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The community of social movement scholars -- or at least its U.S. branch -- has lost its patriarch. That’s the way I will always think of Mayer Zald; as the father figure who not only helped birth the field in the mid-1970s, but who nurtured it through early growing pains to become the vital, lively subfield it is today.
Or maybe Godfather is the more appropriate image here. Mayer was forever making people offers they could not refuse…… to co-author this article, or co-organize that conference. And like all good Godfathers, he was the ultimate broker, not simply connecting people to people, but people to other people’s work. It was a rare conversation with, or message from, Mayer that did include 1-2 references to new work I just had to read.
He was also the most extraordinary of mentors…… to just about everyone in the field. He was extraordinarily kind to me when we first met during a visit he made to Stony Brook in the mid-1970s, just as his groundbreaking work with John McCarthy was undermining the collective behavior tradition and reclaiming the study of social movements for political and organizational scholars. He was there to give a couple of talks, but still found time to spend a good hour talking ideas and giving helpful career advice to a rather unkempt and seriously green graduate student. That student was, of course, me. Nearly 40 years later, I was still benefitting from his advice, intellectual feedback and general kindness. True to form, the last time I saw him -- at a memorial event for Sharon McCarthy -- he passed on two references and a helpful suggestion about a project I was just starting.
The more general point is that countless people in the field -- and virtually anyone over 45 -- would have a host of similar stories to tell about Mayer. He was simply the uber-mentor, with a kind word, a bit of intellectual feedback, a reference or 2, and great gossip -- always with the gossip -- to pass on….. the latter always punctuated with that irrepressible cackle that passed for his laugh. It’s hard now to think about that cackle without tearing up.
To Mayer, the ultimate academic mensch. It would be hard to overstate the void your passing has left in the field and in our lives. You will be sorely missed.
Doug McAdamStanford UniversityAugust 24, 2012
Tags: Mayer Zald
Mayer Zald’s passing has left us with a great sense of sadness and loss. This, of course, is to be expected. We lost one of the great pillars of social scientific work at the intersection of organizational and social movement studies and we lost a dear friend and a mentor. We lost someone who was, in so many ways, the model scholar, teacher, and friend. ayer was clever, dignified, smart, and, above all else, kind.
But, after speaking with many colleagues at the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association this past week in Denver, I am struck by how many of us feel something else – and that is untethered. Mayer was a great anchor for many of us, a “mother ship” to which we returned frequently. Because of his generosity of time and of spirit, he was always available for discussions, comments, advice, and for friendship. This was made ever apparent to me at the ASA meeting, when virtually every paper I heard made reference to one or another of his articles, chapters, or books. But it was also made apparent to me when small groups of us met to talk about Mayer and what he meant to us. There were stories of Mayer’s great generosity with ideas, remarks about some of his specific pedagogical innovations, tales of how he (along with his surviving wife, Joan) welcomed us into their home and their lives, and comments about how he shaped all of us in different ways (sometimes subtly and sometimes less so subtly).
Mayer leaves behind a large corpus of work, which for many of us will now be the anchor that keeps us tethered. For this, I am thankful. But I also feel blessed to have known him and to have been influenced by him in such profound ways. I know that I am not alone in this feeling.
Sarah SouleMorgridge Professor of Organizational BehaviorStanford Graduate School of BusinessAugust 21, 2012
The grandfather of an MBA student of mine once said “If you don’t stand up for something, you will fall down for anything.” Mayer Zald stood up for tall causes all through his life – and was an ardent believer in the redemptive role of protest in our organizational society.
Mayer’s accomplishments are known to one and all and it would be superfluous to recount them here. Instead, I’d like to touch on what he meant to me – as I was a fortunate beneficiary of the gifts of his mentorship, friendship and abundant affection.
My first recollection of Mayer was at a conference on Generative Organizational Theory organized by Lance Sandelands and Brian Pentland at Michigan in the early 1990s. I recall Mayer as being keenly interested in every paper being presented – staying with us for dinner, and enjoying the banter, and even dropping us off at the hotel. I was struck by his voracious curiosity and his ability to connect ideas from one realm to another – be it the grammar of organizing or the grammar of contention.
I got to know Mayer much better when I was visiting Michigan in 1997. Michigan and ICOS are magical ‘free spaces’ that serve as wonderful incubators of ideas and Mayer embodied this spirit. Soon, we would meet regularly over lunch – and his favorite sport – was to mention an article or a book and ask me if I had read them. There would be a delighted burst of laughter when he found I had not read one or the other piece. Once I quipped “Mayer, these are all works before 1940 – written by people who are dead” but he insisted that I read Gustav le Bon – these conversations helped turn an incipient interest in collective behavior and social movements into a research agenda.
Soon, he went to Arizona, and enlisted Cal Morrill in a number of projects that absorbed all of us – he was both the deft project manager and mentor for Cal and I. He and his wife Joan were great hosts. Mayer also inspired an ASQ special issue that brought together Jerry Davis, Cal, Sarah Soule and I along with a number of writers and reviewers – and it was fitting that he wrote a lovely postscript to the special issue. He was an ever-generous reader of papers – you sent him a paper and he responded with comments and advice to read a connected paper or two within a couple of days.
Mayer always asked more questions than made statements. Sometimes, the questions were endearingly mischievous. I once sent him a book titled “Shantaram” – a novel written by an escaped Australian convict Gregory David Robbins about the roller coaster life of an immigrant in the underworld of Mumbai. The book, over 900 pages long, covers the protagonist’s journey from Australia to Afghanistan. In one memorable scene, the author describes the standing babas of Mumbai – individuals who stand on one foot with the other suspended above the floor – and do so for decades by dint of their yogic powers reinforced by liberal inhalations of hashish. Mayer read through the entire book within a week and sent me a one line question “Are the standing babas still there in Mumbai”?
I will miss his contagious positive energy – he always left a person with more energy about his or her work, and his mischief.
Huggy RaoStanford UniversityAugust 21, 2012
The words that most come to mind when I think of Mayer Zald is “generative” and “mensch.” With a twinkle in his eye and a couple of questions, Mayer appeared in the doorway of my office in the Sociology Department at the University of Arizona late one afternoon in 1997 during one of his many winters teaching in Tucson. His questions? When can you have lunch and could he borrow a copy of my book, The Executive Way. He also suggested that I read his 1978 “Social Movements in Organizations: Coup d’Etat, Insurgency, and Mass Movements” (co-authored with Michael Berger in the American Journal of Sociology; V. 83, No. 4, pp. 823-861) since we had mutual interests in social conflict. A week or so later at lunch, we first talked about what he found most interesting about my book (a comparative ethnographic study of managerial conflict in large corporations) – the near absence of collective action among managers across the thirteen organizations in the study. He then transitioned the conversation to a sociology-of-knowledge puzzle about his own career: the dramatically different trajectories of his most famous piece, “Resource Mobilization and Social Movements: A Partial Theory” (co-authored with John McCarthy in the American Sociological Review; V. 82, No. 6, pp. 1212-1241), and “Social Movements in Organizations.” While “Resource Mobilization” became a near-instant classic upon its publication (and continues to enjoy iconic status to the present), “Social Movements in Organizations” as Mayer put it, “fell into an intellectual black hole” and was cited less than a dozen times over the next decade. The puzzle was why?
We came up with several possible explanations that afternoon which built on the infrequency of collective action in organizations; the “internalist” perspective of the 1978 piece that “cut it off” it from how movements typically affected organizations (via laws, regulations, and institutional fields); and the fact that social movement researchers might not recognize collective action in organizations as what they studied (e.g., Where were the tear gas and water hoses of classic street protests?). Much of this critique made it into Mayer’s wonderful 2005 piece, “The Strange Career of an Idea and Its Resurrection: Social Movements in Organizations” (Journal of Management Inquiry; V. 14, No. 2, pp. 157-166). In that piece and elsewhere, he recounted how he resuscitated the social-movements-in-organizations idea by recruiting a younger scholarly generation, including Jerry Davis, Huggy Rao, and myself, into various intellectual adventures with him that ultimately helped grow a booming industry in social movement-organization theory scholarship. By the early 2000s, the intellectual and social context had begun to change. Organizational scholars were searching for new theoretical resources to explain organizational and institutional change, especially in a world of increasingly permeable organizational boundaries, globalization, and non-bureaucratic organizational forms. They found some of those new resources in social movement theory. A new generation of social movement scholars, already steeped in the rationalist organization theory of resource mobilization, began to look to neo-institutional theory as a way to expand their analytic visions beyond “movements” toward the broader social and cultural terrains – especially institutional fields – on which movements emerged and through which they effected change. In retrospect, the timing for the intellectual engagement of social movement and organization theory was ripe, but it would not have been so without Mayer’s own early and later efforts at bridging scholarly traditions, ideas, and fields.
Indeed, Mayer’s ability to connect scholars with each other in generative ways was nothing short of magical. He seemingly read everything in the social sciences (and most of the humanities), knew everyone, and always had an interesting perspective on how it all related to one’s work. For the better part of fifty years, he was a key node of intellectual cross-traffic among multiple social science and humanities disciplines. But it was Mayer’s everyday touch as a true mensch – a man of integrity, honor, generosity, and humor – that truly set him apart and simply drew people into his scholarly endeavors. His ability to connect with scholars, be they the most famous senior scholar or the greenest graduate student, was truly a gift. Mayer is a man I deeply miss whose work will inspire generations and whose legacy as a person will touch all who knew him for as long as they live.
Calvin MorrillProfessor of Law and SociologyUniversity of California, BerkeleyAugust 20, 2012
I have long been honored to count myself among Mayer’s friends and intellectual running buddies, a group that extends around the world and includes most of my favorite people. It is a sad day for all of us. Mayer was a profound intellectual, a truth-teller, an institution-builder, a mentor, and a great and loyal friend.
Mayer also had a remarkable capacity to see things that the rest of us missed. He found deep sociological significance in the damnedest things, like professional sports, the structure of leveraged buyouts funds, the YMCA, hip replacements… and he was always right. We all know his blockbuster contributions to social movements and organization theory. But some of us have made careers out of mining Mayer’s overlooked insights, like the fact that social movements happen INSIDE organizations in ways that look like “real” social movements (Zald and Berger, 1978). I expect generations to be mining his oeuvre for more gems to be polished.
Mayer took me under his wing in 1986 when he was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study at Stanford and I was an unrestrained and over-caffeinated grad student. He and Bob Kahn had embarked on a project to save the world from nuclear Armageddon by using organization theory. It was a modest agenda, and they were persuaded we could pull it off. (Vindication: since that work was published, there have been no nuclear wars.) Mayer and Bob graciously offered to take me on as a co-author, and I learned that Mayer’s sweet impishness and evident goodwill allowed him to be forthright in telling people things that might sound bracing (not to say devastating) coming from other people. First comment: “Have you ever read Strunk & White? You should. You use long words when short ones will do and you are too show-offy. Your reader doesn’t have to know everything you know to get your point.” I don’t actually recall the subsequent points, for some reason… but he had swiftly conveyed messages that needed to be heard. (Note the lack of an object in that sentence — some habits die hard.) Generations of students received the same benefit.
Omnivorous curiosity, a capacity to see meaningful patterns that others overlooked, and a commitment to telling it straight, combined with a sweet impishness and generosity to make Mayer one of a kind. Our community mourns his loss.
Jerry DavisUniversity of MichiganAugust 20, 2012
The study of social movements and organizations is an important domain of scholarly development in the OMT division. Mayer N. Zald, who died on August 7, 2012, pioneered the development of this terrain and seeded the careers of many OMT scholars over the years.
He has also been a great friend, colleague, co-author, and mentor to many of us. We at OMT would like to take this opportunity to celebrate Mayer Zald.
So far we have received six wonderful tributes:
We encourage others who knew or were inspired by Mayer to share their thoughts as well -- either by contacting me, or simply posting your thoughts and comments here.
Michael LounsburyOMT Division Chair ElectAugust 18, 2012
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
One of the favorite cards from the OMTea Party artifact and scavenger hunt was the Drink Me card... Do you know who Alice is?
Tags: OMT Artifact | OMTLand
Note: On Monday, August 6, 2012, at the Academy of Management Annual Meeting in Boston, Candace Jones, OMT Division PDW Chair, introduced Professor Linda Argote as the 2012 OMT Distinguished Scholar. Below is the text of her introduction.
by Candace Jones
I have the distinct honor and pleasure of introducing Linda Argote as the OMT Distinguished Scholar. We all know Linda is an amazing and accomplished scholar. A brief look at google scholar will show you citation and publication numbers that many of us can hardly imagine, let alone achieve.
I asked colleagues for insights into what made Linda tick, her influence on them and here is what I learned:
I learned she is married to Dennis Epple. I had no idea!
An important lesson from Linda is not to worry that you will give a party and no one will come; it’s important to have good ideas and it’s important to take the risk of putting them those ideas out there.
Linda has a remarkable ability both to synthesize an area of research and to chart important new directions. She also has the courage to take risks. Committing to produce a work like Organizational Learning: Creating, Retaining and Transferring knowledge requires not only a great deal of talent and hard work but the courage to chart a new path.
Linda has an authentic love for scholarship and ideas. Her work always serves ideas and for the long run. This allows her to avoid traps that distract so many others.
Her work is programmatic; she has sustained interest in a topic: learning, knowledge transfer and group dynamics. Her work is also interdisciplinary. Linda is the modern day embodiment of the Carnegie tradition.
Being a successful Editor-in-Chief of Organization Science similarly requires courage — to assume responsibility, to make key decisions, to undertake new initiatives. She also ran a complex, decentralized organization like a well-oiled machine — an amazing job of coordination.
Linda also apparently lives her research; when she first moved to Carnegie Mellon she bought her first car — a Volkswagen Rabbit with a stick shift. This is noteworthy because Linda had never driven a stick shift so she had a crash course (without any real crashes) in learning by doing.
She has a charming tendency to misquote familiar sayings, as in “that is water over the bridge” and she takes the perspective of the other, including inanimate objects.
Linda grew up hearing her mother’s mantra “Organization is salvation.”
Linda is more than just an amazing scholar. She is a warm and generous person, who is an exemplary role model not only for women but for all scholars.
Linda mentors junior faculty in the full sense of the word: she looks at your papers, she keeps in touch, she looks out for your best interest. “I always trusted that she had my interests in mind.”
She is exemplary for building community; she has a talent for pulling people together.
Linda is influential for young scholars because she is doing research for the right reason — to advance knowledge, and because she is a great mentor. Her approach to scholarship is an encompassing endeavor, and doing it well involves taking care of the people with whom she works.
Tags: Candace Jones | Distinguished Scholar Award | Linda Argote | Organizational Learning
On Monday night at the OMT Business Meeting, Edward "Ned" Smith received the OMT Best Published Paper Award. This is the third time the award has been handed out. Ned's paper -- Identities as Lenses: How Organizational Identity Affects Audiences’ Evaluation of Organizational Performance -- was published last year in Administrative Science Quarterly.
Other finalists for the award were:
Edelman, Lauren B., Linda Krieger, Scott Eliason, Catherine Albiston and Virginia Mellema. 2011. When Organizations Rule: Judicial Deference to Institutionalized Employment Structures. American Journal of Sociology, 117: 888-954.
Fauchart, E. and Gruber, M. 2011. Darwinians, Communitarians and Missionaries: The Role of Founder Identity in Entrepreneurship. Academy of Management Journal, 54: 935-957.
Scherer, A. G. and Palazzo, G. 2011, The New Political Role of Business in a Globalized World: A Review of a New Perspective on CSR and its Implications for the Firm, Governance, and Democracy. Journal of Management Studies, 48: 899–931.
Whiteman, G. & Cooper, W.H. 2011. Ecological Sensemaking. Academy of Management Journal, 54: 889-911.
The winner was determined by a special committee, headed by Bob Hinings. Members of the committee included:
The OMT Best Published Paper Award is sponsored by Sage Publications.
This year's artifact has gone virtual...
Download Adventures in OMTLand as a PDF.
Dear Friends of JMI,
If you have any questions or comments regarding the meeting, please feel free to contact Nelson Phillips (
).Thanks,Nelson Phillips and Christine Quinn TrankCo-Editors in Chief, Journal of Management Inquiry
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