Tackling social inequality in small-scale societies

Findings of study by Johanna Mair published in Academy of Management Journal.

New research by Hertie School Professor for Organization, Strategy and Leadership Johanna Mair, Postdoctoral Researcher Miriam Wolf and KU Leuven Professor and Hertie School adjunct Christian Seelos examines social inequality in small-scale societies. The findings of their study were published in the 1 December 2016 issue of The Academy of Management Journal.

The study illustrates how entrenched patterns of behaviour and interaction sustain social inequality, and examines how organisational efforts in small-scale societies can help alleviate this. It provides a first link between the study of such efforts and the transformation of social systems.

The researchers probe how development programmes can be organising tools to transform these patterns, using data gathered for over a decade from a programme sponsored by an Indian non-governmental organisation.

They identify “scaffolding” as a process that can enable this transformation.  Scaffolding refers to three interrelated mechanisms: mobilising institutional, social organisational, and economic resources; stabilising new patterns of interaction that reflect an alternative social order; and concealing goals that are neither anticipated nor desired by some groups.

Their analysis moves beyond conventional thinking on unintended consequences, complements contemporary research about how organisations effect positive social change by pursuing multiple goals, and develops portable insights for organisational efforts in tackling inequality.

Read the research paper in the Academy of Management Journal here.

More about Johanna Mair

  • Johanna Mair, Professor for Organization, Strategy and Leadership