Special issue on movements of transition twenty years on: identities, ideologies, imaginary institutions

Journal of Organizational Change Management

ISSN: 0953-4814

Article publication date: 4 July 2008



(2008), "Special issue on movements of transition twenty years on: identities, ideologies, imaginary institutions", Journal of Organizational Change Management, Vol. 21 No. 4. https://doi.org/10.1108/jocm.2008.02321daa.002



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Special issue on movements of transition twenty years on: identities, ideologies, imaginary institutions

Article Type: Call for papers From: Journal of Organizational Change Management, Volume 21, Issue 4

Edited by Marianna Fotaki, Steffen Böhm and John Hassard


The demise of the bureaucratic Soviet type state socialism and the transition to (or rather reinstitution of) the free market in Central and Eastern Europe has been one of the most pivotal and challenging societal events of the past two decades. Drastic social transformations, set in motion by the disintegrating Soviet model (and its variants) have succeeded in firmly establishing a “liberalist fantasy” (de Cock and Böhm, 2007) as the dominant narrative in contemporary public discourse. Reflecting the Zeitgeist, market rhetoric of “freedom” and “choice” has been unanimously embraced as an antidote to the alleged inefficiency and irresponsiveness of state bureaucracies in east and west. Presented as a superior form of social organization, the “free market” has captured the minds of its allies and foes alike, becoming elevated to the status of the new master signifier (Fotaki, 2008).

In the popular imagination, this transition has frequently been portrayed as the archetypal journey from serfdom to freedom (Hayek, 1944), with this process being joined with teleological references to the “end of history” (Fukuyama, 1992/2006). In this new “post-historical” world, the free market and capitalist management have become a hegemonic articulation, promising democracy, wealth, responsibility, security, and even equality. Meanwhile, any (alternative) collective models of organizing have been effortlessly dismissed as illiberal, coercive or irrelevant.

In this special issue we would like to explore the ideologies embedded in prevailing discourses of transition – or what Buck-Morss (2002) calls (qua Walter Benjamin) “dreamworlds.” That is, we wish to question the individual and social processes of ideology and imagination extant within the institutional arrangements of both east and west. For us, the transition to a free market society is bound up with a host of dream-like imaginations of social and economic progress (which were also found on the imaginary horizon of the Soviet system). In this sense, what we see is not a transition toward real freedom or democracy, but simply a transition from one socio-economic dreamworld to another.

We particularly wish to question the notion of transition as a blanket imposition of historical, a-historical or pseudo-historical truths onto our reality and identity. Whilst recognising the importance of common and/or conflicting power interests, we move beyond traditional political economy premises of social actors being endowed with consistent and stable preferences that are exogenous to their multiple identities. On the contrary, our starting point is the notion of social life as organized by a set of shared meanings and practices which are taken for granted over long periods (Douglas, 1986) and which affect political processes in fundamental ways (Wildavsky, 1987). We therefore argue that epochal changes, political revolutions and major reforms are frequently influenced by identity-driven strivings and demands/desires for recognition by various social groups. In other words, social processes, institutions, ideologies, and identities occur and exist at the interface of political-agonistic (Mouffe, 2005) and symbolic-imaginary (ŽiŽek, 1989) dimensions, which have been at the forefront of psychoanalytic and post-structural writing over the past two decades.

We would therefore like to consider transition – as a transformation, reconfiguration, and repositioning process – as movement which is simultaneously personal and collective. As such, there are questions of identity and imagination bound up with any process of institutional and societal change. These are not simply the effect of history, but the very stuff of which history and progress are made. Moving beyond nostalgia and critique, we look for openings and ruptures in past and present symbolic orders – or in what can be called “imaginary institutions” (Castoriadis, 1987/2005; Laclau and Mouffe, 1985/2001). By interrogating “past bureaucratic” and “present consumerist” societies, we hope to understand the dreamworlds and collective imaginations embedded in processes of social organization. We acknowledge that this interrogation can never be pure and value-free; that is, it cannot be achieved from an “outside,” “post-historical” or “non-imaginary” position. Our aim is to identify possibilities for theoretical and empirical “openings and alternatives”, i.e. to explore the nature of resistance to the hegemonic discourses of market fundamentalism and neo-liberalism that currently populate the “imaginary world of our own” (Spicer and Böhm, 2007). We see this interrogation of movements of transition not as a nostalgic look to the past, but rather as a quest for different ways of being, organizing and constituting public space.

The call

With such an ambitious scope our call is open to a variety of theoretical and empirical contributions. However, we wish the contributions to this special issue to extend beyond either micro-political analyses or the presentation of case studies confined to national or sectoral contexts. This aims is for this call are to reflect critically on the different histories and identities of transition, problematize the direction of change and its seeming inevitability, and establish possibilities for alternative articulations. We particularly invite conceptual work that questions the utilitarian premises running through the grand narratives and dreamworlds of state socialism and market liberalism. Empirically, we welcome studies that interrogate identities of transition on a variety of levels – personal, institutional and societal – and discuss networks of power and resistance running through identities and subjectivities in a variety of contexts. We emphasize the need to go beyond the variations of Foucauldian “micro-political” studies of organization and identity that have been so popular in our field in recent times. For us, identities in a transition context can never just involve micro-political settings within limited boundaries of organizations, firms and institutions. Rather, we wish to make sense of wider change processes, involving identities that are bound up with individual as well as social and collective imaginations and desires.

Hence, we would like to invite contributions that problematize, re-think and re-define movements of transition, particularly addressing:

  • The historical epoch of social transformation from what was known as “real existing socialism” to today’s (post-)transition market economies – examining and evaluating the identities and “dreamworlds” bound up with this change process.

  • Theoretical papers presenting counterintuitive and provocative analyses and ideas of transition using a range of frameworks (e.g. feminist, post-colonial, neo-Gramscian, post-Marxist, post/Foucauldian, post-structuralist, psychoanalytic and other novel approaches).

  • Empirical analyses examining and evaluating the human, social, cultural and economic costs involved in transition, focussing particularly on the processes of identity formation and reformation.

  • Significance of social and organizational transformations in light of foreclosed and recreated opportunities for radical movements of transition.

  • The roles of, and the relationships between, the state, economy and civil society in organizing societal transitions and change processes, focusing particularly on the role of organizations (e.g. NGOs, charities, affinity groups, direct action groups, media organizations) and counter cultural discourses by various groups (women, minorities, ethnic groups and immigrants) in facilitating hegemonic as well as counter-hegemonic transitions.

  • The modes of organization in what can be regarded as transitions toward alternative “dreamworlds.”

About the editors

Marianna Fotaki is a Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) of health policy and organization studies in Manchester Business School and holds degrees in medicine and health economics, and a PhD in public policy from London School of Economics and Political Science. Before joining the academia she has worked as a medical doctor for humanitarian organizations and as the EU Resident Senior Adviser on Health & Social Policy and Economic restructuring to the governments of the Russian Federation, Armenia, Georgia, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Tunisia. Her publications have appeared in Human Relations, Public Administration, Journal of Organizational Change Management, Policy & Politics and Social Science and Medicine. She uses her diverse work experience and her experience in psychoanalysis and psychodynamic group relations, to theorize on issues on public policy formation, gender and the “otherness” in organizations and society. She has co-organized a psychoanalytic symposium supported by Organization and Management Theory Division and Critical Management Studies Interest Group (CMS IG) at the annual meeting of the Academy of Management in Philadelphia 2007 and the stream on psychoanalysis at the International Critical Management Conference, July 2007. She is convening a two-day pre-conference research workshop on “Psychoanalysis and organisational theory” supported by CMS IG in AoM annual meeting in Anaheim in 2008.

Steffen Böhm is a Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) in Management at the University of Essex. He holds a PhD from the University of Warwick. His research focuses on the politics of organizing. He is co-founder and member of the editorial collective of the open-access journal Ephemera: Theory & Politics in Organization (www.ephemeraweb.org), and co-founder and co-editor of the new open publishing press mayflybooks (www.mayflybooks.org). He has authored Repositioning Organization Theory (Palgrave) and co-edited Against Automobility (Blackwell). He has published widely in journals such as Organization, Organization Studies, Critical Perspectives of International Business, Mute: Culture & Politics after the Net, Ephemera: Theory & Politics in Organization, Tamara: Journal for Critical Postmodern Organization, Framework: The Finnish Art Review, The Anomalist, Signs of the Times, and others.

John Hassard is a Professor of Organizational Analysis at Manchester Business School (University of Manchester) and Senior Professorial Research Associate at the Judge Business School, University of Cambridge. Previously, he taught and researched at the London Business School and universities of Cardiff and Keele. His main research interests lie in theories of organization, critical management studies, and the empirical analysis of industrial change, especially in relation to transitional economies. On these subjects he has published 12 books and more than a 100 research articles. He is currently a board member of the Society for the Advancement of Management Studies.

Extended abstracts of up to 1,500 words (excluding references) outlining approaches, methods and contributions to the theme should be submitted to Marianna.Fotaki@mbs.ac.uk before September 1, 2008. If accepted, you will be notified within a month.


Buck-Morss, S. (2002), Dreamworld and Catastrophe: The Passing of Mass Utopia in East and West, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA

Castoriadis, C. (1987/2005), The Imaginary Institutions of Society, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, (reprint)

de Cock, C. and Böhm, S. (2007), “Liberalist fantasies: ŽiŽek and the impossibility of the open society”, Organization, Vol. 14 No. 6, pp. 815–36

Douglas, M. (1986), How Institutions Think, Syracuse University Press, Syracuse

Fotaki, M. (2008), “Rien ne va plus; plus ça change? – dissecting the anatomy of economic transition from Lacanian perspective and beyond”, Journal of Organizational Change Management, Vol. 21 No. 3

Fukuyama, F. (1992/2006), The End of History and the Last Man, The Free Press, New York, NY, (reprint)

Hayek, F. (1944), The Road to Serfdom, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London

Laclau, E. and Mouffe, C. (1985/2001), Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, 2nd ed., Verso, London

Mouffe, C. (2005), On the Political. Thinking in Action, Verso, London

Spicer, A. and Böhm, S. (2007), “Moving management: theorizing struggles against the hegemony of management”, Organization Studies, Vol. 28, pp. 1667–98

Wildavsky, A. (1987), “Choosing preferences by constructing institutions: a cultural theory of preference formation”, American Political Science Review, Vol. 81, pp. 3–22 ŽiŽek, S. (1989), The Sublime Object of Ideology, Verso, London

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