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Chandler and the Sociology of Organizations

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 December 2011

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

Extract

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.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © The President and Fellows of Harvard College 2008

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References

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

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