These notions are covered in Business and Organizations
courses offered by Veryard Projects and Antelope
Projects. (First years are expected to master the basic notions only.)
Bureaucracy refers to a particular form and style of administrative organization.
Although it has been subject to strong criticism for a long time, bureaucracy
and its variants can still be found in a large number of organizations.
Max Weber described an ideal form of bureaucracy, which he equated with
administrative rationality. For Weber, bureaucracy represented modern
progress, as against the quasi-mediaeval and feudal patterns of arbitrary
authority and corruption. More recent sociologists, however, have identified
various forms of bureaucratic dysfunction, including inflexibility, inefficiency
A mechanism is a frequently occurring and easily recognizable causal pattern.
The social sciences donít always follow simple laws and generalizations,
and reliable prediction is often not possible. However, this doesnít mean
that social scientists are reduced to mere description. Explanation in
the social sciences depends on the identification of causal mechanisms.
In contrast with determinate laws, mechanisms are uncertain in their
effect. There are three reasons for this.
Management (intervention) may be able to influence (decide) which mechanism
gets the upper hand.
It is sometimes uncertain exactly what conditions will trigger the mechanism.
The same mechanism may have several possible outcomes. For example, different
people may defend themselves against attack in different ways.
Sometimes two or more opposing mechanisms may interact in indeterminate
||The ability of a person in a social context to achieve his/her own
goals, despite resistance from others. Equivalent to domination.
||A structural relationship, independent of the conscious intentions
and desires of individuals.
|A positive social capacity for achieving shared goals. Power is distributed
through social structures, although some individuals may have more power
than others. Individual power reflects a degree of influence, rather than
a state of domination.
Patterns: Market, Hierarchy, Network, Clan
A social system based on horizontal
(peer-to-peer) contractual relationships. As social and technological trends
(such as e-commerce) bring down the transaction costs of market relationships,
this is sometimes thought to provide an economic advantage to market relationships
over hierarchical ones.
A social system based on vertical
(principal-to-agent) formal relationships.
A social system based on informal
(trust-based) horizontal (peer-to-peer) relationships.
A social system based on tradition.
Usually inaccessible to outsiders.
The American sociologist Talcot
Parsons defined a social system as two or more social actors engaged in
a more or less stable interaction within a bounded environment.
According to Parsons, social
systems are goal-directed, problem-solving entities with four sub-systems
Social systems are homeostatic
- they tend towards equilibrium over time.
Social systems maintain their
Social systems can be regarded
as information systems or input-output systems.
Social systems involve symbolic
exchanges, e.g. of language, money, influence or commitment.
Many critics argue that Parsonís
version of systems theory has several weaknesses:
Pattern Maintenance or Latency
However, alternative versions
of social systems theory have been proposed, which donít share Parsonís
ideological premises. These draw on such thinkers as Marx and Habermas.
Cannot deal adequately with
Makes conservative assumptions
about equilibrium and social stability.
A system of beliefs.
Chris Argyris introduced the distinction between the espoused theory
|Espoused theory refers to what people say they do Ė what they espouse.
Often people genuinely believe that this is what they actually do; sometimes
they are merely paying lip-service to it.
||Theory-in-use refers to what people actually do, or what they can be
independently observed to do.
McGregor introduced the distinction between Theory X and Theory
Y, which refer to beliefs about the behaviour and motivation of workers,
which may be embedded in management practices and organization culture.
Ouchi argued that McGregorís distinction doesnít work for all cultures,
and identified a third theory, Theory Z, which he used to explain
the behaviour of most Japanese companies and some Western companies.
|Theory X refers to a set of beliefs in which workers are lazy, require
constant supervision, and are motivated only by financial rewards and penalties.
||Theory Y refers to a set of beliefs in which workers can be trusted
to pursue the interests of the firm without constant supervision, and respond
to a range of motivators.
||Theory Z refers to a set of beliefs about lifetime commitment between
employers and employees.
Note that these distinctions are independent (orthogonal). Thus for
example it is quite possible for a manager to espouse (pay lip service
to) theory Y, but to practise theory X. The reverse is also possible.
A unified way of speaking and acting. A discursive practice typically has
an underlying theme, and a (concealed) strategic intention.
Professions (such as accounting) often establish a discursive practice,
which gives them a position of impartial authority.
Karl Weick introduced the idea that certain phenomena (such as organizations)
are created by being talked about.
"Managers construct, rearrange, single out, and demolish many 'objective'
features of their surroundings. When people act they unrandomize variables,
insert vestiges of orderliness, and literally create their own constraints."
[Weick, Social Psychology of Organizing, p243]
Social structure influences the social interactions that take place --
it both constrains and enables. But at the same time, according to Anthony
Giddens, social interaction creates the social structure. This recursive
theory is known as the duality of structure.
A process of keeping people (typically customers and/or employees) under
Jeremy Benthamís panopticon was originally a prison so designed
that the warder could watch all the prisoners at the same time. By extension,
this term is used to describe any technical or institutional arrangement
to watch/ monitor large numbers of people. It provides a useful metaphor
for various modern technologies
The panopticon provides surveillance, and may result in a loss of privacy
for the people being watched / monitored. If you know youíre being watched,
this may trigger various feelings Ė both positive and negative.
database (e.g. CRM: customer relationship management)
Besides the impact on the people being watched, the pantopticon also
has an effect on the watcher. The panopticon gives the illusion of transparency
and completeness Ė so the watcher comes to believe three fallacies
that everything visible is undistorted truth
that everything visible is important
that everything important is visible