On the Shoulders of Giants

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257 pages
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 English
Our responsibility as educators is not only to ensure that our students are well grounded in the fundamentals of our field, but also to motivate them to do meaningful research.
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Tommy Jensen is professor at Stockholm Business School, Stockholm University. His research interests are in the areas of organization theory, sociology and moral philosophy, with a focus on the intersection between ”private” and ”public” spheres and the social and environmental dilemmas that this inte...

Tommy Jensen is professor at Stockholm Business School, Stockholm University. His research interests are in the areas of organization theory, sociology and moral philosophy, with a focus on the intersection between ”private” and ”public” spheres and the social and environmental dilemmas that this inte...

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Our responsibility as educators is not only to ensure that our students are well grounded in the fundamentals of our field, but also to motivate them to do meaningful research. We therefore asked ourselves why an introductory book was not available that gave a fair account of the basic message and key concepts, outlined the relevance to contemporary organization studies and led to a curiosity about the rich history of organization studies? We believe that the variety presented in this volume will guarantee exposure to the thinking and traditions of different disciplines, to different suggestions as to how to study organizations and to vastly different conclusions.

Part of our responsibility as educators is to see that our students are well grounded in the fundamentals of our field. This is why a PhD course was held at Umeå School of Business a couple of years ago.3 In the course the students read some influential books on organization studies.4 Based on their reading, the students were asked to discover the books’ insights and apply them to their own PhD projects. Selecting which researchers and books to read is not an easy task for a teacher, neither is there room for many books within the framework of a 7.5 ETCS course.

Course books on key-readings in organization studies do, of course, exist. Given that such accounts are more or less instrumental, in our opinion they fail to arouse curiosity. We thus asked ourselves why an introductory book was not available that gave a fair account of the basic message and key concepts, outlined the relevance to contemporary organization studies and led to curiosity about the rich history of organization studies? There is clearly a need for an introductory book containing insightful and interesting reviews of influential thinkers and their books. Reading such a book at the outset of a PhD course would expose PhD students to the history of organizational studies. Also, after completing the book they would be in a better position to investigate those thinkers and ideas they found particularly interesting.

In 2009, the 20th NFF Conference (Nordiska Företagsekonomiska Föreningen) was held in Åbo, Finland. There a presentation was delivered entitled “On the Shoulder of Giants” (Wilson, 2009). Starting with quotes from Sir Isaac Newton and George Santayana, a few arguments were put forward as to why history can never be forgotten. Of course we can choose to set some parts of history aside, so as not to repeat bad practices, although that choice cannot be made without careful examination and evaluation. We should also continuously reflect on which shoulders it is best to stand. This task does not only demand careful examination and evaluation but also requires rediscovering and revaluating historical reality. Again, as disciples of science we must never become a-historical.

The presentation included a description of three recent accounts: one by Charles Lindblom on decision making, one by Thomas Kuhn on paradigm shifts and another by Paul R. Lawrence & Jay W. Lorsch on effective organizations. In each of these accounts the background to and reflection on the classic text at hand was given; the relevance for Swedish studies today, reflections and observations and lessons for managers. The main message of the presentation was basically that history still has a lot to contribute to a contemporary understanding of organizations.

These two experiences have led us to agree that “On the Shoulder of Giants” is a necessary book with a good title.

  1. Georges Bataille
    1. On His Shoulders (And Other Parts of the Body of Knowledge)
    2. Alf Rehn and Marcus Lindahl
  2. Zygmunt Bauman
    1. The Holocaust and Organization Studies
    2. Tommy Jensen
  3. Reinhard Bendix
    1. Work and Authority in Industry
    2. Markus Kallifatides
  4. Marta B. Calás and Linda Smircich
    1. Seductive Poststructuralist Re-readings of Leadership
    2. Ulla Eriksson-Zetterquist
  5. Richard M. Cyert and James G. March
    1. An Eye-opener and a Lifelong Love Affair
    2. Rolf A. Lundin
  6. Peter F. Drucker
    1. Father of Management and Grandfather of Marketing
    2. Timothy L. Wilson
  7. Henri Fayol
    1. The Man Who Designed Modern Management
    2. Karin Holmblad Brunsson
  8. Mary Parker Follett
    1. An Almost Forgotten Giant who is Worth Remembering
    2. Ulla Johansson and Jill Woodilla
  9. Erving Goffman
    1. On the Underlife of Organizations
    2. Johan Sandström
  10. Alvin Gouldner
    1. The Three Faces of Bureaucracy
    2. Alexander Styhre
  11. Jeff Hearn and Wendy Parkin
    1. On Organization Sexuality
    2. Charlotte Holgersson
  12. Rosabeth Moss Kanter
    1. Men and Women of the Corporation
    2. Anna Wahl
  13. Gunnar Myrdal
    1. Objectivity and Social Research
    2. Elisabeth Sundin
  14. Maria Ossowska
    1. These Shoulders so Elegant...
    2. Barbara Czarniawska
  15. Chaïm Perelman and Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca
    1. Arguing and Organising
    2. Hervé Corvellec
  16. David Silverman
    1. Struggling with The Theory of Organisations
    2. Daniel Ericsson
  17. Karl E. Weick
    1. On Organizing
    2. Markus Hällgren
  18. Authors
  19. Endnotes