Tag Archives: Bittner

The concept of market (Part 3)

[El nombre de esta sección es “artículos en cuotas”. La idea es, como en una novela por entregas, ir subiendo partes de papers a medida que vayan saliendo. El texto abajo es un borrador de un artículo en el que trabajo. Presenté la primera versión en EGOS este año y esto que estoy subiendo acá es una segunda versión, pero aun, borrador y sin edición del inglés. Además de la introducción, el artículo se compondrá de cuatro secciones. Cada parte será una entrega que iré subiendo a medida que tenga las nuevas versiones listas. El texto abajo es la tercera entrega. Como siempre, sugerencias son muy bienvenidas]

The concept of Market (Part 3): Conceptual stances after the concept of organization

(Part 1 available here, and Part 2 here)

draft 14/12/2017

Sociologist of Czech origin, Egon Bittner published in 1965 a paper titled ‘The Concept of Organization’. The article problematized some of the challenges notions like ‘formal and rational organization’ pose to the researchers that use them.

In Bittner’s words:

‘the sociologist finds himself [sic] in the position of having borrowed a concept from those he seeks to study in order to describe what he observes about them’ (Bittner 2013 [1965]; p.176).

Concepts like formal and rational organization are used by researchers, like sociologists and experts in management, and are used also by practitioners involved in the everyday practice of organizing, such as managers and consultants. Researchers, Bittner explains, have so far followed two strategies to deal with this situation. Often times, they ‘proceed to investigate formal organization while assuming that the unexplicated common-sense meanings of the terms are adequate definitions’ (Bittner 2013 [1965]; p.180). Notions like formal and rational organization are taken as terms that are understood by those who use them and therefore do not need a more specific treatment. Other times, researchers take an almost opposite path. They provide technical definitions for terms such as organization that might well contradict the meaning given to these notions in their ordinary usage. In this latter case, ‘interest in the actor’s perspective is either deliberately abandoned, or some fictitious version of it is adopted’ (Bittner 2013 [1965]; p.176). The two strategies, Bittner suggests, are unsatisfactory. In his view, social researchers cannot simply ignore the fact that notions like formal and rational organization are part of their object of inquiry; these are ‘schemes of interpretation that competent and entitled users can invoke in yet unknown ways whenever it suits their purposes’ (Bittner 2013 [1965]; p.182). Accordingly, researchers should develop analytical strategies to study how actors skillfully use and deploy these terms in their practices. For instance: they could study how different activities are deemed irrational and which ones are tolerated or how actors invoke different meanings of a similar concept in different situations.

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