Jump to Content Jump to Main Navigation

Sociology Organizations
by
Saylor Breckenridge, Scott Savage

Introduction

Organizations are, generally speaking, those stable elements of social life designed and created for the purpose of goal achievement. As empirical units of analysis and as a theoretical framework, they are a central component of sociology. Organizations serve as primary structures within which people work, through which business is conducted, and about which states establish regulatory policy: they affect the daily lives of individuals and the broader communities in which we live, and they intersect and integrate with the institutions of labor, politics, and economics. Discussion of organizations pervades the foundations of sociological inquiry—Karl Marx in addressing labor inequality, Max Weber in considering bureaucracy, and Émile Durkheim and Adam Smith in their takes on the division of labor all address issues of organizations as elemental conditions of social life, and in so doing, introduce ideas that now stand as part of the bedrock of sociology. By the latter half of the 20th century, organizational sociology was an identifiable subfield with a set of theories, empirical evidence, and an aggregate community of scholars writing on the topic. Looking inside organizations, sociologists now understand that organizational operations can affect the effectiveness and happiness of laborers; that systems of stratification within organizations are components of the social landscape of power and inequality; and that leadership and management are a “visible hand” that shapes industrial enterprise. Viewing organizations as unique entities, sociologists have come to see them both as abstract sets of rules and regulations that govern relationships of individuals and groups and as specific establishments with sets of actors and internal suborgans that enable day-to-day operation, which vary along dimensions of formality, longevity, and economic auspices, and which succeed or fail depending on a host of environmental, ecological, and institutional factors. From a broader external perspective, organizations are actors on the economic and political stage: organizations exist together in an environment of resources which may be regulated in terms of access and use but may also be shaped by the political initiatives of organizations in efforts to create advantages. Organizations compete and cooperate in this environment and are tied together within networks and hierarchies of personal, demographic, and legal relationships. The political units that govern these national and international relationships are, themselves, organizations, thus opening the door to an organizational theory and assessment of the state and government. Altogether, the topic of organizations and its related theories permeate sociology as a field.

Textbooks

Textbooks can serve as foundational readings for those entering into the field of organizational inquiry, providing definitions and framing ideas that help guide the reader to see organizations as units of analysis and identifying the foundational theoretical traditions that guide their study. These are thorough, with distinct structures which enable them to be used together without being overbearingly redundant. Hall and Tolbert 2009 is organized around the action of organizations, Scott and Davis 2007 is the most theoretical, and Morgan 2006 is the most discursive and rhetorical. One or more of these are frequently found in the syllabi of Sociology of Organizations courses. Together, these three books would serve as an excellent overview of almost all of the major components of organizational sociology.

  • Hall, Richard, and Pamela S. Tolbert. 2009. Organizations: Structures, processes, and outcomes. 10th ed. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This text divides organizational research into topical areas such as the general nature of organizations, organizational structure, process, and environments, with a final section devoted to theory. Each major section has subsections that focus on topics such as organizational outcomes, power, or interorganizational relationships.

    Find this resource:

  • Morgan, Gareth. 2006. Images of organization. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This takes a notably distinct approach to organizations: establishing them as analogs to machines, organisms, brains, cultures, political systems, and psychic prisons (among other concepts). These “images” become a thoughtful perspective from which to assess and pursue organizational research. There are many links to classic theoretical and empirical research as well as popular examples.

    Find this resource:

  • Scott, Richard, and Gerald F. Davis. 2007. Organizations and organizing: Rational, natural, and open systems perspectives. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This is a broad overview of the field of organizational sociology using the framework of rational, natural, and open systems to guide the structure of the book. It is very thorough in its inclusion of the central analytical frames of the area—it considers general organizational structure, strategy, and organizational environments—and does so with substantive examples and consideration of organizational theory.

    Find this resource:

Critical Overviews

Critical overviews serve as intellectual reflections on the broad field of organizational research. As opposed to textbooks, these are assessments of the development of the field and directives for continuing research. These serve as exemplary essays on sociological thinking from the perspective of organizations scientists. March 2008 is an aggregation of and reflection on organizational theory from someone who has been at the forefront of research on decision making within organizations. Perrow 1986 provides a broader assessment of the foundations of 20th-century organizational theory.

  • March, James. 2008. Explorations in organizations. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    From one of the founders of organizational sociology, this is a collection of excerpts from his books and articles. The chapters are organized around discussions of organizational actions, adaptations, and institutions, along with more discursive presentations of the manner in which literature and poetry can help reveal organizational operations.

    Find this resource:

  • Perrow, Charles. 1986. Complex organizations: A critical essay. New York: McGraw-Hill.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    While perhaps due for an update, this is an excellent assessment of the major branches of organizational theory, here framed by chapters on bureaucracy, managerial models, human relations, decision making, institutionalism, the environment of organizations, and economic theories of organizations. The titular criticisms are not marginalizing, but revelations of the directions research can take to develop ideas.

    Find this resource:

Handbooks and Readers

Each of these handbooks contains a collection of chapters covering a wide range of organizational theories and their application. There is only the very slightest overlap in these readers; each has a distinct identity of its own. To consider interesting pairings, Adler 2009 is notably tied to classical sociological theory, while Wharton 2007 collects recent organizational research; Handel 2002 collects classical sociological theory as it relates to organizations, and Tsoukas and Knudsen 2005 addresses meta-theory and modern/postmodern concepts in the field; Ott, et al. 2003 is oriented toward management and administration, while Krozner and Putterman 2009 is distinctly oriented toward economics; and Wharton 2006 collects modern research on the nature of work. Along with a textbook and critical essays, one or more of these collections could serve as a stellar foundation from which to pursue organizational studies, setting the stage for further empirical and theoretical inquiry from inquisitive readers.

  • Adler, Paul S., ed. 2009. The Oxford handbook of sociology and organization studies: Classical foundations. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199535231.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Twenty-eight chapters written by top modern organizational sociologists who reflect on the role of classical theory in the development of the field. Many of these are excellent assessments that could be useful in a course on either organizations or classical sociological theory.

    Find this resource:

  • Handel, Michael J., ed. 2002. The sociology of organizations: Classic, contemporary and critical readings. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Thirty-six chapters excerpted from original works stemming from Max Weber (1924) to the central theoretical development of organizational theory in the mid-20th century and modern extensions of those ideas. While notably missing the work of James March and Herbert Simon on decision making, this is an excellent collection of work that reflects much of what is included elsewhere in this bibliography.

    Find this resource:

  • Ott, Steven J., Sandra J. Parkes, and Richard B. Simpson, eds. 2003. Classic readings in organizational behavior. 3d ed. New York: Wadsworth.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Forty-five chapters excerpted from original authors’ works, almost none of which are included in the other handbooks and readers mentioned here. This is much more oriented toward administration and management than the other readers, with sections on motivation, leadership, and group dynamics and chapters from the likes of Abraham Maslow, Donald Roy, and David Mechanic.

    Find this resource:

  • Kroszner, Randall S., and Louis Putterman. 2009. The economic nature of the firm. 3d ed. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This reader has twenty-six chapters, almost all of which are distinct from the other readers here. This is oriented toward economic perspectives, but includes excerpts from several of the books and articles referenced later in the bibliography. It starts with classic theory (Smith and Marx) and then moves to include perspectives from economists and economic sociologists, including Ronald Coase, Oliver Williamson, Alchian and Demsetz, and Oliver Hart.

    Find this resource:

  • Tsoukas, Haridimos, and Christian Knudsen, eds. 2005. The Oxford handbook of organization theory: Meta-theoretical perspectives. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    With twenty-three chapters of meta-theory, this is completely distinct from everything else here. Each chapter is an author’s reflection on the development of organizational theory. While neither an introduction to the field nor an essential toolkit for researchers, this handbook covers advanced ideas about the creation and development of organizational theory and its directions in sociology and economics.

    Find this resource:

  • Wharton, Amy, ed. 2006. Working in America: Continuity, conflict, and change. 3d ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Forty-two chapters, each an excerpt from an original author. There is, again, classical theory and some crossover with other readers here, but the bulk of this reader is separate from the others listed and the whole is uniquely organized around work within organizations. This is distinct from the other handbooks here yet still links to much of the research listed elsewhere in the bibliography and develops ideas of work and labor.

    Find this resource:

  • Wharton, Amy, ed. 2007. The sociology of organizations: An anthology of contemporary theory and research. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This is a nice collection of mostly 21st-century research on organizations. The thirty-two chapters are excerpts from recent books and articles; they capture developments of major theoretical positions, reveal typical methodologies, and the whole is empirically engaging. This is an excellent reader for a modern course on organizational theory.

    Find this resource:

Journals

Research on organizations—both macro and micro and dealing with their internal operation and operation within the economic, political, and social environment—is a prominent component of social science journals. All the generalist journals in sociology will occasionally include research that is tied to organizational study, with the American Sociological Review and the American Journal of Sociology being most prominent. Additionally, there is a wide array of area journals that focus on research about organizations and organizational components (e.g., work, management, and market processes). In the United States and Canada, the key journals are Administrative Science Quarterly, Research in the Sociology of Organizations (Emerald), Research in the Sociology of Work, and Work and Occupations. There is also much international research on organizations and many journals are edited outside of the United States. Some key journals here include the Journal of Organizational Behavior, Organization, and Organization Studies.

Research Methods

Organizational sociology is pursued both qualitatively and quantitatively, and the full range of social science methodology fits within its bounds. Within this bibliography, the full variation of these methods can be reviewed. To provide a complete review of the gamut of methods used in organizational sociology would require a bibliography unto itself. Basic and advanced discussions of regression techniques, questionnaire design, and interview techniques are found widely in methodological texts. So presented here are a few specific works referencing techniques that have found purchase within organizational studies. Yamuguchi 1991 and its take on event history analysis is a great starting place to enter into understanding the method. Schwartzman 1993 examines ethnography as a technique for studying organizations. Scott 2000 provides a comfortable introduction into social network analysis, a key component of many modern analyses.

  • Schwartzman, Helen. 1993. Ethnography in organizations. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This is a straightforward assessment of ethnographic techniques as they might be applied in an organizational context. While not a bible on the topic, it does serve as an insightful base for considering this technique as a way to leverage answers to questions about organizations.

    Find this resource:

  • Scott, John. 2000. Social network analysis: A handbook. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This is a simple introduction to the basic concepts of social networks. This framework is one that permeates organizational analyses, and this is a not-too-technical introduction; it is not a text from which to learn statistical technique so much as to place social network analysis within the context of methodologies useful for answering questions about organizations.

    Find this resource:

  • Yamaguchi, Kazuo. 1991. Event history analysis. Newbury Park, CA: SAGE.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Event history analysis is a key component of many quantitative studies in organizations. It is useful for studying the timing of events within the history of an organization or industry. This is an excellent overview of the method, from theoretical foundations to actual statistical techniques.

    Find this resource:

Foundations

The theoretical and empirical foundations of organizational sociology stem from the origins of social science. Here we reference the classic sociology of Émile Durkheim, Karl Marx, Adam Smith, and Max Weber as that which provides the pillars upon which organizational sociology is built. Further, we capture foundational works of organizational sociology itself: those works that set the stage for researching organizations as unique entities and as components of larger environments. Sociology has at its very heart an interest in studying human organization, and this has extended into discussion of organizations themselves. The ideas of classic sociologists either imply or directly address organizational issues, primarily by looking inside organizations at labor and power structures. Durkheim 1997 addresses social organization most broadly, while Marx and Engels 1978 and Smith 1986 consider labor directly, and Weber 1978 reveals a fundamental structure of organizations themselves: bureaucracy.

  • Durkheim, Émile. 1997. The division of labor in society. New York: Free Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    First published in 1893, this specifically addresses the issue of social order and considers the development of competition and specialization in capitalistic society as key factors in eliminating disorder. These are foundational ideas to all research on social order and resonate strongly within discussion of the internal operation of organizations.

    Find this resource:

  • Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. 1978. The Marx-Engels reader. New York: Norton.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Collecting a wealth of their writings, this reader captures the foundational sociology work of Marx and Engels. Of note here, discussions of labor and its exploitation and the nature of profits are primal components of the internal workings of organizations. And the ideas of alienation are intimately tied to the feeling of workers that they are cogs within a bureaucratic machine.

    Find this resource:

  • Smith, Adam. 1986. The wealth of nations. New York: Penguin.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    First published in 1776, this classic influences political science and economics along with sociology, and it is just this intersection that makes it a foundational piece of organizational research. Of particular note, the discussion of divided labor and specialization in work ties in tightly to Weberian discussions of bureaucracy, and the overall theme sets the stage for understanding rational action in organizational settings.

    Find this resource:

  • Weber, Max. 1978. Economy and society. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    First published in 1922, this seeks to explain the rationalization of Western society and points to the rise of bureaucracy as the key component of the process. In the section titled “Bureaucracy” Weber points to this titular characteristic as a specific kind of administrative structure that emerged in conjunction with the rational-legal mode of authority. Weber argues that bureaucracies—with formal rules and jurisdictional areas—efficiently solve human problems of organization.

    Find this resource:

The Closed Systems Approach

The closed systems approach is one that considers the organization as a unit bounded from that which is external to it. Other organizations, resources, the state, even notions of input and output are not directly considered here. The organization and its internal operation are the topics at hand. Within this approach, the rationalist perspective is one that considers pointed and reasoned decision making toward maximizing efficiency as a key part of organizational operation. Here, common topics include bureaucracy and administration (the formal regulations that structure organizations) and the boundaries placed on decision making (the limits to pure rational choice). The naturalist perspective is one that focuses on the collectivity of actors and norms within an organization as a community much like other social systems. This links to the idea of an informal organization—one that arrives at its structure through community and social relationships, as opposed to externally enforced rules.

Bureaucracy and Administration

This rationalist area addresses the manner in which labor and management, work and nonwork, and the whole of group efforts are structured within an organization. Taylor 1911 addresses managerial control of labor, Michels 1962 provides a fundamental take on concentrated power, Blau 1963 and Chandler 1969 consider the link between organizational structure and behavior, and Chandler 1977 delineates the force and importance of management in modern capitalism.

  • Blau, Peter. 1963. The dynamics of bureaucracy. 2d ed. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Blau studied a state public employment agency and a federal law enforcement agency in order to describe how change occurs in the bureaucratic setting. Blau’s key finding is that the implementation of procedures and rules often resulted in unintended consequences which prompted structural modification. This leads him to conclude that realizing organizational objectives often depends upon changing bureaucratic structures.

    Find this resource:

  • Chandler, Alfred D., Jr. 1969. Strategy and structure: Chapters in the history of the American industrial enterprise. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Chandler’s history of four leading US companies (DuPont, Sears-Roebuck, GM, and Standard Oil) through the mid-20th century details how high-level managers envisioned and enacted large-scale strategies by reshaping organizational structure in order to efficiently realize their visions. His thesis is that structure follows strategy, where strategies are broad visions and structures are the organizational forms that can efficiently realize those visions.

    Find this resource:

  • Chandler, Alfred D., Jr. 1977. The visible hand: The managerial revolution in American business. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In contrast to the invisible hand of the market, Chandler addresses the visible hand of management: administration and management are more important than market processes in the modern organization. He presents the model of the modern US firm as a multilevel/multiunit organization, not a small entrepreneurial enterprise. Hierarchy is the structure that organizes operation and is the source of power for managers who have become increasingly distinct form owners.

    Find this resource:

  • Michels, Robert. 1962. Political parties: A sociological study of the oligarchical tendencies of modern democracy. New York: Collier.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Michel’s iron law of oligarchy contends that as organizations gravitate toward a bureaucratic structure, power will inevitably become concentrated in the hands of the top officials. Bureaucratic structures offer leaders greater control over communication channels and knowledge, thereby protecting them from the oversight of the masses. This makes them beholden to few and powerful enough to pursue aims that advance personal whims and further entrench their powerful position.

    Find this resource:

  • Taylor, Frederick W. 1911. The principles of scientific management. New York: Harper & Brothers.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Taylor argues that by scientifically analyzing work tasks, managers should be able to identify the best method for performing tasks and should then implement these methods. Taylor claims that resulting efficiency gains will reward both workers and managers who will, as a result, willingly adopt these practices. Reprinted 1972 (New York: Greenwood).

    Find this resource:

Bounded Rationality as Decision-Making Method

This is a naturalistic approach which focuses on the difficulty of making truly rational decisions. Here, organizations operate within a process frequently known as the “garbage can model,” where repertoires of action are chosen because of their normalcy and ease of access, as opposed to rationalized efficiency. Simon 1957 establishes organizational structure as the source of goals, March and Simon 1958 develops the idea that decisions can be based on satisfying as opposed to optimizing, and Cohen, et al. 1972 proposes the “garbage can model” of decision making.

  • Cohen, M. D., J. G. March, and J. P. Olsen. 1972. A garbage can model of organizational choice. Administrative Science Quarterly 17:1–25.

    DOI: 10.2307/2392088Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This presents the concept of organizational anarchies—“organizations characterized by problematic preferences, unclear technology, and fluid participant” (p. 1). Decisions in organizations emerge not from systematic searches for the best possible solutions to particular problems, but from a specific mix of time- and people-dependent factors, drawing from a garbage can of possible options.

    Find this resource:

  • March, James, and Herbert A. Simon. 1958. Organizations. New York: Wiley.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    March and Simon present a picture of human behavior that assumes humans lack the ability to deal with the complexity of the problems that organizations are designed to face. As such, simplification procedures, such as satisfying as opposed to optimizing and establishing sets of action programs to deal with recurrent situations or problems, maintain a stable organization by programming action in a manner that consistently yields successful solutions.

    Find this resource:

  • Simon, Herbert A. 1957. Administrative behavior: A study of decision-making processes in administrative organization. New York: Free Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Simon explores how organizations realize coordinated and effective behavior. Instead of assuming that formal rules motivate goal-oriented behavior, he contends that the design and management of the organization’s structure influences decision making. He argues that hierarchical organizations instill goals or subgoals that simplify decision making at each organizational level, bounding the set of possible decision options for decision makers.

    Find this resource:

Informal Organization

Within organizations, relationships exist between individuals and they must mediate the power of the organizational hierarchy, the demands of organizational goals, and pressures external to the organization. Barnard 1968 focuses on executives as key players in mediating these pressures for those within organizations; Edwards 1979 provides an intriguing angle with research on tension in the workplace.

  • Barnard, Chester I. 1968. The functions of the executive. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Barnard contends that firms exist to accomplish purposes that individuals could not accomplish, and that the executive functions to guide the firm in these pursuits. Barnard acknowledges that various pressures often act upon individuals, pulling them away from a commitment toward organizational goals, and that executives must create incentives to draw out the participation of individuals.

    Find this resource:

  • Edwards, Richard. 1979. Contested terrain: The transformation of the workplace in the 20th century. New York: Basic Books.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Edwards addresses the conflict between labor and management as it developed in the 20th century, focusing on the systems of control used by organizations to constrain labor and the manner in which this is contested. This, in turn, divides the working class and reframes the role of the state as the location of negotiation of labor issues.

    Find this resource:

The Open Systems Approach

The open systems approach distinctly addresses the organizational environment. The set of organizations, policies, and markets (including labor, raw materials, and outputs) is integral to understanding organizations. A focal point here is the economic perspective: one that is directed at market and supply/demand processes as opposed to simply the internal operations of organizations. Contingency theory and resource dependence both focus on the manner in which organizations are dependent on interactive systemic processes, both for internal decision making and external relationships. Politics infuse organizations with structures that may be contrary to, and must be negotiated alongside, bureaucratic and administrative goals. Institutionalism and neo-institutionalism direct organizational theory toward understanding culture and symbolic forces as key components of organizations. Organizational ecology and evolutionary theory invoke logics of competition, legitimation, and the manner in which organizations and industries change over time.

Economics

The economic perspective permeates organizational sociology, and these two foundational pieces are common starting points. Alchian and Demsetz 1972 is foundational in describing organization as an alternative to the market; Williamson 1981 addresses organizing as a way of minimizing transaction costs.

  • Alchian, Armen A., and Harold Demsetz. 1972. Production, information costs, and economic organization. American Economic Review 62:777–795.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Building upon the work of Coase, Alchian and Demsetz offer an explanation for the emergence of the firm. They contend that organizing offers an economical alternative to markets to the extent that the economic organization can better solve problems of metering and shirking. This happens through managerial monitoring, such that the monitor’s earnings stem from the efficiencies gained by resolution of the metering and shirking problems.

    Find this resource:

  • Williamson, Oliver. 1981. The economics of organization: The transaction cost approach. American Journal of Sociology 87:548–577.

    DOI: 10.1086/227496Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This develops the idea of “transaction cost economics” from the economist Ronald Coase. An organization’s ability to efficiently mediate transactions relies on dimensions relating to uncertainty, frequency of transaction, and asset specificity. In frequent but uncompetitive conditions, the determination of value is difficult, opportunism becomes a concern, and the market fails. An organization is then the preferred means for handling exchange, so integration of firms becomes a way to reduce transaction costs.

    Find this resource:

Contingency Theory

Contingency theory notes that the quality and efficiency of any particular decision are contingent on other decisions being made in the same systems, and that efficient structures are contingent on goals and conditions of the organization. Crozier 1964 considers positions of power within organization, Stinchcombe 1965 proposes organizations contingent on broader society, and Woodward 1994 addresses technological contingencies. Lawrence and Lorsch 1986 and Thompson 2005 approach contingencies specifically from the perspective of the environment within which organizations operate.

  • Crozier, Michael. 1964. The bureaucratic phenomenon. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Crozier argues that rules and regulations routinize behavior, thereby removing uncertainty in the job or task. This undermines power, because it removes discretion from the position. Crozier argues that participants in an organization try to constrain the behaviors of others in predictable ways, while also trying to keep others from imposing such constraints on their own behaviors.

    Find this resource:

  • Lawrence, Paul R., and Jay W. Lorsch. 1986. Organization and environment. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The authors contend that different types of environments bring about different types of organizations and examine organizations that adopt varying levels of differentiation and integration to effectively meet environmental demands. Effective organizations were found to be those that had levels of differentiation consistent with the amount of diversity in the environment and levels of integration that were consistent with the environmental demands for interdependence.

    Find this resource:

  • Stinchcombe, Arthur L. 1965. Social structure and organization. In Handbook of organizations. Edited by James G. March, 142–193. Chicago: Rand McNally.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The chapter looks at the connection between social structure and organizations. Social structure consists of any variable that is a stable characteristic of the society outside of the organization. Organizations are those stable social relations created in an effort to accomplish some goal. Capturing the linkage between the two is a key component of revealing organizational operation.

    Find this resource:

  • Thompson, James D. 2005. Organizations in action: Social science bases of administrative theory. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Thompson combines the open, rational, and natural systems approaches to create a contingency explanation for the structure and actions of organizations.

    Find this resource:

  • Woodward, Joan. 1994. Industrial organization: Theory and practice. 2d ed. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Relying on a survey of manufacturing firms in South Essex, England, Woodward sought to explain the factors that could account for variations in organizational structure. She concluded that technology was a critical variable for understanding which organizational structures would lead to successful firms, because within each production type successful firms had similar organizational structures.

    Find this resource:

Resource Dependency Theory

Organizational structure and operation are dependent on access to material and social relationships with the environment. This becomes a key component—along with neo-institutionalism and organizational ecology—of the latter-20th-century take on organizational theory. First published in 1978, Pfeffer and Salancick 2003 captures the core ideas of this perspective, Provan, et al. 1980 applies it relative to organizational relationships, and Tolbert 1985 links resource dependence with institutional theories.

  • Pfeffer, Jeffrey, and Gerald Salanick. 2003. The external control of organizations: A resource dependency perspective. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Resource dependence theory notes that dependence on relationships with other organizations for necessary resources affects organizations’ ability to compete and survive. Thus, organizational survival depends on responding to demands of other organizations if they depend on them for critical resources. Managing these dependencies and the power external organizations have over the focal organization becomes the core problem to be solved for organizations.

    Find this resource:

  • Provan, Keith G., Janice Beyer, and Carlos Krutybosck. 1980. Environmental linkages and power in resource-dependence relations between organizations. Administrative Science Quarterly 25.2: 200–225.

    DOI: 10.2307/2392452Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This research looks at the power that can be leveraged by the member organizations relative to the United Way as a result of social and operational ties to the communities in which they operate. The receipt of United Way funding by the member agencies is shown to be affected in varied ways by their ties in the community.

    Find this resource:

  • Tolbert, Pamela S. 1985. Institutional environments and resource dependence: Source of administrative structure in institutions of higher education. Administrative Science Quarterly 30.1: 1–13.

    DOI: 10.2307/2392808Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This reveals the compatibility of resource dependence and institutional theories by examining the manner in which higher education organizations structure their funding offices. Tolbert finds that the pursuit of traditional versus nontraditional funding sources predicts organizational structure, so that institutional forces mediate the impact of resource dependence on the structure of organizations.

    Find this resource:

Politics

Political relationships are a component of much of the research cited here. These articles take on a particular tone that guides much discussion of politics in organizations. Bacharach and Lawler 1980 presents a social psychological perspective, Pfeffer 1981 captures resource dependence forces as they apply to politics in organizations, and Fligstein 1987 considers institutional forces as applied to the changing source of leadership within organizations.

  • Bacharach, Samuel, and Edward J. Lawler. 1980. Power and politics in organizations: The social psychology of conflict, coalitions, and bargaining. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this book, Bacharach and Lawler take as their point of focus intraorganizational politics. They do this by pulling from the existing social psychological and organizational literatures to introduce various theoretical arguments about how interest groups are able to realize their goals through bargaining, coalition formation, and conflict.

    Find this resource:

  • Fligstein, Neil. 1987. The intraorganizational power struggle: Rise of finance personnel to top leadership in large corporations, 1919–1979. American Sociological Review 52:44–58.

    DOI: 10.2307/2095391Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Fligstein examines the shifting power structure of the one hundred largest US firms over time. He notes that organizations were primarily controlled by entrepreneurs, marketers, and finance personnel in different eras. He contends that variations in organizational resources and strategies, along with changes in the external legal system and institutional processes, explain this variation.

    Find this resource:

  • Pfeffer, Jeffrey. 1981. Understanding the role of power in decision-making. In Power in organizations. Edited by Jeffrey Pfeffer, 1–34. Boston: Pitman.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Extending the ideas of resource dependence to politics, Pfeffer proposes that power and its distribution within hierarchies in organizations is dependent on environmental characteristics. The politics of organizational operation are contingent on the external conditions within which organizations operate.

    Find this resource:

Institutionalism and Neo-Institutionalism

Classic institutionalism is directed at explanations that detail how institutions arise within organizations from both local contexts and internal organizational politics. It illustrates the weaknesses of rational-actor models of organization by examining how context and informal politics shape and constrain organizational activities in ways that defy the rationally ordered formal structures and goals of organizations. Selznick 1949 notes the absorption of local public symbols into the organization. Neo-institutionalism stems from the idea that with modernization, organizational success has become dependent “on factors other than efficient coordination and control of productive activities” (Meyer and Rowan 1977, p. 53). DiMaggio and Powell 1983 develops it to explain the process of isomorphism as that which produces homogeneity between organizations. Fligstein 1990 further develops the linkage between institutionalism and corporate control. Powell and DiMaggio 1991 collects much of the research developing this theoretical perspective. Scott, et al. 2000 thoroughly develops the story of the healthcare industry via this theoretical perspective.

  • DiMaggio, Paul, and Walter W. Powell. 1983. The iron cage revisited: Institutional isomorphism and collective rationality in organizational fields. American Sociological Review 48:147–160.

    DOI: 10.2307/2095101Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The question that drives this article is “What makes organizations so similar?” The answer given suggests that institutionalization results in pressures that drive the increasing homogenization of structures and practices within the context of an institutional field toward those that are immediately legitimate. “Isomorphism” is the term used to describe these pressures. Three types of isomorphism are discussed: coercive, mimetic, and normative.

    Find this resource:

  • Fligstein, Neil. 1990. The transformation of corporate control. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Fligstein argues that rather than market forces driving the firm, both the firm and market are shaped by the state and state policies. Specifically, he contends that changes in law have brought about different types of organizational control, resulting in four different types of organizational control being dominant at different points in the 20th century. The four types of organizational control identified are direct, manufacturing, sales and marketing, and finance.

    Find this resource:

  • Meyer, John, and Brian Rowan. 1977. Institutionalized organizations: Formal structure as myth and ceremony. American Journal of Sociology 83:333–363.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This makes the argument that formal organizations tend to exist in highly institutionalized contexts, which exert pressures on organizations to adopt those practices and procedures that are institutionally defined as rational. Organizations that adhere to these institutionally defined practices and procedures increase their legitimacy and survival chances. There are great pressures toward homogenization as organizations attempt to reflect socially constructed reality.

    Find this resource:

  • Powell, Walter W., and Paul DiMaggio, eds. 1991. The new institutionalism in organizational analysis. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This compilation of articles illustrates that neo-institutionalism offers a critique of the behavioralist view of institutions. The articles found in this book challenge deterministic perspectives by stressing the social construction of reality and focus on how symbolism affects agency. The book highlights how institutions are seen as stable taken-for-granted entities that create shared cognitions that structure meaning.

    Find this resource:

  • Scott, Richard W., Martin Rueff, Peter J. Mendel, and Carol A. Caronna. 2000. Institutional change and healthcare organizations: From professional dominance to managed care. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This is a thorough examination of the transformation of the healthcare industry in northern California in the latter half of the 20th century. This uses institutionalism (as well as ecological and other related perspectives) to provide insight into the political and environmental forces shaping these changes.

    Find this resource:

  • Selznick, Philip. 1949. TVA and the grass roots. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This details how institutionalization arises from local and internal organizational politics. Using an analysis of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), Selznick considers how institutional context and the informal politics found within the organization are able to shape organizational activities and missions such that they do not necessarily reflect the rationally ordered formal structure and goals. Reprinted 1984.

    Find this resource:

Organizational Ecology

Ecological theory “seek[s] to answer the question, Why are there so many kinds of organizations?” (Hannan and Freeman 1977, p. 936). Answers to this come from discussion of selection process, competition and legitimation, and the fundamental ideas of density dependence. McPherson 1983 adds a consideration of organizations competing for members; Hannan and Freeman 1984 addresses the idea of structural inertia promoting adaptive changes within organizations; Carroll 1985 adds a discussion of ecological distinction between generalist and specialist organizations; and Carroll and Swaminathan 2000 utilizes the notion of resource partitioning to explain the rise of microbreweries.

  • Carroll, Glenn. 1985. Concentration and specialization: Dynamics of niche width in populations of organizations. American Journal of Sociology 90:1262–1283.

    DOI: 10.1086/228210Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Carroll explains why many specialized organizations are able to operate in an industry marked by high levels of concentration. He notes that generalist populations require a wide range of resources and thus occupy a wider niche, while specialist populations require a narrow range of resources and thus a smaller niche. Resource partitioning is the process that “makes markets in equilibrium appear as though generalist and specialist organizations operate in entirely distinct resource spaces” (p. 1272).

    Find this resource:

  • Carroll, Glenn R., and Anand Swaminathan. 2000. Why the microbrewery movement? Organizational dynamics of resource partitioning in the U.S. brewing industry. American Journal of Sociology 106:715–762.

    DOI: 10.1086/318962Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article explains the rise of small specialty brewers in the US brewing industry by using a resource partitioning theory. They note that in cases of scale-based competition, organizational mortality rates increase as the aggregate of size differences between smaller firms and larger competitors increases. They also examine how institutional context and consumer identification with specific types of organizational forms affects the process.

    Find this resource:

  • Hannan, Michael T., and John H. Freeman. 1977. The population ecology of organizations. American Journal of Sociology 82:929–964.

    DOI: 10.1086/226424Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This paper presents an alternative to the adaptation theory of organizations that dominated the literature as of the early 1970s. The population ecology perspective laid out in this paper stresses that models need to focus on competition and selection in populations of organizations, because of the reality that strong inertial pressures act upon organizational structures.

    Find this resource:

  • Hannan, Michael T., and John H. Freeman. 1984. Structural inertia and organizational change. American Sociological Review 49:149–164.

    DOI: 10.2307/2095567Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Hannan and Freeman define structural inertia as that force which makes organizations resistant to change. In this article, they contend that organizations that have organizational structures that are hard to change are more likely to be favored by selection processes. Structural inertia varies with organizational characteristics.

    Find this resource:

  • McPherson, J. Miller. 1983. An ecology of affiliation. American Sociological Review 48:519–532.

    DOI: 10.2307/2117719Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    McPherson examines organizational competition for members. He posits a model that identifies competition for members based on the degree to which the niches, defined by resources in the environment, of organizations overlap.

    Find this resource:

Evolutionary Theory

Evolutionary theory links tightly with the ideas of resource dependence, organizational ecology and neo-institutionalism, yet it has a distinct focus on larger scale and scope that makes it unique. It focuses on the myriad of processes—ecological and institutional and managerial and otherwise —that tie together to produce organization- and population-level change over time. Baum and Singh 1994 provides a nice selection of the fundamental ideas and research on organizational evolution; Aldrich and Ruef 2006 provides an excellent overview of all this perspective has to offer.

  • Aldrich, Howard, and Martin Ruef. 2006. Organizations evolving. 2d ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This book presents an evolutionary approach to understanding the creation of organizations, populations, and communities. It contends that four processes prompt evolution: variation, selection, retention, and struggle. This is an outstanding book on evolutionary theory as well as a worthwhile synthesis of ecological and institutional ideas.

    Find this resource:

  • Baum, Joel A. C., and Jitendrra V. Singh, eds. 1994. Evolutionary dynamics of organizations. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This collected volume provides many of the foundational pieces that combine to produce and evolutionary perspective. It captures both ecological and institutional framings of this perspective and features works by many of the key authors in these areas.

    Find this resource:

Extensions and Applications

Organizational theory has developed in myriad directions. It has been extended and applied toward almost all aspects of the social world. Organizational sociologists now often study networks both within and between organizations; the more detailed nature of work and employment, in particular as navigated through the social forces of race, class, and gender; the identity of organization and workers within a social environment; organizational deviance, unexpected behavior, and their consequences; the state as an organization that produces regulation; the auspices of organizations (whether they are governmental, for-profit, or not-for-profit in their orientation); the comparison of organizations across nations; and social movements, which are increasingly tied into the study of organizations.

Networks and Embeddedness

Social networks are those systems and structures that tie together actors: people and organization are embedded within networks. This perspective applies to both the structure of organizations and the relationships among people within them. Powell 1990 is a great starting place, capturing the idea of networks as a form of organization distinct from a hierarchy or a market. Burt 1992 examines how different network positions can advantage those within them; Uzzi 1997 adds ideas about how social relationships structure exchange. Galaskiewicz, et al. 2006 assesses the networks between organizations and the communities within which they operate. Granovetter 1995 and Podoly and Baron 1997 assess how networks affect employment and mobility; and Khurana 2002, while not as deeply network-oriented, extends the idea to think about the importance of charisma in leadership.

  • Burt, Ronald S. 1992. Structural holes: The social structure of competition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Burt seeks to show how network structures affect competition: any given network will provide certain players more opportunities than others, and thus a competitive advantage. Individuals with advantageously structured networks hold a form of social capital. Networks afford individuals access to reliable information in a more timely manner, which in turn, grants them the opportunity to apply this knowledge to beneficial ends.

    Find this resource:

  • Galaskiewicz, Joseph, Wolfgang Bielefeld, and Myron Dowell. 2006. Networks and organizational growth: A study of community based nonprofits. Administrative Science Quarterly 51:337–380.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines how networking affects the growth of donative and commercial nonprofit organizations in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area. The authors find that ties to urban elites and to prominent actors in the community of organizations enhances an organization’s status, but that this yields benefits, in terms of growth, only for donative nonprofit organizations. Commercial nonprofits actually grew more when they were less connected.

    Find this resource:

  • Granovetter, Mark. 1995. Getting a job: A study of contacts and careers. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This classic book explores how social networking affects job mobility. Detailed information on occupational mobility of 282 people shows how social networks affect the flow of information important to landing a job. Specifically, the book offers insights into how the structure of one’s social network affects what jobs are open to him or her.

    Find this resource:

  • Khurana, Rakesh. 2002. Searching for a corporate savior: The irrational quest for charismatic CEOs. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Khurana investigates the selection process for corporate chief executive officers (CEOs). Using data compiled from interviews and archives, he finds that corporations seek out CEOs who are charismatic, even if their skills and abilities are not right for the company. By examining the relationships between the key players in the field, he concludes that the labor market for top CEOs is far less rational than it initially appears.

    Find this resource:

  • Podolny, Joel M., and James N. Baron. 1997. Relationships and resources: Social networks and mobility in the workplace. American Sociological Review 62:673–693.

    DOI: 10.2307/2657354Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This study of 658 exempt employees working for a large high-technology engineering and manufacturing corporation refines Burt’s “structural holes” approach to social networks. Specifically, the authors assert that the network structure that produces a clear social identity is not the same as the network structure that yields the most access to information, and that both network structures can affect mobility within organizations.

    Find this resource:

  • Powell, Walter W. 1990. Neither market nor hierarchy: Network forms of organization. In Research in organizational behavior. Vol. 12. Edited by B. Staw and L. L. Cummings, 295–336. Greenwich, CT: JAI.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The network form of organization is presented and contrasted with markets and hierarchies as a viable economic pattern. The network form offers a unique way for organizations to respond strategically to social and/or market conditions. Unique traits of network forms include lateral or horizontal patterns of exchange, interdependent flows of resources, and reciprocal patterns of communication.

    Find this resource:

  • Uzzi, Brian. 1997. Social structure and competition in interfirm networks: The paradox of embeddedness. Administrative Science Quarterly 42:35–67.

    DOI: 10.2307/2393808Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Uzzi studied the New York City apparel industry to show how social relationships affect economic exchange. Critical exchanges were characterized by special, embedded relationships which developed as a result of third-party referral. Trust, fine-grained information transfer, and joint problem-solving arrangements are important features of these exchanges and are found to affect firm performance positively.

    Find this resource:

Work

Discussions of labor were at the center of the earliest organizational sociology, and this continues to be a ripe area of research. The experience of workers is a key to understanding the foundational notion of alienation and is at the heart of discussions of the economic and social world within which people live. Race, class, and gender are features that impact all aspects of the social landscape, and work is no exception. Key research on these topics stems from organizational sociology, which is equally influenced by the general work in the area.

The Worker Experience

The experience of workers is central to organizations. Merton 1968 extends Weberian ideas of the negative impact of bureaucratic structures on laborers. Burawoy 1979 is a classic presentation of life on the work floor; this is fantastic social science. Hochschild 1983 addresses the emotional component of work. Baron 1984 examines stratification in the workplace and the matching of workers to jobs. Smith 1998 develops understandings of temporary or contingent labor. Kunda 1992 writes about how organizations construct norms for laborers. Hodson and Roscigno 2004 considers ways to tie organizational success to workers’ happiness and dignity.

  • Baron, James N. 1984. Organizational perspectives on stratification. Annual Review of Sociology 10:37–69.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.so.10.080184.000345Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Baron reviews the linkages between organizations, environments, and inequality. He highlights relationships between rewards and opportunities and various organizational attributes, and he shows that enterprises differ in how they match workers and jobs. From this review it is clear that organizations have a large impact on social stratification. He contends that the continued confusion and disagreement over hierarchy is a beneficial organizational structure.

    Find this resource:

  • Burawoy, Michael. 1979. Manufacturing consent. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This details how an industrial corporation created an internal work environment that resulted in workers’ actively engaging in and supporting their own exploitation. Burawoy analyzes how three mechanisms within the organizational environment combine to enable capitalists to “obscure and secure surplus labor”: the creation of an institutional game, the development of an internal labor market, and the rise of the internal state.

    Find this resource:

  • Hochschild, Arlie Russell. 1983. The managed heart: Commercialization of human feeling. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Hochschild presents the ideas of emotion work and feeling rules. Feeling rules refer to those scripts that govern how an individual is supposed to feel. For example, one should feel somber at a funeral. Emotion work refers to the efforts an individual makes when forcing his or her emotions to comply with feeling rules. Upon the presentation of these concepts, Hochschild moves on to explore how they operate within the company setting.

    Find this resource:

  • Hodson, Randy, and Vincent Roscigno. 2004. Organizational success and worker dignity: Complimentary or contradictory? American Journal of Sociology 110:672–708.

    DOI: 10.1086/422626Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Hodson and Roscigno ask if it is possible to have worker dignity and organizational success at the same time. Findings suggest that this a possibility, and they conclude that “in short, workers want to work effectively and to be productive. When they are allowed the opportunity to do so by coherent organizational practices and by the solicitation of employee involvement, organizations prosper and worker dignity within the organization is maximized” (p. 701).

    Find this resource:

  • Kunda, Gideon. 1992. Engineering culture: Control and commitment in a high-tech corporation. Philadelphia: Temple Univ. Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Kunda argues that organizations are able to create cultures with certain normative values and goals that workers internalize and with which they identify. Identification with company policies results in workers’ self-monitoring their behavior, so that they act in ways considered appropriate.

    Find this resource:

  • Merton, Robert K. 1968. Bureaucratic structure and personality. In Social theory and social structure. By Robert K. Merton, 249–260. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Merton extends Weber’s thinking on bureaucracy by identifying some of the negative consequences that can result from bureaucratic structures. Of particular importance is Merton’s idea of goal displacement, which occurs when adherence to rules becomes not a means to an end but an end in itself. That is, Merton examines how bureaucratic structures act upon and shape individuals in unanticipated and often dysfunctional ways.

    Find this resource:

  • Smith, Vicki. 1998. The fractured world of the temporary worker: Power, participation, and fragmentation in the postindustrial workplace. Social Problems 45:411–430.

    DOI: 10.1525/sp.1998.45.4.03x0173qSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Smith uses interviews with temporary workers at a technology firm to extend what we know about contingent work. She finds that temporary work structures result in competition among temporary workers, which depresses the development of cohesion and collective solidarity. She also concludes that temporary work structures, while bringing opportunities to some, more often than not decrease the number of opportunities available to workers.

    Find this resource:

Gender, Race, and Class

These three status characteristics permeate all areas of social science. In organizational sociology, they play key roles in understanding the nature of labor. Acker 1990 argues effectively that organizations are gendered. The classic Kanter 1993 reveals how organizational structure produces inequities that are differentially experienced by employees of differing status. Ibarra 1995 integrates discussions of networks and race; Cancio, et al. 1996 examines racial discrepancies in wages and ties this to federal policy; Collins 1997 describes the social circumstances that have enabled the upward mobility of blacks into executive positions; Reskin 1998 integrates a wide range of theoretical and empirical literature about affirmative action; Kalev, et al. 2006 assesses techniques of increasing organizational diversity; and Correll, et al. 2007 assesses the impact of motherhood on careers.

  • Acker, Joan. 1990. Hierarchies, jobs, bodies: A theory of gendered organizations. Gender and Society 4:139–158.

    DOI: 10.1177/089124390004002002Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Acker argues that organizations can be and often are gendered. She concludes that although the ideal worker is thought to be gender-neutral, in practice this is not so. The cultural logic of a desexualized worker has thus generated a gendered notion of the job that can disadvantage women.

    Find this resource:

  • Cancio, Silvia A., T. David Evans, and David J. Maume Jr. 1996. Reconsidering the declining significance of race: Racial differences in early career wages. American Sociological Review 61:541–556.

    DOI: 10.2307/2096391Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Using data from samples of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, the researchers show that the effect of race on hourly wages increased from 1976 to 1985, and that the extent to which this racial gap is a product of discrimination has also increased. They argue that this backslide resulted from the government’s curbing its pursuit of antidiscrimination initiatives.

    Find this resource:

  • Collins, Sharon M. 1997. Black corporate executives: The making and breaking of a black middle class. Philadelphia: Temple Univ. Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Drawing upon interviews with seventy-six high-ranking black executives working in fifty-two white-owned firms in Chicago, Collins describes the social circumstances that have enabled the upward mobility of blacks into executive positions. She also notes, however, that these black executives are often pushed into “racialized” positions designed to appease particular constituencies and restrict continued upward mobility.

    Find this resource:

  • Correll, Shelley J., Stephen Benard, and In Paik. 2007. Getting a job: Is there a motherhood penalty? American Journal of Sociology 52.5: 1297–1338.

    DOI: 10.1086/511799Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This study seeks to determine whether motherhood is a status characteristic upon which employers discriminate. Using both a laboratory experiment and an audit study, the research finds that indeed mothers are penalized in the work world, as they tend to earn less and be perceived as less competent. Interestingly, fathers do not suffer such discrimination, and on occasion even benefit.

    Find this resource:

  • Ibarra, Herminia. 1995. Race, opportunity, and diversity of social circles in managerial networks. Academy of Management Journal 38.3: 673–703.

    DOI: 10.2307/256742Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Ibarra studies the informal networks of white and minority managers working for four Fortune 500 firms. She finds that the networks of minority managers are more heterogeneous and include fewer close ties. Moreover, this study suggests that for minorities, different network structures differentially affect likelihood of advancement.

    Find this resource:

  • Kalev, Alexandra, Frank Dobbin, and Erin Kelly. 2006. Best practices or best guesses? Assessing the efficacy of corporate affirmative action and diversity policies. American Sociological Review 71.4: 589–617.

    DOI: 10.1177/000312240607100404Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The article systematically analyzes the efficacy of different approaches for the promotion of diversity in the organizational setting. It finds that the most directly effective means for increasing managerial diversity is the establishment of organizational responsibility, and organizations which pursue this also see benefits from mentoring and networking, as well as diversity training and evaluations.

    Find this resource:

  • Kanter, Rosabeth Moss. 1993. Men and women of the corporation. New York: Basic Books.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Kanter examines how a firm’s organizational structure affects the organizational behavior of members and organizational inequities. Three components of organizational structure are identified as central to explaining organizational behavior: the structure of opportunity, the structure of power, and the numerical representation of different kinds of people. Each can adversely affect individual psychology and work practices.

    Find this resource:

  • Reskin, Barbara F. 1998. The realities of affirmative action in employment. Washington, DC: American Sociological Association.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This report synthesizes the scholarly literature investigating the impact of affirmative action on employment. After reviewing the history of affirmative action, the author turns to review the empirical research on its effects. This review teaches us that African Americans working for federal contractors have seemed to benefit from affirmative action policies, while these policies have been less beneficial for women.

    Find this resource:

Identity

Sociology has a long tradition of studying identity. From an organizational perspective, organizations themselves have identities that are recognizable to other organizations and individuals, and those working within organizations have their identities shaped by them. Mohr 1994 shows that organizations’ identities are shaped by the networks within which they operate; Zuckerman 1999 links organizational identity to legitimacy; and Hsu and Hannon 2005, a more theoretical article (and the empirical follow-up in Hsu, et al. 2009), tie identity issues into the theories of organizational ecology.

  • Hsu, Greta, and Michael T. Hannon. 2005. Identities, genres, and organizational forms. Organization Science 16.5: 474–490.

    DOI: 10.1287/orsc.1050.0151Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The authors argue in this theoretical paper the need to incorporate organizational identity into the organizational ecology literature. They contend that the definition of organizational form is an existing weakness in the organizational ecological literature, and that defining form in terms of organizational identities might be one way to solve this problem. In the course of making this argument, the authors end up reviewing much of the work on organizational identity.

    Find this resource:

  • Hsu, Greta, Michael T. Hannan, and Ozgecan Kocak. 2009. Multiple category memberships in markets: An integrative theory and two empirical tests. American Sociological Review 74:150–169.

    DOI: 10.1177/000312240907400108Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The article explains how these adverse outcomes of straddling organizational categories can result from either audience-side or producer-side effects. Analyses of the feature film industry and eBay reveal that, as predicted, both audience-side and producer-side effects contribute to the patterns documented in the literature regarding the affects of spanning multiple categories.

    Find this resource:

  • Mohr, John W. 1994. Soldiers, mothers, tramps, and others: Discourse roles in the 1907 New York City charity directory. Poetics 22:327–357.

    DOI: 10.1016/0304-422X(94)90013-2Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Mohr examines how various social welfare organizations view different status identities in an attempt to uncover patterns of similarities and differences and the classificatory principles that govern the moral structure of social relief. Organizations were found to have similar identities by using network methodologies to analyze the patterns of services provided by charity organizations in New York City.

    Find this resource:

  • Zuckerman, Ezra W. 1999. The categorical imperative: Securities analysts and the illegitimacy discount. American Journal of Sociology 104.5: 1398–1438.

    DOI: 10.1086/210178Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Zuckerman argues that failure to be reviewed by critics who specialize in a product’s intended category adversely affects perceptions of the product’s legitimacy, and, as a result, demand for the product. To provide empirical evidence for this position, he shows that the stock market price of public American firms was negatively affected when industry-relevant securities analysts did not cover the firm.

    Find this resource:

Deviance

In organizational sociology, unintended consequence and inherent bureaucratic inefficiencies (referred to as “organizational deviance”) are normal elements of operation. Perrow 1999 founded the notion of “normal accidents” in a study of tightly linked organizational systems. Vaughan 1996 addresses deviance more precisely by capturing the manner in which work can become so routinized as to fail to detect its inefficiencies and errors; she applies this to the fascinating case of the space shuttle Challenger disaster.

  • Perrow, Charles. 1999. Normal accidents: Living with high-risk technologies. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Perrow contends that accidents—including errors, inefficiencies, and unintended consequences—are normal events within organizations. As technological and social systems are tightly coupled and interactive, small problems that are only slightly outside the range of tolerance can cascade into each other and become large accidents. Examples of Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and the Bhopal chemical plant disaster are used to illustrate this idea.

    Find this resource:

  • Vaughan, Diane. 1996. The Challenger launch decision: Risky technology, culture, and deviance at NASA. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Vaughan’s analysis of the events leading up to the decision to launch the space shuttle Challenger leads her to introduce the concept of the normalization of deviance: any process that allows individuals to act in deviant ways without believing that they are acting inappropriately. She concludes that at NASA, certain anomalies became normalized organizational practice, and that the tendency to maintain routine led to the decision to launch Challenger.

    Find this resource:

The State as a Regulatory Organization

This trajectory of research is based on the simple idea that the state is an organization which has as a focus the process of regulation. Gordon, et al. 1982 develops this idea relative to the broad frame of US capitalism. Fernandez and Gould 1994 discusses the advantages that can be leveraged via organizational relationships with the state. Edelman 1992 addresses ambiguity in regulation relative to employment. Edelman and Suchman 1997 and Schneiberg and Bartley 2008 are two excellent review articles that provide framing positions for understanding state regulation.

  • Edelman, Lauren B. 1992. Legal ambiguity and symbolic structures: Organizational mediation of civil rights law. American Journal of Sociology 97:1531–1576.

    DOI: 10.1086/229939Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Edelman argues that laws regulating employment tend to be broad and ambiguous enough to allow organizations to determine what it means to comply and to respond according to these definitions. She further argues that these responses exist as symbols of compliance that mediate the effect of the law on society.

    Find this resource:

  • Edelman, Lauren B., and Mark C. Suchman. 1997. The legal environments of organizations. Annual Review of Sociology 23:479–515.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.soc.23.1.479Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This review article by Edelman and Suchman describes the existing state of the sociological literature on organizations and the law. It identifies two broad metatheoretical perspectives on law and organizations: the materialist perspective and the cultural perspective. It further details what each perspective has to say about three aspects of the legal environments pertaining to organizations.

    Find this resource:

  • Fernandez, Roberto M., and Roger V. Gould. 1994. A dilemma of state power: Brokerage and influence in the national health policy domain. American Journal of Sociology 99:1455–1491.

    DOI: 10.1086/230451Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article examines the conditions that make an actor in a brokerage position influential. The authors find that actors in these structurally advantaged positions reap rewards from them only if they do not actively and openly exploit the advantage derived from the position. That is, to be influential, brokers must be seen as impartial.

    Find this resource:

  • Gordon, David M., Richard Edwards, and Michael Reich. 1982. Segmented work, divided workers: The historical transformation of labor in the United States. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article argues that capitalism is inherently plagued by the cyclical problem of having to figure out how to accumulate capital. In the United States, this has brought about distinct stages of accumulation, each of which serves as a solution to the problem of economic stagnation and crisis. Each stage of accumulation is thought to have three phases: exploration, consolidation, and crisis.

    Find this resource:

  • Schneiberg, Marc, and Tim Bartley. 2008. Organizations, regulation, and economic behavior: Regulatory dynamics and forms from the 19th to 21st century. Annual Review of Law and Social Science 4:31–61.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.lawsocsci.4.110707.172338Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This is an excellent review article covering the history of regulation and its impact on organizational structure and behavior.

    Find this resource:

Government, Nonprofit, and For-Profit Organizations

Organizational auspices—orientation as governmental, nonprofit, or for-profit—is an important component of the structure of organizations and impacts both internal and external relationships. Bielefeld and Murdoch 2004 provides an interesting take on the geographic position of different types of firms. Kallenberg, et al. 2006 examines how auspices affect the utilization of efficient work practices.

  • Bielefeld, W., and J. C. Murdoch. 2004. The locations of nonprofit organizations and their for-profit counterparts: An exploratory analysis. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 33:221–246.

    DOI: 10.1177/0899764003260589Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Using spatial econometrics, they analyze the extent to which the location of for-profits and other nonprofits influence the location of nonprofit organizations.

    Find this resource:

  • Kallenberg, Arne L., Peter V. Marsden, Jeremy Reynolds, and David Knoke. 2006. Beyond profit? Sectoral differences in high-performance work practices. Work and Occupations 33:271–302.

    DOI: 10.1177/0730888406290049Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article examines how nonprofit, public, and for-profit establishments differ when it comes to the use of high-performance work organization practices. Performance incentives and multiskilling were more common in for-profit organizations, and self-directed work teams and committees were more likely to be found in nonprofit and government organizations. This research underscores the importance of sector for the study of organizational behavior.

    Find this resource:

Comparative Analysis

Comparing organizations—especially cross-nationally—is a fruitful technique for understanding organizational operation. Hamilton and Biggart 1988 assesses institutional contexts across three Asian nations; Clegg 1990 compares bread and fashion in France and Asian nations; Biggart and Guillen 1999 points to the problems associated with transporting institutional forms from one nation to another; and Lincoln and Gerlach 2004 specifically assesses the network nature of Japanese organization.

  • Biggart, Nicole Woolsey, and Mauro F. Guillen. 1999. Developing difference: Social organization and the rise of the auto industries of South Korea, Taiwan, Spain, and Argentina. American Sociological Review 64:722–747.

    DOI: 10.2307/2657373Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article emphasizes that successful organizational forms arise and become institutionalized within particular cultural and historical contexts. As a result, it is problematic to simply import particular organizational forms and strategies from one country to another, since this does not account for the unique contexts that have developed within a country.

    Find this resource:

  • Clegg, Stewart R. 1990. French bread, Italian fashions and Asian enterprise. In Modern organizations: Organization studies in the postmodern world. By Stewart R. Clegg, 107–149. London: SAGE.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Clegg questions the generalizability of Chandler’s claim that structure follows strategy and identifies three cases that justify his position. In the first, he notes that France is rife with small independent bakeries despite the potential for economies of scale. His second case looks at the fashion industry in Italy, and his third case explores the diversity of organizational forms found in East Asian industry. These lead Clegg to conclude that strict economic explanations, devoid of culture, are of limited utility.

    Find this resource:

  • Hamilton, Gary G., and Nicole Woolsey Biggart. 1988. Market, culture, and authority: A comparative analysis of management and organization in the Far East. American Journal of Sociology 94:S52–S94.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This examines the economies of three East Asian countries to assess how institutional contexts affect the types of firms that develop within and across societies, as well as the management of firms. The analysis points to various weaknesses with market and cultural approaches to understanding organizational differences and leads the authors to forward a political economy approach as the best framework for the study of organizational form.

    Find this resource:

  • Lincoln, James R., and Michael L. Gerlach. 2004. Japan’s network economy: Structure, persistence, and change. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511584442Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Chapter 1 discusses Japan’s network economy and in so doing, presents “network organizations as a general social and economic phenomenon” (pp. 10–11). In addition, it seeks to consider the benefits that come from marrying the structural and institutional approaches to organizational analysis.

    Find this resource:

Social Movements

Organizations and social movements are increasingly linked topics in sociology. McCarthy and Zald 1977 addresses movements as organizations that need to mobilize resources. Davis and Thompson 1994 considers how social movement logics apply to the corporate control. Cress and Snow 1996 uses ethnographic methods to assess distinctions between the internal and external resources needed by movement organizations. Clemens 1993 examines how organizational repertoires impact institutional change, particularly in women’s groups. Lopez 2004 focuses on the organization of workers to fight for their interests. Ingram and Rao 2004 shows how social movements engage with the law to motivate their action. McAdam and Scott 2005 reviews the literature linking movements and organizations. King 2008 is a neat modern tidbit about how corporations respond to movements.

  • Clemens, Elisabeth S. 1993. Organizational repertoires and institutional change: Women’s groups and the transformation of U.S. politics, 1890–1920. American Journal of Sociology 98:755–798.

    DOI: 10.1086/230089Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Clemens shows that organizational repertoires—“templates for arranging relationships within an organization and sets of scripts for action culturally associated with that type of organization” (p. 758)—allow for institutional change. She examines how the unique position of women during the late 19th and early 20th centuries enabled women’s groups to create new organizational repertoires, in turn creating new social opportunities.

    Find this resource:

  • Cress, Daniel M., and David A. Snow. 1996. Mobilization at the margins: Resources, benefactors, and the viability of homeless social movement organizations. American Sociological Review 61.6: 1089–1109.

    DOI: 10.2307/2096310Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Using ethnographic data from fifteen homeless social movement organizations (SMO), Cress and Snow first present a typology of resources and then seek to identify those resource combinations that make a homeless SMO viable. They also discuss the difference between external and internal resources and the implications these have for SMOs.

    Find this resource:

  • Davis, Gerald F., and Tracy A. Thompson. 1994. A social movement perspective on corporate control. Administrative Science Quarterly 39:141–173.

    DOI: 10.2307/2393497Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The authors describe how politics, embedded in social structure, influences the collective action of interest groups, contending that rise of shareholder activism was the byproduct of three trends: the increase in ownership by investors, the enforcement of fiduciary responsibility for pension funds, which encouraged shareholders to demand voice in proxy votes, and the prevalence of anti-takeover activities, which provided investors with a set of unifying grievances.

    Find this resource:

  • Ingram, Paul, and Hayagreeva Rao. 2004. Store wars: The enactment and repeal of anti-chain-store legislation in America. American Journal of Sociology 110:446–487.

    DOI: 10.1086/422928Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In their study of anti-chain-store laws, Ingram and Rao show how interested parties turn to and rely upon the law as they compete for the social acceptance of certain organizational forms. Furthermore, they show how existing institutions shape what is possible, thereby framing the direction of this competition and the strategies employed.

    Find this resource:

  • King, Brayden. 2008. A political mediation model of corporate response to social movement activism. Administrative Science Quarterly 53.3: 395–421.

    DOI: 10.2189/asqu.53.3.395Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    King tries to explain when and why corporations give in to the demands of boycotters. Using the political mediation model, he finds that boycotts are more successful when they garner a great deal of media attention and when the targeted corporation’s reputation has recently waned.

    Find this resource:

  • Lopez, Steven Henry. 2004. Reorganizing the Rust Belt: An inside study of the American labor movement. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The focus of the book is on organizing workers in various nursing homes to fight for their interests. Critical to this analysis is the comparison between business unionism and social movement unionism. In order to show the distinctions between the two and the utility of the latter, Lopez analyzes the successes and failures of three initiatives launched by the Service Employees International Union.

    Find this resource:

  • McAdam, Doug, and W. Richard Scott. 2005. Organizations and movements. In Social movements and organization theory. Edited by Gerald F. Davis, Doug McAdam, W. Richard Scott, and Mayer N. Zald, 4–40. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511791000Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    McAdam and Scott review both the social movement and organization literatures, finding points of overlap as well as gaps in each area. Moreover, they discuss how each literature might inform and advance the other.

    Find this resource:

  • McCarthy, John D., and Mayer N. Zald. 1977. Resource mobilization and social movements: A partial theory. American Journal of Sociology 82.6: 1212–1241.

    DOI: 10.1086/226464Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The authors propose a partial theory of resource mobilization. Unlike many of the early social movements’ approaches, the resource mobilization approach offers a structural perspective on the growth, decline, and change of social movements. Core to this approach are social movement organizations. Various hypotheses about how such organizations gain support and operate are presented.

    Find this resource:

LAST MODIFIED: 07/27/2011

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199756384-0039

back to top

Article

Up

Down