Article | Academy of Management Journal | June 2012

Collective Memory Meets Organizational Identity: Remembering to Forget in a Firm's Rhetorical History

by Michel Anteby and Virag Molnar

Abstract

Much organizational identity research has grappled with the question of identity emergence or change. Yet the question of identity endurance is equally puzzling. Relying primarily on the analysis of 309 internal bulletins produced at a French aeronautics firm over almost fifty years, we theorize a link between collective memory and organizational identity endurance. More specifically, we show how forgetting in a firm's ongoing rhetorical history-here, the bulletins' repeated omission of contradictory elements in the firm's past (i.e., structural omission) or attempts to neutralize them with valued identity cues (i.e., preemptive neutralization)-sustains its identity. Thus knowing "who we are" might depend in part on repeatedly remembering to forget "who we were not."

Keywords: Organizations; Identity; History; Aerospace Industry; France;

Citation:

Anteby, Michel, and Virag Molnar. "Collective Memory Meets Organizational Identity: Remembering to Forget in a Firm's Rhetorical History." Academy of Management Journal 55, no. 3 (June 2012): 515–540.