Sociological paradigms and organizational analysis: Elements of the sociology of corporate life

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Citation: Gibson Burrell, Gareth Morgan (1979) Sociological paradigms and organizational analysis: Elements of the sociology of corporate life.




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Summary:

Chapter 1

The authors provide a schema for classifying the philosophical assumptions underlying various social theories which play an important role in organizational analysis.

In particular, the chapter describes what the authors call the "subjective-objective continuum" and describe four dimensions that they suggest fall along that basic axis. In general, objective is taken to mean independent of the observer.

|-----------------+--------------------+-------------|
| *Subjective*    |                    | *Objective* |
|-----------------+--------------------+-------------|
| Nominalism      | <- ontology ->     | Realism     |
| Anti-positivism | <- epistemology -> | Positivism  |
| Voluntarism     | <- human nature -> | Determinism |
| Ideographic     | <- methodology ->  | Nomoethic   |
|-----------------+--------------------+-------------|

The authors walk through each of these dimensions in detail and describe how these assumptions play out and provide examples from organizational analysis.

Chapter 2

In their second chapter, Burrell and Morgan highly what they suggest is another dimension for social theories of organization: /regulation/ theories versus /conflict/ based theories. They also call these "order" versus "conflict" theories or functionalist versus radical change. Their suggestion is that while most theories look at who organizations work, one can also focus an analysis of organizations on how organizations change. They suggest that Marx would be an example of a theorist of change.

Chapter 3

In their third chapter, they attempt to "square the circle" between the two poles on this axis.

They offer a 2x2 with subjective versus objective on one axis and radical change and regulation. They suggest that the four quadrants produced by these axes represent mutually exclusive views of human society.

|------------------+------------------+-----------------------|
|                  | *Subjective*     | *Objective*           |
|------------------+------------------+-----------------------|
| *Radical Change* | radical humanist | radical structuralist |
|------------------+------------------+-----------------------|
| *Regulation*     | interpretive     | functionalist         |
|------------------+------------------+-----------------------|

They suggest that nearly all work has fallen into the three boxes that do not include the radical humanist box.