The ongoing crisis in Ukraine serves as a reminder of the ways – some naïve, some triumphalist – that the collapse of the Soviet Union was misunderstood in the West. For some, it represented, simply, a victory in the Cold War precisely as if that had been a war in the conventional sense, with a determinate winner and loser. More grandiosely, as in Francis Fukuyama’s 1992 book The End of History and the Last Man, it represented the universalization of western liberal democracy as having displaced and superseded all other political forms. At all events, the temptation was to see a period of history as being ‘over and done with’ and a new era as having emerged. But, of course, history is never like that.
rapidity with which the post-Soviet space was re-negotiated and the consequent
expansions of NATO and the EU eastwards made it hard for those in the West to
understand how catastrophic it seemed to some, perhaps many, in Russia and
elsewhere – it is this sentiment which Putin speaks of and to. Similarly rapid
was the post-soviet economic transformation which, in the 1990s, witnessed a
scale of neo-liberalization that was unprecedented. The consequences of that,
too, are now in evidence, in particular in terms of the dominance of Russian
oligarchs whose wealth is largely traceable to the mass privatizations of the
is difficult to disentangle the relationships between the Cold War and the
study of management and organizations. As James March’s (2007) overview of the
history of organization studies suggests, much of the basic knowledge in the
subject is to a remarkable extent a Cold War artefact in the sense that its
heyday in the US in the 1950s and 1960s was both formed within and was a
response to Cold War concerns – game theory being an obvious example. More
diffusely, management in particular was seen as part and parcel of Western
economic dominance and, indeed, one of the features of post-soviet
neo-liberalization was the sudden explosion of teaching of western management
techniques in those countries. Thus in March’s account, organization studies in
this post-1991 period could be understood in terms of “the triumph of the
international relations, Ukraine perhaps symbolises (although, of course, not
uniquely) a clear end to that initial period of post-Soviet history in that any
idea of a uni-polar world is manifestly no longer sustainable, as the evaporation of the territorial guarantees given to Ukraine in the 1994 Budapest Agreement shows. If it is right
that organization studies (like other intellectual endeavours) in some measure
reflects, is shaped by and, of course, contributes to the broader geo-political
terrain within which it operates we might expect a more ‘multi-polar’
discipline to be in the process of emerging. If that is so, then perhaps we
would expect not so much a proliferation of ways of understanding organizations
(that has long been the case) but increased interest in the multiplicity of
ways of organizing. All of which is a long-winded prelude to saying that in the
book (p.119) I refer to one example of such interest as being a then
unpublished work which has since come out. It is The Routledge Companion to Alternative Organization (2014) and I would recommend it to anyone interested
in thinking more about the rich variety of possibilities for organization that
are available to us once we realise that, indeed, history did not end in 1991.
F. (1992) The End of History and the Last Man. New York: Free Press.
J. (2007) ‘The Study of Organizations and Organizing since 1945’, Organization
Studies 28 (1): 9-19.
M., Cheney, G., Fournier, V. & Land, C. (eds.) (2014) The Routledge
Companion to Alternative Organization. London, Routledge.