Sub-theme 55: MERGED with sub-theme 53!


Call for Papers


Attributing responsibility is often a central part of organizing, but it might not be enough to complete a collective project that needs to be performed. It happens, therefore, that responsibility attribution is loosely coupled or decoupled from actual performance.

In this sub-theme, we invite papers illustrating this kind of tension between responsibility attribution and actual performance in organizing processes. Beyond well known examples like scapegoating, the analysis of the complicated relationship of responsibility to performativity could be particularly useful in analyzing contemporary management and organizing.


We have identified three main trends whose analysis could be enriched by the responsibility vs. performativity lens:


  • "Responsibilization" policies: a general trend (called here "responsibilization policies”) has spread in public administration (e.g. the REACH regulation in Europe) and also in business management (e.g. Corporate Social Responsibility). Its main principle is the following: collective action failures could be resolved through a new "responsibilization" policy. One important question (which is also a way of analyzing these policies) is then: how these responsibilization policies relate the collective action performance, if at all? Some CSR researchers have pointed a resulting conflict between the two meaning of performance: theatrical (CSR as a show) and economic.
  • Organizing in the risk society: responsibility attribution has a central role in the media when they are explaining disasters or accidents, whereas research takes often an opposite stance (e.g. Perrow's analysis of normal accidents). Does the focus on responsibility hinder focusing attention on performativity and therefore prevent or delay solutions of problems? On the opposite, would a better understanding of the way responsibility has been attributed enhance performance in accidents and disaster situations. Do bureaucracies dilute responsibility, because they support a "structural secret" (D. Vaughan) that weakens the warning signals?
  • Organizing between and without organizations: the spread of the network model in business organizing has been accompanied with the difficulty for stakeholders to identify the decision-maker when a problem occurs. How did the law and law practitioners adapt? Are there new and original ways of attributing responsibility corresponding to new forms of organizing in labor law, corporate law, environment law, and consumer law? Further, in our interorganizational and "beyond-organizational" world (C. Shirky), what is the usefulness of a posteriori responsibility attribution?