Dynamics of wilful ignorance in organizations

Mats Alvesson*, Katja Einola, Stephan M Schaefer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Contemporary society is obsessed with knowledge, leaving its less seductive counterpart, ignorance, in the shadows. However, as an expanding literature suggests, it is equally important to understand ignorance, and consider its varieties. This study specifies the nature of wilful ignorance in organizations. It does so by a) making a distinction between the will of an actor and the epistemic properties of ignorance, and showing how these two form a dynamic relation, b) linking wilful ignorance to its various drivers, and c) suggesting how our concept of wilful ignorance can be used in the study of organizations. Rather than reducing the phenomenon into a simple to know/to ignore dichotomy, we zoom in on its processual and dynamic nature. Moreover, we explore complexities and ambiguity inherently involved in all knowing and ignoring, as well as the role of agency to reduce harmful effects of wilful ignorance in organizations.
Original languageEnglish
Peer-reviewed scientific journalBritish Journal of Sociology
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)839-858
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 05.08.2022
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed


  • 512 Business and Management
  • ignorance
  • knowledge
  • organizational dynamics
  • organizational processes
  • organizations
  • wilful ignorance

Areas of Strength and Areas of High Potential (AoS and AoHP)

  • AoS: Responsible organising


Dive into the research topics of 'Dynamics of wilful ignorance in organizations'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this