sectors -- entertainment, sport, music, science, politics, commerce, non-government organisations
    • comparative and historical sociology -- celebrity in differing social, cultural and historical contexts, and the roots of celebrity society in court society, celebrities as democratic aristocrats
    • the economics of attention -- celebrity as 'interest' on original accumulation
    • celebrity and sociological theories of 'recognition': celebrity as 'excess' recognition
    • imagined community and long-distance intimacy, the sociology of para-social interaction 
    • celebrity and status, celebrities and elite theory
    • power in the 'viewer society', celebrity as self-surveillance
    • political celebrity -- competing logics of attracting attention in democracies, the use of celebrity in social movements and non-government organisations
    • theorizing celebrity: the ways in which celebrity can be understood from a variety of theoretical perspectives, including Simmel, Elias, Adorno and Horkheimer, Mills, Foucault, and Bourdieu.
Session 5: Democratizing moves
Organizer: Torben Elgaard Jensen, Danish Technical University, Danmark, tej@ipl.dtu.dk
Peter Sloterdijk (2005) has suggested that the US Airforce should acquire a new device: An inflatable democracy, which could be parachuted in the rear of the frontline, where the forces of Good defeat the forces of Evil. This device, then would inflate like a lifesaving device, and deliver instant democracy. 

Sloterdijk is joking, of course; any democracy or any kind of public participation more broadly, is anything but instant. Democracy or democratizing are complicated  organizational achievements that crucially depend on a broad range of material, subjective, communicational and conceptual arrangements (cf. Latour & Weibel 2005). The purpose of this session is to explore and reflect upon new democratizing moves: their nature, their problems, and their consequences. We are interested in new ways in which people are mobilised, articulated, engaged, enfranchised, made to count, taken into account or given influence.

Possible examples might include:

As the list indicates, democratising moves clearly extend far ‘below’, ‘above’ and beyond the traditional democratic institutions associated with nation states; many democratizing activities emerge on the level of organizations. Another recurrent feature might be a tendency to ‘democratize’ around one particular or a limited set of issues (cf. Marres 2005).

We invite contributions that explore democratizing moves empirically and/or theoretically. What  social and material practices are involved? What are the benefits, problems and unintended consequences of these moves? What are the possible roles for sociologists and social science in relation to these movements? And finally, is there a broader pattern: Where are all these democratising moves moving us?

Session 6: Organizing innovation: chances and risks
Organizers: Cristina Besio, Technische Universität Berlin, Germany, cristina.besio@tu-berlin.de and Petra Hiller, Fachhochschule Nordhausen, Germany, hiller@fh-nordhausen.de and Kathia Serrano-Velarde, University Heidelberg, Germany, kathia.serrano@soziologie.uni-heidelberg.de
Innovation is a modern myth. Today, not only is the discourse on innovation ubiquitous, but innovation is often considered by policy makers and business leaders the only way to solve urgent societal problems (such as environmental issues). Innovation is regarded as a positive value and every effort oriented towards the development of significant novelties is fostered (e.g. by incentives or innovation policies). Since organizations are able to coordinate long chains of actions and link crucial resources, they are often addressed as potential innovators.

Nevertheless, even innovation has a dark side. Already Joseph Schumpeter referred to innovation as “creative destruction”. On the one hand, innovation offers opportunities, on the other, it entails risks. Radical innovation questions existing competences and routines and requires new patterns of behaviour. Moreover, new technologies and processes can unleash unforeseen side effects which can turn innovation into a danger (e.g. green biotechnology can menace rural economies). Firms which are able to develop innovative products can certainly contribute to the growth of a country, but can also cause new problems (e.g. information technologies endanger data privacy). Starting from the idea of the paradoxical nature of innovation, this session analyses if and how organizations find a balance between the chances and risks of the invention, implementation and diffusion of new technical, social and symbolic artefacts.

While innovation studies consider different factors affecting innovation processes (such as institutions, power relationships, path dependence, sensemaking and so on), few contributions focus on the interplay of these factors. Moreover the bulk of the studies encompass only the micro, the meso or the macro level of analysis. This section aims to overcome this fragmentation and encourages contributions which connect analyses of the inside of organizations with analyses of the societal context in which organizations operate. We invite contributions on the following topics:

We are open to different types of conceptual papers and theoretically grounded empirical works based on qualitative and/or quantitative methods.

Session 7: Reconnecting professional organizations with professional occupations
Joint session of RC17 Sociology of Organization [host committee] and RC52 Sociology of Professional Groups

Session 8: Organizing institutions
Organizer: Stewart Clegg, UTS, Australia, Stewart.Clegg@uts.edu.au
The histories of organization studies position few works as citation classics but DiMaggio and Powell’s (1983) AJS paper “The Iron Cage revisited: Institutional Isomorphism and Collective Rationality in Organizational Fields” is undoubtedly one such paper. Drawing on the new institutional theory pioneered by Meyer and Rowan in 1977, and influenced by Bourdieu’s ideas about practice, the paper considered how rational myths lodged in institutional settings shape organizational action to the extent that they can secure semblances of organizational legitimacy in order to capture resources and mobilize support.

There were two main signposts to subsequent research in the paper: the importance of the concept of organizational fields and the focus on mechanisms of organizational change through institutional isomorphism. The organizational field was defined in relational terms as ‘those organizations that, in the aggregate, constitute a recognized area of institutional life: key suppliers, resource and product customers, regulatory agencies, and other organizations that produce similar services or products’ (DiMaggio and Powell 1983: 148). Later they add that the field includes all those who have ‘voice’ as well as those who do not – picking up on Bachrach and Baratz’s  influential critique of Robert Dahl’s work by stressing non-action, or absence from a field, as a significant form of presence. On the whole, this element of power has been largely absent from engagement with DiMaggio and Powell’s work. Institutional isomorphism has become, perhaps, the key concept for much mainstream organization studies work of the past decade.

Three ideal type mechanism of organizational change by institutional isomorphism were sketched: coercive (when external agencies impose changes on organizations – most obviously through practices of state regulation), normative (when professionalization projects shape entire occupational fields) and mimetic mechanisms (essentially the copying of what is constituted as culturally valuable ways of doing or arranging things – cultural capital).  Interest in the latter has far outweighed the former two in US empirical studies, while European researchers have been more oriented to the role of the state and other regulatory agencies such as standards setting bodies, as for example in Scandinavian institutionalism

The primary organization securing social order is the state – a chief concern of both Max Weber (1979) and Tocqueville (2000), for whom democracy did not simply mean having elections but referred to the equality of conditions in a given territory.  Hence, as Therborn (1977) has argued, the democratic state may have emerged in capitalist societies, but not because capitalists created it; instead what capitalism creates is a working class and the working class organizes and struggles for an extension of rights. Thus, successful capitalism precedes democracy by many years; indeed, the first modern democracies are Australia and New Zealand at the turn of the 19th century, where, because of chronic under-supply of labour in settler societies, the strongest working classes were to be found, and in which there was no entrenched feudal land-owning elite. Likewise, in recent transitions to democracy in countries such as Poland, Brazil, South Africa and South Korea, the organized working class has played a key role, against states which, in each case, were prepared to forego legitimacy for institutionalized violence.
Given the centrality of the state to organizing institutions, some questions suggest themselves.

1) What would adequate accounts of power in institutional theory look like?

2) Where are the accounts of the deinstitutionalization of states in institutional theory? Equally, where are the accounts of the institutionalization of illegitimacy?

    • Myanmar may be an institutionalized state but it is barely legitimate.
    • The institutionalization of the Soviet bloc collapsed like a house of cards in 1989. 
    • Interestingly, in many cases where democracy was won at the barrel of a gun, as in many national liberation struggles, the transition has been to authoritarianism rather than democracy – even in notionally democratic countries such as Zimbabwe.
    • Elsewhere, it is possible to argue that although political democracy has been maintained or extended in many formally democratic states, the extent of social democracy has been under consistent attack by neo-liberalism destined to return as much of human existence and struggle to the market as it is possible to achieve; even ‘social democrats’ espoused these beliefs before the market, failed, spectacularly, in 2008.

3) Where are the accounts of the institutionalization of the market as a not so rational myth in institutional theory?

Session 9: Compliance and placation
Organizer: Alan Scott, University of Innsbruck, Austria, alan.scott@uibk.ac.at
This session calls for papers on a classical theme: what are the grounds for compliance within organizations and how are these changing? Weber noted that ‘a particular minimum will to obey…belongs to every true relation of domination’ (E&S), but goes on to note that the sources of this will range from inert habit to self interest. Hirschman has loyalty among our basic options in an institutional context. More recently still, sociology has become interested in questions of justification (e.g. Boltanski and Thévenot). Perhaps somewhat in contrast to this, analysts of public administration, notably Christopher Hood, emphasise the pressures on managers and organizational leaders to comply with the expectation of their subordinates, often against their own expressed reform intentions. The picture that emerges from these contrasting literatures is one of conflicting expectations and of pressures directed both downwards (compliance) and upwards (placation) within organizations. What strategies are used to elicit compliance/placation? What range of responses and counter strategies do they trigger? What are the relevant instruments and mechanisms? Both theoretical and empirical papers are invited on the micro – e.g. personal pressures, responses – and more macro-level implications of this reciprocal relation (Wechselwirkung, in Simmel’s sense) between compliance and placation.

Session 10: Work, management in a globalizing world economy / Le travail, la gestion dans un monde en voie de globalisation de l’économie
Joint session of RC 17 Sociology of Organization and RC46 Clinical Sociology [host committee]

11. Business Meeting


Integrative session 4: Robust and fragile?: Towards a useful sociology of the economy
Integrative session of Research Committees RC02 Economy and Society, RC16 Sociological Theory and RC17 Sociology of Organization