27th EGOS Colloquium, Gothenburg, July 69, 2011
Knowledge about assembling and reassembling organizations is now more important than ever. In the light of the current economic crisis, globalization, sustainable futures, financial regulation and social welfare are issues of immense importance for the second decade of this century. There will be a demand for organizational and institutional innovations to deal with these problems and this will have implications for both management practice and our understanding of organizations.
The term "organization" - as used by scholars as well as practitioners - is ambiguous. Organization is used both as a noun and an adjective in "organization studies". As an adjective, it is used to indicate something ordered, stabilized and structured; as a noun, its meaning has shifted from denoting "association" to referring to a type of quasi-object or tool. Rather than focusing attention on how it has been constructed, the concept is frequently used in a way that makes tacit assumptions about the nature of what has been put together. One task of the organization theorist should therefore be to expose the contradictions that result from their ready and routine acceptance.
It can be said that organization practitioners and theoreticians have constructed a kind of a Golem - a clay monster, to fight for them against the threatening world outside - but have forgotten the remaining part of the myth, in which Golem turns against those who constructed it. Similarly, an organization built primarily to serve the interests of its creators can become their oppressor. Alternatively, organizations can themselves become something even bigger - sectors, fields, industries, governments, meta-organizations - how does it happen and why? Who does it mean for the trust we have in organizations?
In practice, it is the proficiency in setting things together - objects, quasi-objects, ideas and people - that is central. In the world of theory, we also strive for proficiency - in showing how assembling is done and undone. In this conference, we can focus on such assembling and reassembling; together, we can share our concerns, our achievements, our theoretical shelters and expand our linguistic breathing space.
Trade, shipping and international contacts have been part of Gothenburg ever since the city was founded in 1621. The city has been through considerable industrial restructuring in the past, but is now one of the most dynamic industrial centers in Europe. Reassembling organizations is therefore an activity well-practiced in Gothenburg!