Sub-theme 47: Risk and Organizations: Understanding Reason, Reflexivity and Responsibility in Risk Management

Robert P. Gephart Jr.
University of Alberta, Canada, & University of Lyon 3, France
Steve Maguire
McGill University, Canada
Michael K. Power
London School of Economics, UK

Call for Papers

It has been said that organizing represents the quest to affirm Apollonian logos over Dionysian pathos. In our contemporary world, the increasingly significant practices through which disorder and uncertainty are understood, tamed and acted upon are those of risk management. As "ideas about risk and risk management have come to play a key role in the very idea of organizing and organization itself" (Scheytt et al., 2006: 1336), managers now engage with technologies, employees, supply chains, regulators and other external stakeholders as "risk objects" (Hilgartner, 1992) that could disrupt and impair operations, reputations and profitability. In addition, organizations themselves are effectively risk objects for regulators and external stakeholders trying to prevent damage (Scheytt et al., 2006) to a diverse set of valued entities, ranging from financial systems to ecosystems.

While technical approaches to risks tend to position them as objective phenomena "out there" waiting to be identified and measured by technical experts, it is clear that they "emerge from the very organizing processes through which they are assessed and managed" (Maguire & Hardy, 2013: 232), including those processes within science and other professions. Issues of risk cut across traditional disciplinary boundaries so we particularly welcome papers that draw on multiple perspectives to better understand the complex relationship between risk and organizing, including organization theory, strategy, and accounting as well as social studies of finance or science and technology.


More specifically, we invite contributions that explore risk in and around organizations in terms of the overall EGOS Colloquium theme and related indicative questions:

Risk and reason

  • Is risk management the appropriate frame for engaging with all forms or manifestations of incertitude such as ambiguity, uncertainty, ignorance, probabilistic effects and emergent systemic outcomes?
  • Do organizations and regulators over-invest in rationalized forms of anticipation at the expense of organizational resilience?
  • How do organizational actors make sense of, and argue about risk in their day-to-day work outside of formally constituted forms of risk management?

Risk and reflexivity

  • Under what conditions can taken-for-granted risk management practices become themselves a risk object for organizations?
  • How might research on risk inform theories of sense-making, organizational learning and identity formation?
  • How do risk management practices mask or reproduce power relations?

Risk and responsibility

  • What do the risk management practices of an organization tell us about its understanding of responsibility and accountability – to whom or what does the organization act like it is accountable?
  • Has risk management become a substitute for ethics?
  • How might we construct exchanges between research on risk and research on corporate social responsibility or on organizations and the natural environment?

Sub-theme format: To maximize the developmental potential for submitted papers, we anticipate complementing sessions that adopt the normal presentation format (in which papers are presented plenary-style) with some sessions that adopt a more interactive approach (in which related papers are presented and discussed in small groups that then report back to plenary).




  • Hilgartner, S. (1992): "The social construction of risk objects: Or, how to pry open networks of risk." In: J.F. Short, Jr. & L. Clarke (eds): Organizations, Uncertainties, and Risk. Boulder: Westview Press, pp. 39–51.
  • Maguire, S., & Hardy, C. (2013): "Organizing processes and the construction of risk: A discursive approach." Academy of Management Journal, 56 (1): 231–255.
  • Scheytt, T., Soin, K., Sahlin-Anderson, K., & Power, M. (2006): "Introduction: organizations, risk and regulation." Journal of Management Studies, 43 (6), 1331–1337.


Robert P. Gephart Jr. is Professor of Strategic Management and Organization at the University of Alberta School of Business, Canada, and Visiting Professor at IAE Lyon, University of Lyon 3, France. His research interests are organizational risk sense-making in the energy industry, qualitative research methods and ethnostatistics. His research has been published in a number of important journals including 'Administrative Science Quarterly', 'Academy of Management Journal', 'Organization Studies', and 'Journal of Management'. He is the author of "Ethnostatistics" (SAGE, 1988), co-editor of "Postmodern Management and Organization Theory" (SAGE, 1996) and currently serves as Associate Editor of 'Organizational Research Methods'.
Steve Maguire is Professor of Strategy and Organization in the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill Universityand Director of the Marcel Desautels Institute for Integrated Management, Montréal, Canada. His research focuses on institutional change resulting from emerging risks to human health and the environment; and he has advised the Government of Canada on the application of the precautionary principle to chemicals management. He has published numerous articles and chapters including in 'Academy of Management Journal', 'Strategic Management Journal', 'Organization Studies', 'Journal of Management Studies', 'Health Care Management Review', 'Global Governance', 'Greener Management International', 'Journal of Management Inquiry', 'Strategic Organization', and 'Emergence'.
Michael K. Power is Professor of Accounting at the London School of Economics, UK and holds honorary doctorates from the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland, and the University of Uppsala, Sweden. His research focuses on regulation, accounting, auditing, internal control and the ascendancy of risk management as a paradigm for organizing. His major works, "The Audit Society: Rituals of Verification" (Oxford, 1999) and "Organized Uncertainty: Designing a World of Risk Management" (Oxford, 2007) have been translated into several languages.