This course will survey the contemporary literature in organization theory, in order to provide an overview of the field. The assumption that guides the course is that contemporary organization theory (OT) had its roots in the work of late 19th and early 20th century sociologists, particularly Max Weber. The contributions of Weber and others provided the basis for the development of what has been called Structural Contingency Theory in the 1960s and early 1970s. For a time, structural contingency theory provided an integrative paradigm roughly similar to those that Kuhn describes for normal science disciplines. But the dominance of structural contingency theory broke down in the late 1970s, because of critiques of the perspective and the openness of organization theory to conceptual imports from other disciplines. The outcome of the breakdown was the differentiation of the field into a number of distinct perspectives, many of which conceptualized organizations and their relationships with their environments by borrowing heavily from other social or even natural science disciplines. These perspectives have now become institutionalized as distinct schools of thought in OT, though none has yet emerged as a hegemonic new paradigm.
The perspective outlined above is one approach to understanding the recent intellectual history of OT, though certainly not the only possible one. It provides a framework within which to organize the readings for this course.