, (modus )operandi
Paradigm is a term which is intended to emphasise the commonality of perspective which binds the work of a group of theorists together in such a way that they can be usefully regarded as approaching social theory within the bounds of the same problematic.
This definition does not imply complete unity of thought. It allows for the fact that within the context of any given paradigm there will be
much debate between theorists who adopt different standpoints.
The paradigm does , however , have an underlying unity in terms of its basic and often taken for granted assumptions , which separate a group
of theorists in a very fundamental way form theorists located in other paradigms.
The unity of the paradigm thus derives from reference to alternative views of reality which lie outside its boundaries and which may not necessarily even
be recognized as existing.
All social theorists can be located within the context of these four paradigms according to the meta - theoretical assumptions reflected in their work.
The four paradigms taken together provide a map for negotiating the subject area,
. Which offers a convinient means of identifying the basic similarities and
differences between the work of various theorists,
And , in particular, the underlying frame of reference which they adopt.
It also provides a convenient way of locating ones own personal frame of reference with regard to
And thus a means of understanding why certain theories and perspectives may have more personal appeal than others.
Like any other map it provides a tool for
establishing where you are , where you have been , and where it is possible to go in the future.
, Each paradigm defines a range of intellectual territory.
Given the overall meta theoretical assumptions
which distinguish one paradigm from another,
There is room for much variation within them.
Within the context of the functionalist paradigm , for example , certain theorists adopt more extreme positions in terms of one or both of the two
dimensions than others. ,
Such differences often account for the internal debate which goes on between theorists engaged in the activities of normal science within the context of the same paradigm.
Some inter paradigm debate
is also possible. Giddens maintains
that all paradigms are mediated by others ...
And that within normal science scientists are aware of other paradigms.
He posits that : the process of learning a paradigm is also the process of learning what
that paradigm is not. ...
Interestingly , he confines his discussion to the mediation of one paradigm by another one.
Burrell and Morgan believe that a model of four conflicting paradigms
within sociology is more accurate,
And that academics knowledge of scientists within the other three paradigms is likely to be very sketchy in some cases.
Relations between paradigms are perhaps
better described in terms of disinterested hostility rather than debate.
The four paradigms are mutually exclusive.
They offer alternative views of social reality, and to understand the nature of all four is to understand four different views of society.
different ways of seeing.
A synthesis is not possible, since in their pure forms they are contradictory, being based on at least one set of opposing metatheoretical assumptions.
They are alternatives, in the sense that one can operate in different paradigms sequentially over time,
but mutually exclusive, in the sense that one can not operate in more than one paradigm at any given point in time, since in accepting the assumption of one, we defy the assumptions of
all the others.
Burrell and Morgan offer the four paradigms for consideration in these
terms, in the hope that knowledge of the competing points of view will at least make us aware of the boundaries within which we approach our subject.
The functionalist paradigm : This paradigm has provided the dominant framework for the conduct of academic sociology and the study of organizations.
It represents a perspective which is firmly rooted in the sociology of regulation and approaches its subject matter from an objectivist point of
Functionalist theories have been at the fore front of the order conflict debate, and the concepts which we have used to categories the
sociology of regulation apply in varying degrees to all schools of thought within the paradigm.
It is characterized by a concern for providing explanations of the status quo, social order, consensus, social integration, solidarity, need satisfaction and actuality.
The functionalist paradigm is often problem oriented in approach, concerned to provide practical solutions to practical problems.
It is usually firmly committed to a
philosophy of social engineering as a basis of social change and emphasizes the importance of understanding order, equilibrium and stability in society and the way in which these can be maintained.
It is concerned with the
effective regulation and control of social affairs.
The approach to social science characteristic of the functionalist paradigm is rooted in the tradition of
This reflects the attempt, par excellence, to apply the models and methods of the natural sciences to the study of human affairs.
Originating in France in the early decades of the nineteenth century, its major
influence upon the paradigm has been through the work of,
Social theorists such as Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer, Emile Durkheim and Vilfredo Pareto
The functionalist approach to social
science tends to assume that the social world is composed of relatively concrete empirical artifacts and relationships which can be identified, studied and measured through approaches derived from the natural sciences.
The use of mechanical and biological analogies as a means of modeling and understanding the social world is particularly favored in many functionalist theories.
Put very crudely, therefore, the formation of the functionalist paradigm can be understood in terms of the interaction of three sets of intellectual forces, as illustrated in figure 3.2.
The Sociology of Radical Change
Marxist theory Objective Subjective German
Idealism The sociology of Regulation Sociological positivism
Figure 3.2 Intellectual influences upon the functionalist Of these sociological positivism has been the most influential.
By way of overview, again some what crudely, figure 3.3 and 3.4
illustrate the four paradigms in terms of the constituent schools of sociological and organizational theory which we shall be exploring later on.
As will be apparent, most organization theorists, industrial
sociologists, psychologists and industrial relations theorists, approach their subject from within the bounds of the functionalist paradigm.
The Interpretive Paradigm
Theorists located within the context of the interpretive paradigm adopt an approach consonant with the tenets of what Burrell and Morgan have described as the sociology of regulation,
The Sociology of Radical Change Radical Humanism Subjective
Radical Structuralism Anarchistic Contemporary S Russian Individualism Mediterranean
French O social Marxism Existentialism L Theory
Critical I Conflict Theory Objective Theory P S phenomenology
Integrative Social I theory System Hermeneutics S
Interactionism Theory M Phenomenological and social action objectivesm sociology theory
Interpretive Sociology Functionalist Sociology The Sociology of Regulation Figure 3.3. The four sociological paradigms
The Sociology of Radical Change Anti Organization Theory Radical
Organization Theory Subjective Objective Ethnomethodology
and Phenomenological symbolic Interactionism pluralism Action Theories of Social
Objectivism frame of bureaucratic system reference dysfunctions Theory The Sociology of Regulation Figure 3.4 The main schools of organizational analysis
Though its subjectivist approach to the analysis of the social world makes its links this sociology often implicit rather than explicit.
The interpretive paradigm is informed by
a concern to understand the world as it is,
To understand the fundamental nature of the social world at the level of subjective experience.
It seeks explanation within the realm of individual consciousness and subjectivity,
within the frame of reference of the participant as opposed to the observer of action.
In its approach to social science it tends to be nominalist, antipositivist, and
It sees the social world as an emergent social process which is created by the individuals concerned.
Social reality, insofar as it is recognized to have any existence outside the
consciousness of any single individual,
Is regarded as being little more than a network of assumptions and inter subjectively shared meanings.
Interpretive philosophers and sociologists seek to
understand the very basis and source of social reality.
They often delve into the depths of human consciousness and subjectivity in their quest for the fundamental meanings
which underlie social life,
Interpretive sociology is concerned with understanding the essence of the everyday world.
In terms of the analytical schema it
is underwritten by an involvement with issues relating to the nature of status quo, social order, consensus, social integration and cohesion, solidarity and actuality.
paradigm is the direct product of the German idealist tradition of social thought.
Its foundations were laid in the work of Kant and reflect a social philosophy which emphasises the essentially spiritual nature of the social
Figures 3.3 and 3.4 illustrate the manner in which the paradigm
has been explored as far as our present interest in social theory and the study organizations is concerned.
Whilst there have been a small number of attempts to study organizational concepts and
situations from this point of view, The paradigm has not generated a precise organizational theory.
Radical stracturalist paradigm
Radical structuralism is committed to radical change,
emancipation and potentiality, In an analysis which emphasizes structural conflict, modes of domination, contradiction and .deprivation
It approaches these general concerns from a standpoint
which tends to be realist, positivist, determinist and nomothetic.
Where as the radical humanists forge their perspective by focusing upon
consciousness as the basis for a radical critique of society,
The radical structuralists concentrate upon structural relationships within a realist social world.
They emphasise the fact that radical change is built
into the very nature and structure of contemporary society,
And they seek to provide explanations of the basic interrelationships with in the context of total social formations.
Common to all theorists within the
paradigm, is the view that contemporary society is characterised by fundamental conflicts which generate radical change through political and economic crises.
It is through such conflict and
change that the emancipation of men from the social structures in which they live is seen as coming about.
Functionalist Sociology : Origins and Intellectual Tradition The mode of social theorising which characterises this
paradigm has a .long history
As Raymond Aron has suggested, Comte may be regarded, first and foremost, as the sociologist of human and social unity (Aron , 1965 , p. 5q).
He believed that knowledge and society was in a process of evolutionary transition,
and that the function of sociology was to understand the necessary, indispensable and inevitable course of history in such a way as to promote the realisation of a new social order.
From Comtes point of view this evolution
passed through three stages of development
the Theological, or fictitious; the Metaphysical, or abstract; and the scientific, or positive.
He defined the positive mode of thought in the following terms:
In the final, the positive
state, the mind has given over the vain search after absolute notions,
The origin and destination of the
universe and the causes of phenomena, and applies itself to the study of their laws, i.e. their invariable relations of succession and resemblance.
Reasoning and observation duly combined are the means of this knowledge (Comte, .1853, vol. I, pp. 1-2)
Comtes vision was of a world in which scientific rationality was in the ascendancy, underlying the basis of a well regulated social order.
Comte believed that all sciences passed through his three phases of development but did so at different times according to their complexity.
For Comte the positive approach provided the key to mans destiny,
Or, as Aron has put it, the one type of society which is absolutely valid and at which all mankind must arrive
(Aron, 1965, p. 59)
Comte thus laid the foundations for the mode of social theorizing characteristic of the functionalist paradigm.
Based upon the positive model of the natural
sciences, utilizing mechanical and organic analogies,
Distinguishing between statics (structure) and dynamics (process), and advocating methodological holism,Comte initiated important ground rules for a sociological enterprise geared to an explanation of
social order and regulation.
Herbert spencers principal contribution was to develop in a more detailed and extensive manner the implications of the biological analogy for sociology.
Influenced by the work of Darwin, he saw the study of sociology as the study of evolution in its most complex form.
His work did much to lay the foundations for the analysis of social phenomena in terms of structure and junction,
Elaborating Comtes notion of totality and the need to understand the parts in the context of the whole.
In this respect, however, he was more of a methodological individualist than Comte, maintaining that the properties of
the aggregate are determined by the properties of its units.
Many of the notions underpinning what we now know as structural functionalism derive from
In particular the parallels which he drew between societies and organisms, and the view that the parts of society function in ways which contribute to the maitenance of the whole, have been highly influential.
Spencers focus of attention was primarily , though not exclusively , directed at the level of the organism rather than the species. Societies were seen as super organisms
. This organismic frame of
reference emphasises the unity , interdependence and ordered nature of constituent relationships. ,
A some what different view emerges from an analysis conducted at the level of the specicies.
. As Buckley has noted,the particular
level of biological organization that is chosen as the basis for a model of society determines (or may be determined by) whether we see society as pre - eminently cooperative or basically conflictual.
If society is like an organism, then its parts co-operate and do not compete in a struggle for survival,
, But if society is like an ecological aggregate, then
the Darwinian (or Hobbesian) model of competitive struggle is more applicable.
() Whilst spencer did draw parallels between the evolution of societies and the evolution of species emphasizing the role
of conflict , including warfare , as a force of change - , ,
, It was within the context of a theoretical perspective which emphasized the inevitable march towards more complex and integrated
Industrial society was viewed at its most advanced form.
As parsons has commented,spencers god was Evolution, sometimes also called progress.
, Spencer was one of the
most vociferous in his devotions to this god, but by no means alone among the faithful.
, Emile Durkheim (1858 1917) explicitly recognized the influence of comte and spencer upon his sociological thought
But he approached their work in a critical vein.
As Lukes (1973) has noted , comtes influence on Durkheim was a formative rather than a continuing one,
( )1973 , The extension of the positive , or scientific
attitude to the study of society probably being most important.
Although Durkheim specifically dissociated himself from many of comtes beliefs, he was firmly influenced by the comtian notion of a concrete social reality capable of
rational scientific investigation. ,
Durkheim believed that causal analysis was required in addition to what we would now call functional analysis:
to show now a fact is useful is not to explain
how it originated or why it is what it is.
The uses which it serves pre-suppose the specific properties characterizing it but do not create them
When , then , the explanation of a social phenomenon is undertaken , we must seek separately the efficient cause which produces it and the function it fulfills.
, In terms of method ,
therefore , Durkheim , following comte and spencer , borrowed freely from the natural sciences ,
A methodological holist , distinguishing between causes , functions and structures , he added much in terms of
sophistication to the thought of these earlier theorists, , , .
And as will become apparent later , provided a firm foundation for subsequent work within the context of the functionalist paradigm.
Durkheims sociology thus reflects a powerfull predilection for order as the predominant force in social affairs.
Judged by the yardstick by which we have defined the sociology of regulation (a concern for the
status quo , social order , consensus , social integration and cohesion , solidarity , need satisfaction and activity).
( , , Durkheim emerges as a sociologist as a sociologist of order and
regulation par excellence.
A fuller account of the origins of the functionalist paradigm would call for the analysis of the thought of a number of other social theorists
, Alfred Marshall , Max Weber , Vilfredo pareto , John Stuart Mill , George
Simmel George Herbert Mead and William James , among others , , ,
, , All have a strong claim to be considered here along with the founding fathers.
Burrell and Morgan conclude their discussion of the
foundations of the functionalist paradigm here with a discussion of certain aspects of the work of pareto.
Vilfredo pareto (1848 1923) came to sociology from economics , with a view to supplementing the scientific theories of economics , based on their
assumptions of logical and rational conduct , with a scientific theory of nonlogical or non-rational conduct ()1848 1923
. Among the main features of his work which are relevant for comment here are the that after establishing the extent and
significance of the non-logical in social affairs,
He proceeded to explain it terms of a social systems model based upon the notion of equilibrium.
His view of society was that of a
system of interrelated parts which , though in a continual state of surface flux , were also in a state of unchanging equilibrium, ,
In that move movements away from the equilibrium
position were counter balanced by changes tending to restore it.
Pareto saw in the concept of equilibrium a useful tool for understanding the complexities of social life.
As far as the development of
the functionalist paradigm is concerned , it is through the notion of equilibrium that pareto has had most influence.
Where as it was implicit in many earlier social theories, after pareto it became much
more explicit as a guiding principle. ,
The distinction which he drew between the logical and non-logical elements in human conduct has , as we shall see , also been of some
The structure of the paradigm
The functionalist paradigm has provided the dominant framework for academic sociology in the twentieth century and accounts for by far the largest proportion of theory and research in the field of organization studies.
Its structure reflects the dominant influence of sociological positivism , as described in the previous section,
, Fused at its junction with the interpretive paradigm with elements
of German idealism. ,
It contains many separate schools of thought , each occupying a distinctive relationships one with another.
Burrell and Morgan traced these relationships in terms of the two
dimensions which define the paradigm
To facilitate this task , they identified four broad categories of functionalist thought and addressed each in turn.
, They describe them as: (a) Social system theory,
(b) interactionism and social action theory, (c) integrative theory, (d) objectivism. : ) ,
) ) ) Each of these broad categories occupies a distinctive position within
the paradigm, as illustrated in figure 3.3 social system theory represents a direct development of sociological positivism in its most pure form. 3 3
Adopting mechanical and biological analogies for the study of social affairs , it is most clearly
represented in the schools of thought described as structural functionalism and system theory.
, Interactionism and social action theory is the category of thought which directly combines elements of sociological
positivism and German Iealism and as such can be considered as defining the most subjective boundary of the paradigm.
Integrative theory occupies a
central location within the paradigm, seeking to bridge the gap between social system theory and interactionism.
It is not fully committed to either of these two categories ; it takes something from
both and contributes something to both. ,
It is truly a brand of theory characteristic of the middle ground, and is reflected in the schools of thought which we describe as conflict functionalism , morphogenic systems theory , Balus theory of exchange and
power , Mertonian theory of social and cultural structure. ,
The category of thought which we describe as objectivism ,comprising behaviourism and abstracted
empiricism) is very closely related to social system theory, (
) In that it again is firmly committed to the tradition of sociological positivism.
Burrell and Morgan identify it as a separate category, in recognition of the fact that it reflects a particularly
extreme form of commitment to the models and methods of the natural sciences.
Behaviourism, for example, derives from physiological models employed in psychology
, Abstracted empiricism is
dominated by quantitative methodologies which often have no distinctly social qualities.
We commence our analysis with a
consideration of social system theory
Social System Theory Under this heading we consider two
schools of thought which, in many respects, have provided the dominant framework for analysis in contemporary sociology structural functionalism and system theory.
Both have had a particularly important
impact upon the field of organizational analysis.
The terms structural functionalism and system Theory are often seen as interchangeable.
. Whilst there is some measure of justification in equating the two as far as
the majority of current systems applications are concerned, ,
To do so represent an oversimplification, since systems theory is consistent with theoretical perspectives which extend beyond the confines of
the functionalist paradigm. ,
However, these remain largely undeveloped at the present time. ,
We trace the development of the two perspectives and the relationships which exist
between them, Arguing that the
similarities only exist if they drew upon a similar analogy, that of the biological organism.
Whereas structural functionalism inevitably draw upon this analogy, systems theory is in principle
consistent with the use of many others.
It is through the notion of structural functionalism that the use of the biological analogy in the tradition of comte, spencer and Durkheim has had its major impact upon sociological thought.
Building upon the concepts of holism, interrelationship between parts, structure, functions and needs, the biological analogy has been developed in diverse ways to produce a social science perspective firmly rooted in the sociology of regulation.
, , , ,
The major distinction commonly drawn between approaches revolves around the issue of level of analysis:
Wether the focus in
functional analysis is on the part or the whole, on the individual institution or the social system.
, In addition to this distinction, however, it is also desirable to draw attention to at least two other lines of
development. , ,
The first follows on from Radcliffe Browns focus on structure in the tradition of social morphology.
In defiance (or at least ignorance) of his warning that the social structure as a whole can only be observed in
its functioning , the notion of structure has become increasingly reified as some social theorists sought identify its key elements ( )
, The search for structure has
led to an increasingly hard and indiscriminate application of the models and methods of the natural sciences to the study of social phenomena.
The second line of development has focused upon what Radcliffe
Brown called the problems of social physiology , that is , upon explaining the way in which social systems function.
, For the most part these studies have drawn heavily upon the organismic analogy, attempting to
understand the functioning of social systems in terms of system needs or conditions of existence.
This is particularly evident, for example, in the work of Talcott Parsons and his analysis of the social system
( 1951 ). .
Parsons takes as his Point of departure the system as a whole and analyses the conditions necessary for its survival ,functioning evolution and change.
As Rocher notes ,in Parsons Perspective the term function refers to various solutions to a particular complex of problems that a system can adopt in order to survive,
And survival here includes persistence, evolution and transmutation.
So far Parsons, functional analysis consists in establishing a classification of the problems which every system must resolve in order to exist and
keep itself going. :
This leads parsons to the notion of what are called functional prerequisites or functional imperatives the functions which must be performed if a society is to survive.
As parsons has put it, any social system is subject to four independent functional imperatives or problems which must be met adequately if equilibrium and/or continuing existence of the system is to be maintained ( parsons, 1959, p.16 ).
These are most clearly illustrated in his so called AGIL scheme, which identifies the four basic functional imperatives which parsons regards as being relevant to the analysis of all social systems.
Simply put it, these are : Adaptation : the complex of unit acts which serve to establish relations between the
system and its external environment. : :
Goal attainment : The actions which serve to define the goals of the system and to mobilise and manage resources and effort to attain
goals and gratification. :
Integration : The unit acts which establish control, inhibit deviancy, and maintain co ordination between parts, thus avoiding serious disturbance.
Latency or pattern Maintenance: The unit acts which supply actors with necessary motivation
As Radcliffe Brown noted ,the notion of needs or conditions of existence is implicit in the use of the analogy of a biological .organism for analysis
In placing them at the centre of analysis ,however ,parsons ignors
the limitations of this analogy for the study of society which Radcliffe Brown was so careful to Specify and redirects the main thrust of functionalist enquiry.
Both Malinowski and
Radcliffe Brown had assumed that social structures were implicit in the operation of social systems,
And that the problem of empirically based social analysis was to identify the functions which the various
elements of structure Performed.
Parsons in effect inverts this Problematic; starting with the functions which must be performed the problem of empirical social science becomes that of identifying
the structures or elements of social systems which serve given imperative functions. .
As David lock wood (1950) has observed, Parsons approach to the analysis of the social system has
been heavily weighted by assumptions and categories which relate to the role of normative elements in social action,
And especially to the Processes whereby motives are structured
normatively to ensure social stability.
This normative orientation has attracted the charge that Parsons; scheme is inherently conservative, geared to a reaffirmation of the status quo
and unable to deal with change.
Parsons, in the tradition of comte, Spencer Durkheim, has underwritten his approach by the implicit assumption that modern industrial society vests at the pinnacle of human achievement, and that the
predominant problem is that of regulation.
As Lockwood notes, one of the central themes emerging from Parsons / classic early work the structure of Social Action is that order is possible through the existence of common
norms which regulate the war of all against all (lock wood, 1950,p.137 ).
Parsons/ later work strongly reflects this basic orientation, though he has in fact been aware of the need to make
his model a dynamic one capable of accomodating and explaining change .
Radcliffe Brown identified as his third set of problems those of development that is how do new types of
social structure come into existence?
It is of great significance that the structural functionalists have had the most difficulty with this issue and that it remains the least well explored.
Interestingly enough, the principal contribution to this problem area have come from theorists who have sought to provide a whole or to provide alternative methods of analysis.
Mertons contribution ,for example, provides a good illustration of the former and Buckleys morphogenic systems theory an example of the later.
By way of summary, there fore, we conclude our discussion of structural functionalism with the
observation that from its start it has been dominated by the use of biological analogy for the study of society.
Different varieties can be observed in practice.
There are those approaches which focus
upon system parts rather than upon systems as a whole.
There are approaches in the tradition of Malinowski and Radcliffe-Brown which are most concerned with establishing the functions which various elements
of society perform.
There are those which focus upon social morphology and often result as abstracted empiricism.
There are those which focus upon functional imperatives or system needs and which seek to analyse society in whole or part with this perspective in mind.
All these approaches adopt an approach to social
science characteristic of the objectivist region of the functionalist paradigm.
Ontologically,epistemologically and methologically ,structural functionalism has been based upon models derived from the natural sciences.
For the most part, this
has carried with it a relatively determinist view with regard to human nature.
In terms of its characterisation of society, the overriding fact that the needs or necessary conditions of existence of social systems under
write the very notion of function has inevitably committed structural functionalism to a perspective located within the sociology of regulation.
The current state of structural functionalism ranges from
grand theory to abstracted empiricism with a general emphasis in the latter upon structure rather than function.
The notion of functional process which was so important to its founding
fathers has, for the most part, either been ignored or lost.
The qualification which were identified in drawing analogies between biological and social phenomena seem
largely to have gone astray.
Fostered by utilitarian demands for pragmatic theory and research geared to piecemeal social engineering political, managerial, and the like.
Theoretical insights have been largely submerged under a deluge of empirical research.
. Indeed, structural functionalism as represented in the work of Radcliffe Brown has proved a rare and transient
Systems theory Since the early 1950s the systems approach has assumed increasing importance in various branches of social analysis.
In sociology, psychology, anthropology, archaeology, linguistics,organization theory, industrial relations, and many other social sience subjects, systems theory has become established as an
important method of analysis. Among the more prominent studies, it is worth citing by the way of illustration the work of Parsons(the social system, 1951), Homans(the human group, 1950), Katz and kahn(the social psychology of organizations, 1960), Easton(the
political system, 1953), Dunlop(Industrial Relations Systems, 1958)and Buckly(sociology and modern systems theory, 1967). Despite its popularity, however, the notion of system is an elusive one.
( ) . Many books on systems theory
do not offer a formal definition of the systems concept, and where a definition is attempted, it is usually one of considerable generality.
For example, Angyal
suggests that there is a logical genus suitable to the treatment of wholes.
We propose to call it system (Angyal,1941, p.243)
Again, in the words of von Bertalanffy, the founding father of general system theory, there are correspondences in the
principles which govern the behavior of entities that are intrinsically, widely different. :
This correspondence is due to the fact that they all can be considered, in certain respects, as systems, that is, complexes of
elements standing in interaction ( von Bertalanffy, 1956, pp. 1-2). ( )
The notion of holism and interaction of parts are not exclusive to system theory, and skeletal definitions such as these
have led many social scientists to the view that systems theory often represents little more than old conceptualizations dressed up in new and needlessly complex jargon.
For many, it is another case of the emperor having no clothes.
However, the situation is, in fact, much more sophisticated than this.
Von Bertalanffy wishes to use the notion of systems as a means of cutting through the
substantive differences which exist between different academic disciplines.
The subject matter of chemistry, physics, biology, sociology, etc, are linked in his view by the fact that they study complexes of
elements standing in interaction, that is, systems.
The task of his general systems theory is to discover the principles of organization which underlie
One of his general aims is to achieve a unity of science based upon the isomorphy of laws in different fields (von Bertalanffy, 1956, p.8).
In many respects von Bertalanffys aim can be regarded as archetypical of
the positivist perspective:
It is based upon epistemological assumptions dominated by a concern to search for and explain the underlying regularities and structural uniformities which characterise the world in general.
However, his perspective differs
from that of most positivists, in that he does not take his point of departure from the traditions of conventional science.
Indeed, the contrary is true. Von Bertalanffy is firmly set against the reductionism which characterises
most areas of scientific endeavour, with its emphasis upon modes of enquiry based upon the methods and principles of conventional physics. .
( ) He views his general systems theory as providing an alternative
to this ; instead of reducing all phenomena of study to physical events, he advocates that we study them as systems.
. His positivism is thus of a non-traditional kind and is
dominated by the metaphor of system as an organising concept.
Von Bertalanffy makes much use of the limitations of conventional physics as a means of advocating his general systems approach.
In this the difference
between closed and open systems plays a very important part.
Von Bertalanffy argues that conventional physics deals mainly with closed systems, that is, systems which are considered to be isolated from their environment.
The method of the controlled
experiment, in which the subject of study is taken out of its environment and subjected to various tests, provides a very good example of this.
Such closed systems are characterised by
equilibrium. As von Bertalanffy puts it, a closed
system must, according to the second law of thermodynamics, eventually attain a time independent equilibrium state, with maximum entropy and minimum free energy, where the ratio between its phases remains constant(von Bertalanffy, 1950).
Open systems are quite different, in that they are characterised by an exchange with their environment.
They engage in transactions
with their environment, importing and exporting and changing themselves in the process. A living organism provides a good example of an open system, since it
maintains itself through a process of exchange with its environment, during the course of which there is a continuous building up and breaking down of component parts. The concept of an
open system is thus essentially processual. Whilst a closed system must eventually obtain an equilibrium state, an
open system will not. Given certain conditions, an open system may achieve a steady state, homeostasis, in which the system remains constant as a whole and in its phases, though
there is a constant flow of the component materials. However, such a steady state is not a necessary condition of open systems.
This is a point of the utmost importance, and it needs to be emphasized. An open system can take a
wide variety of forms. There are no general laws which dictate that it must achieve a steady state, be goal directed, evolve, regress or disintegrate. In theory, anything can happen. One
of the purposes of open systems theory is to study the pattern of relationships which characterise a system and its relationship to its environment in order to understand the way in which it operates.
The open systems approach does not carry with it the implication that any one particular kind of analogy is appropriate for studying all systems, since it is possible to discern different types of open system in practice.
The above point has not been clearly articulated and stressed in the literature on systems theory, at least not in the systems literature most often read by social scientists.
As for as most social scientists are concerned, there are two types of systems perspectives; open and closed.
The fact that the former encompasses a whole
range of possibilities is hardly ever recognized.
As a theoretical perspective in social science, the notion of a closed system tends to be avoided like a dreaded disease.
Von Bertalanffys argument that closed systems are characterized by isolation from
their environment has proved overwhelmingly successful in persuading social theorists that the closed systems approach is inappropriate as a guiding principle for the conceptualization of social phenomena.
Indeed, it has become almost obligatory for social systems theorists to decry the inadequacies of closed system theorizing, and the sport of attacking exponents of this now redundant perspective has
become an extremely popular one.
In the field of organization studies, for example, an attack upon the closed system thinking implicit in Webers model of bureaucracy or classical management theory provides a convenient springboard
for lauding the praises of the contemporary perspective of open .systems theory Paradoxically, however, as a method of analysis the notion of a closed system is
still dominant in many areas of social enquiry. The use of controlled experiments and interview programmes, and the attempt to measure social phenomena through attitude questionnaires, all provide examples of
closed system methodologies based upon the assumption that the environment generated by the investigation has no impact upon the subject of study. The paradox is compounded by the fact that such closed system
methodologies are often employed within the context of theoretical perspectives which emphasise the importance of an open systems approach. This link between theory
and method is an extremely problematic one in many areas of social science. The majority of systems models used in the social sciences tend to be based
upon mechanical and biological analogies, though in recent years increasing attention has been paid to cybernetic models as a basis of analysis. The mechanical models have been
derived directly from the physical sciences and tend to be underwritten by the assumption that the system has a tendency to achieve an equilibrium state. Since, as we have already noted,
equilibrium is only possible in closed systems, does this imply that all those theorists using mechanical models are working upon closed system principles? To the extent that most of
these theorists recognize the influence of the environment, the answer is no. Though adhering to the underlying concept of equilibrium- albeit mistakenly in theoretical terms- they modify their analysis
to allow for the fact that disequilibrium is a very common feature of the system; or that the situation is one of dynamic equilibrium,with system moving from one equilibrium state to to another,or that the system is characterized by homeostasis.
All these three strategies can be understood as attempts to save the notion of equilibrium as an organizing concept in open system situations where it is fundamentally inappropriate.
Homeostasis is an acceptable open system concept, but it implies an organismic as opposed to a mechanical analogy as an organizing principle. Mechanical models of social systems,
therefore, tend to be characterized by a number of theoretical contradictions and are thus of very limited value as methods of analysis in situations where the environment of the subject of study is of any real significance.
Among the most sophisticated and systematically developed mechanical equilibrium models in social science are those developed by Harvard School of sociologists, who took their lead from Pareto and L. J. Henderson.
Of these the models of Parsons(1951), Homans(1950), Barnard(1938), Mayo(1933), and Roethlisberger and Dickson(1939), are perhaps the best known and most readily
recognized. As noted earlier, the organismic analogy is built into Parsons(1951)analysis of the social system.It is also found in the work of Katz and Kahn(1966), the Tavistock group of researchers, for example, Miller and
Rice(1967), and countless other systems theorists, particularly those who have addressed themselves to the study of organizations. Such analyses are usually organized around general
principles such as the following: (a) that the system can be identified by some sort of boundary which differentiates it from its environment; (b) That the system is essentially
processual in nature; ( c ) that this process can be conceptualized in terms of a basic model which focuses upon input, throughput, output and feedback; (d) That the overall operation
of the system can be understood in terms of the satisfaction of system needs geared to survival or the achievement of homeostasis; (e) That the system is composed of
subsystems which contribute to the satisfaction of the systems overall needs; (f) that these subsystems, which themselves have identifiable boundaries, are in a state of mutual interdependence, both internally and in relation to their environment;
(g) That the operation of the system can be observed in terms of the behavior of its constituent elements; (h) that the critical activities within the context of system operation are those which involve boundary transactions, both
internally between subsystems and externally in relation to the environment. Most of these general principles apply to open systems of all kinds. Of particular importance as far as the organismic analogy is concerned are
those which imply that the system has needs; that these are necessarily geared to survival or homeostasis; and that the subsystems contribute to the well-being of the system as a whole. Buckleys analysis opens
up new horizons as far as systems theory in social science is concerned. Buckleys morphogenic view of society takes him away from that of the majority of more
conventional social systems theorists, in that he sees social structure as emerging from the process of social interaction. He argues that in the realm of human activity it is the morphogenic nature
of social arrangements which is all important, and that systems models adequate for the task of analysing these processes need to be adopted. Walter buckley(1967) has provided a critique of the
inadequacies of conventional models used in social science in similar terms. It illustrates that systems analysis need not be confined to the use of a particular kind of
well-worn analogy, such as that of the organism. Other choices offer themselves for consideration. One of these, which has already been explored to a
certain extent, is that of the cybernetic model. Cybernetics has concerned itself with the study of phenomena which
behave as if they had goals. More specifically, it is concerned with the theory of complex interlocking chains of causation from which goal seeking and
self-controlling forms of behaviour emerge. Cybernetic models seek to cut through the substantive differences which exist between, for example, machines and
organisms, in an attempt to focus upon common systems. Such models offer a useful alternative to the traditional social system analogies in situations where the study of social
regulation or social engineering is a primary concern. Other analogies also offer themselves as a basis for systems analysis. If the concern is to study situations in which conflictual relationships tend to
predominate, then an analogy which emphasises that the system has a tendency to break up or divide may be more approperiate. Factional or catastrophic systems models may
provide a better explanation of the subject under study. One of the central problems facing the systems analyst is that of choosing an analogy
which reflects the basic nature of the phenomena to be investigated. Figure 4.1 presents an array of systems models arranged along a continuum describing the
extent to which they emphasize order and stability as opposed to conflict and change as a normal tendency in system operation. Type of system analogy Mechanical organismic Morphogeni
Fractional catastro Principal tendency Equilibrium Homeostasis Order and stability
Structure Turbulent elaboration division Conflict and change
Complete reorganization In certain respects a rough parallel can be drawn between this continuum and the regulationradical change dimension of the analytical scheme which we are
using to differentiate between paradigms in social theory. Generally speaking, the mechanical, organismic and morphogenic models are consistent with a perspective characteristic of the functionalist
paradigm; the other two models are more characteristic of the radical structuralist paradigm. The emphasis in our discussion here has been placed upon the fact that systems theory in
principle is not liked to the use of any one particular type of analogy. The fact that most applications have been based upon the mechanical and organismic
models, especially the latter, has often disguised this fact. The focus in modern systems theory is upon the way in which a system is organized internally and in relation to its environment.
It seeks to penetrate beyond the substantive nature of machine, organism or whatever to reveal its principle of organization. Systems theory is about organization the organization
of complexes of elements standing in interaction, to use von Bertalanffys words . The automatic selection of one particular kind of analogy to represent a system pre-empts
systems analysis, since each kind of analogy presumes a specific kind of structure and concommitant pattern of information process, exchange, behavior and the like. The selection of a particular type
of analogy to represent a system in advance of a detailed analysis of its structure and mode of operation is akin to prescription in advance of diagnosis. This has been the
principal problem with systems analysis in social science. It will be clear from the above discussion that systems theory is not intrinsically tied to any specific
view of social reality, except insofar as its general positivist orientation implies a social world characterized by some form of order and regularity which can be captured in the notion of system
Classical Influences on Organization Theory: There are really two streams contained within what organization theorists now call the Classical school.
The sociological stream focused on the changing shapes and roles of formal organizations within society and the broader influences of industrialization on the nature of
work and its consequences for workers. This was the interest of classical scholars such as Emile Durkheim,
Max Weber, and Karl Marx. The other stream comprises what organization theorists sometimes call Classical management theory to
distinguish it from the more sociological approach. This stream was shaped by Frederick Taylor, Henri Fayol,and Chester Barnard, among others ,
and focused on the practical problems faced by managers of industrial organizations In a way, the tension between theory and practice that has
been present in organization theory since its inception can be traced to these two influential streams of Classical thought. The ideas of both streams can be traced back even
further to the influence of the famous politicaleconomist Adam Smith. I will introduce you to some of the ideas of these influential pioneers of social science and suggest links
between their ideas and the three perspectives of organization theory. Since organization theory did not emerge as a recognizable field of study
until sometime in the 1960s,what is called the Classical period is really part of its prehistory. Adam Smith, PoliticalEconomist(Scottish)
If you search for the origins of organization theory, you will most likely meet the politicaleconomist Adam Smith, who, in 1776,published The Wealth of Nations. In this book, Smith
described techniques of pin manufacturing and, in doing so, was the first to record and explain the efficiencies inherent in the division of labor.
The division of labor has to do with the differentiation of work tasks and the resulting specialization of labor, ideas that are central to the concept of social structure in organizations.
This is why many organization theorists give Smith the place of honor in their intellectual histories.
Karl Marx,PhilosopherEconomist(German) Karl Marx is perhaps best known for his theory of capital and related ideas about alienation.
The theory of capital is built upon Marxs belief that collective work, or labor, forms the foundation for the social world. He sees labor as emerging
from physical needs defined by the fundamental relationship between humans and their physical environment. Society and culture then
emerge from the challenges presented by discovering that collective work is more productive than individual work. In other words, the human
need to survive, which derives from the dangers and opportunities presented by the physical world, leads to the emergence of the social and cultural world.
The particular form taken by the social and cultural world, which then acts back upon the physical world, is subject to the relations of power worked out politically between those
who compromise and organize the labor-based collective. In his theory of capital,Marx argued that capitalism rests upon a fundamental antagonism between the interests of
capital(capitalists,e.g.,the owners of factories and the means of production) and those of labor(i.e.,the workers whose activities form the core of the production process).
The antagonism, in part,arises over how to divide the surplus value(i.e. excess profits)generated by the combination of labor and capital produced when products or services are exchanged on a market at a price that is higher than production costs.
Each side, naturally, argues that the surplus should belong to them,and therefore the capitalist system is characterized by a struggle between the interests of capital and those of labor.
But antagonism between labor and capital also arises from the necessity to ensure profitability. Without profitability, the
survival of the individual firm and the entire capitalist economy would be in jeopardy. Profitability depends upon the organization
and control of work activity. This is because competition from other firms puts downward pressure on the prices for a firms products and services, which translates into
a need to reduce the costs of production, of which labor is a large component. This encourages capitalists to pressure labor to work more efficiently,which is accomplished by
inventing new forms of managerial control over workers and work processes. The control systems become additional sources of antagonism between
management and workers who attempt to resist this control. Marxist theory considers control to be one of the key themes of organization theory, which in Classical management theory and
modernist organization theory is interpreted as a primary function of the executive, and in postmodern theories becomes a foundation for critiques of managerialism. Because capitalists own the means of
production(i.e., the plant, equipment, and other necessities of economic enterprise),they often have greater political power to design organizational control systems than do their workers who depend upon them to supply employment,machines, and other
resources needed to transform their labor potential into marketable products or services. Capitalists tend to use their greater power to further disempower workers, for example, by replacing worker
control over work with managerial control, creating competition among workers via differential pay or through the division of labor. All of these tactics reduce the workers collective political
influence and hence their ability to resist managements efforts to control them. Once labor is defined as a cost of production,rather than as a means to achieve a collective purpose for the
good of society,workers are disenfranchised from the product of their own work efforts,a condition that Marx characterized as alienation. According to Marx, alienation occurs when labor is transformed
into a commodity to be bought and sold on an exchange market, which leaves humans with only an instrumental relationship with one another based on the economic value of their labor potential.
Unless the workers organize their resistance(e.g.,via unions), managerial exploitation and the disempowerment and alienation of workers will grow unabated.
Thus, according to Marx, the result of antagonism between capital and labor is build up of institutionalized forms of mutual control and resistance(e.g., management vs.unions)temporarily held in place by the dynamics of a
capitalist economy. This line of thinking has been a major influence on contemporary discussions in industrial sociology and labor process theory.
Emile Durkheim, Sociologist(French) Over one hundred years after Smith introduced the concept of the division of labor,French sociologist Emile Durkheim
wrote his book on the subject. In The Division of Labor in Society,published in 1893, Durkheim extended the concept of the division of labor beyond manufacturing organizations to
explain the structural shift from agricultural to industrial societies that accomplished the industrial revolution. Durkheim described this shift in terms of increases
in specialization, hierarchy, and the interdependence of work tasks. Early modernist organization theorists regarded these concepts
as key dimensions for defining and describing complex organizations. Durkheim also proposed the distinction between formal and informal aspects of organizations
and emphasized the need to attend to workers social needs as well as the demands of formally organizing their work efforts. The theme of social needs is of major interest within the
fields of organizational behavior, and industrial and organizational psychology. The distinction between formal and informal aspects of organizing exposed the tension
between economic and humanistic aspects of organizing that vex organizers and have traditionally divided organization theorists into opposing camps. In addition to his work on the
division of labor, Durkheim made a major contribution to establishing sociology as a scientific discipline through his work on methodology. Particularly with his books The
Rules of Sociological Method and Suicide, which emphasized objective measurement and statistical description and analysis, Durkheim helped lay positivistic methodological foundations, not only for sociology, but also for
modernist organization theory. Frederick Winslow Taylor, Founder of Scientific Management(American) At the turn of the century, Frederick W. Taylor proposed
applying scientific methods to discover the most efficient working techniques for manual forms of labor. Taylor called his approach Scientific Management, and he
claimed that its successful application would fully exploit the efficiencies of specialized labor through the close supervision of employees carrying out highly specialized physical work.
Efficiency was to be encouraged and supported by a piece-rate incentive system in which workers were paid according to the amount of work of a pre-specified nature that they performed in a given period of time
The new system permitted management to define the tasks that workers performed, and also determine how they approached these tasks.
Notice also how Taylors method shifted control of work tasks from craftsworkers to management.
In Taylors view, Scientific Management was a direct attack on worker soldiering, a practice in which workers limited their output in the interests of maximizing their incomes and assuring job protection for themselves and fellow workers.
( workers reasoned that a given amount of work done slowly requires more workers).
Taylors system undermined the authority of the workers and their master craftsmen by introducing managerial control and supervision, and by offering differential pay for performance which eroded
worker solidarity. These aspects of Scientific Management earned it considerable and lasting ill-repute as being ruinously ignorant of the trust and cooperation between
management and workers upon which organizations depend. So much furor was created by Taylor that Scientific Management was the subject of an
American Congressional investigation. This controversy has recently re-emerged in postmodern criticism of modernist management practices where Taylorism and its subsequent developments by
Henry Ford (involving the mass-production assembly line which some postmodernists refer to as Fordism) are a favorite target along with the Tayloristic practices associated with the total quality management(TQM) movement.
Perhaps the most enduring image of Taylor is as a promoter of rationalization in organizations. His belief in the powers of objective
measurement and the discovery of laws governing work efficiency are carried into the modernist perspective in organization theory where Taylors techniques lay the groundwork for management control systems.
Today, postmodern organization theorists reinterpret Taylorism as an early manifestation of the managerial ideology of control.
They see Taylors system, not so much as a means of the value for rationality that was unquestioningly accepted during the early part of the twentieth century.
In this view, Taylorism legitimizes management, particularly in its role as control agent, by asserting that the practices of Scientific Management must be
accepted because they are rational. Henri Fayol, Engineer, CEO, and Administrative Theorist(Fremch)