This 3 credit hour course investigates one of the great achievements-and perhaps the greatest danger-of our civilization, the large formal organization. We will learn how bureaucracies arise; the logic of their operation; their often unanticipated, but systematically caused problems; environmental and technological forces that alter and threaten them; how power, prestige and wealth is concentrated but unevenly distributed within organizations; and how organizational forms and processes are changing in response to globalization and other social and economic transformations. This is a writing intensive course that satisfies the General Studies "Literacy" (L) as well as the "Social and Behavioral" (SB) requirement. The course is organized as a seminar, with lectures, student-led and instructor-led discussion, and small group activities as the means of instruction.




COURSE WEB PAGE: (Don't forget the tilda mark "~")

In addition to some supplemental readings and the course syllabus, the course web page has a study guide for every week of the class, including examples of essay questions that may appear on exams.


The exams will combine multiple choice, matching, and short essay format. They will assess your ability to identify, define, explain, apply, analyze and evaluate the concepts and theories in the course. Exams will cover both assigned readings and material presented in class. If you miss an exam, to be accommodated you must promptly present the instructor with a physician's note describing a medical emergency that prevented you from being present at the exam, or official documentation of a similar grave emergency.


Topics for the three required papers appear below. These papers must be written in essay format, typed, double spaced, stapled, and not in excess of five pages in length. Do not include a title page or use covers. Put only your name and student ID # on the reverse side of the last page. Papers will be graded on sociological content, persuasiveness of the argument, the incorporation of ideas from assigned readings, and technical competence of the writing (spelling, grammar, syntax, composition). For writing problems, help in improving your writing, and tips on how to write an effective essay contact the ASU Writing Center (, 965-4272). Note on late papers: After papers are collected in class on the due date, grades for late papers will be lowered by a half-letter grade for each day or portion of a day they are overdue.

First paper topic: An example and a critique of "rationalization."

Describe in detail how the process of "rationalization" as discussed by Ritzer applies to an example of your choice, but one that is different than those mentioned by Ritzer. Your essay should include four parts. First, succinctly restate the key features of rationalization, drawing on the relevant points from Ritzer's book and other reading assignments. Secondly, introduce your organizational example by describing the organizational context within which it occurs, who is involved or affected by it, whether it is a new or long standing phenomenon, and whether it is strictly local, regional, national and global in scope. Thirdly, describe the degree to which your example demonstrates all of the various components of rationalization, including the degree to which it shows what Ritzer calls the "irrationality of rationality" and the "iron cage of rationality." Conclude with a section which addresses the following issues: (1) Is "rationalization" and its attendant "irrationalities" inevitable in these circumstances? (2) Are the benefits of "rationalization" worth the cost of the "irrationalities?" (3) What forces lead society to tolerate, or promote, the presence of these "irrationalities?" (Due September 18)

Second paper topic: A case study of organizational environments.

Select an organization that interests you and one that you can study in depth through library resources. Your essay should focus on depicting the "environment" of this organization from three theoretical perspectives: resource dependency, population ecology, and "institutional" theory. Structure the essay as follows. First, briefly describe the organization, why you selected it, its major products or services, general location(s), capsule history, and the types & number of employees. Second, describe how each of the theoretical perspectives mentioned above would conceptualize and define the key elements in the "environment" of this organization, noting any similarities and differences. Conclude with an analysis of the relative merits and limitations of each of these three perspectives in capturing the important aspects of your organization's environment: which part(s) of the environment does each perspective describe well, which part(s) does each one overlook, and which part(s) does each one misrepresent? Based on your case analysis, evaluate the relative usefulness and relevance of each of these theoretical perspectives on environments. Attach to your essay a bibliography of the print sources you consulted for details on the organization you selected. (Due October 23)

Third paper topic: Organizations in 2020.

Based on your reflections on our assigned readings about organizational change, organizational effectiveness, and emerging organizational forms, write an essay outlining what you see as the most important dynamics that are changing the shape of our society's organizations and how we experience them. In what key ways might organizations be different in two decades, and why? In developing your thoughts on these issues, consider the following questions.


To conduct this class as a seminar we must all be responsible for exploring the major ideas covered by the course. You will facilitate discussion during one or two of our class sessions (depending on the number of students in the class), working with other students. Here are the ground rules:


If you need disability accommodations or will miss class or a test on a religious holiday, see the instructor before the end of the second week of the semester. Such information is confidential.


Cheating on tests or plagiarized papers are serious offenses, with penalties that can include a grade of E for the course, even expulsion from the university. Plagiarism is the use of verbatim quotations or paraphrases of someone else's writing (including another student's) without fully and properly citing that work. Verbatim quotations must be enclosed inside quotation marks.


Note that all readings assignments except the first week are to be completed before class sessions.



Major Topics

Required Reading Assignments


8/21 8/23


Ritzer, Chapters 1 & 2; Jaffee, Chapter 1


8/28 8/30

Theory & Development of Bureaucracy: Rationalistic Models

Ritzer, Chapter 3 & 4; Jaffee, pp.89-94,105-111


9/4 9/6

Scientific Management and Its Legacy

Ritzer, Chapter 5 & 6; Jaffee, Chapter 3 & pp. 111-123


9/11 9/13

Bureaucratic Dysfunction

Ritzer, Chapters 7 & 8; Jaffee, pp. 94.-105


9/18 9/20

The Non-rational Organization and Organizational Culture

Jaffee, Chapter 4, 7


9/25 9/27

Organization Theory

Jaffee, Chapter 2; Knoke, Chapter 2


10/2 10/4

Organizational Technology and Structure

Jaffee, Chapter 8; Knoke, Chapter 3


10/9 10/11

***MIDTERM EXAM 10/9 *** Organizational Environments

Jaffee, Chapter 9


10/16 10/18

Institutionalism, Markets, & Networks

Jaffee, Chapter 10; Knoke, Chapter 4 & Appendix


10/23 10/25

Organizational Change and Effectiveness

Knoke, Chapters 1 & 5


10/30 11/1

Emerging Organizational Forms

Jaffee, Chapter 6; Ritzer, Chapters 9 & 10


11/6 11/8

Organizational Power, Authority, and Conflict

Knoke, Chapters 7 & 9


11/13 11/15

Employee Relationships: Democracy and Inequality

Knoke, Chapters 6 & 8


11/27 12/4

Future of Organizational Theory

Jaffee, Chapter 11; Knoke, Chapter 10


**FINAL EXAM 10:00-11:50**



(Suggested for all; required only for graduate students)


  • Charles Perrow, "Short & Glorious History of Organizational Theory," Organizational Dynamics, Summer 1973.


  • Arthur Stinchcombe, "Social Structure and Organization," in JohnG. March (ed.), Handbook of Organizations


  • Harry Braverman, Labor and Monopoly Capital, Chapters 4, 5


  • ARS 25[1999]:271-305 (Vaughan)
  • Robert Merton, Social Theory & Social Structure, 249-260.
  • Philip Selznick, TVA and the Grass Roots, Chapter 7 & Conclusions
  • Charles Perrow, Normal Accidents : Living with High-risk Technologies. Basic Books, 1984.


  • ARS 22[1996]:213-238 (Wellman)
  • Peter Blau, Dynamics of Bureaucracy, 201-219.
  • Michael Burawoy, Manufacturing Consent, Chapter 4
  • Richard Edwards, Contested Terrain, Chapter 8-11


  • Claudia Schoonhaven, "Problems with contingency theory," Administrative Science Quarterly 26:349-77


  • ARS 25[1999]:575-596 (Liker
  • Alfred Chandler, The Visible Hand, Belknap Press, 1977, pp. 377-483.
  • Jay Galbraith, "Organization design: an information processing view." Interfaces 4[1974]:28-36.
  • Arthur Stinchcombe, Information and Organizations, U. of CA Press, 1990, pp. 1-20.


  • Michael T. Hannan & John Freeman, "Population ecology of organizations," American Journal of Sociology, 82[1977]:929-64.
  • Howard E. Aldrich & Jeffrey Pfeffer, "Environments of Organizations," Annual Review of Sociology, 1976, 79-105.


  • ARS 23[1997]:341-360 (Lie)
  • ARS 23[1997]:1-18 (Stinchcombe)
  • ARS 24[1998]:57-76 (Polodny)
  • Walter Powell, "Neither market nor hierarchy." Research in Organization Behavior 12[1990]: 295-336
  • Brian Uzzi, "The sources & consequences of embeddedness." American Sociological Review 61[1996]:674-98
  • Paul DiMaggio & Walter Powell, The New Institutionalism in Organizational Analysis, 1991.
  • Candace Jones, W. Hesterly, & S.P. Borgatti. "A general theory of network governance." Academy of Management Review 22[1997]:911-945.


  • ARS 25[1999]:597-622 (Hage)
  • Bennett Harrison, Lean and Mean, Basic Books, 1994.


  • ARS 23[1997]:215-231 (Leicht)
  • ARS 23[1997]:315-339 (Smith)
  • ARS 24[1998]:141-157 (Burris)
  • Neil Fligstein, The Transformation of Corporate Control or Amer. Sociological Review 50:377-91


  • ARS 22[1996]:271-298 (Mizruchi)
  • Jeffrey Pfeffer & Gerald Salancik, "Organizational decision making as a political process: The case of a university budget." Administrative Science Quarterly 19[1974]:135-51.
  • Amitai Etzioni, "Basis for Comparative Analysis of Complex Organizations," Sociological Reader on Complex Organization, 59-76.
  • Edward Gross & Amitai Etzioni, "Administrative and Professional Authority," Organizations in Society, 135-158.
  • Michel Crozier, The Bureaucratic Phenomenon, Chapter 6.


  • ARS 25[1999]:335-361 (Reskin
  • ARS 23[1997]:19-38 (Cavalita,
  • ARS 25[1999]:121-144 (Kang/Sorenson)
  • ARS 25[1999]:73-93 (Williams
  • Seymour M. Lipset, M. Trow and J. Coleman, Union Democracy, Part V-Conclusion
  • Sociological Perspectives, Vol. 35, No. 1 [1992] Skim entire issue.
  • Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Men and Women of the Corporation

ARS ===> Articles from the Annual Review of Sociology