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Theorizing Inter Organizational Inequality – Conceptual Suggestions To Overcome A Blind Spot

1633 words - 7 pages

Theorizing inter-organizational inequality – Conceptual suggestions to overcome a blind spot

Organizations form and are embedded in differently structured institutional fields (DiMaggio/Powell 1991, Scott 2008) which embody certain structures of relational positions (Powell et al 2005), i.e. structures of inequality sui generis. Organizational hierarchies, positions in organizational networks, or organizational status do have an impact on, say, the capacities of organizations to engage in institutional work successfully, their internal promotion system, or more generally their ability to affect their own chances as well as chances in the lives of individuals for good or worse. If it is ...view middle of the document...

Theories and research methods not only enable the gathering of novel information, they constraint analytical capacities at the same time. Especially with respect to social inequality the aim of inquiry is greatly biased by values and norms as human rights or institutionalized conceptions justice and equality. Since theories of social stratification and inequality are intellectual strategies to deal with collectively perceived social problems, it is noteworthy that of course inequality is experienced on an individual level only. Human beings feel discriminated against, experience the loss of opportunities, or are being unjust because of their own (socially induced) perceptions and assumptions. Additionally, scholars of social stratification come from a long line of scientific thought which in the either or the other way eventually concurred in the concentration on the individual (Grusky/Ku 2008).

Nevertheless academic scholarship has yielded uncountable evidence that opportunities in life depend on many societal factors, especially organizations. By now social sciences have equipped themselves with suitable analytic tools to examine whether there are new insights on the horizon to learn about the formation and persistence of inequalities if the scope of their investigations is expanded. Social inequality as a multidimensional phenomenon must be sensitive to individual inequality, inter-organizational inequality, and the mechanisms that intertwine both.

Organizational hierarchies, positions in organizational networks, or organizational status do have an impact on say the capacities of organizations to engage in institutional work successfully, their internal promotion system, or more generally their ability to affect their own chances as well as opportunities in the lives of individuals for good or worse. Hence, the time-honored notion of social inequality must be extended to that exact meso-level of organizations, i.e. organizational fields or inter-organizational networks. To understand how organizational factors which affect chances of individuals are shaped by their relative position, their overarching structure must be properly identified and understood. It is only in a joint attempt by both researchers of organization and scholars of inequality that this mission can be accomplished. Integrated field perspectives and social mechanisms could prove to be a valuable common working basis both research traditions could come to terms with without giving up too much of their original stances.

The environments of organizations have always been a key aspect of organizations research: Resource-dependency theory, system-theory, or of course neo-institutionalism convincingly proofed that external and internal dynamics of organizations cannot be viewed as independent of each other. Social network analysis also turned on inter-organizational networks, mainly to analyze interdependence structures in terms of power or interlocking directorates...

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