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Culture and Organization

Special Issue Call for Papers

Deadline: 1 February 2019

Wabi-sabi (侘寂): Imperfection, incompleteness and impermanence in organizational life

Following on from the highly successful combined SCOS/ACSCOS Conference held at Meiji University in Tokyo Japan from August 17-20 2018, we welcome submissions to a Special Issue of Culture and Organization on the subject of ‘Wabi-sabi (侘寂): Imperfection, incompleteness and impermanence in organizational life’.

Wabi-sabi is an approach to life based on accepting the transience and imperfection of the world. As a Japanese aesthetic derived from Buddhism, wabi-sabi embraces the wisdom that comes from perceiving beauty in impermanence and incompleteness. What might the flawed, faulty, and weathered have to do with formal organisations, obsessed as they seemingly are with continually striving for perfection? Could informal and emergent organisations represent the wabi-sabi ideal? Is perfection, as an antithesis of wabi-sabi, embedded in managerial efforts such as striving for continuous improvement, setting ‘stretch’ targets, managing the performance of ideal employees, promoting organizational cultures of excellence, and even the romanticized perfect bodies of employees?  (Hardy and Thomas, 2015) Is it then the case that the managerial aesthetic of organizations is the antinomy of wabi-sabi? (Taylor, 2013).

The idea for this Special Issue is to explore how the wabi-sabi aesthetic can offer a counterpoint to the forms of idealization that dominate so much of managerial and organisational thinking. This is an exploration of how ideas from an ancient Eastern tradition might fruitfully be brought to bear on organisational issues, challenges and problems (Lowe, et al. 2015). Wabi-sabi as a theme explores the imperfect idea of a dividing crack between ‘the East’ and ‘the West’ that we hope the Special Issue will illuminate with the sort of effervescent creativity and fluid thinking that characterises Culture and Organization.

We invite submissions that consider any of the possibilities through which principles of transience and imperfection are present in, or can be made relevant to, organisational life. Central to this is how organisations have long been understood as exemplars of containment that can wilfully defy recognition of the importance of transience, flux, and fluidity. Such standpoints negate or minimise the significance of difference and undecidability leading to deleterious effects on organisational life such as overdetermined measurement systems and quality regimes. Undoing the desire for rock-solid certainty might just prove to be essential for developing ethical openness to others (Levinas, 2007; Pullen and Rhodes, 2014). Is it then possible that wabi-sabi’s emphasis on transience and imperfection offers a path appreciating ethical relations and challenging oppressive organizational regimes that violate humanity? Or could it lead to worse outcomes?

This Special Issue is an opportunity for scholars to engage with Asian concepts and ideas in a creative and inclusive way that has traditionally epitomised the ethos of Culture and Organization and SCOS conferences, and to carry on from a previous edition of Culture and Organization on the theme of ‘East is East’ (Vol. 21, Issue 5, 2015).  More broadly we also welcome submissions on themes to do with impermanence, imperfection and incompleteness from other philosophical traditions, where these are relevant to organisational studies. Contributors may find inspiration from the following list of potential themes:

  • The desire for perfection in organisations, careers, and lives
  • Mindfulness, organising, managing, leadership, and followership
  • Western philosophy’s engagement with Eastern philosophy through, for example, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Irigaray, as well as Eastern philosophy’s engagement with Western philosophy, for example Nishida, Watsuji, and Yuasa, and its implications for organisations
  • The idealization of Japanese management practice in Western management theory, in for example kanban (lean just-in-time process), jidoka (stop everything!), babyoke (automated mistake proofing) and poka yoke (mistake proofing)
  • Imperfection as a new organizational ideal
  • Undecideability and the ethics of not-knowing in organisational life
  • Living imperfect lives at work
  • Imperfection as lack, critiques of patriarchal organisation
  • Western preoccupations with completeness and totality as it relates to organizational studies
  • An organisational aesthetics of im/perfection and transience
  • Eastern and Western ideals of beauty and cultural perfection in organizational life, for instance, gendered robots at work
  • Symbols of imperfection, imperfect bodies, and the monstrous as they relate to organisational ethics and experience
  • The politics and ethics of organisational failure; ugly failures and beautiful failures
  • Impermanence and organising
  • Global transitions and transience of workers and careers
  • Simplicity and/or quietness in organizations
  • Enlightenment (satori) and leadership discourse
  • Desolation and solitude or liberation from the material world and the rejection of organisations
  • Inspiration for wabi-sabi expressed in the arts (music, flower arrangements, gardens, poetry, food ceremonies) and organisational issues


Culture and Organization

Table of Contents for Culture and Organization. List of articles from both the latest and ahead of print issues.

Language: en-US

Publisher: tandf

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Submission and Informal Enquiries

Please ensure that all submissions to the special issue are made via the ScholarOne Culture and Organization site. You will have to sign up for an account before you are able to submit a manuscript. Please ensure when you do submit that you select the relevant special issue (Volume 26, Issue 3) to direct your submission appropriately. If you experience any problems, please contact the editors of this issue.

Style and other instructions on manuscript preparation can be found on the journal’s "Instructions for authors" page.  Manuscript length should not exceed 8000 words, including appendices and supporting materials. Please also be aware that any images used in your submission must be your own, or where they are not, you must already have permission to reproduce them in an academic journal. You should make this explicit in the submitted manuscript.

Manuscripts must be submitted by February 1st 2019.

Prospective authors are invited to discuss manuscript ideas for the special issue with the guest editors before the deadline for submissions. They can be reached via e-mail at scosacscos2018@gmail.com.


Hardy, C. and Thomas, R. 2015. “Discourse in a Material World.” Journal of Management Studies 52: 680-696.

Levinas, E. 2007. “Sociality and Money.” Business Ethics: A European Review 16 (3): 203-207.

Lowe, S., Kainzbauer, A., Tapachai, N. & K.-S Hwang. 2015. “Ambicultural Blending Between Eastern and Western Paradigms: Fresh Perspectives for International Management Research.” Culture and Organization  21 (4): 304-320.

Taylor, S. 2013. “The Impoverished Aesthetic of Modern Management: Beauty and Ethics in Organisations.” Aesthetics and Business Ethics, Issues in Business Ethics Series Vl, 41: 23-35.

Pullen, A., & C. Rhodes. 2014. “Corporeal Ethics and the Politics of Resistance in Organizations.” Organization 21 (6): 782-796. 

Editorial information

  • Special Issue editor : Janet Sayers , Massey University, Auckland, New Zealand(J.G.Sayers@massey.ac.nz)
  • Special Issue editor : Masayasu Takahashi , Meiji University, Tokyo, Japan
  • Special Issue editor : Masato Yotsumoto , University of Nagasaki, Sasebo, Japan
  • Special Issue editor : Toshio Takagi , Showa Women’s University, Tokyo, Japan (toshio@takagi-lab.net)
  • Special Issue editor : Thomas Taro Lennerfors, Uppsala University, Sweden (lennerfors@gmail.com)
  • Special Issue editor : Barbara Plester , University of Auckland, New Zealand (b.plester@auckland.ac.nz)