Formal Organizations: A Comparative Approach

Formal Organizations: A Comparative Approach

Formal Organizations: A Comparative Approach

Formal Organizations: A Comparative Approach

Excerpt

Modern man is man in organizations. If the most dramatic fact that sets our age apart from earlier ones is that we live today under the shadow of nuclear destruction, the most pervasive feature that distinguishes contemporary life is that it is dominated by large, complex, and formal organizations. Our ability to organize thousands and even millions of men in order to accomplish large-scale tasks--be they economic, political, or military--is one of our greatest strengths. The possibility that free men become mere cogs in the bureaucratic machineries we set up for this purpose is one of the greatest threats to our liberty.

This book presents a sociological analysis of some of the main facets of organizational life. We shall examine the nature and types of formal organizations, the connections between them and the larger social context of which they are a part, and various aspects of their internal structure, such as peer group and hierarchical relations in organizations, processes of communication, management and impersonal mechanisms of control. The investigation of the various topics will involve the discussion of many studies of organizations and numerous related studies from the literature. Our aim, however, has not been to cover the entire relevant literature. No single work could achieve such complete coverage, since there exist literally thousands of books and articles on organizations. (The extensive bibliography at the end of this book contains only about one-third of the sources we have collected, with the help of Patricia Denton, and our own compilation is undoubtedly far from exhaustive.) Our intent, rather, has been to select those empirical studies and general discussions that help to clarify a particular problem under review. Frequently we have drawn on our own research on organizations, not only because we are most familiar with this material, but also to provide some continuity in the empirical examples.

We are indebted to Ivan C. Belknap, Leonard Broom, and Otis Dudley Duncan for many helpful criticisms and suggestions. We gratefully acknowledge financial support from the Ford Foundation and the Social Science esearch Committee of the University of Chicago (to Blau) and a fellowship from the Social Science Research Council . . .

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