Organisations as social systems : a study into the necessary systemic conditions for the occurrence of 'social resonance' to ecological issues in organisations
Organisational research in English-speaking countries has long been focused on two main areas. Studies on micro-level have been concerned with the socio-psychological explanation of organisational phenomena, mostly on the level of the individual and groups. Macro-level studies have been concerned with structure for the explanation of organisational phenomena. Macro-level theories have mostly bracketed the individual, and neglected the psychological component or regarded the individual as an actor playing roles. Only recently has the study of organisations been extended to attempt a meso-level analysis of organisational phenomena (Rousseau 1991, 1995). These meso-level attempts have, in the eyes of the author, run into explanatory problems. These problems are mainly due to the 'new' approach being based principally on existing macro-and micro-level theory, merely marrying the two approaches and thus inheriting the apparent difficulties of the existing theory to account for the individual. Althusser and Levi-Strauss are prominent representatives of both micro-and macro-level theory. This author agrees with the notion that organisational research benefits from a meso-level approach to organisational theory. It is in the light of this approach that the author turned to a widely unknown source of theory (in the English-speaking countries) to address the existing explanatory problems in organisational research and contribute so to the field. The underlying fundamental belief of the author is that any institution can be more successfully understood in the sociological context that defines the institution. Introducing the metaphor of 'social resonance' and linking it to the social theory of Pierre Bourdieu, especially the notion of agents and fields, the author attempts to cross-fertilise the academic fields of sociological research in mainland Europe (namely France and Germany with their strong philosophical tradition) with the academic fields of organisational research in the English-speaking countries (namely Britain and the US). This thesis will discuss the organisational research literature and social theory, introduce Pierre Bourdieu's theory of practice, develop the metaphor of 'social resonance', and test the new construct in an empirical research setting. The main objective of this study is thus to explore the value of Bourdieu's theory of practice for the explanation of organisational phenomena, and to operationalise it in the metaphor of 'social resonance'. To this end, a research framework has been developed which is explained in more detail in this report.