History, Society and Institutions

We share an interest in the study of work to explore wider patterns of trade, production and consumption. Our research follows broad and multiple perspectives, often from outside the standard sub-disciplines associated with Business and Management Studies, to investigate how work is organized by – and simultaneously shapes – wider social and institutional processes.


‘To work in the world … one needs to know how the world works” (Bauman, 2000: 212). Yet, how the world works can no longer simply be answered with reference to old institutions such as the nation state, the church or even the university. Their influence is diminished by organizations and other communities in waiting which continually shift the possible positions for individuals in their social milieu.  Understanding work therefore requires understanding of the wider ramifications of living amidst organizations as the prime social phenomena of our time. To begin here, rather than with abstract concepts, reflects our concern to understand what it is like to work and be affected by organized forms of work as managers, employees, consumers – and academics.


Understanding the condition of work requires historical awareness. We not only study the emergence of organizations such as firms or trade bodies using analyses of historical figures and time-based events, but also the experience of being part of this emergence. Here, historical time is understood as something temporal, full of personal significance, as much as it is understood as a causally related sequence of occurrence and dates.


Our work investigating how material wealth production informs and is ordered by other social and institutional settings, we remain aware that producing wealth is more than producing economic returns. For instance, we study  processes of institutionalization in terms of unfolding relational patterns over time, highlighting how such entanglements generate or restrict flexibility for individuals and the wider the ecological system. This awareness allows us to expand what we consider as legitimate phenomena of interest for a Business and Management school, and also to expand the criteria of meaning by which we investigate and ‘explain’ these phenomena. Our groups' work is involved in issues as diverse as: family emotion, aesthetics, the nature of craft, international trade flows, technology, co-operative movements, financialization, European policy making and elites. With regard to the latter our methodological interests include; archive work, social and political theory, phenomenology, ecological thinking, and institutional theory.