May the source be with you, but remember the KISS principle ;-)
Home Switchboard Unix Administration Red Hat TCP/IP Networks Neoliberalism Toxic Managers
(slightly skeptical) Educational society promoting "Back to basics" movement against IT overcomplexity and  bastardization of classic Unix

Sociology and Social Psychology of Organizations

News See also Recommended Books Reviews
Conformism- Rebellion Spectrum  Open Source as a Social Phenomenon Tamotsu Shibutani Obit Etc

Since a corporation is indeed a kind of "living entity" it is often populated with the diversified (sometimes dysfunctional) personalities. Organizational goals (at the top level) are pretty fuzzy. Top management often distort organizational goals to suit their needs. There is also kind of organizational Ying, Yang dichotomy, the polarized interaction/interrelationship's) of the formal and the informal organizations (internal cliques).  The declared goals of the formal Organization are not necessarily those of the informal organization.  Corporate culture as it relates to members of organization provides some contexts, and parameters too strong deviation against which lead to expulsion, but there is an intricate interplay of formal and informal rules and often individual who blatantly ignore formal rules prosper in organization because their behavior corresponds to deeper and more important set of informal rules and customs.

Business decision making is based on so called bounded or limited rationality.  Rationality is defined as the behavior in which a person is able to chose among several alternatives (means) the subset that supposly helps him/her as well as other the organization members to achieve the goals dictated by higher levels of organizational hierarchy. But it is important to understand that rationality of an individual in business setting is limited because the number of alternatives he must explore is large and not all vital information is available at a time of decision and the facts that he might operate with are often distorted (that especially true for higher levels of hierarchy). Because of the limitations of the psychological capabilities and qualification of the individual (see Peter Principle), it is impossible for any business decision-maker to be purely rational.  That means that any organization is only partially rational, kind of Alice of Wonderland environment. 

It looks like human organizational behavior often more corresponds to primitive a stimulus-reaction pattern in symbolic environment that has a complex set of symbols from the current "stage" as well as several additional, background "stages" (like historical stage and fictional -- books read, film watched -- stage) than an intelligent choice among alternatives.

Due to information-processing limitations of individuals the system is designed in such a way that filter information while it flowing up the hierarchy. That means that information fed to the top is often completely distorted and has no links to reality. Training ("trained incapacity") and indoctrination also reduce rationality in organizations. Due to this effect of limited rationality, "organizational men" typically makes a decision not to maximize the utility as does the "economic man", but to "satisfy" superiors, who in their turn are completely unaware about the real situation due to information filtering process.

I think that one of breakthrough associated with so called symbolic interactions approach to social psychology (see the classic Shibutani book below) is that it tries to extend the usage of language (symbolic system) on areas of human behavior that are not directly associated with speech and cognition. This approach assumes that human beings live in a world of symbolic objects that includes but is not limited to symbols that represent things, ideas, people, activities, and purposes.  All the mite and in any activity individuals form non-linguistic symbols that help them to anticipate what others will do in response to their acts and plan their own subsequent acts as well as better control their own behavior.  In symbolic integrationist social psychology the human being is understood as complex symbolic language processing machine that acts and reacts to a composite symbolic environment consisting not only of the current "stage" but also what happened in the past and some "virtual world " stages  to which individual has access (created by books read, films watched, etc).

The capacity to employ symbols in imagining the responses of others to our own acts also gives us the capacity to be conscious of our selves. The individual can become an object to himself/herself.

The other Shibutani book, Improvised News: A Sociological Study of Rumor (1966), demonstrated that

 "rumors are not merely the result of faulty communication. In ambiguous situations, people often respond like pragmatic problem-solvers, pooling their intellectual resources-which include accurate data, guesses, beliefs, speculation-constructing consensus from whatever sources that are available. Since much of life is filled with ambiguity, this book is of much greater importance than is suggested by describing it as a study of rumor. Many of the most crucial personal, group, governmental and international decisions have to be made with inexact information. The increasingly rapid pace of social and environmental change necessitates increasingly rapid decision making amidst a flood of information, making the study of collective information processing in ambiguous situations critical."

Old News ;-)

The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life Books Erving Goffman

Life as Stage, December 8, 2001
Reviewer: Tanja Laden (Los Angeles, CA USA) - See all my reviews
Dr. Erving Goffman, after receiving his Ph.D. in 1953 at the University of Chicago, first published The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life as a monograph at the Social Sciences Research Centre at the University of Edinburgh in 1956. Published by Anchor Books in 1959, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life effectively elaborates on Thorstein Veblen's observations about the character of the Leisure Class. However, Goffman is particularly attentive to the performative and characteristic structure of society. With the idea that "the general notion that we make a presentation of ourselves to others," (252), Goffman's critical analysis of the individual and society illuminates Veblen's theory that the individual, aspiring to a higher social status, eventually becomes an emblem for that status.

Goffman delves into the interaction within tightly-knit social fabrics, revealing that the substantive transition of the individual into society is not nearly as important as his/her "performance."

Entry into a tight social circle, according to Goffman, requires "wearing a look" to avoid betraying his true stance. Goffman notes social principles are guided by moral characteristics, which eventually support that individual in society.

The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life is not merely a refutation of the adage, "you can't judge a book by its cover" - Photographer Arthur Felig's (also known as WeeGee) 1943 photograph of two impeccably bedecked tiara-sporting society dames, glared at meanly by a crotchety woman, is apt to prompt anyone to pick up the text for a browse.

Indeed, in Presenation's case, the photograph has a number of meanings in regard to the substance of the text. Those who "present" themselves in certain respects are often ignorant of the disparaging view they may elicit from others, but if these "others" remotely resemble the growling woman in the photograph, the performers most likely will not care. In addition to the splendid photo, Goffman offers a few little-known meanings of words often arising from society.

Whether the etymology of the word "tact" comes from society, Goffman effectively makes a case that it is a crucial maneuver in the swirling vortex of social circles. Throughout Presentation Goffman offers the point of view of "impression management" as a tool in studying social establishments, explicating them as actor on the proverbial stage. Impression Management serves to "prevent outsiders from coming into a performance that is not addressed to them."
Social Dominance : An Intergroup Theory of Social Hierarchy and Oppression ~ Usually ships in 24 hours
Jim Sidanius, Felicia Pratto / Hardcover / Published 1999
Our Price: $49.95
Table of Contents

"The authors lead us to question the assumption that discrimination and oppression have been overcome in our own recent history, or that they are manifested only by unenlightened individuals or countries. They provide a lucid, provocative account of the extent to which social dominance and discrimination transcend time and place. A compelling, well-documented account of group dominance processes--how they work, how they are manifested, and why they are so resistant to change. The authors provide evidence to show that group discrimination continues to be omni-present in all aspects of social life, e.g., the workplace, educational institutions, the judicial system, and health care systems. Social Dominance should be 'must' reading for social psychology courses. It takes our thinking of group processes in important, new directions." Daphne Bugental, University of California, Santa Barbara

"This volume by Sidanius and Pratto is a major scholarly accomplishment. Both conceptually and empirically, the book is a synthesis of cross-national, institutional, and individual levels of analysis. Although some of the premises of their social dominance theory will be controversial, the empirical data the authors have compiled are impressive and compelling. This work places the study of intergroup discrimination in a broader context than anything before has done." Marilynn Brewer, The Ohio State University

"Social Dominance is a work of potentially foundational importance for the study of intergroup attitudes, prejudice, racism, and discrimination. Sidanius and Pratto shed new light on the ubiquitous phenomena of group-based social hierarchy and the social psychological and institutional mechanisms that maintain it....There is a great deal of value here for any serious student of social inequality." Lawrence Bobo, Department of Sociology, Harvard University

"Social Dominance represents the most demanding kind of scholarship, and Sidanius and Pratto engage in it with more skill and produce more impressive results than almost anybody. I think that it is an exceptional bit of scholarship." John Petrocik, Department of Political Science, University of Missouri, Columbia

"An original and provocative study of the nature and causes of human oppression. Sidanius and Pratto have refined and pursued the concept of Social Dominance Orientation with analyses that are broad-reaching and carefully crafted. Essential reading for students of racial, ethnic, and gender inequality." Mary R. Jackman, Department of Sociology, University of California, Davis

"Sidanius and Pratto shed new light on the ubiquitous phenomena of group-based social hierarchy and social psychological and institutional mechanisms that maintain it." Lawrence D. Bobo, American Journal Of Sociology

Book Description
This book suggests that the major forms in intergroup conflict, such as racism, classism and patriarchy, are essentially derived from the human predisposition to form and maintain hierarchical and group-based systems of social organization. Using social dominance theory, it is presumed that it is also a basic grammar of social power shared by all societies in common. We use social dominance theory in an attempt to identify the elements of this grammar and to understand how these elements interact and reinforce each other to produce and maintain group-based social hierarchy.

Social Psychology : Unraveling the Mystery

Douglas T. Kenrick, et al / Hardcover / Published 1999
Our Price: $82.00
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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Political Exclusion and Domination (Nomos)

Meeting Staff American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy, Eastern Division Staff American Philosophical Association,Melissa S. Williams,Stephen Macedo

Political exclusion and domination are common forms of injustice in democratic societies. What is at stake in choosing one or the other as a way of conceptualizing injustice? Can either concept serve as a master concept for all injustice, or do the phenomena of injustice require a more complex array of analytic categories?

The contributors to this volume explore the concepts of exclusion and domination from a wide array of theoretical approaches—liberal and republican, feminist and pluralist. They address topics ranging from racial segregation to criminal sanctions, from the role of the political philosopher to the instruments of genocide. They disagree—sometimes mildly and sometimes profoundly—over how we should construe the forms of exclusion and domination that most command our attention. Ultimately, these authors shed important light on the meaning of justice and injustice in contemporary society.

Contributors: Danielle Allen, Michael Blake, Sanford Levinson, Catharine MacKinnon, Martha Nussbaum, Philip Pettit, James Tully, and Miguel Vatter.

About the Author
Melissa S. Williams is professor of political theory at the University of Toronto. Stephen Macedo is Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Politics and the Director of the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University.


Social Psychology (5th Edition) Books Elliot Aronson,Timothy D. Wilson,Robin M. Akert

This is 5th edition of the book written in early 90th (first edition was in 1994). The book did not change much since. This is fuzzy, politically correct and watered down presentation of the subject. For example when you learn about cognitive dissonance you are not told that the original Festinger experiment was connected with the behavior of a flood doomsday cult after the target date of the flood passed. 

This might be an OK book as a second of third book for self-education (you can save money buying any previous edition, but in no way this should be your first or only book on the subject), but this can be a horror show if this is your standard textbook at the university 101 Social physiology course and you need to pass an exam.  Here the inability of the authors to distinguish between important and unimportant will hunt you down.

The authors are too fond of  abusing "social-psychology-speak" and introduce too many pseudo-scientific terms without real necessity: it looks like they try artificially inflate both themselves and the subject by immersing trivial notions in obscure jargon. This infatuation with jargon, on the level completely unacceptable for the introductory course is one of the worst features of the book. It especially evident are summaries which are the Achilles spot of the book: badly written, badly thought-out, somewhat detached from the chapters content, horribly structured and weakly typeset.

The other problem with this book as an introductory (101 type) book is that it is just too big. Story-telling approach that authors use is not bad per se, but inability of authors to distinguish between really important and entertaining psycho-trivia distracts the reader. Their recently introduced multi-cultural approach adds to political correctness, but also adds to the volume.

If you are a student it is very difficult textbook to learn from. It provides an ample opportunity for a professor to create a test consisting of dozens of  hair-splitting terminology abusing questions.  You can never be sure that the detail you missed is really unimportant. You need to memorize all definitions and most of the experiments mentioned it the chapter (you might benefit from creating a Rolodeck of experiments mentioned in the book) and using the website tests to prepare. Please note that sample tests provided on website can be perfect for killing any further interest in social psychology in probably 80% of students :-)

I would like to reiterate it again that the main weakness of the book is the author inability to distinguish between really important material and trivial or supplementary material as well as almost complete absence of connections between chapters. Actually chapters can be read in a random order. There are many descriptions of both good and petty/questionable experiments without authors distinguishing between a few critical, ground-braking experiments and regular mass of  pseudo-psychological junk experiments.

Absence of CD with summaries and self-tests in inexcusable for a book with such a price, but the website is not bad (if you can find it ;-)

Typesetting of the book is weak and reflects authors complete absence of attention to structuring the material in a way that helps learners. The good thing is that definitions are put on the margins; the bad thing is that is some chapters (for example Ch 5) there just  too many definitions. Typesetting of summaries is just horrible: huge solid blocks of text with few bold typeface word/sentences.

Although I am not a professional in the field, my impression is that for self-study there are better books, both more interesting and better organized. From a few that I browsed John Sabini's textbook looks like a better deal: more interesting contents with higher dose of relevant to student's life staff. Douglas T. Kenrick textbook contains CD and looks better structured.

Recommended Books

Society and Personality- The Interactionist Approach to Social Psychology (Social Science Classics Series)

by Tamotsu Shibutani

This is a classic book that introduced social psychology to Russian readers many years ago.  I think that it is still very useful for understanding basic concepts of social psychology.

Improvised News A Sociological Study of Rumor Books Tamotsu Shibutani

by Tamotsu Shibutani (Author)

The Social Psychology of Organizations

Daniel Katz, Robert L. Kahn / Paperback / Published 1978
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Tamotsu Shibutani Obit

Tamotsu Shibutani Obit

On August 8, 2004, Tamotsu (Tom) Shibutani died quietly in his sleep from heart failure at age 83. Tom wrote several very influential books and his contributions to sociology are immeasurable. Although his intellect was impressive, he was a humble man, giving unstintingly to others while assiduously avoiding the limelight. We have lost one of sociology's stellar contributors.

Tom was born in Stockton, California, in 1920, as the only child of two first-generation Japanese immigrants. For many, the American Dream is for children of immigrants to take advantage of a free public education and reach positions of respectability, and Tom did. He entered Stockton Junior College at age 18, where he was deeply impressed with John Dewey's work, and he became a pragmatist for the rest of his life. At the age of 20, Tom transferred to the University of California at Berkeley, where he further broadened his intellectual horizons. As Tom finished his undergraduate degree, W.I. Thomas and Dorothy Thomas (his mentors) encouraged him to enter graduate school at the University of Chicago, where he found Louis Wirth's courses to be especially impressive, along with courses from Everett Hughes, Herbert Blumer, and others.

During World War II, Tom spent two years in the Army, and then continued his education at Chicago on the GI Bill. (Later we wrote The Derelicts of Company K [1978] to reveal the absurdities he experienced during the war.) He earned his Ph.D. in 1948 and was given an instructorship at the University of Chicago. In 1951, Tom moved to the University of California at Berkeley and began to synthesize many of the ideas he had been developing for years. His famous first book, Society and Personality (1961) became a major success and was translated into Russian and Spanish. The book presents a conceptual scheme developed from the work of Dewey, Mead, and the Chicago School.

In 1961, Tom came to the University of California at Santa Barbara and began working with Kian M. Kwan on ethnic relationships. Together they published Ethnic Stratification in 1965, presenting a theory based on data drawn from around the world, covering 5000 years of history. Extensive data support their conclusion that most ethnic groups that initially experience hostility eventually learn to live with each other over time.

Tom's next book, Improvised News: A Sociological Study of Rumor (1966), demonstrated that rumors are not merely the result of faulty communication. In ambiguous situations, people often respond like pragmatic problem-solvers, pooling their intellectual resources-which include accurate data, guesses, beliefs, speculation-constructing consensus from whatever sources that are available. Since much of life is filled with ambiguity, this book is of much greater importance than is suggested by describing it as a study of rumor. Many of the most crucial personal, group, governmental and international decisions have to be made with inexact information. The increasingly rapid pace of social and environmental change necessitates increasingly rapid decision making amidst a flood of information, making the study of collective information processing in ambiguous situations critical.

Social Processes (1986) reflects the sophistication of a maturing scholar in synthesizing macro and micro theoretical perspectives. This book blends Tom's expertise in social psychology with observations about whole social systems to generate empirically testable propositions for solving many problems of current social interest.

In 1984 Tom was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and in 1986 he was honored with the George Herbert Mead Award from the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction.

Tom loved grappling with ideas and writing, saying of his own work: "The pragmatic search for answers to questions is not always an orderly process. Side projects have frequently intruded that disrupted current projects. Some of these looked like they could be handled in several months or a year; but took five or ten or fifteen years to complete." This is why Tom has a succession of different books on disparate subjects and different areas of specialization. When asked why he has written few articles, he replied: "The books say it all."

Tom is survived by his wife, Sandra, along with countless friends, colleagues and former students. He is greatly missed for his wise and caring ways, which leave wonderful memories for all of us who knew him.


Organizational Behavior (10th Edition) Books Stephen P. Robbins

Organizational Behaviour Books David A. Kolb,Joyce Sautters Osland,Irwin M. Rubin

Well-grounded OB course basics, April 2, 2003
Reviewer: Peter Lorenzi (Maryland, USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
"The organizational behavior reader" contains twenty chapters, each with two or three readings by recognized academic experts, usually adapted from the original source, e.g., Harvard Business Review. Chapters begin with the psychological contract (1), theories of managing people (2), individual and organizational learning (3), individual and organizational motivation (4), ethics and values (5), personal growth and work stress (6), and later topics include managing diversity (12), leadership (13), decision making (15), performance appraisal (18), and managing change (20). The pantheon of authors features experts such as Henry Mintzberg, Jay Conger, Denise Rousseau, Ed Lawler, Peter Senge, Cary Cooper, Deborah Tannen, Geert Hofstede, Hank Sims, Victor Vroom, Jeffrey Pfeffer, Ray Miles, and Rosabeth Moss Kanter. There are numerous charts, diagrams, graphs and models. Anecdotes and examples are plentiful. Self-assessments are rare. Few of the readings offer empirical data; the emphasis is on mental models, images, and concepts.

Professors of organizational behavior, looking for readings rather than integrated text, exercises, and cases, as well as a less expensive alternative to traditional college textbooks, will find this book appealing. These authors are, in general, engaging and highly readable. Chapters can be assigned in an order or avoided altogether to please the teacher's preferences. The breadth of topics, the currency of the treatments, and the expertise of the authors provide a solid foundation for the primary college OB course. Graduate students in need of less text structure and faculty in need of less ancillary materials will find the most benefit.

The book is rooted in social psychology and emphasizes perception, learning, thinking, images and personality, e.g., interpersonal communication, attribution, creativity. There is less on the `behavior' side of organizational behavior. Several authors use the device of posing `myths' to contrast with the author's learned, alternative state (`fact'), and sometimes the myths read more like `conventional wisdom' or the author's own attempt to make his or her point more vivid by presenting a myth that exists only in the minds of a few people. For business school students, this reader is more about organizations and people than about business. Business faculty and courses adopting this book will likely want and need to provide a management context.

Meeting the Ethical Challenges of Leadership: Casting Light or Shadow by Craig E. Johnson
  • The Quest For Justice on The Job: Essays and Experiments by Jerald Greenberg
  • Work And Organizational Psychology by J. Maria Peiro on page 207
  • Organizational Politics, Justice, and Support: Managing the Social Climate of the Workplace by Russell S. Cropanzano

    Organizational Behaviour (Dryden Press series in management) Books Robert P. Vecchio

    Management of Organizational Behaviour Books Paul Hersey,Kenneth H. Blanchard





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