Document Type

Conference Paper


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence


Business and Management., Sociology, public administration, Organisation Theory, History

Publication Details

First International Symposium on Process Organization Studies. Pissouri, Cyprus, June, 2009.


Organizational form, as an issue, has been the focus of attention since Weber’s formulation of the ideal-type bureaucracy. For organizational scholars, the very concept of form is at the heart of organization studies, such that “[w]here new organizational forms come from is one of the central questions of organizational theory” (Rao, 1998: 912). The Weberian “ideal type,” with its focus on the ontological possibility of identifying form, represents the inaugural moment in organization theory. Since that moment, and based on the need to say what is “organization” as the condition for having “organization theory,” it is a requirement of organization theories that they address “knowledge about organization” based on a boundary-making condition, no matter whether it is through contingencies, legitimization, evolution or cost-reduction. As such, much organizational theorizing views form as something already formed, as an essence, with the attention focused on what constitutes form. Said differently, all that dominant theoretical perspectives are able to do is to address form by way of classification, without accounting for the process of forming, which does nothing but to reiterate that the only way to think about form is through ontological reification privileging classifying schemes. By problematizing the focus on “form” I take issue with the largely ahistorical and aprocessual character of much organizational theorizing. With this as my point of departure, I argue for knowing the organizational as an ongoing process – i.e., “forming” over knowing “organizational form” by way of classification. Considering the above, therefore, a number of questions arise: does history end once we have classified?; does forming continue to happen once we have classified?; what about a way to theorize forming?; how to understand forming over form? More broadly, “can we think any other way” (Calás & Smircich, 2003: 49), such that we do not become enmeshed in, and continue to reproduce, the problems we encounter when engaging with largely aprocessual and ahistorical theoretical lenses? These questions lead me to the more processually and historically sensitive lens of path dependence theory. Through the contributions of path dependence theory, and with Ireland’s Industrial Development Authority as empirical example, my paper seeks to address the concerns in the literature with regard to process, history and new ways of theorizing and studying organizational form(ing), in so doing maintaining an opening toward organizational forming in organizational theorizing and research.