Organizations evolving

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Citation: Howard Aldrich, Martin Ruef (2006) Organizations evolving.
Internet Archive Scholar (search for fulltext): Organizations evolving
Tagged: Sociology (RSS) business (RSS), organization theory (RSS)


The second edition of Organizations evolving builds on Howard Aldrich's book by adding, as an author, the entrepreneurship scholar Martin Ruef. The book is essentially a textbook on organization theory for graduate students, or even advanced undergraduates, that provides a broad background and introduction into organizational theory.

The book advances the use of evolutionary theory as a form of meta-theory for thinking about organization theory more broadly. It argues that evolutionary approaches can be boiled down to a series of major components or ingredients: variation (either intentional or blind), selection (either internal or external), retention, and struggle or competition. The authors suggest that each of these processes can be seen as happening at a number of different levels of analysis. Primarily, they can each be seen as operating within organizations or at the level of organizations or even populations of organizations.

The book argues that these processes can be approached by using a number of different units of analysis and talks about the general problems associated with selection bias that evolutionary theories deal with and how these may apply to organizations as well.

The book then tries to give a solid literature review of organization theory more broadly by using the VSR (variation, selection, retention) model. It discusses how population ecology, institutionalism (both new and old), the interpretive approach (which the authors argue describes a number of organizational ethnographies), organizational learning, resource dependence, and transaction cost economics can all be discussed in terms of evolutionary dynamics and pressures.

The book discusses entrepreneurship at length (and pulls largely from Ruef and Aldrich's joint work on The structure of founding teams: Homophily, strong ties, and isolation among U.S. entrepreneurs in particular and discusses organizational boundaries, organizational forms, transformation, social change, the emergence of new populations of organizations, foundings and disbandings, and community evolution.

Theoretical and Practical Relevance

Aldrich and Ruef's book (which cannot easily be disentangled from Aldrich's influential earlier editions in terms of citations) has been cited more than 2,000 in the broad literature on organizations.