[Ed note: This is the third of 14 posts in a virtual panel on The Future of Organizational Sociology.]
Organizational scholars have raised a number of questions with regard to the future of organizational theory. Is organizational sociology losing its audience? If so, is it because of the expansion of organizational studies in business schools and the increased interests in questions asked by other subfields in sociology? If organizational theory is losing its audience, is the shift due solely to changes external to the field or can it be explained by the origins and development of organizational theory itself?
Some organizational sociologists may be concerned by the expansion of graduate programs in business schools as undermining job opportunities for organizational sociologist. Although this is a relevant concern, it should not come as a surprise. Despite the interdisciplinary focus of a few graduate programs in organizational studies, business (and public administration) schools have questioned the relevance of the sociology of organizations for years. Many of these questions emerge from the inherently conflicting disciplinary agendas and the failure to confront and resolve these conflicting agendas.
Although organizational theory may be losing some of its audience, there are many reasons to be optimistic about the future of field. Organizational theory has a long and rich history of high-quality empirical studies and useful concepts that explain a wide range of organizational phenomena. Despite these strengths, in my view, if organizational theory is to retain its audience, the primary task is to build on these analytic tools to construct organizational theories with greater explanatory power.