The Mandate Is Still Being Honored: In Defense of Weber's Disciples

By Scott, W. Richard | Administrative Science Quarterly, March 1996 | Go to article overview

The Mandate Is Still Being Honored: In Defense of Weber's Disciples


Scott, W. Richard, Administrative Science Quarterly


Bob Stern and Steve Barley have attempted to seize the moral high ground, pointing to what they see as serious shortcomings in the types of research conducted and the direction of development of organizational studies. They claim that students of organizations have lost sight of an important part of the original agenda, as envisioned by Weber and reinforced by Parsons. It is always more fun to be an aggrieved observer of folly than to be an apologist for the status quo, but Stern and Barley's message strikes me as non-nuanced, overstated, and either outdated or premature. Their essay contains some sense, but much nonsense, and so I am happy to be invited to comment.

Stern and Barley assert that those of us conducting organizational research and building theory have pursued only a severely truncated portion of Weber's and Parsons' intellectual agenda. We are reminded that in his essay in the inaugural issue of the Administrative Science Quarterly, Parsons identified three strands of work, of which we have pursued only two. We have heeded his call to study the goal attainment and implementation processes internal to organizations, and we have pursued his charge to examine organizations' adaptation to their environments, employing increasingly expanded conceptions of environmental scope and content. But, we are told, we have seriously neglected Parsons' call to examine "the role of organizations in the larger sociocultural system" (p. 151) by failing to attend to the ways in which organizations are influenced by society and the ways in which society has been influenced - and transformed - by organizations. If true, this represents a grave oversight and an unconscionable narrowing of the original mandate. But is it true?

What sorts of evidence do Stern and Barley offer in support of their case? First, they supply many examples of studies on organizational effects performed in earlier times, but now, purportedly, no longer conducted. They begin, however, with an odd example: Whyte's (1956) "study" The Organization Man. Whyte as exemplar? The reference is not to William Foote Whyte, justly famous sociologist, but to William H. Whyte, Jr., journalist and contributing editor of Fortune. Study? The Organization Man is not the report of a study, but a typical journalistic tract piling together assorted statistics and illustrative anecdotes depicting the overweening pressures imposed by modern organizations on their participants. While relevant issues were raised by this work, understanding was little advanced. Surely, this is not the study from which to measure our fall; nor has this journalistic tradition suffered neglect. Contemporary hyperbolic journalists provide us with more than enough war stories and prescriptive homilies regarding the impact of organizations on contemporary society and vice versa to fill an ever-expanding demand for airport reading.

Other examples? Stern and Barley lament the demise of studies such as Hunter's, detailing how organizational power translated into community power. But numerous examples of related and updated studies on this topic exist (see Perrucci and Potter, 1989). Researchers are still pursuing studies of how and why schools acquire bureaucratic trappings, including the work of Meyer and numerous collaborators (e.g., Meyer and Scott, 1983; Scott and Meyer, 1994). Stern and Barley remind us that Seeley investigated corporate support for the Community Chest. This interest in the organizational impact on community philanthropy has not been neglected but has been pursued and substantially augmented by Galaskiewcz (1985), among others. Similarly, the tradition of research begun by Wirth on the economic vulnerability' of communities to corporate pressures continues up to the present in research by Friedland and Palmer (Friedland, 1983; Friedland and Palmer, 1984). In short, it is not difficult to cite examples of contemporary research that build usefully on what Stern and Barley declare to be neglected foundations. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Mandate Is Still Being Honored: In Defense of Weber's Disciples
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.