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Human Organizations and Social Theory

Human Organizations and Social Theory: Pragmatism, Pluralism, and Adaptation

Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Human Organizations and Social Theory
    Book Description:

    In the 1930s, George Herbert Mead and other leading social scientists established the modern empirical analysis of social interaction and communication, enabling theories of cognitive development, language acquisition, interaction, government, law and legal processes, and the social construction of the self. However, they could not provide a comparably empirical analysis of human organization, one that could show how interactive communication actually came about. They could say how people communicate to establish mutual relationships but not what they communicate. _x000B__x000B_The theory in this book fills in the missing analysis of organizations and specifies the pragmatic analysis of communication with an adaptation of information theory to ordinary unmediated communications. In the process it brings together four major streams of modern empirical social analysis: the developmental-social psychology associated with Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky; the cultural-ecological analyses associated with Esther Boserup; the language and culture tradition identified with Benjamin Whorf, Edward Sapir, and Paul Friedrich; and the more empirical streams of economic theory identified with Frank Knight, Paul Samuelson, and Theodore Schultz._x000B__x000B_Human Organizations and Social Theory also provides the theoretical basis for understanding the success of pragmatically grounded public policies, from the New Deal through the postwar reconstruction of Europe and Japan to the ongoing development of the European Union, in contrast to the persistent failure of positivistic and Marxist policies and programs. Expanding on previous work in social constructivism, this consistent and comprehensive constructionist analysis of human organization powerfully integrates the most successful traditions of modern social, psychological, and legal theory.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09171-1
    Subjects: Anthropology, Language & Literature, Linguistics

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiii)
    (pp. xiv-xvi)
  8. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    A new kind of social theory is emerging in anthropology. It is in every respect a new paradigm in Thomas Kuhn’s sense, comparable to the Copernican revolution in physics (1962, 43). Leaving behind empirically ungrounded divisions, this social theory is cultural as well as social, cognitive as well as structural, theoretical as well as applied. It is focused on values as well as rules, cosmology and folklore as well as material culture and ecology, formal analysis of cultural ideas as well as the dynamics of human evolution. It recognizes the social construction of reality, but it also recognizes that such...

  9. CHAPTER 1 Empirical Starting Points
    (pp. 15-38)

    Notwithstanding the increasing murkiness in what has been regarded as general social theory associated with the rise and fall of positivism over the last seventy-odd years, there have been important pockets of illumination, new and important clarifications of complex and elusive matters of fact that a comprehensive empirical theory must incorporate.

    Anthropologists and sociologists often start discussions of organizational theory with a distinction between emic aggregates that are recognized as meaningful by their participants and etic aggregates based on objective criteria imposed by an outside viewer. A family might be an example of the former; a group waiting to cross...

  10. CHAPTER 2 Skepticism, Pragmatism, and Kant
    (pp. 39-66)

    In recent years, skepticism has been enjoying renewed attention, emphasizing the issues of scientific method that concern us here (McGowan 1974; Burnyeat 1983; Fogelin 1985; Shapin and Schaffer 1985). There is a related but more broadly focused revival of interest in pragmatism (Meltzer, Petras, and Reynolds 1974; Goodman 1995; Hollinger and Depew 1995; Langsdorf and Smith 1995; Rosenthal, Hausman, and Anderson 1999).

    Hollinger and Depew’sPragmatism: From Progressivism to Postmodernism(1995) retains a clear sense of what pragmatism was originally and how successive adherents to this original conception have distinguished themselves first from those who attempted to assimilate it to...

  11. CHAPTER 3 New Tools
    (pp. 67-81)

    The problem of showing how large-scale social patterns emerge from individual decisions is central to social science. The first complete instance was Adam Smith’s description of the way individual-level efficiency-seeking behavior leads to large-scale efficiency in the division of labor. But Smith’s analysis was facilitated by the fact that economic outcomes are denominated with money. Money has been established and enforced to objectivize economic preferences, and this objectivization in turn permits this kind of emergence. The problem of building a comparable analysis in realms in which there is no such cultural device has been far more difficult to conceptualize. But...

  12. CHAPTER 4 Social Idea Systems
    (pp. 82-133)

    I have said that social idea systems are cultural idea systems established in wide and firm consensus. But what is consensus? How do members of the community establish it, and how do analysts observe it?

    When we speak of consensus, we cannot actually mean agreement in what people privately think. We have no way of observing this. We mean, operationally, public expressions of agreement in or support for the ideas represented in public expressions or enactments. These enactments are of just three kinds. One is ceremonies or demonstrations, meaning stereotyped enactments in behavior. The second is folk models, meaning stereotyped...

  13. CHAPTER 5 Technical Information Systems
    (pp. 134-139)

    Social information systems provide the ideas needed to enable people to agree on who will do the work. Technical idea systems define how to do it. Familiar systems of this sort in developed societies include Euclidian geometry and linear programming, the established theories of the sciences, the conceptual techniques of the various branches of engineering, and the equipment and associated working knowledge that distinguishes, for example, a farm from a barber shop.

    In the last twenty years, writers concerned with development policy have come to stress the importance of incorporating or being responsive to local knowledge (Timberlake 1985), time and...

  14. CHAPTER 6 Organizations
    (pp. 140-174)

    It is important to characterize the relationship between the ideas in the idea systems and their use in building organizational charters and social relationships. This question has two main aspects: How are the images and conceptual relations defined in the idea systems transformed or transposed in forming agreed-upon conceptualizations of behavior, and how are the choices defined in the idea systems transformed or transposed to choices for individual and collective action?

    Michael Fischer and his students (2002) have focused mainly on the latter problem in trying to formulate the way cultural ideas derived from textual analysis can be deployed in...

  15. CHAPTER 7 Groups and Institutions
    (pp. 175-194)

    Now we have the pieces needed to show where the perplexing sense of an institution comes from. First, attend more closely to the perplexity. When we try to explain how an institution is organized, exactly what does it feel like? There are many kinds of perplexity. What kind is this? The first observation is that we have encountered it before. The mind seems to seize up; we know we cannot answer it without being able to know why. It is like trying to answer a question such as “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” or “How do you...

  16. CHAPTER 8 Adaptation
    (pp. 195-210)

    Given what organizations are and how they form, we can build our analysis of their relation to adaptation.

    The new cultural ecological studies have reaffirmed the need to recognize individual rationality as an adaptive mechanism. But what produces rationality? The answer lies in the relationship between multiple organizations and the formation of a sense of self, a self-identification. The argument extends Kant’s analysis of the self as a noumenal projection described in chapter 2. First, in order to have individual rationality, one must have a concept of an individual self to locate it in. Rationality implies purpose, and purpose requires...

  17. CHAPTER 9 Conclusion
    (pp. 211-220)

    My complete analysis is schematized in figure 21. This is a representation of what people do, not something they are supposed to be in. Creating an organization and a sense of being in it in an organized situation is a central part of the process around which is created the further sense of an organizational context, a community, and an ecological adaptation. This is a description of the way communities use and sustain their cultural idea systems and the organizations based on them.

    The model is iterative, cyclical, and recursive. It is iterative in the sense that it applies at...

  18. NOTES
    (pp. 221-224)
    (pp. 225-236)
  20. INDEX
    (pp. 237-244)
  21. Back Matter
    (pp. 245-249)