Sub-theme 08: (SWG) History, Institutions and Institutional Change

Stephanie Decker
Aston Business School, Aston University, UK
Lars Engwall
Uppsala University, Sweden
Behlül Üsdiken
Sabanci University, Istanbul, Turkey

Call for Papers

The important role that institutions play for all forms of organizations has been recognized in a wide variety of disciplines. Douglass North's (1990) book on the nature of institutional change in economic history was influential in both economics and history. Likewise has among others the article by DiMaggio and Powell's (1983) been significant in sociology and organization studies. Nevertheless, the nature of institutional change has remained a heavily contested subject that has not seen the same degree of theoretical and empirical development.

Institutional change is by its very definition a process that unfolds over long time periods with fundamentally unpredictable outcomes that can only be properly evaluated with hindsight. Because institutional change is a fundamental feature in historical research, many historians do not necessarily define or reflect on this as a research phenomenon in its own right. As a result many research debates in organization studies have remained curiously a-historical when developing the antecedents, outcomes and mediating factors for processes of institutionalization, institutional maintenance, and deinstitutionalization (Dacin et al., 2010).

Nevertheless, between these two extremes there are many processes of institutional change in organizations that develop over time periods that are too long to research with the standard methods of qualitative social science such as questionnaires, interviews or participant observations. Here some historical approaches based on archival research or oral history may create more interesting research designs (Farjoun, 2002). Historical theory also has different insights to offer organization studies (Rowlinson et al., 2014). It is in these areas that management and organizational history could contribute by investigating phenomena from a more long-term perspective.

We hope to attract papers with a long-term perspective focusing on individual institutions as well as on fields of institutions. We envisage that papers will be empirically rich, but also they are linked to current institutional theories.




  • Dacin, M.T., Munir, K., & Tracey, P. (2010): "Formal dining at Cambridge colleges: Linking ritual performance and institutional maintenance." Academy of Management Journal, 53 (6), 1393–1418.
  • DiMaggio, P.J., & Powell, W.W. (1983): "The iron cage revisited: Institutional isomorphism and collective rationality in organizational fields." American Sociological Review, 48 (2), 147–160.
  • Farjoun, M. (2002): "The dialectics of institutional development in emerging and turbulent fields: The history of pricing conventions in the on-line database industry." Academy of Management Journal, 45 (5), 848–874.
  • North, D.C. (1990): Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Rowlinson, M., Hassard, J., & Decker, S. (2014): "Research strategies for organizational history: A dialogue between historical theory and organization theory." Academy of Management Review, 39 (3), 250–274.


Stephanie Decker is Professor of Organization Studies and History at Aston Business School, UK. As a historian working at a business school, most of her work is concerned with the relation between organization theory and history. She is co-editor of 'Business History' and is the recipient of the prestigious Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship 2014–15, as well as the principal organizer of a seminar series on organizational history funded by the Economic and Social Science Research Council (UK). She co-authored "Research Strategies for Organizational History" (Academy of Management Review, 2014) with Michael Rowlinson and John Hassard
Lars Engwall is Professor of Business Administration at Uppsala University, Sweden, since 1981. His research has been directed towards the development of industries and organizations as well as the creation and diffusion of management knowledge. Among his publications related to the sub-theme can be mentioned "Mercury Meets Minerva" (2009/1992), "Management Consulting" (2002, ed. with Matthias Kipping), "The Expansion of Management Knowledge" (2002, ed. with Kerstin Sahlin-Andersson), and "Reconfiguring Knowledge Production" (2010, with Richard Whitley & Jochen Gläser).
Behlül Üsdiken is Professor of Management and Organization at Sabanci University, Istanbul, Turkey; previously, he was a Professor at Bogazici University. He has contributed to numerous journals as well as a variety of edited collections. Behlül has served as a Co-editor of 'Organization Studies' in 1996–2001 and a Section Editor of the 'Journal of Management Inquiry' in 2007–2012. His current research focuses upon the role of history in organization studies, management education and universities.