OMT WebOrganization and Management Theory Division of the Academy of Management
Mayer N. Zald died of a massive heart attack on August 7, 2012. He was a prodigious scholar, a pioneer in reframing social movement theory, and a major architect connecting social movement and organization theory. He was also a close friend and valued mentor to many, and a happy warrior in many liberal social causes.
Mayer’s degree was in social psychology from the University of Michigan. After serving on the faculties of the University of Chicago and Vanderbilt, he returned to Michigan in 1977 as Professor of Sociology, Social Work, and Business Administration. He was one of the main pillars in the Interdisciplinary Committee on Organizational Studies (ICOS), a vibrant collection of organization studies scholars that has flourished for three decades.
Together with others, such as Charles Tilly, Mayer worked to reframe “collective behavior," then viewed primarily as an irrational expressive phenomena, using a “social movement” lens, insisting that the observed behaviors, far from being irrational, were addressing real problems and oriented to advancing valued goals. His most important intellectual contribution was in richly linking social movement to organizational theory by arguing that if they are to succeed, social movements must become “social movement organizations” and empirically examining the processes by which people and resources are mobilized in the service of social reform. This work coincided with and was fueled by the turbulent sixties which saw the rise of civil rights, anti-war, and feminist movements, among others. Mayer, together with John McCarthy, crafted the “resource mobilization” perspective to account for more and less successful social movements — a perspective which continues to guide research in this area up to the present day.
In the 1990, Mayer working with others such as Doug McAdam, Jerry Davis, and Dick Scott, initiated a broader collaboration among social movement and organization theory scholars. Whereas earlier work had adapted organization theory arguments to social movements, this later work saw organization theorists adopting and adapting social movement arguments to account for change processes within organizations as well as in broader organization fields. Many of these ideas and arguments are presented in Social Movements and Organization Theory, edited by Davis, McAdam, Scott and Zald (Cambridge University Press, 2005). The convergence of these research traditions has had and continues to have an invigorating effect on our collective enterprise.
Very few scholars can match the generative impact of Mayer Zald’s work during the past half century — not only his innovative ideas and collaborative research, but his teaching, mentoring and institutional building efforts. Although small in stature, he was one of the giants in our field.
A memorial service with be held for Mayer on September 29, 2012 in the Alumni Association Center, 200 Fletcher, Ann Arbor, Michigan from 2 to 5, with reception to follow.
Dick ScottEmeritus Professor, Stanford UniversityAugust 18, 2012
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