Tag Archives: history


Source: Money, by 401(K). CC-BY-SA-2.0 via Flickr.

by Elizabeth Popp Berman and Daniel Hirschman

There’s a puzzle around economics. On the one hand, economists have the most policy influence of any group of social scientists. In the United States, for example, economics is the only social science that controls a major branch of government policy (through the Federal Reserve), or has an office in the White House (the Council of Economic Advisers). And though they don’t rank up there with lawyers, economists make a fairly strong showing among prime ministers and presidents, as well.

But as any economist will tell you, that doesn’t mean that policymakers commonly take their advice. There are lots of areas where economists broadly agree, but policymakers don’t seem to care. Economists have wide consensus on the need for carbon taxes, but that doesn’t make them an easier political sell. And on topics where there’s a wider range of economic opinions, like over minimum wages, it seems that every politician can find an economist to tell her exactly what she wants to hear.

So if policymakers don’t take economists’ advice, do they actually matter in public policy? Here, it’s useful to distinguish between two different types of influence: direct and indirect.

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Ruef_Pic[Ed note: This is the fourth of 14 posts in a virtual panel on The Future of Organizational Sociology.]

In my view, organizational sociology has a past – indeed, a LOT of past.  But it is less clear whether it has a future.

Consider a simple word association test. When I say “organizational sociology”, what do you think of? You probably think of core theoretical paradigms such as organizational ecology, the new institutionalism, network theories of organizations, and the neo-Weberian view of bureaucracy.  Perhaps you would be inclined to put evolutionary organizational theory into the mix.  And, if you are feeling a bit more adventurous, you might add organizational ethnography, theories of organizational culture, and even the Carnegie School.  These are the major frameworks that emerged (or were reborn) between the 1950s and the 1970s; and came of age in the 1980s and 1990s.

When I say “organizational sociology”, it is also likely that that you’ll think of the scholars who developed these perspectives. I’ve listed a number of them here, including many familiar names (Ruef – Table).  I have also listed some of their most influential articles and books, as well as the staggering number of citations for them.

The past is about people, not just ideas. So what are these folks doing now?  Unfortunately, we have had a number of leading organizational sociologists pass away over the last few years, including John Freeman in 2008 and Michael Cohen last year.  And a number of our leading luminaries have recently moved to emeritus or emerita status – although some, such as Dick Scott, remain as active as ever.

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