April 16, 2015

Organizational Sociology

Organizations emerged as a recognized field of social scientific study during the 1950s.

The two academic centers most critical in shaping this nascent discipline were the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie-Mellon University) and Columbia University. The Carnegie group included political scientists, economists, and psychologists. Collaborative work of March & Simon 1958 analysed organization.

The Columbia scholars, under the leadership of Merton, were all sociologists.  Simon and colleagues at Carnegie worked from a model—that of “bounded rationality”—that neatly linked arguments stressing purpose and intentionality with the recognition of cognitive and social constraints restricting such rational action (Simon 1945, March & Simon 1958, Cyert & March 1963).

Merton (1949) at Columbia emphasized the “unintended consequences of purposive action,” and his junior colleagues, who carried out early definitive studies of public and private organizations, each gave his own twist to the enquiry. Blau (1955) focused on the “dilemmas” of bureaucracy, as formal structures designed to solve one problem give rise to others; and Gouldner (1954) wrote of the “Janus-faced” nature of organizations as systems of coercion and consent.

In the United Kingdom, an eclectic collection of organizational scholars pursued a “socio-technical” model, insisting that organizations represented a “coupling of dissimilars” (Emery 1959).



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