The Decline of Organizational Sociology? An Empirical Analysis of Research Trends in Leading Journals across Half a Century

Monday, 16 July 2018: 11:15
Oral Presentation
Michael GROTHE-HAMMER, Helmut Schmidt University Hamburg, Germany
Sebastian KOHL, Uppsala University, Sweden
Organization-sociological works are said to have “largely disappeared” (Gorman 2014) from the sociological discourse. While from the 1950’s until around the year 2000 organizational sociology was perceived as “thriving” (Haveman 2000), recent assessments conclude that the discipline is “on the brink of irrelevance” (King 2017). From an empirical point of view, this development comes as a surprise. In fact, organizations have become more important in our society than ever before and have experienced drastic changes in recent decades. Society is nowadays filled with organizations (Perrow 1991), and the number of organizations is rising around the world (Bromley & Meyer 2015). Meanwhile, organizations increasingly morph into new forms, presenting scholars with new challenges, while “old organizational forms outlive their usefulness and eventually are replaced” (King 2017).

Against this backdrop, we want to explore the current state of organizational sociology empirically. Building on a corpus of approximately 3000 research articles in six leading sociology journals since 1955, we will use both manual and semi-automated coding methods to assess the relevance of organizational sociology within sociology. Specifically, we will map the development of the relevance of organizational sociology within sociology from 1955 until today, using decennial steps with two consecutive years of each decade. We will also examine the prevalence of organization-related topics in sociological works as well as their use of theories, methods, and data. Our study will uncover dominant theory paradigms and methodologies as well as considered topics and issues. Thereby we will look at possible explanations for these developments. Our study will reveal to which degree existing assumptions about the development of organizational sociology are accurate. Therefore, we will unveil existing areas of high and low interest in organization-sociological research as well as promising future research agendas. To our knowledge, this is the first empirical study of this kind.