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Governance of old religious orders: Benedictines and Dominicans

Peter Wirtz (Magellan Research Centre, University of Lyon, Lyon, France)

Journal of Management History

ISSN: 1751-1348

Article publication date: 12 June 2017




The purpose of the present study is to tentatively contribute to paving the way for interdisciplinary research on the history of governance practices in ancient religious orders and on the significance of such governance for the orders’ performance and long-term survival.


The principal challenges of and proposed directions for such research on the comparative governance of old religious orders are illustrated through selected historic examples from Benedictine abbeys and Dominican monasteries, as they can be found in the yet scarce literature devoted to religious governance in the management field.


The authors’ review of research specifically devoted to the corporate governance of Benedictines and Dominicans illustrates the relevance of a hermeneutic grid derived from contemporary management research to better understand the historical dynamics of monastic governance and its relation to sustainability.


To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is the first attempt to establish a hermeneutic grid for the systematic and comparative study of the dynamics of governance systems in old religions organisations and their impact on organisational performance and sustainability.



The author would like to thank Gérard Charreaux for his attentive reading of a first draft of this article, and for his comments and suggestions. He also thanks Bernard Hours for the numerous discussions and exchanges that were of great help in developing the interdisciplinary orientation of this study. Special thanks to Katja Rost and participants at the G.O.O.D. workshop held in Lyon in February 2017. Funding for the workshop by Université Jean Moulin’s “Bourgeon” Programme is gratefully acknowledged. The author is also indebted to two anonymous reviewers of the journal and to the editor, Brad Bowden, for helpful suggestions and comments on an earlier version of this article.


Wirtz, P. (2017), "Governance of old religious orders: Benedictines and Dominicans", Journal of Management History, Vol. 23 No. 3, pp. 259-277.



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