Theorizing with Microhistory

Andrew B. Hargadon, R. Daniel Wadhwani

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


    Management and organization studies have long been interested in the social contexts and enduring consequences of individual and collective action. Yet empirically observing both the situated nature of actions and their ultimate consequences remains challenging. In this paper, we describe microhistory as a complementary approach to grounded and longitudinal studies that reconciles situated action in time with its broader consequences over time. Microhistorical research involves the reflexive use of dual temporal frames: a microtemporal frame suited for an empirically grounded study of individuals in time and a macrotemporal frame accounting for processes of continuity and change in social structures over time. We describe the epistemology, method, and form inherent in theorizing with microhistory and consider its potential for management researchers. Microhistory's approach, we recognize, is well-suited to several phenomena that remain elusive to contemporaneous and longitudinal studies. For example, exceptional normal actions, unintended consequences, non-linear and emergent processes, contingent process, and unobserved or inconceivable processes. Finally, we consider how microhistory's reflexive temporality offers management scholars opportunities to situate ourselves and our own theorizing in time and to account for their evolving consequences over time.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalAcademy of Management Review
    Issue number4
    Pages (from-to)681-696
    Number of pages16
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023

    Bibliographical note

    Published online: 14 June 2022.

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