MB 851 - Macro-Organizational Theory


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FULTON 240 Tuesday 1:30-4 PM

Professor Candace Jones

Organization Studies Dept

Phone : 617-552-0457

Office: Fulton 435

Office Hours: Tuesday 4-5 pm & by appointment

e-mail: jonescq@bc.edu



This course exposes students to foundational and current research in organization theory. Organization theory examines organizations as complex systems interacting with their environment. Macro organization theory emphasizes the interplay of organization-level structures, processes, and mechanisms with their wider environmental and political context. Although we are exposed to both economic, ecological and sociological theoretical traditions, much of the research and theory traditions derive from sociological foundations (as opposed to psychological foundations in the Micro-Organization course). The course sessions will introduce key papers dealing with three kinds:

  1. Theoretical approaches to studying organizations. Foundation and review articles of a theoretical tradition are provided.
  2. Criticisms of each theoretical tradition by scholars.
  3. Empirical research from a particular theoretical tradition, or research that combines and contrasts traditions are provided. Contemporary research is drawn from our primary research journals such as Administrative Science Quarterly, Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, American Journal of Sociology, Organization Science, Organization Studies



Scott, Richard W. 1998. Organizations: Rational, Natural, and Open Systems. EnglewoodCliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 4th edition.

Aldrich, Howard E. 1999. Organizations Evolving. London: Sage.

Most articles are available in PDF format through links embedded in this page. For other articles or  book chapters, hard copies will abe available in Fulton 430.



The seminar is reading- and writing-intensive. Each week we will use a set of required readings to identify and explore key theoretical, conceptual, and methodological issues in the behavioral study of organizations. Designated class members will each week prepare short critical review commentaries on the readings for the particular session; these can be done in collaboration. In class, we will combine short lecture with focused discussion of the readings and the broader session topic. In addition to reading and the preparation of short critical memos during the term, there is a paper.

Critical reading memos on an article emailed to me the day before each class session. 25%. The memo should roughly folow the flowing format:
1 to 1 page single sided
In the first paragraph, please answer the following questions: what is the research question in this article? What are the basic assumptions of the author(s)? What are the author(s)’ key constructs in the theory? How do organizations change or evolve (e.g., who acts and what mechanisms/processes enhance or deter change)?
In the second paragraph, please provide your response to the theory: does it convince you? Why or why not? How does this theory compare with a theory that you does convince you? What are the similarities and/or differences? How does this theory extend (or misguide) our understanding of organizations and environments?


Participation in the course. 25%.


Research paper. 50%. An outline of the final paper is due February 26th. A rough draft is due April 26 to all class members. As a class, we will read and feedback ways to improve the paper on April 30th. The Final paper is due May 7th.
The paper should be a review and extension of a theoretical stream or issue covered in the course.


Several colleagues, who shared their syllabi with me, aided the development of my syllabus. I thank Doug Creed, Frank Dobbins, Joe Galaskiewicz, and Marc Ventresca for their experience, insights and generosity.



A Map of the Territory: Overview

Scott- chapters 1-5 pp. 1-116

Astley, G. & A.H. Van de Ven. 1983. Central Debates In Organization Theory, 28: 245-273

Jan 22 Scott chapters 6-8, pp. 118-209

Scott chapter 9 pp. 210-239

Thompson, J.D. 1967. Organizations in Action. New York: McGraw –Hill. Chapters 2, 4 & 5 pp. 14-24, 39-50, 51-64.

Lawrence P.D. & Lorsch, J.W. 1967. Differentiation and integration in complex organizations. Administrative Science Quarterly, 12: 1-47.

Barley, S.R. 1986. Technology as an occasion for structuring: Evidence from observations of CT scanners and the social order of radiology departments. Administrative Science Quarterly, 31: 78-108.



Scott chapter 11 pp. 267-294

Emerson, R.M. 1962. Power dependence relations. American Sociological Review, 27: 31-40.

March, J.G. 1962. The business firm as a political coalition. Journal of Politics, 24: 662-678.

Thompson, J.D. 1967. Organizations in Action. New York: McGraw –Hill. Chapter, 3, pp. 25-38.

Pfeffer, J. & Salancik, G.R.. 1977 "Who gets power—and how they hold onto it: A strategic-contingency model of power." Organizational Dynamics (winter):70-77


Gargiulo, Martin. 1993 Two step leverage: Managing constraint in organizational politics. Administrative Science Quarterly, 38: 1-19.

Stevenson, William & Greenberg, Danna. 2000. Agency and social networks: Strategies of action in a social structure of position, opposition and opportunity. Administrative Science Quarterly, 45: 651-678.

Feb. 12 AGENCY


Eisenhardt, Kathleen M. 1989. Agency theory: An assessment and review. Academy of Management Review, 14:57-74.


Eisenhardt, Kathleen M. 1988. Agency and Institutional theory explanations: The case of retail sales compensation. Academy of Management Journal, 488-511.

Abrahamson, E. & C. Park. 1994. "Concealment of negative outcomes: An agency theory perspective." Academy of Management Journal, 37: 1302-1334.

Davis, Gerald F. 1991. Agents without principals? The spread of the poison pill through the intercorporate network. Administrative Science Quarterly, 36, 583-614.



Williamson, O.E. 1981. The economics of organization: The transaction cost approach. American Journal of Sociology, 87: 543-577.

Hesterly, W.S. Liebeskind, J. & Zenger, T. 1990. Academy of Management Review, 15: 402-420.


Walker, Gordon & Weber, D. 1984. A transaction cost approach to make or buy decisions. Administrative Science Quarterly, 29, 373-391.

Walker, Gordon & Weber, D. 1984. Errata: A transaction cost approach to make or buy decisions. Administrative Science Quarterly, 29, 627.

Dyer, Jeffrey H. 1997. Effective interfirm collaboration: How firms minimize transaction costs and maximize transaction value. Strategic Management Journal, 18: 535-556.

Criticisms & Extensions:

Zajac, E. J. & Olsen, C.P.. 1993. From transaction cost to transaction value analysis: Implications for the study of interorganizational strategies. Journal of Management Studies, 30 (1): 131-145.

Ghoshal, Sumantra & Moran, Peter. 1996. Bad for practice: A critique of transaction cost theory. Academy of Management Review, 21:13-47.

Williamson, Oliver E. 1996. Economic organization: The case for candor. Academy of Management Review, 21:48-57.

Moran, Peter & Ghoshal, Sumantra. 1996. Theories of economic organization: the case for realism and balance. Academy of Management Review, 21:58-72.




Granovetter, Mark S. 1982. The strength of weak ties: A network theory revisited. In P. Marsden & N. Lin (Eds.), Social structure and network analysis: 105-130. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

Granovetter, Mark S. 1985. Economic action and social structure: The problem of embeddedness. American Journal of Sociology, 91: 481-510.

Powell, Walter W. 1990. Neither Markets nor Hierarchies: Network Forms of Organization. In Staw and Cummings (eds) Research in Organizational Behavior. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press, 12: 295-336.

Jones, C. Hesterly, W.S. & Borgatti, S.P 1997. Network governance: Exchange conditions and social mechanisms. Academy of Management Review, 22: 911-945.


Uzzi, B. 1997. "Social Structure and Competition in Interfirm Networks: The Paradox of Embeddedness." Administrative Science Quarterly, 42:35-67.

Criticisms & Extensions:

Dacin, M.T., M.J. Ventresca, & B.D. Beal. 1999 'The embeddedness of organizations: Dialogue and directions. Journal of Management, 25, 317-356.

OUTLINE OF PAPER DUE including paper topic, gap in prior research you wish to explain, and research question driving the paper.



Aldrich, HE. & Whetten, D. 1981. "Organization-sets, Action-sets, and Networks: Making the Most of Simplicity." Pp. 385-408 in Handbook of Organizational Design, Vol. 1 edited by Paul C. Nystrom & William H. Starbuck. New York: Oxford University Press.

Burt, Ronald S. 2000. The network structure of social capital. In Barry Staw (eds.) Research in Organizational Behavior. 22: 93 pages


Ansell, C.K. & J.F. Padgett. 1993 "Robust action and the rise of the Medici, 1400-1434." American Journal of Sociology, 98: 1259-1319.

Criticisms & Extensions:

Salancik, G.R. 1995. Wanted: A good network theory of organizations. Administrative Science Quarterly, 40:343-348.


Galaskiewicz, Joseph. 1985. Interorganizational relations. Annual Review of Sociology, 11:281-304.


Selznick, Phillip. 1948. Foundations of the theory of organizations. American Sociological Review, 13: 25-35.

Selznick, Phillip. 1957. Leadership in Administration: A Sociological Interpretation: Chapter 1 (pp. 1-28) Berkeley: University of California Press.

Zald, Myer N. & Denton, Patricia. 1963. From evangelism to general service: The transformation of the YMCA. Administrative Science Quarterly, 8: 214-234.

Clark, Burton R. 1972. The organizational saga in higher education. Administrative Science Quarterly, 17: 178-183.

Zucker, L. 1977. The role of institutionalization in cultural persistence. American Sociological Review, 42: 726-743.

Criticisms & Extensions:

Selznick. Phillip. 1996. Institutionalism "old" and "New". Administrative Science Quarterly, 41: 270-277.



Meyer, John & Rowan, Brian. 1977. Institutionalized organizations: Formal structure as myth and ceremony. American Journal of Sociology, 83: 340-363.

DiMaggio, Paul J. & Powell, Walter W. 1983. The iron cage revisited: Institutional isomorphism and collective rationality in organizational fields. American Sociological Review, 48: 147-160.

Oliver, C. 1991. 1991 ‘Strategic responses to institutional processes. Academy of Management Review, 16: 145-179.


Tolbert, Pamela & Zucker, Lynn G. 1988. Institutional sources of change in the formal structure of organizations: The diffusion of civil service reform, 1880-1935. Administrative Science Quarterly, 28: 22-40.

Leblebici, H., Salancik, G.R., Copay, A. and King, T. 1991 'Institutional change and the transformation of interorganizational fields: An organizational history of the U.S. radio broadcasting industry,' Administrative Science Quarterly, 36, 333-363.

Mizruchi, Mark & Fein, Lisa C. 1999. "The social construction of organizational knowledge: A study of the uses of coercive, mimetic and normative isomorphism." Administrative Science Quarterly, 44: 653-683.

Criticisms & Extensions

Hirsch, Paul M. & Lounsbury, Michael. 1997. Ending the family quarrel: Toward a reconciliation of "old" and "new" institutionalisms. American Behavioral Scientist, 40: 406-418.


Perrow, Charles. 1985. Review Essay: Overboard with myth and symbols. American Journal of Sociology, 91: 151-155.

Powell, Walter W. 1985. The institutionalization of rational organizations. Contemporary Sociology, 14: 564-566.

Hirsch, Paul M. 1997. Sociology without structure: Neoinstitutional theory meets brave new world. American Journal of Sociology, 102: 1702-1723.



Weick, Karl E. 1969. The Social Pscyhology of Organizing. New York: Random House. Chapter 1 pp. 1-23..

Weick, Karl E. 1977. Enactment processes in organizations. In Barry Staw and Gerald R. Salancik (eds), New Directions in Organizational Behavior: 267-333. Malabar, FL: Robert Kreiger.

Barley, S.R. & Tolbert, P. S. 1997. Institutionalization and structuration: Studying the links between action and institution. Organization Studies, 18: 93-117.


Barley, S.R. 1986. Technology as an occasion for structuring: Evidence from observations of CT scanners and the social order of radiology departments. Administrative Science Quarterly, 31: 78-108. (From Jan 29th)

Abbolafia, Mitchell & Kilduff, Martin. 1988. Enacting market crisis: The social construction of a speculative bubble: Administrative Science Quarterly, 33: 177-194.

Rao, Hayagreeva. 1994 'The social construction of reputation: Certification contests, legitimation, and the survival of organizations in the American automobile industry, 1895-1912,' Strategic Management Journal, 15, 29-44

Porac, J.F., Thomas, H.,  Wilson, F. Paton, D. and Kanfer, A. 1995. Rivalry and the industry model of Scottish knitwear producers. Administrative Science Quarterly, 40: 203-227.



Stinchcombe, Arthur. 1965. Social structure and organizations. In James G. March (Ed.), Handbook of Organizations: 142-169. Chicago: Rand McNally.

Hannan, Michael T. & Freeman, John. 1977. The population ecology of organizations. American Journal of Sociology, 82: 929-964.

Aldrich, Howard E.1999. Organizations Evolving. Chapter 10 pp. 265-297.

Baum, Joel A.C. 1996. Organizational ecology. In Stewart R. Clegg & Hardy, Cynthia (eds), Handbook of Organization Studies: 177-214. London: Sage.

Amburgey Terry L. & Rao, Hayagreeva. 1996. Organization ecology: Past, present and future directions. Academy of Management Journal, 39: 1265-1286.

Criticisms & Debates:

Baum, Joel A.C. & Powell, Walter W. 1995. Cultivating an institutional ecology of organizations. American Sociological Review, 60: 529-538.

Hannan, Michael T. & Carroll, Glenn R. 1995. Theory building and cheap talk about legitimation: Reply to Baum and Powell. American Sociological Review, 60: 539-544.


Aldrich, Howard E. Organizations Evolving. Chapter 2-4 pp. 20-74 Chapters 7-9 pp. 163-258

Nelson, R.R. 1994. Evolutionary theorizing about economic change. In Smelser, N.J. & Swedberg, R. (eds.), The Handbook of Economic Sociology: 108-136. 


Aldrich, Howard E. Organization Evolving. Chapter 11 pp. 298-330.

Lewin, Arie Y. & Volberda, Henk. 1999. Prolegmena on coevolution: A framework for research on strategy and new organizational forms. Organization Science, 10: 519-534.


Haveman, Heather & Rao, Hayagreeva. 1997. Structuring a theory of moral sentiments: Institutional and organizational coevolution in the early thrift industry. American Journal of Sociology, 102: 1606-1651.

Jones, Candace. 2001. The coevolution of entrepreneurial careers, institutional rules and competitive dynamics in American film, 1895-1920. Organization Studies, 6: 911-944.


April 30 Class feedback on rough draft of papers


Additional Articles:

Davis, G. 1996 Review Symposium: Evolutionary Dyanmics of Organizations. Administrative Science Quarterly, 538-543.

Rao, H., Davis, G., and Ward, A. 2000 Embeddedness, Social Identity and Mobility: Why Firms Leave the NASDAQ and Join the New York Stock Exchange. Administrative Science Quaterly, 45: 268-292.



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