It has been a while since I have posted on orgtheory.net and sadly I am jumping back into the fray to announce the death of one of the great men of organizational sociology. Michel Crozier died last night in Paris. He was 91.
I moved to Paris two years ago to join the research center that Crozier founded, the centre de sociolology des organisations. The CSO is associated with the Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po). Crozier also taught at Sciences Po for many years.
Crozier’s intellectual journey began, as mine did, with a study of the United States labor movement. But it was his 1964 book, The Bureaucratic Phenomenon, that established him as a major voice in our field. That book challenged (or maybe it is better to say, evolved) the Weberian view of bureaucracy. Before him, organizational theory focused largely on what we could see in an organizational chart. What went on behind that chart — the interpersonal relationships in which were embedded multiple, often contradictory systems of power — was seen as a distraction or, worse, something to be suppressed. Along with his contemporary, Alvin Gouldner, Michel Crozier brought these kinds of relationships into the light. This led Crozier to conclude that organizations limited actors as much as they enabled them; that organizations were not simply solutions to problems, they were problems to be solved too. Myriad schools of thought within our field have followed from this.
Moreover, as I have come to understand, the distinction that many of us Americans hold on to between “objective” social science and the messier “real” world of administrative control (and reform) holds much less sway here in France. Crozier was not “just” an academic. He was a critic and a crusader for changes in French society and beyond. It was from this side of his work that his student and collaborator, Erhard Freidberg, set the intellectual tone for Sciences Po’s Master of Public Affairs, of which I am now the Director. So I owe him not only an intellectual debt of gratitude, but an organizational one as well.
Bon voyage Monsieur Crozier. Reposez en paix.
In a past installment of grad skool rulz, I offered advice for choosing a dissertation adviser. The idea is simple. Nobody is perfect, but you want someone who has at least a few good traits and no horrible traits. As I was thinking about this post, I wondered – how do graduate students actually choose their advisers? Do people actually methodically try to find a match or do they just “fall” into it? Why do people get stuck with horrible (or good) advisers?
In my own case, I just fell into it and it worked out. I worked with to faculty based on similar research interests (education) and style (both normal science types). But what about people who choose poorly? Part of the issue is that there simply isn’t enough information. Unless you are in a large program, most faculty won’t have more than one or two students in their career. In other cases, students don’t have much choice. For example, if you want to study sociology of science at Indiana, there’s really only one choice. Yet, I still see some students choose advisers who have well developed reputations for being difficult, or advisers who have really slim track records in placing students. My guess is that students believe that they’ll be the exception to the rule.
Consider this post an open thread on how to effectively find an adviser in graduate school. What are you considering as you choose an adviser?
Now that I’ve been on faculty for almost ten years, I’ve spent a lot of time reading journal articles, manuscript submissions, book proposals, tenure files, and hundreds (!) of job applications. I’ve notice that almost no-one self-describes as a functionalist or neo-functionalist, except a few senior scholars like Jeffrey Alexander or Paul Colomy. This is surprising because sociologists still do research on social norms, social systems, and social differentiation, which are issues of central importance to classical structural functionalism. Why?
- Maybe people still do neo/functionalism, but they just don’t use the old jargon. Since Parsons got banished in the 1970s, maybe people don’t even know they are functionalists since they aren’t exposed to it. Call it functionalism on the “down low.”
- Maybe people simply migrated out of American sociology. Luhmann is clearly a neo-functionalist but he’s more popular in areas like media studies. He’s also a Big Deal in European sociology.
- Maybe there is a notable crowd of functionalists, but they simply don’t run in my circles.
- Functionalist ideas were imported/distorted by modern sociologists. A lot of folks have argued that institutionalism is a sort of modern day functionalism.
- Redefinition: The topics of interests to functionalists (e.g., norms) are better analyzed when recast in other theories. For example, the rational choice theory of norms has more appeal than Parson’s theory.
- Elite abandonment: Maybe it is just the structure of the profession. The elites killed functionalism by not hiring them in leading programs. With only a few functionalists (any other than Alexander?) in top 20 programs, it is nearly impossible to train a self-sustaining cohort of functionalist scholars.
Other ideas? Can any neo/functionalists enlighten me?