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Social structure and organizations

Economics Meets Sociology in Strategic Management

ISBN: 978-0-76230-661-9, eISBN: 978-1-84950-051-7

ISSN: 0742-3322

Publication date: 20 July 2000


The general topic of this chapter is the relation of the society outside organizations to the internal life of organizations. Part of the specific topics have to do with the effect of society on organizations, and part of them concern the effects of organizational variables on the surrounding social environment. I intend to interpret the term “social structure” in the title in a very general sense, to include groups, institutions, laws, population characteristics, and sets of social relations that form the environment of the organization. That is, I interpret “social structure” to mean any variables which are stable characteristics of the society outside the organization. By an “organization” I mean a set of stable social relations deliberately created, with the explicit intention of continuously accomplishing some specific goals or purposes. These goals or purposes are generally functions performed for some larger structure. For example, armies have the goal of winning possible military engagements. The fulfillment of this goal is a function performed for the larger political structure, which has functional requirements of defense and conquest. I exclude from organizations many types of groups which have multiple purposes (or which perform multiple functions for larger systems, whether these are anyone's purposes or not), such as families, geographical communities, ethnic groups, or total societies. 1 also exclude social arrangements built up on the spur of the moment to achieve some specific short-run purpose. For instance, I will not consider a campaign committee for some political candidate as an “organization,” although a political party would definitely meet the criterion of continuous functioning and relatively specific purposes.


Stinchcombe, A.L. (2000), "Social structure and organizations", Baum, J.A.C. and Dobbin, F. (Ed.) Economics Meets Sociology in Strategic Management (Advances in Strategic Management, Vol. 17), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 229-259.



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