Sub-theme 39: MERGED with sub-theme 30!


Call for Papers

Over the last twenty years, the field of organizational change has generated tremendous interest in academic literature. In addition to the wide range of textbooks that have recently been published on this subject, there are a variety of well-established bespoke journals focussing on organizational change. A further range of journals focuses upon specific aspects of change and society. The existence of these specialised publications has not restricted other journals from recently publishing special issues dedicated to various aspects of organizational and societal change (see, for example, Neumann at al., 2009; Rees & Metcalfe, 2008).

Arguably, these levels of interest in organizational change reflect the scale of the societal-level change evident in developed and less developed countries across the world (Rees & Miazhevich, 2009). This societal change impacts upon organizations and raises serious questions about how change should be led and managed. However, this affectedness of organizations by change is only one appearance of organizational change as organizations are often ascribed responsibility for a large share of societal dynamics. Organizations are asked and, at times, required to develop and initiate change interventions by actors such as governments, international business partnerships and international non-governmental agencies.

Yet, when both intervening in society and experiencing interventions by society, organizations appear to struggle with the implications of change. In fact, change processes implemented within organizations show astonishingly high rates of failure (i.e. Sorge & van Witteloostuijn, 2004). The same negative outcomes also emerge when governments and international organizations attempt to devise change strategies at the societal level (Fukuyama, 2005). For example, the current political and economic struggles to overcome the effects of the economic crisis, or the low success rates of recent efforts of nation-building in the Middle-East and Africa, provide evidence that intended change at the societal level is as problematic as change at the organizational level (Acemoglu & Robinson, 2013).

In essence, something appears to be wrong with the way in which we imagine and shape intended change. One possible reason might be located in the roots of modern intervention. The ideology of management (Shenhav, 1999) and of intervention (Fukuyama, 2005) emerged predominantly from a puritanical (Weber, 2010) culture, assisted by natural science. Yet, what if this path of modern intervention prevented an appropriate access to its objects? What if we still misunderstand conditions of different social systems and of their interfaces (Luhmann, 1995)? And what if we simply don’t know how to intervene?

In this sub-theme, we therefore intend to explore the field of organizational change and intervention. We seek to imagine, conceptualize and compare change with reference to: (a) different functional systems of our society using, for example, economic, political, educational, or even military prisms; and (b) different organizational types of organizations, for examples enterprises, NGOs, political parties, schools and armies. We welcome papers examining questions such as:

  • In the multitude of academic publications and reports of change interventions, what is being overlooked and ignored in terms of intervention and change?
  • What assumptions about change need to be revised and even abandoned; what is beyond our current perception of intervention, change and institution?
  • How could the coupling between organization and society be described more adequately?
  • Accordingly, how could we conceptualize modern intervention and change management?
  • What can and should modern change scholars contribute to change in organizations and society more generally?



Acemoglu, Daron & James A. Robinson (2013): Why Nations Fail. The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty. New York: Crown Business Press.
Fukuyama, Francis (ed.) (2005): Nation Building. Beyond Afghanistan and Iraq. Washington: John Hopkins University Press.
Luhmann, Niklas (1995): Social Systems. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Neumann, Jean E., Chung-Ming & Christopher G. Worley (2009): 'Ready for Consideration. International Organizational Development and Change as an Emerging Field of Practice.' The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 45 (2), pp. 171–185.
Rees, Christopher J. & Beverley D. Metcalfe (2008): 'Editorial: Organizational Change and Development – Perspectives from Eastern Europe.' Human Resource Development International, 11 (2), pp. 113–118.
Rees, Christopher J. & Galina Miazhevich (2009): 'Socio-cultural Change and Business Ethics in Post-Soviet Countries: The Cases of Belarus and Estonia.' Journal of Business Ethics, 86 (1), pp. 51–63.
Shenhav, Yehouda A. (1999): Manufacturing Rationality. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Sorge, Arndt & Arjen van Witteloostuijn (2004): 'The (Non)Sense of Organizational Change: An Essai about Universal Management Hypes, Sick Consultancy Metaphors, and Healthy Organization Theories.' Organization Studies, 25 (7), pp. 1205–1231.
Weber, Max (2010): The Protestant Ethics and the Spirit of Capitalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.