chapter  9
Organization as Communication and Corporate Communication: Contributions from Relational Sociology
ByPeter Winkler, Stefan Wehmeier
Pages 26

Peter Winkler and Stefan Wehmeier In the last few years, a growing number of European corporate communication

scholars (e. g., Christensen & Cornelissen, 2011; Christensen, Morsing, & Cheney, 2008; Schoeneborn & Trittin, 2013; Schoeneborn & Wehmeier, 2014; Wehmeier & Winkler, 2013) show effort to systematically introduce the idea of a communicative constitution of organization (CCO; for overviews, see Brummans, Cooren, Robichaud, & Taylor, 2014; Cooren, Kuhn, Cornelissen, & Clark, 2011; Schoeneborn et al., 2014) to their field of research. Analytically, three questions are of core interest. First, how can the restricted managerial view on corporations as unitary and integrated actors be expanded by CCO thinking? Second, how can the managerial idea of sender-centered control be informed by relational CCO thinking? And third, how can prescriptive corporate communication research be empirically enriched by CCO methods? In the first section of this chapter, we briefly sketch central contributions of

CCO scholars to the three questions mentioned above. We then argue that these contributions nonetheless pose new challenges to corporate communication research. First, this concerns a systematic explanation of the interplay between managerial unitary and situated polyphonic representations of corporate identity (Christensen & Cornelissen, 2011). Second, this affects the question of how corporations, though communicatively constituted in a multitude of relations, are nonetheless able to draw self-referential boundaries (Luhmann, 2003). And finally, this concerns the empirical problem of “scaling up,” which strives for explanation how full-fledged organizations emerge out of single communication episodes (Cooren & Fairhurst, 2009). In the last section of this chapter, we introduce a young transatlantic school

of relational sociology (Fuhse & Mützel, 2010) that contributes to the challenges mentioned above an alternative, broader angle on questions of social identity, control, and methodology. It combines the network sociology of White (2008) with Luhmann’s (1995) theory of social systems, and-like CCO thinking, but on a more general levelit follows the presumption that all social formations emerge out of communication. Furthermore, it introduces a non-essentialist perspective on identity and control as co-constitutive relational concepts all social formations emerge from. And finally, it


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combines the methodological repertoire of narrative and social network analysis to explain both the communicative emergence as well as scaling up of social identities from the very micro level of encounters to more enduring formations such as relationships, networks, and organizations. CCO-inspired corporate communication research may thus benefit from a closer examination of relational sociology in two ways. On the one hand, it highlights parallels between organizations and other social formations with respect to questions of the communicative constitution of identity, control, and scaling up. On the other hand, this comparative angle furthermore explains not only that communication is constitutive but also what communication is constitutive for organization.