Sub-theme 54: Rationality and Organizational Life in Hard Economic Times [merged with sub-themes 39 and 53]


Call for Papers

Under hard economic times, free market capitalism poses challenges to both companies and workers, especially to those at the operational level of firms, and raises social dilemmas in relation to action and the meaning organizational actors ascribe to it. In the Aristotelian syllogism rationality is founded on the principle of a 'mere means to an end' with 'practical reasoning' ('deliberation', bouleusis) starting from an 'end' which is wished for (boulesis) and terminating in a 'choice' (proairesis) (Thorton, 1982: 59–60). It is assumed that rationality is inextricably bound up with choice of action and that reasoning is an integral part of human nature that has the power to transform individuals' consciousness. This calls into question the capacity of people to orient their actions rationally on the basis of Weber's value and/or instrumentality (Kalberg, 1980; Oakes, 2003) in a volatile and precarious organizational life during recessionary times.

It is rather equivocal that in difficult economic times opportunities or choice of action are limited as both organizations and workers are entering "survival mode", and what seems rational to some might seem non-rational to others. Employment and management practices recalibrate towards cost-efficiency with detrimental effects on employment conditions (e.g. work intensification, working hours, job insecurity, pay cuts) (Bolton & Houlihan, 2007; Legge, 1988; Roche et al., 2013) and career trajectories (e.g. shift away from stable and linear career systems) (Baruch & Bozionelos, 2010).

This sub-theme aims to consider the under-explored issue of rationality and its associated challenges in organizational life during hard economic times. In particular, it is intended to bring together researchers with an interest in employment and management practices, including careers, and research with different methodologies on the above described development. We welcome both theoretical contributions and empirical ones. For the latter, comparative studies and perspectives will be particularly appreciated.

Indicative areas of scholarship that might be explored include, but are not limited to:

  • How is rationality understood in organizational life in hard economic times and what are the implications of this for individuals, organizations and the society?
  • What are the implications of a volatile and precarious organizational life for individuals' actions?
  • To what extent does a volatile and precarious organizational life allow choice of action?
  • To what extent are individuals not inextricably bound to act in a moral manner in the workplace in hard economic times?
  • To what extent does rationality inform managerial practice and careers in hard economic times and how is this experienced in different settings?
  • To what extent are companies reluctant to assume responsibility for employees' careers during hard economic times and whether and how this could be changed?
  • How do managers respond to the challenges of managing a vulnerable workforce in hard economic times?
  • How do workers experience volatile and precarious organizational life?




  • Baruch, Y., & Bozionelos, N. (2010): "Career issues." In: S. Zedeck (ed.): APA Handbook of Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Vol. 2. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association, pp.67–113.
  • Bolton, M., & Houlihan, M. (2007): Searching for the Human in Human Resource Management. Houndmills, UK: Palgrave.
  • Kalberg, S. (1980): "Max Weber's types of rationality." The American Journal of Sociology, 85 (5), 1145–1179.
  • Legge, K. (1988): "Personnel management in recovery and recession." Personnel Review, 17 (2), 2–72.
  • Oakes, G. (2003): "Max Weber on value rationality and value spheres. Critical remarks." Journal of Classical Sociology, 3 (1), 27–45.
  • Roche, W., Teague, P., Coughlan, A., & Fahy, M. (2013): Recession at Work. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.
  • Thorton, M.T. (1982): "Aristotelian practical reason." Mind, XCI, 57–76.