17th Organization Studies Workshop
Utopias and dystopias: Organization studies in a brave new world?
18-20 May 2023, Athens, Greece
Conveners & Hosts
Paolo Quattrone, University of Manchester, UK
Renate Meyer, WU Vienna, Austria
Diane-Laure Arjaliès, Ivey Business School, Canada
Ali A. Gümüsay, University of Hamburg, Germany
Michael Lounsbury, University of Alberta, Canada
Marc Ventresca, University of Oxford, UK
The social builds from imaginaries that vary in form, focus, and impact by era, generation, region, and community. These imaginaries can be utopias and dystopias, hopes and fears, dreams and nightmares. Partly due to technological development, partly due to social dynamism and unrest, we see large-scale disenchantment with conventional forms of social cohabitation and exchange (e.g. markets, hierarchies, family, the state). These conditions, coupled with the intertwining of the political, the social, the cultural, and the economic, are giving rise to a series of changed social orders and forms of organizing.
In the 2020s, we witness dystopic worries about the planet's destruction, utopian hopes to catalyze and build a better world, and retrotopian desires to resort to a “good old” past (Bauman, 2017). These imaginaries are currently fueled by the many crises that shake up our lives: the COVID-19 pandemic, the Russian incursion on Ukraine and resulting global disruptions of energy and food, mass forced displacement, long-lasting wars and conflicts, economic turbulence and rising inflation, a looming global recession, and the reality of recurring, devastating heat, fires and floods, a new cold war, and of course, the climate crisis. These to name only the most recent and prominent ones that animate a rethinking of fear and hope in the idiom of dystopia and eschatological futures. As we have learned from history, utopian hopes paired with political will and power have often led to oppressing ideologies, surges of violence, and regimes of terror.
The liquidity of modern institutions (Bauman, 2000) and waning trust in these regimes, the acceleration of our life worlds (Rosa, 2010) and growing alienation, post-truth scenarios, the rise of authoritarianism (Adler et al., 2022), persisting inequalities, misogyny, and racism, and the risks of the Anthropocene challenge the capacity of present models of organizing and their underlying assumptions, forms, and practices. At best, they seem incomplete; worse, they may be retro and outdated, unable to foster scalable and systemic transformation, and inapt to lead the way into a sustainable future for the planet and our species (Ergene et al., 2020). At the same time, there is hope manifested in real utopias (Wright, 2010), prefigurative organizing (Schiller-Merkens, 2022), inclusive ecosystems (DeJordy, Scully, Ventresca & Creed, 2020), and collectivist forms of democracy (Chen & Chen, 2021) with organizations as key engines of collective imagination and transformation (Beckert, 2021; Chen & Chen, 2021; Bodrožić & Adler 2022). Recalling C. Wright Mills’ (1959) famous call for an “organizational imagination,” where individual biographies meet collective action, it is time to contemplate the possibilities for constructing desirable futures (Gümüsay & Reinecke, 2022) with attention to capacity and means provided by (refreshed) theories of organization, organizing and entrepreneurialism that can change societies (Eberhart, Lounsbury, & Aldrich, 2022).
In this unsettled, perturbed milieu, the 17th Organization Studies Workshop wants to offer an opportunity to debate how a refreshed and revitalized organizational imagination could offer action strategies for research, policy, and practice. This effort has multiple facets, dimensions, spaces, and temporalities and relates to some of the most pressing sources, concerns, and responses that this imaginative effort entails.