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Class: Organizations

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Author: Jessica Collett
Understanding Societies lecture notes - Organizations

Class Notes

Life in a complex society is touched by public and private organizations at every turn.  The tasks that need to be carried out are too complex for a single person, making bureaucracy necessary.  Bureaucracies are hierarchical organizations governed by formal rules and with clear specifications of work tasks, such as Max Weber's depiction of "The Iron Cage."  Bureaucracies have a division of labor, a hierarchy of authority, and are often impersonal.

McDonaldization is the process by which the principles of the fast food restaurant are coming to dominate more and more sectors of American society (and the rest of the world).  McDonaldization has four steps: efficiency, predictability, calculability, and control. McDonaldization will continue because it's impelled by economic interests, it has become a culturally desirable process, and it parallels other changes occurring in society.

The My Lai Massacre was successful because of authorization, routinization, and dehumanization.

Organizations are created, maintained, and changed through the everyday actions of their members, including through language, rules, values and beliefs.


Required Reading: 

"The McDonaldization of Society," Ritzer (Electronic Reserves)

"The My Lai Massacre: A Military Crime of Obedience," Kelman and Hamilton (Sociology Reader, pp. 228-240)

Recommended Reading

"The Structure of Society: Organizations, Social Institutions, and Globalization," Newman (Sociology, pp. 256-289)


Keywords: social structure, organization, bureaucracies, Iron Cage, McDonaldization, efficiency, predictability, calculability, and control, language, rules, values and beliefs.


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