gemeinschaft and moral order


Steve Vaisey, orgtheory friend and sociology’s one-man roadshow (coming soon to a department near you!), has a nice publication in the latest issue of the American Sociological Review, “Structure, culture, and community: The search for belonging in 50 urban communes.”  The paper looks at the social foundations of gemeinschaft, or the sense of community that binds people together.  He suggests two possible explanations: structural and substantive.  Structural explanations emphasize the social organizational aspects of community, such as networks and authority.  Substantive explanations build on the idea that humans are brought together by moral orders, shared values, beliefs, etc.  Steve’s analysis, using a mix of OLS regression and fuzzy-set analysis, finds support for a substantive explanation.

[C]ontrary to Putnam and others, reciprocity and trustworthiness do not simply “arise” from social networks, except, perhaps, as that interaction is either animated by or productive of shared moral understandings (866).

In short, networks alone do not determine how bonded people are to each other.  Although it’s not really possible to assess with his data, the analysis suggests that the network connectedness of many communities may be at least partially endogenous to the shared meanings and beliefs inherent in moral orders.

Orgheads may also want to check out Steve’s essay on the “dual-process model of culture in action” in which he argues that culture may be both justification and motivation for behavior.  I think the essay points to potential applications of cultural theory for organizational scholars.

Written by brayden king

November 9, 2007 at 8:21 pm

7 Responses

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  1. Yes, I’ve heard that he juggles copies of ASR during his talk and that he has an even better impersonation of Joan Rivers than Mario Cantone

    BTW, the motivation and justification essay also works as a fairly strong critique of the model of culture that is explicit in institutional theory. As such, I would say that it begins to address some of the problems with the model of culture in institutions that were pointed out by Tolbert and Zucker.



    November 10, 2007 at 3:19 pm

  2. You read my mind Omar.



    November 10, 2007 at 3:20 pm

  3. Thanks, guys. You’re really making me look good! My practical consciousness wants to laugh at Omar’s comment, but my discursive consciousness doesn’t get the Joan Rivers/Mario Cantone thing… ;-)


    Steve Vaisey

    November 12, 2007 at 3:40 am

  4. Another example of top-down doesn’t work, combined with postmodern radical individuation alienating people. And yet another example of where complexity approaches are showing us the way.


    Troy Camplin

    November 12, 2007 at 4:01 am

  5. “In short, networks alone do not determine how bonded people are to each other.”

    I haven’t read the Vaisey paper, but I do have to chime in on Brayden’s treatment. Who was it (…who had anything to do with the development of network theory…lapsed physicists excepted…and, no, Putnam doesn’t count either…) who argued that they did? It is plain and simply oxymornic to speak of networks “determining” the bonds between people. What, Omar sleeping at the switch?



    November 13, 2007 at 12:16 pm

  6. “Determine” is probably too strong. I’ll give you that jk.



    November 13, 2007 at 6:43 pm

  7. […] recently Steve was featured in an exchange with Ann Swidler in Sociological Forum. We’ve been big fans of Steve for a while now and are excited to have him guest blogging with us.  Welcome Steve! […]


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