Historical Social Research

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Evangelina Baralou, Patricia Wolf & Jens O. Meissner: Bright, Excellent, Ignored: The Contribution of Luhmann’s System Theory and Its Problem of Non-Connectivity to Academic Management Research [Abstract]

Niklas Luhmann’s theory has been largely ignored in organization studies, compared to other sociological approaches like Weick's sensemaking, Giddens’ structuration theory, or Latour’s Actor-Network Theory. While having being applied on a number of fields, such as philosophy, sociology, theology, law and political sciences, application of Luhmann’s theory is still limited in organization studies (e.g. Munro 2010). In this paper, we attempt to explain the reasons of this ignorance and limited use, focusing on Luhmann’s writing style, but also on the theoretical and empirical limitations his theory poses. Believing that Luhmann’s theory holds great potential to be applied to organizational studies and explain organizational phenomena, we then discuss how it could contribute to radically changing the conventional ways of studying and analyzing organizational phenomena, fostering at the same time, the debate about the value of his theory. We analyze organizations as communicative processes that continuously produce and reproduce themselves to create knowledge, make decisions, structure expectations, and redefine organizational boundaries. Finally, we address the empirical challenges of applying Luhmann’s theory on organization studies