Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-78dcdb465f-bcmtx Total loading time: 1.101 Render date: 2021-04-16T14:31:06.877Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": false, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true }

Chandler and the Sociology of Organizations

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 December 2011

Neil Fligstein
NEIL FLIGSTEIN is professor in the Department ofSociology at the University of California, Berkeley.


I remember the first time I read Alfred Chandler's Strategy and Structure as a graduate student in the mid-1970s. I was taking a class on the sociology of organizations and finding that many of the assigned books and articles did not interest me. Corporations are clearly one of the dominant forces in our society, yet none of what I read seemed to capture what they do and how they do it. Reading the first eighteen pages of Strategy and Structure was like having the scales fall from my eyes. Here was a historical view of the largest corporations that placed them in their context and, most important, showed that real people with real purposes undertook to make these organizations work. Chandler's book opened the black box of the large modern corporation for me. Chandler realized that what was interesting about corporations was not that they made profits, but how they did so. In a single chapter, Chandler articulated much that I had found lacking in organizational theory.

Copyright © The President and Fellows of Harvard College 2008

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below.


1 Chandler, Alfred D. Jr, Strategy and Structure: Chapters in the History of Industrial Enterprise (Cambridge, Mass., 1962).Google Scholar

2 Chandler, Alfred D. Jr, The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business (Cambridge, Mass., 1993).Google Scholar

3 Weber, Max, Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology (Berkeley, Calif., 1978), 901–40.Google Scholar

4 See, for example, Blau, Peter and Scott, Richard, Formal Organizations: A Comparative Approach (San Francisco, 1962)Google Scholar; and Hage, Jerald and Aiken, Michael, Social Change in Complex Organizations (New York, 1970).Google Scholar

5 Gouldner, Alvin, Patterns of Industrial Bureaucracy (New York, 1954)Google Scholar; Crozier, Michel, The Bureaucratic Phenomenon (Chicago, 1964)Google Scholar; Selznick, Philip, TVA and the Grassroots: A Study in the Sociology of Formal Organization (New York, 1966)Google Scholar.

6 Perrow, Charles, Organizations: A Critical Essay (Glenview, Ill., 1972).Google Scholar

7 Simon, Herbert, Administrative Behavior: A Study of Decision-Making Processes in Administrative Organization (New York, 1957)Google Scholar; and March, James and Simon, Herbert, Organizations (New York, 1958).Google Scholar

8 For a review of these perspectives, see Miles, Robert, Macro-Organizational Behavior (New York, 1984).Google Scholar

9 March and Simon, Organizations; and Williamson, Oliver, “The Modern Corporation: Origins, Evolution, Attributes,” Journal of Economic Literature 19 (Dec. 1981): 1537–68Google Scholar; Chandler, Alfred D. Jr, “Historical Determinants of Managerial Hierarchies: A Response to Perrow,” in Perspectives on Organizational Design and Behavior, ed. Ven, Andrew Van de and Joyce, William (New York, 1981), 391402.Google Scholar

10 For examples of “comparative capitalisms,” see Dore, Ronald P., “The Distinctiveness of Japan,” in The Political Economy of Modern Capitalism: Mapping Convergence and Diversity, ed. Crouch, Colin and Streeck, Wolfgang (London, 1997), 1932CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Albert, Michel, Capitalism against Capitalism (London, 1993)Google Scholar; and Hall, Peter A. and Soskice, David W., eds., Varieties of Capitalism: The Institutional Foundations of Comparative Advantage (New York, 2001).CrossRefGoogle Scholar For “comparative business systems,” see Whitley, Richard and Kristensen, Peer H., The Changing European Firm: Limits to Convergence (London, 1995).Google Scholar

11 See Aldrich, Howard, Organizations and Environments (Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1979)Google Scholar; and Hannán, Michael and Freeman, John, “The Population Ecology of Organizations,” American Journal of Sociology 82 (Nov. 1977): 929–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

12 Meyer, John and Rowan, Brian, “Institutionalized Organizations: Formal Structure as Myth and Ceremony,” American Journal of Sociology 83 (Sept. 1977): 340–63CrossRefGoogle Scholar; DiMaggio, Paul and Powell, Walter, “'The Iron Cage Revisited': Institutional Isomorphism and Collective Rationality in Organizational Fields,” American Sociological Review 48 (Apr. 1983): 147–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

13 Dobbin, Frank, Forging Industrial Policy: The United States, Britain, and France in the Railway Age (New York, 1994)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Roy, William, Socializing Capital: The Rise of the Large Industrial Corporation in America (Princeton, N.J., 1997)Google Scholar; Perrow, Charles, Organizing America: Wealth, Power, and the Origins of Corporate Capitalism (Princeton, N.J., 2002)Google Scholar; Freeland, Robert, The Struggle for Control of the Modern Corporation: Organizational Change at General Motors, 1924–1970 (New York, 2005)Google Scholar; and Fligstein, Neil, The Transformation of Corporate Control (Cambridge, Mass., 1990).Google Scholar

Full text views

Full text views reflects PDF downloads, PDFs sent to Google Drive, Dropbox and Kindle and HTML full text views.

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 40 *
View data table for this chart

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 16th April 2021. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Chandler and the Sociology of Organizations
Available formats

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Chandler and the Sociology of Organizations
Available formats

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Chandler and the Sociology of Organizations
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Your details

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *