Collective Firms between Collective and Company

Nina Pohler (2020)

PhD thesis. Berlin: Humboldt Universität

Disputation on 04.12. 2020

Prof. Dr. Christian Kassung
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Dr. Sabine Kunst
Prof. Dr. Karin Lohr
Prof. Eeva Luhtakallio

This thesis wants to understand how alternative firms deal with the complexity of balancing different rationalities in their intraorganizational coordination, in the absence of formal hierarchies. In a comparative case study of three small, democratically governed collective firms, the relationship between coordination and morality is analyzed. The majority of research on collective firms focuses on democratic governance structures, which risks to underestimate the importance of coordination that is based on intimate knowledge and personal relations. This is especially important to understand collective firms, which are dependent on lateral accountability and cooperation between their members. Consequently, this work is informed by the work of Laurent Thévenot which allows to understand coordination based on different levels of generalization. The results of this thesis contribute to three different areas of research: First, contributions are made to the field of valuation studies, by further developing insights on the notion of the test. The thesis also points out the central role of legitimate principles of difference and equivalence for successful commensuration, and the tension between particularity and generalization in standardizing evaluation devices. Second, the study contributes insights for scholarship on coordination and morality in organizations. It demonstrates that considering coordination based on different degrees of generality yields important insights on intraorganizational coordination. Finally, this study contributes to scholarship on cooperatives and collectivist organizations. The often noted duality of collective firms is reframed as the need to balance and mediate different modes of coordination. The study develops a heuristic concept, the composite relation, which explains how collectives are held together despite their central tension between particular and collective goods.

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