Sub-theme 28: Troubled Times, Big Issues, Institutional Crises: Insights from Organization Theory

Danielle Logue
University of Technology, Sydney, Australia
Stewart Clegg
University of Technology, Sydney, Australia
Kamal A. Munir
University of Cambridge, UK

Call for Papers

A sense of crisis attaching to significant organizational issues constitutes the stuff of our everyday lives in these modern times: for example, the global financial and Eurozone crisis, the so-called Arab Spring, the 'Occupy' movement, the continuing issues of how to deal with climate change, and the wars of intervention that the West has waged in recent years. Yet there is a surprising and concerning silence from organizational theorists on these issues. Surprising, because of the many relevant conceptual tools and theoretical approaches available; concerning, because organization theory that cannot address the issues of the day is ignoring its obligation to contribute to the wider (theoretical, political, social) challenges posed by these crises (Munir, 2011; Barley, 2007; Clegg, 2006).

Once, at the nineteenth century birth of sociology, when organizations were an object of analysis for the founding fathers, big questions were asked of troubled times, a capacity that seems to have eroded with the growth of technical specializations.

In this sub-theme, we wish to bring together authors who wish to discuss two types of question.

  • The first type relates to why organization theory has observed silence on many defining issues of our time: is this due to our loss of objectivity, in becoming cheerleaders for big business (Munir, 2011)? Are we silent because we have neglected to research how organizations, particularly corporations with significant cultural and political influence, shape our society (Barley, 2007) and natural environment? Or does the broader neglect of power, the state and agency, hinder our explanations of contemporary crises (Clegg, 2010) and lead us to miss opportunities for studying contemporary institutions such as Abu Ghraib and detention camps for asylum seekers (Clegg, 2006)? Are we asking the wrong questions – do we need to build more phronetic and values-based research questions? For example, what are the consequences of organizing in particular ways (Hinings & Greenwood, 2002)? Are specific developments desirable? What, if anything, should we do about the forms of organizing that we adopt, almost 'naturally' (Flyvberg, 2001)?
  • The second type of paper we wish to invite are those which actually grapple with such issues. In keeping with the 2013 Colloquium theme, we are interested in bridging worldviews and making connections between problem-centred, theoretical and critical research to demonstrate how organizational theory can provide insights and contributions to analysis of contemporary crises. For example, in the work of Lounsbury and Hirsch (2010) or Davis (2010) in their economic sociological analysis of the US financial crisis; the special issue on climate change in Business & Society (vol. 51); and other work that grapples with inequality (e.g., in Lawrence, Amis and Munir's EGOS 2012 sub-theme), corporate environmentalism and sustainability (Banerjee, 2001; 2003), or corporate power (Barley, 2010). They all bring to the forefront of their analysis the role of institutions and organizations, and thus how knowledge in our field can be used to contribute to these policy debates.


Submissions need not be limited to the topics mentioned above. Instead they are encouraged across a wide range of theoretical approaches, levels of analysis and methodologies. We are interested in papers that both discuss theoretical contributions from earlier or neglected theorists in contemporary organizational studies as well as concrete empirical work oriented to analysis of the sense of malaise and crisis of these modern times.


Professor Bob Hinings, University of Alberta, will also provide closing commentary and reflections on the sub-theme.



Barley, Stephen (2007): 'Corporations, democracy, and the public good.' Journal of Management Inquiry, 16 (3), 201–215.
Clegg, Stewart (2006): 'Why is organization theory so ignorant? The neglect of total institutions.' Journal of Management Inquiry, 15, 426.
Clegg, Stewart (2010): 'The state, power, and agency: missing in action in institutional theory.' Journal of Management Inquiry, 19, 4.
Cohen, Michael D., James G. March & Johan P. Olsen (1972): 'A garbage can model of organizational choice.' Administrative Science Quarterly, 17 (1), 1.
Flyvberg, Bent (2001): Making Social Science Matter: Why Social Inquiry Fails and How it Can Succeed Again. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Hinings, Christopher & Royston Greenwood (2002): 'Disconnects and consequences in organization theory?' Administrative Science Quarterly, 47, 411–421.
Lounsbury, Michael & Paul M. Hirsch (eds.) (2010): Markets on Trial: The Economic Sociology of the U.S. Financial Crisis: Parts A and B. Cambridge, USA: Emerald Group Publishing Ltd.
Munir, Kamal (2011): 'Financial crisis 2008–2009: what does the silence of institutional theorists tell us?' Journal of Management Inquiry, 20 (2), 114–117.


Danielle Logue is Lecturer in Management at University of Technology, Sydney, and a member of the Centre for Management and Organisations (CMOS) at UTS. She obtained her PhD in Management from Said Business School, University of Oxford, UK.
Stewart Clegg is Research Professor at the University of Technology, Sydney, and Director of the Centre for Management and Organization Studies Research and a Visiting Professor at EM-Lyon, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, and Copenhagen Business School. He is one of the most published and cited authors in the top-tier journals in the Organization Studies field.
Kamal A. Munir is Associate Professor of Strategy and Policy at the University of Cambridge, UK, where he has been based since 2000. He obtained his PhD in Organization and Management Theory from McGill University, Canada. Kamal has published in journals such as the 'Academy of Management Journal', 'Cambridge Journal of Economics', 'Industrial and Corporate Change', 'Organization Studies' and 'Research Policy'.