Sébastien Dérieux presents a paper at the International workshop “Business History in mutation”

Sébastien Dérieux, researcher at IFGE, presented a paper at the international workshop “Business History in mutation” organized in Lyon on April 10, 2014.

His paper entitled “Community Memory and Organizational Identity” argues that  organizations possess a memory that is less affected by history, materiality and doing than by collective beliefs, imagination and a specific relation to time and being. We suggest this community memory is the epicenter of organizational memory and that identification to the former is necessary to transfer the latter. Studies on organizational memory typically focus on practices and official corporate history; we argue there is, beneath, a community memory that relates differently to time and identity. We establish its characteristics and processes with a philosophical and anthropological view of memory and community and suggest some theoretical and practical implications.

International workshop “Business History in mutation: methodological and interpretative issues”

This international and interdisciplinary workshop will assess the recent evolution of business history methods and questions, since Lipartito’s 1995 call for a cultural approach that would free the profession from its restrictive functional tradition, and enlarge the field through the inclusion, not only of business culture as limited to the practice of the firm, but also, and more crucially, of the ideological production of the firm as a social institution with the power to ascribe meaning and transform and control what is real.

Since the death of Alfred Chandler in 2007, new projects and methods have been tried or consolidated that recognize and fully acknowledge the numerous links that tie firms to the societies in which they function, and which they can to some extent transform (Fridenson & Scranton, 2013). For instance, semiotics has been used to measure the social impact of a product or a company (Robinson, 2004) ; narrative is also now recognized as a fruitful tool for analysing change in business culture (Hansen, 2012); and a critical approach of the archive is under discussion (Schwartzkopf, 2013). Yet, even if they are recognized as valid by the profession, these approaches are still few and far between.

This workshop will be an exercise in assessment and projection, to gauge the potential of business history as an interdisciplinary model, at the confluence of economic history, organization studies and management, and institutional or social history. It will begin with the acknowledgement of the necessity to bring down methodological and interpretative boundaries, that have so far resisted interdisciplinary approaches (Delahaye & Rowlinson, 2009). Freed from an exclusive focus on quantitative analysis, business history might be able to face the enormous methodological challenge of electronic communication within and between firms, while giving a crucial diachronic dimension to analyses of such topical issues as white-collar crime (McKenna, 2012) or the problematic status of individual responsibility in institutional financial fraud (Lanchester, 2013), whose impact on today’s society is considerable. This interdisciplinary discussion will not only review the progress and limits of business history practice in the last decade, but it aims also at introducing to non-specialist researchers and students a marginal discipline within economic history, whose potential, if it continues its mutation, could be very promising indeed.

Emma Bell, “Historicising White Collar Crime in Britain: Regulatory failure and the crimes of the ‘upperclass’ ”

Mick Rowlinson, “Research Strategies for Organizational History: A dialogue between historical theory and organization theory”

Dan Wadhwani, “The Future of the Past in Management and Organization Studies” (from Organizations in Time: History, Theory, Methods. Oxford University Press, 2014)

Mark R. Wilson, “Business, war mobilization and political reaction in the 20th century USA.”

 Christine Zumello « Histoire économique et Histoire d’entreprise: Archives et Import/Export des concepts »

 Marie-Claire Loison, « Histoire des pratiques de responsabilité sociale de l’entreprise »