Morrill's primary research and teaching interests lie in the fields of the sociology of law, organizational theory/economic sociology, social movements, sociology of culture, qualitative field methods, and the sociology of immigration. His work focuses on how social conflict matters at multiple levels of analysis, with implications for the study of social, organizational and institutional change.
One area of Morrill's recent research focuses on youth conflict and violence. His most recent book, Navigating Conflict: How Youth Handle Trouble in a High-Poverty School, investigates what explains whether youth escalate or de-escalate everyday peer conflict. Drawing on long-term ethnographic and historical evidence from a diverse school, the book demonstrates how de-escalation hinges on the presence of multiple social mechanisms, including the fluidity of peer relationships across racial/ethnic boundaries, freedom of spatial movement on campus, and collective civic action that embeds social trust in student-teacher relations. In addition, Navigating Conflict shows how punishment-centered disciplinary policies can erode social mechanisms conducive to de-escalation. Another recent article ("What We Know and What We Need to Know," American Psychologist), synthesizes the state of social science knowledge and advances a research agenda on the causes of mass and everyday peer violence. This article originated from work Morrill did as a member of the National Science Foundation Subcommittee on Youth Violence.
Morrill also has been involved in scholarship that combines organizational and social movement theory to understand institutional and organizational change. In a series of papers with Hayagreeva Rao, Elizabeth Chiarello, and the late Mayer Zald he has examined when social movements produce new organizational forms and fields; the interplay between covert and overt political conflict in organizations; the conditions under which social movements influence organizations; and how inter-field relationships shape the ways social problems are defined and addressed. With Gerald Davis, Rao, and Sarah Soule, he co-edited a special issue of Administrative Science Quarterly on social movements in organizations, markets, and fields.
His newest projects examine the role of law and other formal institutions in shaping cultural knowledge and social inequality in the United States. The first of these projects explores these dynamics across the life course among persons of color from under-resourced urban communities. A second project investigates the interplay of socio-legal trouble and economic entrepreneurial activity among documented and undocumented immigrants.
Works in Progress
"Conversations in Law and Society: Oral Histories of the Emergence and Transformation of the Movement" (co-authored with Lauren Edelman, Yan Fang, and Rosann Greenspan). Annual Review of Law and Social Science.
"A Multifield-Logics Approach to Theorizing Relationships between Healthcare and Criminal Justice" (co-authored with Elizabeth Chiarello).
"Sociology of Law and the New Legal Realism." (co-authored with Lauren Edelman)
Books and Edited Special Issues of Journals
2018 Navigating Conflict: How Youth Handle Trouble in a High-Poverty School (co-authored with Michael Musheno). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
2008 Special Issue on Social Movements in Organizations and Markets (co-edited with Gerald Davis, Hayagreeva Rao, and Sarah Soule). Administrative Science Quarterly, 53, no 4.
2005 Together Alone: Personal Relationships in Public Places (co-edited with David A. Snow and Cindy White). Berkeley: University of California Press.
1995 The Executive Way: Conflict Management in Corporations. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Articles and Chapters
2018 "Social Control in Organizations” (co-authored with Brittany Arsiniega). Pp. 79-92 in The Handbook of Social Control, edited by Mathieu Deflem. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Blackwell.
2016 “Change Disguised as Continuity in Studying Law and Society? Evidence from the Law & Society Review, 1966–2015.” Law & Society Review 50:1019-1022.
2016 "Youth Violence: What We Know and What We need to Know." (co-authored with Brad Bushman, Katherine Newman, Sandra Calvert, Geraldine Downey, Mark Dredze, Michael Gottfredson, Nina Jablonski, Ann Masten, Daniel Neill, Daniel Romer, and Daniel Webster. American Psychologist 71:17-39.
2015 “Charting the Classics in Law and Society: The Development of the Field Over the Past Half-Century. (co-authored with Kelsey Mayo). Pp. 18-36 in The Handbook of Law and Society, edited by Austin Sarat and Patricia Ewick. Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell.
2011 “Fairness Monitoring: Linking Managerial Controls and Fairness Judgments in Organizations.” (co-authored with Chris Long and Corinne Bendersky). Academy of Management Journal 55:1045-1068.
2010 “Legal Mobilization in Schools: The Paradox of Rights and Race among Youth.” (co-authored with Lauren Edelman, Karolyn Tyson, and Richard Arum). Law & Society Review 44:651-694.
2009 “Ethnography in Organizational Settings” (co-authored with Gary Alan Fine and Sharmi Surianarain). Pp. 602-619 in Handbook in Organizational Research Methods, edited by David Buchanan and Alan Bryman. London: Sage.
2008 “Culture and Organization Theory." Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 69:15-40.
2003 “Covert Political Conflict in Organizations: Challenges from Below.” (co-authored with Hayagreeva Rao and Mayer N. Zald). Annual Review of Sociology 30:391-415.
2003 “Elaborating Analytic Ethnography: Linking Ethnography and Theoretical Development” (co-authored with David A. Snow and Leon Anderson). Ethnography 4:181-200.
2000 “Telling Tales in School: Youth Culture and Conflict Narratives” (co-authored with Christine Yalda, Madelaine Adelman, Michael Musheno, and Cindy Bejarano). Law & Society Review 34:521-566.
2000 “Power Plays: Social Movements, Collective Action, and New Organizational Forms” (co-authored with Hayagreeva Rao and Mayer N. Zald). Research in Organizational Behavior 22: 237-281.
1998 "Voice and Context in Everyday Legal Discourse: The Influence of Sex Differences and Social Ties" (co-authored with Michelle Johnson and Tyler Harrison). Law & Society Review 32:639:639-665.
1993 "Institutional Isomorphism and Informal Social Control" (co-authored with Cindy McKee). Social Problems 40:445-463.
1991 “Conflict Management, Honor, and Organizational Change” American Journal of Sociology 97:585-621.
1991"The Customs of Conflict Management among Corporate Executives." American Anthropologist 94:871-893.