Archive for the ‘books’ Category
This part of the book forum is about Ivan Ermakoff’s theory of collective abdication. It’s a little complicated, so bear with me. First, in analyzing the March 1933 vote in Germany or the 1940 vote in France, Ermakoff rejects the views that it was simply a matter of external pressure or “defecting” to the bad side. In his reading of events, people were able to resist and they were not Nazis or sympathizers. And of course, if you are afraid of Nazi retaliation, giving them unlimited power would not solve the problem. He also rejects the view that it was a matter of political incompetence. Perhaps, some historians have argued, German and French legislators simply underestimated how bad the Nazis were going to be. In reading the original source materials, Ermakoff finds plenty evidence to the contrary. At the very least, the main actors in the story were highly skilled politicians and many knew exactly what might happen.
So what does Ermakoff propose? Roughly speaking, he argues that authoritarian challenges can result in abdication when the challenge effectively dissolves pre-existing social structures, which then allows for a re-alignment that the challenger can shape. The result is that the re-alignment can inflate the support for the challenger as people try to infer what other people think and mistakenly acquiesce because they think others are doing so.
To help understand this theory, let’s choose the example of a large academic humanities department, with, say 50 professors. Then let’s assume hurricane Katrina hits and its hard for people to come to work or otherwise communicate normally. All of a sudden, the Dean shows up and demands that the department become a new data science program and that you have to vote on it right now. A lot of people don’t know what to do and normal communication is no longer an option. So people look at each other and see that there is a pretty set group of people who like the Dean’s proposal. Little by little, people move to the Dean’s proposal and the English department switches to being a humanities data science program.
Ermakoff shows (in a technical appendix) that as long as you have a not tiny faction of people who agree with the dean and people are trying to coordinate with each other, you can get a lot of people to switch. In other words, when people deliberate on extremely high risk activities, they try coordinate with each other in a number of ways. Such forms of coordination in the absence of normal constraints can result in allowing the challenger to win. It’s an interesting argument in that it combines a social psychology explanation (people look to each other for meaning) and embeds it inside a nested game.
The purpose of Ruling Oneself Out is to understand when political groups, or coalitions, literally vote themselves out of power, often with disastrous consequences. Today, I’ll briefly describe the historical cases and tomorrow I’ll discuss the theory Ermakoff uses to explain things.
The first example is the Reichstag’s March 1933 vote to give Hitler broad power. Essentially, the Reichstag abolished democratic controls over the chancellor by giving the chancellor and the cabinet the ability to pass laws with the Reichstag’s approval. Most historians concur that this was the effective end of the Weimar state. It was replaced by a Nazi party state that dispensed with republican institutions.
What is crucial for Ermakoff is that the Nazis won because they had the backing of various Center and right parties, including some who were very suspicious of Hitler. Communists had been banned from the vote and only the Social Democrats voted no.
Ermakoff’s other case is the French government’s vote to give Petain power in 1940. The complete disaster of the French war effort completely destabilized French state, resulting in the withdrawal of the government from Paris, the resignation of the leadership, and the creation of German dominated Vichy France.
In reviewing these two events, Ermakoff wants to criticize a number of explanations offered for the surrender to Nazism. For example, it is often argued that coercion was the main explanatory factor. Non-Nazi parties were justifiably fearful of violence and relented. But Ermakoff notes that this is an incomplete explanation. First, there was actually a fair amount of resistance to Nazi violence. Second, the Center party, which went all in for Hitler, actually was internally split and many seemed able and willing to resist. In France, Ermakoff shows that voting for the Vichy State was not associated with being from an area that would be under German occupation, and thus subject to more violence. Similarly, Ermakoff closely examines the evidence for other theories of abdication, such as the hypothesis that Nazi ideology contaminated its opponents. Tomorrow, I’ll discuss Ermakoff’s alternative theory.
new book Handbook of Qualitative Organizational Research Innovative Pathways and Methods (2015, Routledge) now available
At orgtheory, we’ve had on-going discussions about how to undertake research. For example, I’ve shared my own take on dealing with the IRB, gaining access to organizations, undertaking ethnography , timing and pacing research, writing for wider audiences, and what is ethnography good for? Guest blogger Ellen Berrey elaborated her thoughts on how to get access to organizations, and we’ve had at least three discussions about the challenges of anonymizing names and identities of persons and organizations, including guest blogger Victor Tan Chen’s post, guest blogger Ellen Berrey’s post, and Fabio’s most recent post here.
Looking for more viewpoints about how to undertake organizational research? Preparing a research proposal? Need a new guide for a methods or organizations class? Rod Kramer and Kim Elsbach have co-edited the Handbook of Qualitative Organizational Research Innovative Pathways and Methods (2015, Routledge).
In the introduction, Kramer and Elsbach describe the impetus for the volume:
There were several sources of inspiration that motivated this volume. First and foremost was a thoughtful and provocative article by Jean Bartunek, Sara Rynes, and Duane Ireland that appeared in the Academy of Management Journal in 2006. This article published a list of the 17 most interesting organizational papers published in the last 100 years. These papers were identified by Academy of Management Journal board members—all of whom are leading organizational scholars cognizant of the best work being done in their respective areas. A total of 67 board members nominated 160 articles as exceptionally interesting; those articles that received two or more nominations were deemed the most interesting. Of these exceptional articles, 12 (71%) involved qualitative methods.
This result strongly mirrors our own experience as organizational researchers. Although both of us have used a variety of methods in our organizational research (ranging from experimental lab studies and surveys to computer-based, agent simulations), our favorite studies by far have been our qualitative studies (including those we have done together). One of the qualities we have come to most appreciate, even cherish, about qualitative research is the sense of discovery and the opportunity for genuine intellectual surprise. Rather than merely seeking to confirm a preordained hypothesis or “nail down” an extrapolation drawn from the extant literature, our inductive studies, we found, invariably opened up exciting, unexpected intellectual doors and pointed us toward fruitful empirical paths for further investigation. In short, if life is largely all about the journey rather than destination, as the adage asserts, we’ve found qualitative research most often gave us a road we wanted to follow.