Critique on and development of meta-organisation theory

Sanne Bor

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionScientificpeer-review


Organisations which have other organisations as their member are called meta-organisations. These organisations are underestimated and meta-organisation theory is both needed and extremely helpful for understanding the conditions specific to these organisations. The meta-organisation theory developed by Ahrne and Brunsson (2005, 2008) has therefore been a very important step. This article, however, presents a critique on the theory developed – especially concerning the discrepancy between the definition of meta-organisations and the assertions made. The main argument thereby is that meta-organisations as organisations do not only differ from other organisations because they consist of organisations (and not individuals), like Ahrne and Brunsson propose, they also, maybe even more essentially, differ from other organisations because these organisations have constitutional members. The combination of constitutional members and organisations as these members is important for understanding the particular conditions under which meta-organisations function. This article will therefore present three assertions which are needed to fully comprehend the impact of constitutional members: organisations with constitutional membership have (1) closed boundaries, (2) low stratification, and (3) they can utilise indirect resources. In addition to these three assertions, the assertions related to organisations as members (instead of individuals) developed by Ahrne and Brunsson are reviewed and six of their assertions were seen to help understand or further specify difference between associations (individuals as constitutional members) and meta-organisations (organisations as constitutional members). An overview of the conditions which are hypothesised on the basis of the individual and combined assertions is presented at the end of the paper.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of British Academy of Management Conference 2013 : Managing to make a difference
Place of PublicationLiverpool
PublisherBritish Academy of Management
Publication date09.2013
Article number993
ISBN (Electronic)978-0-9549608-6-5
Publication statusPublished - 09.2013
MoE publication typeA4 Article in conference proceedings
Event2013 British Academy of Management conference (BAM) - Liverpool, United Kingdom
Duration: 10.09.201312.09.2013


  • 512 Business and Management


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