Sub-theme 33: Civil Society in the Age of Disruption

Filip Wijkström
Stockholm School of Economics, Sweden
Michael Meyer
Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria
Kari Steen-Johnsen
Institute for Social Research, Norway

Call for Papers

Civil Society is conceived as a sphere of dynamic and responsive discourse between the state, the public sphere and the market (Janoski, 1998) that is populated by civil society organizations (CSOs) such as registered charities, development non-governmental organizations, community groups, women's organizations, faith-based organizations, professional associations, trades unions, self-help groups, social movements, business associations, coalitions and advocacy groups.

Amidst market implosions, environmental crises, on-going transitions of traditional government and the jostling for position amongst developed and developing economies, the external conditions for organising – the resources or bases of legitimacy as well as regulations – are transforming, perhaps irrevocably at the same time as some of the organizations are driving these changes. Under this subtheme, we aim to explore civil society and its organizations as:

  • Disrupters of societal institutions, driving the changes in conditions of organising
  • Organisers of societal changes, test labs for inventing solutions and solving problems
  • Organizations that must change quickly in response to altered external conditions

While we are looking for a diversity of papers in terms of theoretical as well as methodological approaches, in this stream we particularly welcome papers under the following four themes:

Theme 1: Challenging and changing CSO landscapes

We invite papers that document and analyse the changing resource, support and possibility context for CSOs and the long-term effects of these changes in the current civil society landscape. For example, in the 19th and 20th centuries, mass movements emerged in many countries as strong collective forces that engineered social change and that evolved into established institutions. With ongoing individualisation and other modernity processes, the stability of these institutions is now challenged. We are interested in exploring (a) how the position, role and resources of these older organizations will change or re-assemble, as well as (b) which new types of assemblies will emerge and what roles these new kids on the block may play in shaping our societies.

Theme 2: Identity and boundary work

Residing at the intersection of sectors, societal aims and stakeholder groups, many CSOs are engaged in continuous boundary work and the (re-)construction of viable identities (Dutton, Dukerich & Harquail, 1994). Lately, concepts of pluralism and hybridity have gained force as analytical tools in organization theory (Kraatz & Block, 2008) and in CSO studies (Evers & Laville, 2004). CSOs seem particularly apt for studying how diverging logics and multiple constituencies are organised, and the consequences of pluralism over time. We invite papers that examine internal organizational processes of maintenance and disruption in changing external environments. We encourage exploration of contemporary themes of CSO transition and change – for example, social entrepreneurship, new philanthropy, or social investments.

Theme 3: Civil society and claims on legitimacy

In this theme, we explore CSOs as drivers of change, creators of disturbances and proponents of shock in various fields of the organizational landscape. We invite papers that explore the role of CSOs as agents, facilitators or provocateurs of a changing or even disrupted societal landscape. We also invite contributions that address CSO organising modes which impact on organizational practices in the public or for profit sector. We encourage papers that consider the implications for CSO legitimacy in the face of profound organizational and institutional change.

Theme 4: Whither the CSO field?

The interdisciplinary field of CSO studies assembles political scientists, historians, anthropologists, economists, sociologists, and management scholars. We invite inter- and multidisciplinary reflections upon the consequences of existing scholarly constructions of CSOs, their roles and functions, for the research field more broadly defined. We also encourage papers addressing the move to sectoral borderlands, in the overlap of public, private and CSO sectors. What are the empirical implications when CSOs become less distinctive in form and practice from public and private counterparts, and how do we, as scholars, deal with the conceptual challenges that follow?


Dutton, J. E., J.M. Dukerich & C.V. Harquail (1994): "Organizational Images and Member Identification." Administrative Science Quarterly, 39 (2), 239-263.
Evers, A. & J.-L. Laville (2004): "Social services by social enterprises: on the possible contributions of hybrid organizations and a civil society." In: A. Evers & J.-L. Laville (eds.):The Third Sector in Europe. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 237-255
Janoski, T. (1998): Citizenship and Civil Society. A framework of rights and obligations in liberal, traditional, and social democratic regimes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kraatz, M.S. & E.S. Block (2008): "Organizational Implications of Institutional Pluralism." In: R. Suddaby, R. Greenwood & K. Sahlin (eds.): Handbook of Organizational Institutionalism. New York: Sage, 243-275.


Filip Wijkström 
Michael Meyer 
Kari Steen-Johnsen