Social mechanisms in organizations: awakened from their Sarcophagi

Jon‐Arild Johannessen (Harstad University College, Harstad, Norway)


ISSN: 0368-492X

Publication date: 4 May 2010



In order to explain a phenomenon/problem, some of the mechanisms which elicit the phenomenon/problem must be clarified, since: “a goal of scientific research is to uncover reality beneath appearance”. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the following issue: how can social mechanisms be examined from a systemic point of view?


The paper investigates, at an abstract level, what is meant by social mechanisms in social systems in Part 1. Social mechanisms and various explanation models are investigated in Part 2, using the systemic approach.


However well‐functioning the models developed, this procedure will not have developed a theory of the phenomenon. For that purpose, explanations at a more basic level than the model is able to disclose, will be necessary. The empirical causal model says something about the strength in the relation between the variables and can be used in practice in order to change certain variables to facilitate the desired change in the system.


The paper usefully shows that, if possible, explanations at a more basic level would be desirable; but not necessary for the application of insights in practical contexts. By this, the paper has stated that a theory can be desirable, but not necessary, in order to develop, e.g. innovative organisations. Models and social mechanisms, on the other hand, are necessary to organise knowledge for the purpose of use in practical contexts.



Johannessen, J. (2010), "Social mechanisms in organizations: awakened from their Sarcophagi", Kybernetes, Vol. 39 No. 4, pp. 510-526.

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