Strategies of economic adaptation

Charles Sabel and Jonathan Zeitlin made a powerful case for there being alternative institutional forms through which modern economic development could have taken place in their 1985 article, "Historical Alternatives to Mass Production: Politics, Markets and Technology in Nineteenth-Century Industrialization" (link). In an important volume in 1997, World of Possibilities: Flexibility and Mass Production in …

Technical practices

What is involved in providing a sociology of technical practices? (An earlier posting is also devoted to this question.) Here I am thinking primarily of technical material practices -- building a house or a boat, distilling spirits, weaving a basket, maintaining a biological research lab, or repairing a photocopy machine. There is a degree of …

Explaining rodeos

Suppose we have visited quite a few rodeos in Arizona and Texas and have observed a couple of things: there are more injuries in rodeos than in stock car racing or football, the stakes for the winners are lower than in golf, the rodeo riders score higher than average on the "introverted" component of the …

Institutions, functions, purposes

An institution is a specific ensemble of interlocked organizations and rules that serve to coordinate and constrain the behavior of a number of individuals; and the specific features of the organization have often been refined to bring about specific effects: enforcement of laws, maximization of tax collections, minimization of corrupt behavior, efficient delivery of services, …

Plasticity of social entities

I maintain that virtually all social entities are "plastic": their properties change significantly over time, as a result of the purposive and unintentional behavior of the socially constructed individuals who make up a society. The view that I prefer is one that emphasizes a deep plasticity and heterogeneity in social entities. Organizations and institutions change …

More on "plasticity": hospitals

Let's think more about the extent and pace of plasticity in social organization by considering an example: hospitals. Hospitals are complex social organizations geared towards providing health care for moderately to very needy patients. And the internal organization of hospitals provides a fertile locus for examining issues of institutional change.The complexity of a hospital derives …

Plasticity of the social

I maintain that virtually all social entities are "plastic": their properties change significantly over time, as a result of the purposive and unintentional behavior of the socially constructed individuals who make up a society. Organizations, labor unions, universities, churches, and social identities all show a substantial degree of flexibility and fluidity over time, and this …

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