ISA World Congress of Sociology, Yokohama, Japan, July 2014

Research Committee on
Sociology of Organization, RC17

RC17 main page

Program Coordinators

Number of allocated sessions including Business Meeting: 10.


For sessions program and schedule see

On-line congress program


Celebrity and Organizations

Session Organizer
Robert VAN KRIEKEN, University of Sydney, Australia,

Session in English

Celebrity 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 follows from the very successful session at the 2010 World Congress, and similarly aims to add to the theorization of celebrity within the sociology of culture and consumption, seeing it 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:


Normal Accidents Revisited: Organizations and the Reliable Embedding of Complex Technologies

Session Organizers
Cristina BESIO, Technical University of Berlin, Germany,
Uli MEYER, Technical University of Berlin, Germany,
Robert J. SCHMIDT, Technical University of Berlin, Germany,

Session in English

In his prominent work Charles Perrow (1989) describes the interrelation of three factors – individuals, complex technologies and organizations – as the cause of what he calls “normal accidents”. In a more recent work on the Fukushima disaster, he points out that especially private companies struggle when it comes to the handling of the disastrous potential of technologies. In this respect, he concludes that “there are vastly more cases of creative coping from citizens than from organizations” (Perrow 2011: 49).

This does not change the fact that modern organizations in manifold contexts do have to deal with complex and/or tightly coupled technologies. Therefore, in this session, we want to discuss which strategies organizations actually employ to be able to manage complex technologies. Instead of disruptive accidents, we want to use the day-to-day activities in which organizations handle this task as a point of departure for analyzing the relation between technology and organization. In such a perspective we can focus on the demanding processes of organizational coping with technological complexity and uncertainty.

We invite the submission of papers from diverse empirical and theoretical backgrounds. Papers should not just retain Perrow’s systemic perspective on organizations, which are highly interwoven with techniques and human activities. In addition, they should analyze the capabilities of organizations to deal with these challenges, and not only address the problems resulting from that.


On the Practical Life of Organizational Theory

Session Organizers
Paul DU GAY, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark,
Singe VIKKELSO, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark,
Karen BOLL, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark,

Session in English

Through teaching, publishing and consultancy organization theory is transported from the business school to the practical realm of the organization. The sub-theme investigates what happens when such transportation takes place across time and organizational settings: What are the effects on organizations of using different organization theories and devices? How do different organization theories practically shape organizations and make ‘the organizational’ an object of intervention? The sub-theme focuses upon the proliferation and employment of organization theories and devices in organizational life – both currently and historically. It seeks to explore how the configurations and usefulness of organization theories have changed over time (du Gay and Vikkelso 2012a, 2012b).

Looking at present day organizations and their relations to organization theory there is a paradoxical situation. There is a proliferation of organization concepts and devices: LEAN initiatives, risk analyses, performance contracts and much more. Devices which may or may not be coupled to ideas in organization thought, but which attempt to organize activities and relationships. At the same time, however, organization theory also occupies a rather inferior place in organizational life and public debate. Organizational work seems to be assembled around mundane activities adhering to the accomplishment of certain tasks. In this work the legacy of organization theories seem to play a minor and often barely remembered role (du Gay and Vikkelso 2012a). We are therefore presented with a situation in which we can delineate both an excess and absence of organization theory.

We invite papers that explore the ability of organizational theory to influence organizations: what happens as theories and organizational devices take on a life in organizations? Also, we invite papers that examine why organization theory seems so absent from much daily work in organizations. Has organization theory lost some of its former ability to specify and intervene into organizational life?

As the stream emphasizes the practical life of organizational theory we welcome contributions deploying a range of descriptive-approaches, such as those drawing on the anthropology of market organization and techniques; science and technology studies exploring ‘organization devices’ Callon et al. 2007; Latour 2010; MacKenzie 2006; and detailed historical accounts of how classic organization theory Barnard 1968; Follett and Graham 1995; Lawrence and Lorsch 1967; Perrow 1986; Roethlisberger and Dickson 1934 has changed itself and its relation to its field.

Questions and themes that may be addressed, but are not limited to:

Barnard, Chester 1968. The functions of the executive. Harvard University Press.
Callon, Michel, Yuval Millo and Fabian Muniesa 2007. Market devices Vol. 55. Blackwell Publishing.
du Gay, Paul and Signe Vikkelso 2012a. Exploration, exploitation and exaltation: a metaphysical return to "one best way of organizing" in organization studies in What makes organization? WMO Working Paper Series, 3, Copenhagen Business School. du Gay, Paul and Signe Vikkelso 2012b. ’Reflections: on the lost specification of ‘change’. Journal of Change Management 12/ 2: 121-143.
Follett, Mary Parker and Pauline Graham 1995. Mary Parker Follett. Prophet of management: a celebration of writings from the 1920s. Harvard Business School Press.
Latour, Bruno 2010. The making of law: an ethnography of the Conseil d’Etat. Polity Press.
Lawrence, Paul and Jay W. Lorsch 1967. Organization and environment; managing differentiation and integration. Harvard University.
MacKenzie, Donald 2006. An engine, not a camera: how financial models shape markets. MIT Press.
Perrow, Charles 1986. Complex organizations: a critical essay. McGraw-Hill. Roethlisberger, Fritz Jules and William J. Dickson 1934. Management and the worker. Boston, Mass.: Harvard university, Graduate school of business administration.


Organization and Materiality: Exploring the Multiple Relations between Things, Bodies and Meso-Level-Orders

Session Organizers
Valentin JANDA, Technical University of Berlin, Germany,
Robert J. SCHMIDT, Technical University of Berlin, Germany,

Session in English

Physical entities of all kinds are constitutive elements of everyday life. By consequence organizations are also made of things and bodies. Theoretical debates about the role of materiality are deeply rooted in philosophical discourses reaching from Aristotle to Heidegger and, and more recently to Ihde.

In sociology, concepts of authors from a science and technology studies background like Knorr-Cetina, Pickering and Latour are productively irritating the old topic of materiality. Among the new theoretical tools having emerged, the call for a symmetric anthropology as put forward by Actor-Network-Theory is a provocative and divisive starting point. Being informed and inspired by these debates on materiality, organization-studies have added vital contributions, including the work by Leonardi, Barley and Orlikowski. These and others authors have drawn the outlines of how organizations and materiality relate to each other.

This session aims at taking up the emerging work exploring diverse relations between materiality and meso-level-orders especially organizations, but we are also interested in projects, networks and organizational fields.

We invite papers from empirical and theoretical backgrounds that resume recent debates of the diverse roles materiality plays in meso-level-contexts. Contributions could deal with, but are not limited to one of the following questions:


Organizational Heterogeneity: A Source of Innovation and Conflict or Simply the Status Quo?

Session Organizers
Cristina BESIO, Technical University of Berlin, Germany,
Uli MEYER, Technical University of Berlin, Germany,
Kathia SERRANO-VELARDE, Heidelberg University, Germany,

Session in English

Over the last decade, the notion of heterogeneity has gained ground in organization science. Whereas traditionally organization studies focus on typologies of organizations operating in different sectors (e.g. enterprises, political parties, NPOs), recently the focus has shifted towards the question of how organizations deal with different logics. Theoretically framed concepts such as “glocalization”, “organizational hybridity” or “competing logics” highlight the possibility that multiple logics or rationales may very well coexist in a given setting at a given moment in time.

Nevertheless, organization studies scholars have developed different interpretations when it comes to specific details: Is this arrangement of sustainable nature? And to what extent does this type of coexistence lead to innovation and conflict? Or is heterogeneity simply the status quo for many organizations? This call for papers understands heterogeneity as the coexistence of different rationales (be they normative or structural) in a given organization or organizational population. We are especially interested in the operationalization and implications of organizational heterogeneity.

We call for empirically founded and theoretically reflected papers that have the potential to advance the debate. We therefore welcome contributions from a wide range of theoretical and thematic fields.

The papers should address one or more of the following research questions:


Organizing Charisma: On the Role of Sentimental Relations in Formal Organizations

Session Organizers
Elizabeth MCFALL, Open University, United Kingdom,
Joe DEVILLE, Goldsmiths University of London, United Kingdom,

Session in English

In radical contrast to bureaucratic organization, charisma knows no formal and regulated appointment and dismissal, no career, advancement or salary, no supervisory or appeals body, no local or purely technical jurisdiction, and no permanent institutions in the manner of bureaucratic agencies which are independent of the incumbents and their personal charisma (Weber, 1978, p.1112).

This session invites papers that explore the various ways that charisma, despite Weber’s typological distinction, does find its place within bureaucratic structures. The role played by charisma in organisations varies from personal, informal and ad hoc to impersonal, formal and orchestrated. Some organisations including those based around direct selling or in those consumer finance organisations where personal selling is particularly significant may make the organisation, recruitment, development and promotion of charisma a core task (Biggart, 1989; McFall, 2011; Vargha, 2011).

In other cases, whether by accident or design the charismatic CEO becomes pivotal to the organisation’s corporate identity, its strategy and in some cases its stock market value. There are also instances, for example in electoral campaigning, fan clubs and networks where the organisation exists to orchestrate charisma to attract followers. New forms of networked politics and electoral campaigning of the type seen in the Barack Obama’s electoral campaigning and in a different way in the Occupy movement have produced a series of innovations in the organization, tools, and practice necessary to promote charismatic followings (Kreiss, 2012).

At the same time, global organisations like Google, Apple and Amazon have flourished by developing new techniques of digitally replicating personal relationships through stored transactions. These techniques all rely upon the incorporation and strategic management of relations, sentiments and arts within formal organisations. This includes shaping charismatic relationships through tools and devices from branding, to website optimisation, to customer relational management software etc. Questions include:


RC17 Business Meeting

Session Organizer


Social Capital, Trust and Organizations

Session Organizer
Frederik THUESEN, Danish National Centre for Social Research, Denmark,

Session in English

The concepts of social capital and trust have received much scholarly attention within current sociology. Qualitative and quantitative studies have focused on the forms of and/ or volume of trust and social capital among members of civil society, inhabitants of various neighborhoods or the citizens of particular nation states. Less attention has been paid to the formation and transformation of trust and social capital in organizations such as work places, professional associations, public institutions etc. Nevertheless, such organizational frameworks are most likely to affect the social capital and trust of their members.

By way of illustration, based on their interaction with colleagues at work, people may build up trust to individuals from other social groups than the ones they belong to themselves – such as other ethnic groups, other professions, other (older or younger) generations, etc. However, there may also be dark sides to the concepts of trust and social capital – in general, and within organizations. Trust and social capital formation among particular subgroups of members of an organization may lead to the formation of cliques seeking to monopolize access to the organization and exclude its other members. Thus the discussion of social capital and trust within organizations may be linked to general sociological questions about social inequality, inclusion and exclusion.

Therefore this session seeks to draw our attention to the importance of organizations when we are interested in studying social capital and trust. Issues to be discussed during the session could be the organizational mechanisms of trust and social capital formation or dissolution – or the consequences of social capital formation within organizations such as spill-over effects from one organizational setting to another or to society at large. However, the session invites a broad range of presentations and papers touching upon the themes sketched above.


The Organization of a Global Financial Class

Session Organizers
Robert VAN KRIEKEN, University of Sydney, Australia,
Stewart CLEGG, University of Technology Sydney, Australia,
Lukas HOFSTAETTER, Goethe University, Germany,

Session in English

The financial crisis has renewed debates about globalization and inequality. "The 1%" has become an omnipresent political catchphrase. It expresses a widespread opinion that there is a new dynamic to the distribution of wealth and political influence and a "new global upper‐class" emerging. In the popular political imagery the "one‐percenter" is often represented by the self‐proclaimed "master of the universe", the cliché of the greedy Wall Street banker, expressing the supposed link between a global upper class and the financial market.

Regarding the concept of the market, we follow the arguments developed within the perspective of the "new economic sociology" (Swedberg & Granovetter 2011), which was mainly formulated as a critique against neoclassical economics. Economics describes markets as anonymous interactions of exchange, through which actors maximize their utility. The economic portrait of the market is based on the highly stylized premises of rational, non‐social actors. Sociology in contrast focuses on the social dimension of economic exchange. "The anonymous market of neoclassical models is virtually nonexistent in economic life" (Granovetter 1985: 495). In reality economic transactions are rife with social connections.

In order to function properly, agents on markets produce a relatively stable set of relations among actors, embedding the market in a network structure. This structure produces the necessary trust among market participants to engage in economic exchange. Markets therefore can be described as social structures or fields. To function as such, markets are dependent on shared collective understandings in the form of a common culture, which proscribes or limits market exchange and sustains a shared rationality that also anchors itself in the cognitive structure of the market actors (cf. Zukin & DiMaggio 1990). This plays an especially important role on financial markets. Pricing on financial markets is thus highly dependent on shared understandings of social processes, as for instance Hiss & Rona‐Tas (2011) demonstrate for the market of credit ratings. The same can be shown for such seemingly objective actions as accounting (Montagna 1990) or price-finding in stock trading (Zaloom 2007): They rely on established "calculative practices" as an expression of a collective rationality.

In addition to the structural, cultural and cognitive forms of embeddedness, markets are shaped by struggles of power "that involve[s] economic actors and nonmarket institutions, particularly the state and social classes" (Zukin & DiMaggio 1990:20), which seek to alter and influence such shared cognitive structures and cultural norms, while simultaneously creating new ones.

This situates the necessary framework for studying our markets on a broader scale than simply atomistic actors and their interactions. Instead of a purely individualistic perspective, it is necessary to reflect the formation and efficacy of social structures within the set of employed theoretical terms, while staying accessible to the economic language of the market.

In the case of financial markets an important aspect is their global dimension. Since free capital flows are a precondition for economic integration, financial markets always were on the forefront of the process of globalization. Additionally, processes of portfolio diversification and risk management make financial markets inherently global. With this the question arises, whether financial markets produce a global social formation.

We need to investigate whether there is a new class of financial professionals emerging that shape financial markets and thereby transform the entire configuration of the modern economy; thus, this session addresses the reciprocal relations between the (global financial) market and those actors that populate, produce and reproduce it: to what extent do they form a (global financial) class interconnected in a network organization of capital, culture and everyday life?

The session will be open, but not restricted to current research on the following topics:


Joint Sessions

Click on the session title to read its description and the scheduled day/time.

Organizations and Disasters

Joint session of RC17 Sociology of Organizations and RC39 Sociology of Disasters [host committee]


Organizing Change – Changing Organization: Social Movements and the Innovation of Organizational Forms and Cultures. Part I

Joint session of RC17 Sociology of Organizations and RC47 Social Classes and Social Movements [host committee]


Organizing Change – Changing Organization: Social Movements and the Innovation of Organizational Forms and Cultures. Part II

Joint session of RC17 Sociology of Organizations [host committee] and RC47 Social Classes and Social Movements



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June 2014