My recent explorations of the work of the Anthropology of Administration group at Minpaku, Japan's National Museum of Ethnology, have led me to have a look at recent developments in organization theory. That is how I recently stumbled upon
Darwin's question about the origin of species is worth posing and remembering as much in the social sciences as it was in biology. Human organizations, like living organisms, have evolved throughout history, with new organizational forms emerging and transforming in various settings: new types of banks and banking in the history of capitalism; new types of research organizations and research in the history of science; new types of political organizations and nations in the history of state formation. all of these examples are discussed in this book. The histories of economies and polities are littered with new organizational forms that never existed before. In biological language, this emergence of new forms is the puzzle of speciation.We economists, political scientists, and sociologists have many theories about how to choose alternatives, once these swim into our field of vision. But our theories have little to say about the invention of new alternatives in the first place. New ideas, new practices, new organizational forms mus enter from off the stage of our imaginary before our analyses can begin. Darwin asked the fundamental question, but our concepts are like those of Darwin before Mendel and Watson and Crick. We understand selection and equilibrium, but we do not understand the emergence of what we choose or who we are. Our analytical shears are sharp, but the life forces pushing things up to be trimmed elude us.
Darwin asked the fundamental question, but our concepts are like those of Darwin before Mendel and Watson and Crick. We understand selection and equilibrium, but we do not understand the emergence of what we choose or who we are. Our analytical shears are sharp, but the life forces pushing things up to be trimmed elude us.
Interesting. The biological analogies can be revealing, although I think even such metaphorical comparisons feed into a notion that market forces are somehow natural. Yet, as you note John, they certainly end these paragraphs with the right sorts of question. I'd be interesting in hearing more.
Ted, your wish is my command. Here are some more of my notes from the introduction. The comments about the relationship of the biochemically inspired models to historical cases, the biology as opposed to the physics view of science, and the mantra—in the short run, actors create relations; in the long run, relations create actors—strike me as very interesting, indeed. All tickle my fancy because they represent an approach to rethinking the "science" in social science that does not fall back into the classic science vs humanities, scientific laws or interpretive meanings dichotomies.
They aren't, on my reading, suggesting that short run explanations are stuck with methodological individualism. On the contrary, the central thrust of their program is to move beyond methodological individualism whose models assume atomic actors with fixed properties. A possible example that comes to my mind is the changing nature of the worker with the development of modern industry, from craftsman to skilled to unskilled labor as workers' relationships to the means of production changed. More on this later. I am currently in the happy state of having work clients pay for in the inbox, so it will likely be a couple of days.