Sociology 520q: Selected
Topics in Social Processes
Instructor: Paul DiMaggio
Place: 2-C-8 Green
Readings on closed
reserve (i.e., borrow and photocopy, then return) in Sociology Department
mailroom. I will put two copies of each reading in the seminar box at
one week before the seminar meeting. This system only works if seminar
members do not remove papers for any other reason than immediate reading
of this mini-seminar is to introduce the major themes and some of the
works in organizational studies, and thus to provide an overview for the
curious and a platform from which the student who may wish to take
or teach a course in this area can pursue the topic
The next two weeks provide menus de
for two organization-theory cuisines, described rather arbitrarily as
and "institutional." (These terms are convenient but, as we shall see,
unfair, in that the best works in each cluster acknowledge both rational
and a-rational sources of behavior, as all good research must.) Under the
rational/ecological rubric, we explore three of the most powerful and
analytic approaches of the last 20 years: Williamson's transaction-cost
economics; Hannan and Freeman's organizational ecology; and Ron Burt's
version of strategic network analysis. Under the institutional label, we
explore a couple versions of neoinstitutional theory, work on
culture, and organizational ethnography.
Because this is a
mini-seminar, the reading list is highly selective. (Lists of
readings will be provided for those who wish to pursue certain themes
I have chosen to emphasize major contemporary issues and developments,
at the cost of excluding much of the historical literature influential
on the development of the field (e.g., Weber, Marx, Michels, Urwick,
Follett, Roethlisberger and Dixon, Barnard etc.). We begin with two weeks
on older works and ideas that are as central to the field now as they were
when they were written: Weber's essay on bureaucracy (from which all else
in organization studies flows); in week 2, the work of "Carnegie School"
theorists, Herbert Simon, James March, and colleagues, who emphasize the
ways in which organization structures are shaped by the cognitive
of the people who occupy them.
The final two weeks are more topical in focus,
and will permit us to use the conceptual capital accumulated during the
previous four weeks. The first of these deals broadly with technology,
and offers a smattering of new and old, structural and political
The second deals broadly with organizations and inequality, focussing on
several approaches to thinking about gender in organizations.
Each student will do two kinds of
Requirements. Students are
expected to do the reading thoroughly in advance of the class
for which it is assigned, and to participate actively in class meetings.
Emphasis is on mastering and responding critically and creatively to the
seminar's material. No term paper or research project is
a) For two of the remaining five
he or she will prepare memoranda of 2-4 pages on the readings, to be
by the time the seminar meets. (No credit will be received for memoranda
handed in thereafter.) Memoranda should be regarded as writing and
exercises, not as finished products. Use them to engage each week's
materials and respond with questions, criticisms and new ideas that they
suggest. Memoranda should be used to develop ideas informally over time
and to put into words impressions that seem worth developing. Because I
will read them each week, they also provide an opportunity to receive
b) For the end of the course, each student
will prepare a memorandum of 4-6 pages reflecting on ways in which the
material may be useful in pursuing their personal research
Enrollment is open to any graduate student
in Sociology, any other social-science department or the Woodrow Wilson
school, and, upon application, to undergraduate sociology
Week 1) Tuesday, September 16:
Weber, Max. "Bureaucracy." Part 2, chapt. 7 in
Gerth and Mills, eds. From Max Weber, pp. 196-244 (and in
Perrow, Charles. Chapter 1 (pp. 1-46) in
Organizations: A Critical Essay, 3rd ed. (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.:
Taylor, Frederick Winslow. Principles of
Management. (NY:Norton, 1947).
Week 2) Tuesday, September 23:
The Carnegie School
Simon, Herbert A. Chs. 1 (pp. 1-19) and 4-5 (pp.
61-110) in Administrative Behavior. (N.Y.: The Free Press,
March, James and Herbert Simon. Chs. 5-6 (pp.
113-72) in Organizations. (N.Y.: John Wiley & Sons,
Cohen, Michael D. and James G. March. Prefaces
(xi-xxi), and chaps 2 (pp. 7-29), and 5-6 (pp. 81-124). Leadership and
Ambiguity:The American College President, 2nd ed. (Boston.:
Harvard Business School Press, 1986).
Perrow, Charles. Chapter 4 (pp. 119-56) in
Organizations: A Critical Essay (3rd ed.). New York: Random House,
Week 3) Tuesday,
Rational and Ecological Approaches to Organizational
Williamson, Oliver. 1991. "Comparative Economic
Organization: The Analysis of Discrete Structural Alternatives."
Science Quarterly 36. Reprinted in The Mechanisms of Governance
(N.Y.: Oxford Univ. Press), pp. 93-119.
Kathleen Eisenhardt. 1989. "Agency Theory: An
Assessment and Review." Academy of Management Review 14:
Michael Hannan and John Freeman. Chs. 1 (pp.
and 3-6 (pp. 45-144) in Organizational Ecology (Cambridge: Harvard
Univ. Press, 1989).
Jitendra V. Singh and Charles J. Lumsden, "Theory
and Research in Organizational Ecology." Annual Review of Sociology
16 (1990): 161-93.
Burt, Ronald. Chs. 1 (pp. 8-49) and 3(pp. 82-114)
in Structural Holes: The Social Structure of Competition
Harvard University Press, 1992).
Davis, Gerald F. and Walter W. Powell.
Relations." Pp. 315-76 in Handbook of Industrial and Organizational
Psychology, ed. Marvin D. Dunette and Leaetta M. Hough. Palo Alto,
Calif.: Consulting Psychologists Press, 1992.
Week 4) Tuesday, October 7:
Approaches to Organizational Analysis
Meyer, John W. and Brian Rowan.
Organizations: Formal Structure as Myth and Ceremony," American
of Sociology 83, 2 (July 1977): 55-77. In Walter Powell and Paul
eds., The New Institutionalism in Organizational Analysis (Chicago:
Univ. of Chicago Press, 1991).
DiMaggio, Paul and Walter W. Powell. "The Iron
Cage Revisited: Institutional Isomorphism and Collective Rationality in
Organizational Fields," American Sociological Review 48, 2 (April
1983): 147-60. In Powell and DiMaggio, eds., supra.
Dobbin, Frank. "Cultural Models of Organization:
The Social Construction of Rational Organizing Principles." In
of Culture: Emerging Theoretical Perspectives, ed. Diana Crane.
Basil Blackwell, 1994
Haveman, Heather A. and Hayagreeva Rao. 1997.
"Structuring a Theory of Moral Sentiments: Institutional and
Coevolution in the Early Thrift Industry." American Journal of
Brian Uzzi. 1997. "Social Structure and
in Interfirm Networks: The Paradox of Embeddedness." Administrative
Science Quarterly 42:35-67.
Kunda, Gideon. Engineering Culture: Control
and Commitment in a High-Technology Corporation.
Temple Univ. Press, 1991 (selection).
Week 5) Tuesday, October 14:
Perrow, Charles, "A Framework for Comparative
Organizational Analysis," American Sociological Review 32, 2 (April
Kelley, Maryellen R., "New Process Technology,
Job Design, and Work Organ-ization: A Contingency Model," American
Review 55 (1990): 191-208.
Barley, Stephen R. "The Alignment of Technology
and Structure Through Roles and Networks," Administrative Science
35 (1990): 61-103.
Perrow, Charles. Chapts. 2-3 (pp. 32-100) in
Accidents: Living With High-Risk Technologies. N.Y.: Basic Books,
Podolny, Joel and Toby Stuart. 1995. "A
Ecology of Technological Change." American Journal of Sociology
Thomas, Robert J. Ch. 2 ("Technology as a Power
Tool") in What Machines Can't Do: Politics and Technology in the
Enterprise. Berkeley: Univ. of Calif. Press, 1994.
Week 6) Tuesday, October 21:
Organizations and Inequality: Gender
Reskin, Barbara F. and Patricia Roos. 1990. Pp.
3-68 in Job Queues, Gender Queues: Explaining Women's Inroads into Male
Occupations. Philadelphia: Temple Univ. Press.
Kanter, Rosabeth Moss. "Some Effects of
in Group Life: Skewed Sex Ratios and Responses to Token Women."
J. of Sociology 82 (1977): 965-90.
Ibarra, Herminia and Lynn Smith-Lovin. 1997. "New
Directions in Social Network Research on Gender and Organizational
In C.L. Cooper and S.E. Jackson, eds., Creating Tomorrow's
A Handbook for Future Research in Organizational Behavior. Sussex,
England: John Wiley & Sons.
Biggart, Nicole Woolsey. 1990. "Introduction"
(pp. 1-19) and "Family, Gender, and Business" (pp. 70-97) in
Capitalism: Direct Selling Organizations in the United States.
Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1990.
Elizabeth S. Clemens. 1993. "Organizational
and Institutional Change: Women's Groups and the Transformation of U.S.
Politics, 1890-1920." American Journal of Sociology 98: