Bringing Organizations Back In: Bridging Economic Sociology and Political Economy

Sixth Max Planck Summer Conference on Economy and Society
Schloss Ringberg, Tegernsee | July 13-16, 2011


Topic and Goal of the Conference

Organizations and networks of organizations are a constitutive feature of market economies; they are a formative feature of democratic political systems; last but not least they are foundational for modern civil societies. Moreover, by means of resource mobilization, identity and solidarity building, collective mobilization and institutionalization of decision-making rules, processes of organizing within and between organizations can be potentially transformative of existing economic, social and political orders. The ways in which organizations are constituted, operate and internally function is therefore crucial for understanding the dynamics of competition and coordination in markets, as well as struggles, decision-making and problem-solving in the political economy. Yet, there has been a tendency to neglect organizing within and between organizations in both, economic sociology and political economy over the last decades. Abstract conceptualizations of actors and institutions often gloss over the specific social features of organizations which differentiate them as meso-level phenomena from individual actors and macro-structures. Organizations are frequently taken as given entities, as black boxes with imputed or assumed attributes, or as nodes in structural networks, rather than analyzed as organic social entities with changing features and social dynamics of their own. Moreover, the neglect of organizations as actors, arenas and outcomes of social coordination and struggles in economic sociology and political economy has been mirrored by an increasing shift towards business and management studies in organizational theory which has widened rather than bridged disciplinary trenches.
Bringing organizations back into economic sociology and political economy can help to renew interdisciplinary bridges, all the more in the light of recent calls from organization scholars to see organizations as social and political constructs vested with the power and potential to build a sustainable social fabric, especially in global contexts where public institutions and policy-making are weak or do not exist. Bringing organizations back in can also provide a deepened understanding of different forms of production and market exchange, as well as of processes of political mobilisation and apathy, democratic participation and abstention, and institutional emergence and change.
Although such an attempt at bridging can build to some extent on the work of founding fathers like Durkheim, Michels, Weber and Tocqueville it must also move in important respects beyond them. The founding fathers, like many postwar scholars, were particularly concerned with the rise of corporate and public bureaucracies, their internal dynamics and their integrating or alienating impact on society. Since the 1980s, however, globalization, liberalization and social differentiation have increasingly shown the limitations of hierarchical forms of organizing. Contemporary societies are populated by a variety of different forms of organizations and networks, ranging from collaborative to bureaucratic, from formal to informal, and from local to transnational. How organizations and their members search for what is valuable, how they attempt to balance coordination and competition, how they define authority relations and democratic participation and how they can establish legitimate rules and institutions with sufficient flexibility for adaptation to changing environments – these are all critical questions for collective inquiry and debate. The conference “Bringing Organizations Back In: Bridging Economic Sociology and Political Economy” will provide a forum for scholars from sociology, political science and organizational studies working on issues relating to the social and political constitution of the economy from organizational perspectives. The goal of the conference is to contribute to the theoretical and methodological understanding of organizational approaches to the changing interface between economy and polity in contemporary societies. In particular, it aims at investigating how under conditions of increasing strategic uncertainly and complexity, organizations cope with and shape blurring boundaries between the economic, the social and the political.


Organization and contact

Christina Glasmacher

Phone +49 221 2767-xxx

MPIfG: Conference "Bringing Organizations Back In: Bridging Economic Sociology and Political Economy" | [Last updated 25.03.2014 18:30]