By Kenneth Thompson
In considering the often fuzzy boundaries of any field within the discipline of sociology it has to be appreciated that sociology itself only slowly emerged as a separate discipline within the social sciences. Of the three major figures acknowledged as laying the foundations of sociology-Karl Marx (1818-83), Max Weber (1864-1920) and Emile Durkheim (1858-1917)-only Durkheim could be said to have clearly demarcated sociology as an academic discipline to which he could be solely attached (Thompson 1982/2002). This vagueness or permeability with regard to the boundaries of sociology persisted until well into the twentieth century. Some sociologists would even maintain that it is a myth 'that there is an essence to sociology, that it has some essential characteristics that give it and its practitioners a unity, coherence and common tradition' (Urry, 2002:334). The sociologist John Urry maintains that sociology has always been a'parasitic' discipline that feeds off developments in neighbouring disciplines and related social movements. This has both advantages and disadvantages. A disadvantage is that it is not always clear where the distinctively sociological study of any social phenomenon begins and ends. One of the advantages is that sociologists benefit from keeping a watchful eye on developments elsewhere and they are always willing to incorporate relevant insights into their own work. To put it another way: it could be said that sociology has always had a relaxed attitude towards interdisciplinarity and has not been much inclined to guard its boundaries. This explains why the early stages in the development of new sub-fields of sociological study have always been marked by interdisciplinarity.
We can observe this kind of vagueness, about where sociology begins and ends, in the early sociology of management and organizations. In the first half of the twentieth century it would have been hard to distinguish the sociological perspective on organizations from that of some of the other approaches. The field of management studies and organization studies was being populated by a proliferation of perspectives and academic disciplines: Public Administration,
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Publication information: Book title: Scientific Management. Contributors: Kenneth Thompson - Editor, Frederick Winslow Taylor - Author. Publisher: Routledge. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 2003. Page number: v.
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