RC17 Partner Workshop “Meta-, Macro-, and Partial Organization” 2019

Workshop Report

“Meta-, Macro-, and Partial Organization: Advances in Research and Theory”

Toulouse School of Management,
May 13-14, 2019

Supported by the ISA RC17

Co-organized by Héloïse Berkowitz (CNRS TSM-Research) and Michael Grothe-Hammer (Helmut Schmidt University Hamburg),

On the 13th and 14th of May 2019 was held the first Toulouse workshop on “Meta-, Macro-, and Partial Organization: Advances in Research and Theory” at Toulouse School of Management. It gathered more than thirty researchers in management, economy and sociology from France, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, & the United Kingdom. In a wonderfully benevolent, constructive and creative spirit, this forum constituted a unique opportunity to exchange about alternative concepts in organization theory, of their uses, validity and possible evolution. A delicious buffet dinner then allowed to continue discussion in a more relaxed atmosphere, at cozy restaurant Aux Pieds Sous la Table, in a privatized lounge.

The contemporary world is filled with a multiplicity of organizations. These organizations keep morphing into news forms to adapt to societal challenges and we still understand relatively little about these new dynamics. These organizations may be complete, in the sense of Swedish scholars Ahrne and Brunsson, that is, with a membership, hierarchy, rules, monitoring and sanctions. Or they may be partial organization, as in the case of standards. But organizations also increasingly create organizations, or meta-organizations (organizations of organizations). Meta-organizations then organize themselves at a macro level, resulting in an organizational milfoil that classic theories like institutionalism or network do not necessarily fully account for. A common feature to these forms is the central role played by decisions. The objective of this workshop was to develop the analytical power of these new concepts of meta-organization, partial organization and macro organization, in an interdisciplinary dialogue between economy, management and sociology centered on decision. 18 presentations were made on different topics: meta-organization formation, multi-stakeholder meta-organization dynamics, innovation, success and failure of meta-organizations, meta- and partial organization theory, tensions in and around meta-organizations.

The two-day workshop concluded on a collective discussion that identified several important areas of development for the meta-, macro-, partial organization literature. Integrating meta-organization with other similar relevant literatures (trade associations, international labor, etc.) appeared as a fruitful and necessary step to further theorize meta-organization. Another important point was to conduct population level studies in order to highlight similarities across the varieties of meta-organizational forms and categories. Better theorizing the crucial differences between individual, organization and meta-organization, and articulating these different levels in meta-organization studies, would also contribute not only to this field but also to sociology of organizations as a whole.  Shedding some light on what remains in the “shadow”, i.e. actions of meta-organizations that are not necessarily transparent, would also have both scientific and societal impact. Finally, we agreed that we should remain careful and critical regarding the development of these concepts, in order to ensure that they remain relevant.

Several future events are planned to continue this fruitful dialogue on these topics, notably EGOS 2019 in Edinburg, EGOS 2020 in Hamburg and ISA 2020 in Porto Alegre. Follow the RC17 website for all the calls for papers.

A special issue on meta-organization is also in preparation in the academic open access journal M@n@gement, with a call for papers in December 2019.

This meeting was made possible thanks to TSM Research, the MSHS Toulouse (2019 MSHS workshop grant application) and the ISA Research Committee 17 “Sociology of Organizations” at the International Sociological Association (ISA).

Workshop Scientific Committee:

Göran Ahrne (Stockholm University), Héloïse Berkowitz (CNRS TSM-Research), Sanne Bor (Hanken School of Economics), Frank den Hond (Hanken School of Economics), Michael Grothe-Hammer (Helmut Schmidt University Hamburg), Stefan Kirchner (Technische Universität Berlin), Dennis Schoeneborn (Copenhagen Business School), David Seidl (University of Zurich), Mikaela Sundberg (Stockholm University)

Partners of the workshop