Sub-theme 25: Core-Peripheral Relations in Organization Studies: Critical and Orthodox Perspectives

Bob Westwood
University of Technology, Sydney, Australia
Gavin A. Jack
La Trobe University, Australia

Call for Papers

Collective memory in orthodox management and organization studies (MOS) typically effaces the fact that Western industrial and post-industrial capitalism, and the organizations and enterprises that sustain it, were constructed through varied and interconnected colonial, neo-colonial and imperial project(s). Indeed, many of the principles and practices of management and organization were forged in the mundane operations of colonial control and administration – in the management of slavery (Cooke, 2003), the organization of plantations, the expropriations of trade via the complex structures of companies such as the Dutch East India Company, the logistics of the opium trade, and through the complex machineries of war, occupation and colonial administration. How would MOS be reassembled if that history were fore grounded and given full voice?

In common with the wider Western social scientific community, the material and discursive structures of knowledge and the institutional frames that support Western forms of MOS have created asymmetrical relationships of dependency (Alatas, 2000; 2003). Ideas and the modern practices of management and organization have diffused centrifugally out from the North Atlantic centre, mapping the trajectory of colonial, postcolonial and imperial power flows (Frenkel & Shenhav, 2003). The North Atlantic centre has controlled and virtually monopolised the production and dissemination of 'knowledge' about management and organizations, particularly through the institutions of academia, and the publishing machine in all its manifestations. Of course this dissemination has never been unidirectional, nor without active processes of appropriation and resistance. But it has led to the common understanding of a core centre where theorizing takes place, and various peripheries that are considered to be passive recipients of such theory. How would/could organizations and MOS then be re-assembled so that voices from the so-called periphery are listened to, and conceptions and explanations of management and organization located in such a periphery taken seriously and allowed legitimised space?

This stream aims to contribute to an ongoing redress (see, for instance, Prichard, Sayers & Bathurst, 2007; Tsui, 2004) of this historical amnesia and circumscribed theory culture of MOS through the concept of re-assembly. Both in the domains of practice and theory, different locales in the periphery are producing knowledge about management and organization that are alternatively constituted and which challenge that produced in the centre. In terms of practice, ideas about management and organization locally grounded in peripheral locations are beginning to have traction more widely, and this is particularly facilitated by the emergence and influence of 'developing' country and non-centre MNCs (Mathews, 2002; Yeung & Olds, 2000). Recent scholarly research on the internationalization of Chinese firms, the autocratic form of Chinese capitalism and the waning geopolitical domination of the US commercial-political complex point to the growing power of non-US forms of economy, society and organization. There has, of course, for some time been recognition that there are in fact varieties of capitalism (Clegg, Redding & Cartner, 1990; Morgan, Whitley & Moen, 2006) but too often these are represented in the North Atlantic as exotic variations to the presumed dominant model of the West.

If the periphery talks back, will it be heard? If so, how, within the discourses around organization, can that introduce new and fruitful perspectives, epistemic pluralities, fresh horizons and expanded possibilities that can constitute a judicious reassembly of MOS? Themes, issues and questions related to that include, but are not confined to:

  • Can we provincialize and thus decentre US-centric and Eurocentric conceptualisations and practices with respect to organization?
  • What management and organization practices from the periphery or semi-periphery can be considered as sufficiently distinctive and developed to constitute an alternative to practices in the centre?
  • How might such alternative practices and theorisations precipitate a re-assembling of organization and MOS in the centre?
  • Do different versions of indigenous management and organization and their possibilities of alternative conceptualisation and practice raise questions for the reconfiguration of MOS?
  • What varieties of capitalism exist in peripheral locations and what implications do they have for organization and MOS?
  • Does international and cross-cultural management studies actually show that US management and organization is in fact an outlier relative to what is practiced and conceptualised in the rest of the world?
  • Are there distinctive and alternative Islamic conceptualisations and practices of management and organization and how might that help construct an alternative MOS if it were allowed into productive interface with the non-Islamic orthodoxy?
  • Are we witnessing a reconceptualizing of management in terms of the 'other' in a time of prevailing fear of terrorism and insecurity?
  • Are their hybridisations and processes of hybridity that already problematise a centre-periphery relationship and unilateral and unidirectional knowledge flows?
  • Contra Orientalism, what can be imagined and opened up (or indeed closed down) if Occidentalism is entertained, if there is a reversal of centuries of appropriative representational practices?
  • Does raising questions about centre-periphery and the inevitable comparative process implied simply reproduce the binary and its asymmetries of power and privilege?
  • How might we usefully theorize re-assembly through ideas of transnationalism?
  • How should gender, class, race and ethnicity come to play a part in this revised conceptual picture?


Alatas, S.H. (2000): "Intellectual imperialism: Definition, traits and problems." Southeast Asian Journal of Social Science, 28 (1), 23-45.
Alatas, S.F. (2003): "Academic dependency and the global division of labour in the social sciences." Current Sociology, 51, 599-633.
Clegg, S.R., S.G. Redding & M. Cartner (eds.) (1990): Capitalism in Contrasting Cultures. Berlin: de Gruyter.
Cooke, B. (2003): "The denial of slavery in management studies." Journal of Management Studies, 40 (8), 1895-1918.
Frenkel, M. & Y. Shenhav (2003): "From Americanization to Colonization: The diffusion of productivity models revisited." Organization Studies, 24, 1537-1561.
Mathews, J.A. (2002): Dragon Multinational: A New Model for Global Growth. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Morgan, G., R.D. Whitley & E. Moen (eds.) (2006): Changing Capitalisms? Internationalisation, Institutional Change and Systems of Economic Organization. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Prichard, C., J. Sayers & R. Bathurst (2007): "Franchise, margin and locale: Constructing a Critical Management Studies locale in Aotearoa New Zealand." New Zealand Sociology, 22 (1), 22-44.
Tsui, A. (2004): "Contributing to global management knowledge: A case for high quality indigenous research." Asia Pacific Journal of Manegement, 21, 491-513.
Yeung, H. W.-C. & K. Olds (eds.) (2000): Globalization of Chinese Business Firms. New York: Macmillan.


Bob Westwood 
Gavin A. Jack