The Rise and Fall of Structural Contingency Theory: A Theory’s ‘autopsy’

Oded Shenkar*, Shmuel Ellis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Half a century after emerging as a leading theory in the then nascent field of organization theory, structural contingency theory seems to have disappeared from the scholarly stage. Have theoretical and methodological deficiencies predestined the theory to oblivion? Was it the lack of empirical support or practical application? Was the theory doomed by its failure to adapt to new conditions or was it rendered obsolete by the emergence of new theories with superior explanatory power? Or was the decline the result of the dispersion of its research community and the rise of strategy at the expense of organization theory? These questions and more are addressed in this paper as part of a ‘theoretical autopsy’ seeking explanations for the theory’s decline or demise. Repercussions for current and emerging organization and management theories are delineated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)782-818
Number of pages37
JournalJournal of Management Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2022


  • Structural Contingency Theory
  • theoretical autopsy
  • theory’s death
  • theory’s decline


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