Information and Organizations

Information and Organizations

Information and Organizations

Information and Organizations

Synopsis

An ambitious new work by a well-respected sociologist, Information and Organizations provides a bold perspective of the dynamics of organizations. Stinchcombe contends that the "information problem" and the concept of "uncertainty" provide the key to understanding how organizations function. In a delightful mix of large theoretical insights and vivid anecdotal material, Stinchcombe explores the ins and outs of organizations from both a macro and micro perspective. He reinterprets the work of the renowned scholars of business, Alfred Chandler, James March and Oliver Williamson, and looks in depth at corporations like DuPont and General Motors. Along the way, Stinchcombe explores subjects as varied as class consciousness, innovation, contracts and university administration. All of these analyses are distinguished by incisive thinking and creative new approaches to issues that have long confronted business people and those interested in organizational theory. A tour de force, Information and Organizations is a must-read for business people and scholars of many stripes. It promises to be a widely discussed and debated work.

Excerpt

Rationality necessarily involves an analysis of the future, because the consequences that give purpose to acts are necessarily in the future. Thus all rationality is based on predictions of one kind or another, not on knowledge. Assuming that actors are perfectly rational, of course, implies that they are certain what the future holds, that in all relevant respects our notions about the future constitute knowledge. the assumptions of neoclassical economics are that various financial quantities (e.g., the interest rate and the savings and investment rates if distinct) summarize all the relevant information about the future that one needs in order to make economic decisions, and that everyone else can have the same information that an individual actor uses to work out a strategy (the investor, for example, presumably compares a concrete opportunity [e.g., to invest] with the relevant financial quantities [e.g., the interest rate]; the assumption is that anyone else with resources has access to the same information about the future relevant to that investment as the investor does). the assumption of neo-Keynesian economics (and apparently of Keynes himself) was that the idea that investment can operate with only financial and universally available knowledge assumes a kind of knowledge about the future that human actors do not and cannot have (see Weintraub 1979).

Two main traditions of organizational sociology start from the Keynesian or neo-Keynesian assumption that the future is uncertain. the older one has as its stellar figures Herbert Simon and James G. March (e.g., March and Simon 1958). Its main thrust has been to try to describe what people acting in organizational contexts (and to some degree acting in organizational roles in the light of organizational purposes) actually do to deal with the imperfection of their knowledge or predictions of the . . .

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