Community and Innovation from Tonnies to Marx

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* Article: Community and Innovation: From Tonnies to Marx. By Paul Simon Adler. Organization Studies 36(4):445-471 · April 2015 



"The idea of community has lurked in various forms in organization studies since the field’s inception, but its recent prominence as a critical precondition for innovation makes urgent the resolution of two theoretical puzzles. Both puzzles can be stated in the terms suggested by Tönnies’ classic contrast of Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft, community and association. First, it is difficult to reconcile the idea that community is critical to innovation with the traditionalistic character of Gemeinschaft. Second, it is difficult to reconcile any idea of community in work organizations with the conflictual character of the capitalist employment relation and the instrumental Gesellschaft character of the economic sphere. I argue that the resolution of the second puzzle via Marxist theory leads us to a resolution of the first. My thesis, in summary, is that community is a critical component of the capitalist labour-process, and that where this labour-process is oriented toward innovation, community is taking an historically new form. This new form represents a dialectical synthesis of Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft, a form we can call Genossenschaft, or collaborative. The argument is essentially theoretical; I illustrate some key features of this emergent collaborative form with case data from a software services firm. In conclusion I suggest that this new form represents communism developing in the heart of capitalism."