The problem of de-contextualization in organization and management research

Gregory Jackson, Markus Helfen, Rami Kaplan, Anja Kirsch, Nora Lohmeyer

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter addresses the concern that much theory building in organization and management (OM) research suffers from de-contextualization. The authors argue that de-contextualization comes in two main forms: reductionism and grand theory. Whereas reductionism tends to downplay context in favor of individual behavior, grand theory looks at context only in highly abstract ahistorical terms. Such de-contextualization is problematic for at least two reasons. First, the boundary conditions of theories remain unexplored in ways that threaten scientific validity. Second, de-contextualization limits the potential of OM theory to fully understand the role of organizations in society and thereby address societal grand challenges. These claims are exemplified through critical reviews of four fields in OM research – gender, employee voice, corporate social responsibility (CSR), and institutional logics – and counterpoints that may help to overcome de-contextualized research are presented.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationResearch in the Sociology of Organizations
PublisherEmerald Group Publishing Ltd.
Number of pages22
StatePublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameResearch in the Sociology of Organizations
ISSN (Print)0733-558X


  • Actor-centered institutionalism
  • Comparative research
  • De-contextualization
  • Macro linkages
  • Micro
  • Organization and management research
  • Theory building


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