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Comparative organizational analysis once dominated American organizational sociology, grounded in rich case studies about organizational processes and outcomes. The…
Comparative organizational analysis once dominated American organizational sociology, grounded in rich case studies about organizational processes and outcomes. The Columbia school's approach to organizational research was exemplary in this regard. Following the publication of Robert K. Merton's (1940) essay, “Bureaucratic Structure and Personality,” he attracted a group of talented doctoral students to his formal organizations seminar (Crothers, 1990), the core of whom would go on to write dissertations, books, and articles forming the substance of American organizational sociology in the decades to come. Among those students were Philip Selznick, Alvin Gouldner, Peter Blau, Seymour Martin Lipset, Rose Coser, and James Coleman. While their work varied greatly in substantive content, their studies shared a theoretical interest in explaining intra-organizational dynamics and the unexpected outcomes of bureaucratic administration. Organizations, they demonstrated, developed “lives of their own,” quite outside the intents of their founders (Haveman, 2009; refer, especially, Selznick, 1957). Organizations, in other words, were adaptive to the needs of their constituents, but adaptations did not always produce the intended results. One of the unintended consequences of organizational development was increasing variety in the kinds of organizations that emerged to meet particular societal goals or ends. Thus, an inherent focus of this early comparative research was the explanation of variety in organizational types, policies, and outcomes and an emphasis on the ways in which organizations diverged from ideal types.
The contrast of multilevel and comparative research may seem counterintuitive at first. After all, one might argue that comparative research on organizations by necessity…
The contrast of multilevel and comparative research may seem counterintuitive at first. After all, one might argue that comparative research on organizations by necessity spans several levels of analysis (Rokkan, 1966). Yet, multilevel and comparative research on organizations present rather distinct traditions in organization studies, each with its own epistemological assumptions and associated methods. Accordingly, an approach that aims to incorporate both multilevel and comparative ideas needs to start with taking inventory of these prior literatures to situate itself. In the following, we thus turn to the literatures on multilevel and comparative research as different traditions with surprisingly little overlap.
This chapter sets forth a form of comparative analysis that is explicitly organizational, in the sense that it uses cross-level, contextual or compositional, analysis to…
This chapter sets forth a form of comparative analysis that is explicitly organizational, in the sense that it uses cross-level, contextual or compositional, analysis to explain organizational-level observations, especially comparisons between organizations. Inter-organizational comparisons often surface paradoxical results, in the form of unexpected differences among similar kinds of organizations, or unexpected similarities among different kinds of organizations. The value of using comparative analysis in these cases is that the information required to unravel organizational-level puzzling results is often located at a higher or lower levels. The proposed form of comparative analysis thus extends the conventional top-down, unidirectional form by adding a bottom-up component – making it bi-directional. In addition to introducing an organization-centered form of comparative analysis, the chapter offers suggestions for its practice and speculates about the potential benefits of its broad application within organizational studies.
In this chapter, the authors provide a historical overview of the development of comparative and international education societies throughout the earth. In most cases…
In this chapter, the authors provide a historical overview of the development of comparative and international education societies throughout the earth. In most cases, these societies have gradually grown and continue to thrive; in other cases, some comparative education societies have become dormant and a few no longer exist. A historical analysis that outlines the rise and fall of comparative education societies is provided. An overview of the World Council of Comparative Education Societies is also discussed, including its lead organizational role in serving as a historical hub to help comparative education societies preserve and disseminate their respective histories. The chapter concludes with suggestions on how anyone can get involved to help contribute to the history preservation of comparative education at the individual, national, regional, and global levels.
The “first generation” (Lammers, 1978, p. 486) of comparative analysis of organizations in sociology (e.g., Blau, 1965; Stinchcombe, 1959) focused on the “nuts and bolts” of organizational structure as the key criterion with which to derive organizational typologies (Perrow, 1967; Pugh, Hickson, & Hinings, 1969). This initial cohort of analysts saw the intrinsic features – or “organizational attributes” (Blau, 1965, p. 326) – constitutive of the “technical core” of the organization, such as features related to the organization of the production process (Perrow, 1967) or the structure of allocation of discretion and authority (e.g., Etzioni, 1961), as the royal road to the development of a cogent approach to comparative analysis of organizations.
Action Research (AR) is presented as an interpretive conceptual framework through which an understanding of management systems can be achieved. The proposed interpretive…
Action Research (AR) is presented as an interpretive conceptual framework through which an understanding of management systems can be achieved. The proposed interpretive framework is briefly described and examined as a comparative management framework. The merit inherent in AR as an interpretive comparative management framework is illustrated through an initial comparative analysis of US and Japanese management practices.
If one examines the changing nature of organizations and the contexts in which they operate over the past half-century, a number of developments have worked to soften and…
If one examines the changing nature of organizations and the contexts in which they operate over the past half-century, a number of developments have worked to soften and erode early distinctions around which much comparative research was conducted. Three types of changes encourage convergence.
It is doubtful whether Max Weber would have been appreciative of his current status as the father of organisation theory. Weber did not develop the concept of bureaucracy…
It is doubtful whether Max Weber would have been appreciative of his current status as the father of organisation theory. Weber did not develop the concept of bureaucracy as part of a quest to advance a science of organisations, or in order to do a microanalysis of the internal structure of particular organisational units. The concept of bureaucracy was an ideal-typical concept developed as a point of departure for comparisons across historical periods and geographic settings. Weber’s research was motivated by macroscopic and historical questions such as ‘why did capitalism develop in the West’ and, ‘how do persons in the West and other civilizations attach meaning to their activities?’ Unlike consultants and organisation theorists that make use of him today, it was not a major concern for Weber to develop criteria for the most efficient kinds of organisations. Rather, his concern was to identify variations in administrative and bureaucratic cultures and patterns by the means of the bureaucratic ideal type. It is maintained in modern textbooks in organisation theory that there has been a development from a closed and rationalistic paradigm towards an understanding of organisations as open and natural systems, and Max Weber’s theory of bureaucracy is taken as a point of departure for this kind of narrative. This classification of Weber as an example of a rational and closed approach is highly questionable. The cross-societal and historical approach used so effectively by Weber, is put on a sidetrack in such mainstream narratives. It would be more in the spirit of Weber to focus on organising as an activity, bureaucracy as an ethos and to study organisations within their particular political and cultural contexts.
This article reviews the historical development of the treatment of religious organizations in journals centered on religion.
The article asks four questions: (1) Are religious organizations different from other kinds of organizations? (2) What factors produce differences or similarities between religious and other organizations? (3) Are religious organizations different from each other?
Differences from other kinds of organizations are based in beliefs/theology. But there is a constant concern with the bureaucratization of religious organizations as they are subject to general organizational influences such as scale and geographical dispersion. However, it is argued that these general influences emanate from belief systems. We suggest the need for a renewed attention to a comparative organizations perspective in organization theory – one that appreciates the similarities and differences between sectors and within sectors.
Not only are there differences between religious and nonreligious organizations, but there are also substantial differences between religious organizations. There are also similarities between religious and nonreligious organizations, as well as similarities between religious organizations. The way forward for both the study of religious organizations and organizational theory in general is to look for explanations for these similarities and differences.
When we try to explain the dynamic relationship between actors and their environment, “unidirectional” paradigms clustered at either end of an agency–determinism…
When we try to explain the dynamic relationship between actors and their environment, “unidirectional” paradigms clustered at either end of an agency–determinism continuum, theoretical absolutes, and a focus on final outcomes are of limited value. Comparative research is uniquely positioned to move beyond such limitations and toward accounts of organizing that incorporate variation, interests, and interaction. To guide comparative research toward this more relational approach, we (1) highlight a move toward the middle ground of the agency–determinism continuum, that is, varieties of interaction and mutual influence between actors and their environments across levels of analysis; and (2) propose to conceptualize actor–environment relations as a “negotiation.” We use this metaphorical lens to stimulate a focus on the variety of different “negotiation spaces” and “negotiation moves,” which actors may utilize in an organizational field to affect stability or change. We provide an exemplary application of the framework and conclude with some observation on the implications for future research.