Sub-theme 51: Marxist Studies on Organization: The Challenges of Design

Paul S. Adler
University of Southern California, USA
Rick Delbridge
Cardiff Business School, UK
Matt Vidal
King's College London, UK

Call for Papers


The goal of this sub-theme is to build on the success of the first two EGOS Marxist studies sub-themes in 2010 and 2011 in bringing together people who share an interest in building on Marx's ideas to advance organization studies, and in particular to advance our understanding of design. We are not dogmatic in an attachment to any specific kind of Marxism – all kinds are welcome.

The theme of the 2012 Colloquium is "Design!?" This theme is particularly congenial to Marxist approaches, since Marx offers a fruitful starting point for understanding the distinctive features of tacit knowledge-intensive product/process design activities, critiquing the currently dominant organization designs, and proposing alternative designs for social institutions at both micro and macro levels. In this context, we invite papers that address debates among different varieties of Marxist theory and between Marxist and other theoretical currents.

The 2012 Colloquium organizers have highlighted several topics under the broad theme of "Design!?" and we encourage submissions to our sub-theme that offer a Marxist approach to any of them:

  • Institutions, industries and organizations: Marx and other writers in the tradition he inspired offer fruitful starting points for analyzing the distinctive features of design activities and how they are or could be organized. We encourage papers that explore the nature of use-value/exchange-value relations in the creative industries and papers that explore the relations between private accumulation and public policies in shaping the evolution of those industries.
  • Organizing and managing: Marxist theory offers a powerful theoretical framework for understanding the tensions between the creative labour process and the exploitative valorization process. We welcome papers that build on that theoretical base and use it to study what is happening today in the organization and management of design activities, and more generally in the domain of what is called 'knowledge work.' Some of that creative design labour happens outside the capitalist firm (unpaid networks, NGOs, artistic communities): we welcome Marxist studies of these other settings and on the interrelations between them and the capitalist sector.
  • Power and identities: Marxist social theory is a fruitful starting point for understanding some key forms of power and for characterizing both cooperation and conflict within and between capitalist enterprises, as well between these enterprises and other social actors. And Marxist social psychology is a fruitful starting point for understanding the introjection of social structures and the formation of social identities. We welcome papers that build on or contribute to Marxist theory of power and identity in the context of design activities both within and beyond capitalist firms.


Over the previous two years, this EGOS sub-theme has become a gathering point for organizational scholars working with Marxist ideas. So we invite Marxist submissions on any of these topics, and we also encourage contributions on any of the other dimensions of organization studies where a Marxist approach might be fruitful.

However, in selecting papers, the convenors will give priority to those that address the overall EGOS theme of design, and either (a) enrich our understanding of the empirical world of organizations based on strong Marxist theoretical foundations, or (b) enrich Marxist theory in a way that promises deeper understanding of that world.

While the overall EGOS call asks for short papers under 3,000 words, this sub-theme encourages longer submissions so we can better assess the fit with our program.


Paul S. Adler 
Rick Delbridge
Matt Vidal