All business historians in management schools will likely be interested in the new issue of the Academy of Management Review, which contains articles that engage with historical themes.
Conceptualizing Historical Organization Studies
Mairi Maclean, Charles Harvey, and Stewart R. Clegg
The promise of a closer union between organizational and historical research has long been recognized. However, its potential remains unfulfilled: the authenticity of theory development expected by organization studies and the authenticity of historical veracity required by historical research place exceptional conceptual and empirical demands on researchers. We elaborate the idea of historical organization studies—organizational research that draws extensively on historical data, methods, and knowledge to promote historically informed theoretical narratives attentive to both disciplines. Building on prior research, we propose a typology of four differing conceptions of history in organizational research: history as evaluating, explicating, conceptualizing, and narrating. We identify five principles of historical organization studies—dual integrity, pluralistic understanding, representational truth, context sensitivity, and theoretical fluency—and illustrate our typology holistically from the perspective of institutional entrepreneurship. We explore practical avenues for a creative synthesis, drawing examples from social movement research and microhistory. Historically informed theoretical narratives whose validity derives from both historical veracity and conceptual rigor afford dual integrity that enhances scholarly legitimacy, enriching understanding of historical, contemporary, and future-directed social realities.
Taking Historical Embeddedness Seriously: Three Historical Approaches to
Advance Strategy Process and Practice Research
Eero Vaara and Juha-Antti Lamberg
Despite the proliferation of strategy process and practice research, we lack understanding of the historical embeddedness of strategic processes and practices. In this article we present three historical approaches with the potential to remedy this deficiency. First, realist history can contribute to a better understanding of the historical embeddedness of strategic processes, and comparative historical analysis in particular can explicate the historical conditions, mechanisms, and causality in strategic processes. Second, interpretive history can add to our knowledge of the historical embeddedness of strategic practices, and microhistory can specifically help us understand the construction and enactment of these practices in historical contexts. Third, poststructuralist history can elucidate the historical embeddedness of strategic discourses, and genealogy in particular can increase our understanding of the evolution and transformation of strategic discourses and their power effects. Thus, this article demonstrates how, in their specific ways, historical approaches and methods can add to our understanding of different forms and variations of strategic processes and practices, the historical construction of organizational strategies, and historically constituted strategic agency.
A Rolling Stone Gathers Momentum: Generational Units, Collective Memory,
Stephen Lippmann and Howard E. Aldrich
We draw on the historiographical concepts of “generational units” and “collective memories” as a framework for understanding the emergence of entrepreneurially oriented cohesive groups within regions. Generational units are localized subgroups within generations that have a self-referential, reflexive quality by virtue of the members’ sense of their own connections to each other and the events that define them. Collective memories are shared accounts of the past shaped by historical events that mold individuals’ perceptions. The two concepts provide a valuable point of departure for incorporating historical concepts into the study of entrepreneurial dynamics and offer a framework for understanding how entrepreneurs’ historically situated experiences affect them. Our framework breaks new theoretical ground in several ways. First, we synthesize disparate bodies of literature on generational units, collective memory, and organizational imprinting. Second, we specify mechanisms through which imprinting occurs and persists over time. We develop analytical arguments framed by sociological and historiographical theories, focusing on the conditions under which meaningful generational units of entrepreneurs may emerge and benefit from leadership and legacy building, technologies of memory, and institutional support that increases the likelihood of their persistence.
History, Society, and Institutions: The Role of Collective Memory in the
Emergence and Evolution of Societal Logics
William Ocasio, Michael Mauskapf, and Christopher W. J. Steele
We examine the role of history in organization studies by theorizing how collective memory shapes societal institutions and the logics that govern them. We propose that, rather than transhistorical ideal types, societal logics are historically constituted cultural structures generated through the collective memory of historical events. We then develop a theoretical model to explain how the representation, storage, and retrieval of collective memory lead to the emergence of societal logics. In turn, societal logics shape memory making and the reproduction and reconstruction of history itself. To illustrate our theory, we discuss the rise of the corporate logic in the United States. We identify two sources of discontinuity that can disrupt this memory-making process and create notable disjunctures in the evolution of societal logics. We conclude by discussing how changes in collective memory and the historical trajectory of societal logics shape organizational forms and practices.
Historic Corporate Social Responsibility
Judith Schrempf-Stirling, Guido Palazzo, and Robert A. Phillips
Corporations are increasingly held responsible for activities up and down their value chains but outside their traditional corporate boundaries. Recently, a similar wave of criticism has arisen about corporate activities of the past, overseen by prior generations of managers. Yet there is little or no scholarly theorizing about the ways contemporary managers engage with these critiques or how this corporate engagement with the past affects the legitimacy of current business. Extending theorizing about political corporate social responsibility and organizational legitimacy, we address this omission by asking the following: (1) What is the theoretical basis for holding a corporation responsible for decisions made by prior generations of managers? (2) What is the process by which such claims are raised and contested? (3) What are the relevant features that render a charge of historical harm-doing more or less legitimate in the current context? (4) How will a corporation’s response to such charges affect the intensity of the future narrative contests and the corporation’s own legitimacy?
On the Forgetting of Corporate Irresponsibility
Sébastien Mena, Jukka Rintamäki, Peter Fleming, and André Spicer
Why are some serious cases of corporate irresponsibility collectively forgotten? Drawing on social memory studies, we examine how this collective forgetting process can occur. We propose that a major instance of corporate irresponsibility leads to the emergence of a stakeholder mnemonic community that shares a common recollection of the past incident. This community generates and then draws on mnemonic traces to sustain a collective memory of the past event over time. In addition to the natural entropic tendency to forget, collective memory is also undermined by instrumental “forgetting work,” which we conceptualize in this article. Forgetting work involves manipulating short-term conditions of the event, silencing vocal “rememberers,” and undermining collective mnemonic traces that sustain a version of the past. This process can result in a reconfigured collective memory and collective forgetting of corporate irresponsibility events. Collective forgetting can have positive and negative consequences for the firm, stakeholders, and society.