CFP History and Organization Studies: Toward a Creative Synthesis special of the Academy of Management Review (2014)

20 01 2014

AS: Management scholars have been frequently criticized for conducting research in an ahistorical fashion. (For an example, see here).These complaints echo some of the common criticisms of neoclassical economics. There have been repeated calls for the integration of historical analysis and historical approaches in management research. A decade ago there was some discussion in business history journals about whether or not management scholars were finally turning to history. There are now some reasons for thinking that the long-awaited “historic turn” is actually taking place. Consider this CFP for a theme issue in the Academy of Management Review, a prestigious business-school journal. This CFP is very encouraging to me. However, I’m a little bit disappointed that the deadline specified in the CFP is so soon. I doubt whether I could get my paper ready by the deadline of 30 April. However, I’m looking forward to reading the special issue once it appears.


Anyway, here is the CFP.


CFP History and Organization Studies: Toward a Creative Synthesis special of the Academy of Management Review (2014)

Guest Editors
Paul Godfrey (Brigham Young University)
John Hassard (Manchester University)
Ellen O’Connor
Michael Rowlinson (Queen Mary, University of London)
Martin Ruef (Duke Princeton University)

The submission period is from March 31 to April 30, 2014

Zald’s (e.g. 1993, 1996) invitations for history to be taken seriously as part of a rapprochement with the humanities has not gone unheeded. It is generally accepted now that “history matters”. Partly this is due to the ascendancy of theoretical perspectives that take history seriously, such as new institutionalism and the resource based view of the firm. There is also increasing recognition that history is a vital component in making the study of business and management more ethical, humanistic, and managerially relevant (e.g. Jacques, 1996). Even so, the questions raised by Zald (1993) and Kieser (1994) remain relevant – such as how can historical description enrich theory development? Or how and why historical analysis should be conducted? Üsdiken and Kieser (2004) extended these questions to consider whether organization theory can simply incorporate history as a variable, or whether an historical reorientation, or historic turn, is required?

This Call for Papers explores the power of history for advancing organization studies, both for a fuller understanding of contemporary developments in organizations and organization theory, as well as an appreciation of parallels in the discipline of history. History has a double meaning. It refers to the past itself, as well as knowledge and narratives of the past. We cannot simply say the past matters without also considering what historians have to say about the past, or how our knowledge of the past is constructed. This call for papers therefore seeks to expand on these themes by encouraging scholarship to:

• Examine how concepts derived from history (such as ideal types or invented traditions) can be applied to the study of management and organizations;
• Revisit theories of management and organization in relation to history and questions arising from historiography (both as a body of historical work in a particular field, as well as the theory and methods of history as a discipline);

• Propose and evaluate new conceptual frameworks for understanding management and organizations in a historical context.

In so doing, this STF pursues the creative possibilities of historical work for organization studies and its subfields. This does not necessarily ask organizational scholars to adopt the techniques of professional historians, although this could be one result. Rather, it asks organizational researchers to consider how they can integrate historical values of contextualization, interpretation and process, in order to enhance the explanatory power of theory where dynamic and interdependent processes are concerned, and where our oft-used empirical methods appear to produce diminishing returns. These values add scope and depth to constructs from natural science such as the cause-effect relationship, the analysis of dependent and independent variables, and nomothetic theory. They also guard against overgeneralization, reductionism, and faddishness and the general drift toward technicism (“problems without purpose” Zald, 1991: 177).

Debates about the nature of organization in the present and future need to be understood in relation to the historical analysis of organization and the difficulty of discerning a clear trajectory in the past. Historical research offers the potential for continually challenging management and organization theory by undermining any notion that the past is fixed and can be taken as given. Consider, for example, how research contextualizing the Hawthorne studies has challenged our understanding of how management thought, and organization theory itself, developed in relation to academic and corporate agendas during the New Deal (O’Connor, 1999).

It is important to note, however, that this call for papers is not soliciting historical illustrations that simply reinforce accepted theories of organization – we are not looking for propositions that reduce history to a temporal variable. Rather we are seeking theoretical contributions that engage with history, either through the examination or application of concepts derived from history in relation to organizations (historical theories of organization) or by considering how theories of organization can illuminate history (organizational theories of history). We also envisage consideration of whether history represents a challenge to the conceptualization of what constitutes theory in the study of organizations as well as the relevance of the theory and philosophy of history. Concepts that could be considered might include (but are not limited to):

• Path dependence, which tends to hold context constant, with clearly identifiable turning points where lock-in begins, whereas historians tend to see history as being in constant flux, or as “chaostory” (Ferguson, 1997);

• Dynamic capabilities and the notion of being able to do things over time as well as in time. An historical view can help us define what may be “dynamic in capabilities beyond a simplistic temporal dimension”. For example, how does the contextual setting and interpretations by managers or leaders influence how dynamic some capabilities become?

• Organizational memory is part of the rise of memory studies across a range of disciplines, including history. Historical concepts of invented tradition and imagined communities challenge our notion that organizations bear an imprint from their founding, suggesting that these imprints are more often constructed retrospectively. As a historical concept realms of memory emphasizes the importance of historical sites and practices that represent the past in the present.

• The new institutionalism has been challenged for losing the historical orientation of “old” institutionalism. To what extent are contemporary concepts, such as those dealing with institutional logics, categories, eras, or entrepreneurs, adequate to describe profound historical transitions affecting organizations? To what extent must these concepts be supplemented by ideas from the historical and “old” institutionalism regarding power, ideology, values, and functions?

• People in history provide a rich source of analogies for contemporary concepts. For example, classical Greek texts, such as Xenophon’s Anabasis, are widely used in discussions of leadership and culture. For organizational behavior the role of historical parallels could be considered.

• In addition to our concern with history in management and organization theory, contributors might also consider the status of organization theory in neighboring fields of history, obviously business history, but also social and economic history more broadly, as well as cultural and intellectual history. Organization theorists and historian’s alike need to question the epistemological status of historical narratives, which in business and management are typically regarded as prosaic storytelling, with the implication that critical, sceptical faculties can be relaxed.

Ferguson, N. 1997. Virtual History: Towards a “chaotic” theory of the past. In N. Ferguson (Ed.),Virtual History: Alternatives and Counterfactuals: 1-90. London: Papermac.

Jacques, R. 1996. Manufacturing the Employee: Management Knowlege from the 19th to 21st Centuries. London: SAGE.
Kieser, A. 1994. Crossroads – Why organization theory needs historical analysis – And how this should be performed.Organization Science, 5(4): 608-620.

O’Connor, E. S. 1999. The politics of management thought: A case study of the Harvard Business School and the Human Relations School. Academy of Management Review, 24(1): 117-131.

Üsdiken, B., & Kieser, A. 2004. Introduction: History in organisation studies. Business History, 46(3): 321-330.
Zald, M. N. 1991. Sociology as a discipline: Quasi-Science and Quasi-Humanities. American Sociologist, 22(3-4): 165-187.

Zald, M. N. 1993. Organization studies as a scientific and humanistic enterprise – Toward a reconceptualization of the foundations of the field. Organization Science, 4(4): 513-528.

Zald, M. N. 1996. More fragmentation? Unfinished business in linking the social sciences and the humanities.Administrative Science Quarterly, 41(2): 251-261.


All submissions should be uploaded to the Manuscript Central/Scholar One website: between March 31 to April 30, 2014.

Please do not submit your article prior to March 31, 2014 or after April 30, 2014. Contributions should follow the directions for manuscript submission described in the Information for Contributors at the back of each issue of AMR and on theAMR web page:

For queries about submissions, contact AMR‘s managing editor, Tiffiney Johnson, at tjohnson For questions regarding the content of this special topic forum, contact one of the guest editors.






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