James G. March — a distinguished social scientist, great master of organisational and institutional theory, inspiring and towering intellectual, wonderful man, has passed away.
His voluminous, cross-generational, multi-topical, interdisciplinary, exceptionally influential scholarship does not need presentation — which is certainly the best presentation one could deserve.
But only a few know that beside his tremendous academic career (by the way, he continued to publish insightful and illuminating papers until his last days), March was also an accomplished poet. Josef Chytry has an interesting essay on March’s poetic work that offers a glance and insights into his personal world and social life.
March has occasionally written about poetry in academic journals. In “In praise of beauty” (2013) he relied on several poems, including his own, to reflect on the importance of ideas in scientific thinking:
“Beauty is as elusive as truth. Many enormously thoughtful people have tried to provide an understanding of the architecture and appreciation of beauty, and anyone who has read Aristotle is conscious of the complications of aesthetics. Appreciating the elegance and evocativeness of ideas demands a nuanced and sensitive ability to impose standards while constructing them. It is essential to experiment with new components of beauty, even while embracing old ones. Imagining, identifying, reconstructing, and celebrating an aesthetic of ideas about organizations is an unending project… The scholar who seeks beauty in ideas, despite the unbearable lightness of the search—or perhaps because of it—affirms an essential element of humanity.”
In “Poetry and the Rhetoric of Management: Easter 1916” (2006) he mulled over the role of rhetoric in framing views of reality: “The rhetoric of management is a rhetoric of decisiveness, certainty, and clarity.” Poetry, in contrast, is “an exploration of ambivalence and paradox, of the possibility of feeling simultaneous sentiments that seem contradictory, of living in multiple worlds and experiencing multiple feelings, and of recognizing the role of ugliness in the creation of beauty.”
“Success” by James G. March
No one needs him
after he’s gone.
No one who stays
depends on him,
if he has done it right;
No one asks
why flowers grow,
or how a summer ends,
or notices long
that he has gone, quietly
into the dark.
March, James G. 1980. Pleasures of the Process. London: Poets’ & Painters’ Press. (p. 98)