Based on our review of the past 40 years of population ecology and 15 years of categories research, we find that the population ecology perspective has been updated with new angles and components stemming from categories research. Our chronological process tracing of proliferating category-related themes in population ecology publications reveals that such successful update would not have been possible, had categories research not built on the theoretical foundations of population ecology in the first place. However, despite this shared intellectual ancestry, there is little reflection in current categories research on these roots in general, or the theory fragments and concepts of population ecology in particular. Currently, the “categorical imperative” literature is in a fragmented state, scattered with inconsistent findings and overly diversified theorizing language. We call for closer attention to classical population ecology in current industry-level categories research, as we believe that the challenges categories research faces today have already been partially addressed in population ecology. Specifically, we put forward a number of recommendations which would enable theorists to address the current challenges in the categorical imperative tradition, and thus bringing us closer to a future integrative framework.