Ruin and Organization Studies

Christian De Cock, Damian O’Doherty

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In this paper we offer a preliminary study of the various ways in which ‘ruin’ has significance for organization studies. One important motif associated with both modern and romantic treatments of ruins concerns the revelatory impressions they make. In this respect the tradition of ruin writing will talk of their ‘beauty’, their ‘strangeness’ or their capacity to ‘intimidate’, which somehow never fails to strike a responsive nerve in us. In order to attend to this elusive phenomenon we must necessarily breach some of the self-imposed boundaries of our ‘discipline’. Taking up this challenge we follow W. G. Sebald in his use of contiguity as both method and textual structuring device, allowing us to drift across iconic ruin images, ruin theories and our own ruinous research experiences. This helps us learn how to ‘dwell’ in the ruin – without any impatient reaching after fact or explaining away ruins in the terms of an established tradition of theorizing in organization – and open up new analytic spaces and associations for organizational researchers. These concern specifically (a) a distinctive approach to time, history and memory; (b) an increased awareness of the multiplicity of forces impinging on organization, forces from which we so easily retreat behind the cordon sanitaire of organization-studies-as-usual; and (c) a cognisance of how the very way we write is a mode of doing organization that is crucial for our ability and willingness to look into ‘all corners of reality’ so that we might better grasp organizational phenomena.
Original languageEnglish
JournalOrganization Studies
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)129–150
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Benjamin
  • Catastrophe
  • Ethnography
  • History
  • Memory
  • Spatiality
  • Ruin
  • Sebald

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