Sub-theme 22: Virtuous spaces: Organizations, sociomateriality and the construction of virtue


Miguel Pina e Cunha, Nova SBE, Portugal
Arménio Rego, U Aveiro, Portugal
Ace Volkmann Simpson, UTS Business School, Australia

Call for Papers

In a 2012 paper, authors Gino and Desai used stuffed animals to prime participants on their experiment on moral purity, showing that objectual clues can frame cognition and decision and convey messages with relevant ethical substance. We depart from this idea to invite organizational scholars to explore the role of sociomaterial clues in the construction of organizational virtue and ethics.

We look forward to contributions to the literature on organization by considering the sociomateriality of virtue, the way in which objects may help to create the contexts in which acts of virtue emerge. We accept the assumption that “materiality is not an incidental or intermittent aspect of organizational life; it is integral to it” (Leonardi & Barley, 2010, p.34). Objects should thus be seen to have emergent and relational qualities rather than as fixed things. As Latour (1992, p. 232) argues, “We have been able to delegate to nonhumans not only force as we have known it for centuries but also values, duties and ethics”.

This stream aims to explore how we may have delegated organizational virtue to nonhumans. The interest for the virtues of organization has been renewed by the persistence of corporate wrongdoing and has led scholars to explore the importance of several factors including leadership, culture, ethical discourse and text (e.g. codes and speeches), ethical practice. Here we invite our community to explore the role of the seemingly irrelevant and inert things that surround organizational members, shaping the spaces where they work: objects, i.e. the stuff of everyday life.

Research has indicated that objects and the sociomateriality of organizations, shape organizational behavior in decisive ways. The sociomaterial space in its diverse facets has been show to express influences as diverse over organizations as the expression of creativity, the normalization of cruel behavior (Cunha et al., forthcoming), the activation of compassionate responding, the exercise of power, and so forth.

We ask questions such as (but not limited to) the following:

  • What kinds of spaces and objects stimulate the cultivation of virtues (e.g., wisdom, courage, humility)
  • Can spaces and objects be deliberatively used to stimulate positive behavior and to disarm toxic behavior?
  • How do organizational members read the objectual clues in their organizational spaces?
  • How can leaders activate organizational virtuosity through the design of space?
  • How do spaces constrain the expression of virtuosity?
  • Do positive and destructive leadership use different objects and spaces to carry out their influence strategies and tactics?


Clegg, S., Cunha, M.P., Rego, A. & Dias, J. (forthcoming). Mundane objects and the banality of evil: The sociomateriality of a death camp. Journal of Management Inquiry.

Gino, F. & Desai, SD. (2012). Memory lane and morality: How childhood memories promote prosocial behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102(4), 743-758.

Latour, B. (1992). Where are the missing masses? The sociology of a few mundane artefacts. In W. Bijker & J. Law (Eds.), Shaping technology/Building society. Studies in sociotechnical change (pp.225-264). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Leonardi, P.M., & Barley, S.R. (2010).What’s under construction here? Social action, materiality, and power in constructivist studies of technology and organizing. Academy of Management Annals,4, 1-51.

Simpson, A., Clegg, S. & Cunha, M.P. (2013). Expressing compassion in the face of crisis: Organizational practices in the aftermath of the Brisbane floods of 2011. Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, 21(2), 115-124.

Miguel Pina e Cunha is Professor at Nova School of Business and Economics. His research interests go to positive and evil organizing, organization as process, and State reforms.

Arménio Rego is an Associate Professor at Universidade de Aveiro, Portugal. His research interests include creativity, happiness at work, organizational virtuousness, and authentic and virtuous leadership.

Ace Volkmann Simpson is a Lecturer in Management within the UTS Business School at the University of Technology, Sydney. Ace’s research brings a social perspective to positive organizational scholarship. His research has centered on organizational compassion, which he describes as a complex social relational process.

Posted On: June 8, 2014
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