Invited Essay: Teaching the Organizational Imagination

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Nicholas Membrez-Weiler

As part of our February newsletter, Nicholas Membrez-Weiler contributes a piece on teaching the sociology of organizations to undergraduate students. Nicholas is a PhD student at North Carolina State University. His work examines the social dynamics of organizational wrongdoing and corporate crime, with current projects focused on the problem of wage theft. He is involved in several projects with topics ranging from transnational mobilization and contested illness, franchise organizations and the fissured workplace, and shifting work relations in the platform/gig-economy.

When I started teaching the sociology of organizations, I noticed that students seemed particularly resistant to letting go of their implicit assumptions about organizations. Most students come into the sociology of organizations with some prior experience in sociology, usually an introductory or social problems course, where they learned to question many of their taken-for-granted assumptions about social life. Students learn early on about the socially constructed nature of race, gender, and class. We drill Mills’ (1959) Sociological Imagination into their heads and teach the importance of connecting biography and history, the macro and the micro, in order to better understand both.

But what of the meso? Formal organizations have come to dominate society, yet organizational dynamics remain invisible within most introductory sociology courses. As I quickly realized in my first go at teaching organizations, my students come with a great grounding in sociology and an understanding of important sociological concepts, yet certain images of organizations seem persistent and immovable in their minds. Especially entrenched are ideas about efficiency as an organizational goal rather than the means to reach that goal and the belief that productive organizations’ primary goal is (and should be) profit. In attempting to address these misconceptions, and in order to present a more complete introduction to the scholarship on organizations, I employ two strategies: semester-long observations of the same organization, and constant experiential immersion in the classroom.

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Meet Your Council: Michael McQuarrie

Michael McQuarrie is currently serving on the OOW Council. Michael is an associate professor in the Department of Sociology at the London School of Economics.  His research is primarily concerned with the transformation of urban politics, governance, michael-mcquarrie-cropped-200x200and civil society since 1973. He demonstrates this both by showing how the meaningful content of political values and practices, such as community and participation, have been transformed, but also how these changes are linked to the changing nature of governance, changing organizational populations, and the outcome of political conflicts.  He has authored numerous articles and co-edited two volumes on related themes: Remaking Urban Citizenship: Organizations, Institutions, and the Right to the City (with Michael Peter Smith), and Democratizing Inequalities: The Promise and Pitfalls of the New Public Participation (with Caroline Lee and Edward Walker, 2014).  Currently, he is preparing a book manuscript entitled The Community Builders which summarizes his research on the trajectory of community-based organizations in urban authority and governance over the last forty years. Below, Michael discusses his key influences, the challenges that he sees OOW scholars facing, and what he looks forward to at ASA 2019.

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Invited Essay: Corruption, Gender, And The Violation Of Public-Private Boundaries

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Fauzia Husain

As part of our January newsletter, Fauzia Husain contributes a piece on what corruption studies can teach us about the flow of power in organizations, informed by her research in Pakistan. Fauzia Husain is a PhD candidate at the University of Virginia. Her work explores the local and global dynamics of gender, agency and power through a focus on state security. She is also one of the organizers of JTS 2019. 

Over the years several studies have shown gender and corruption to be related, with rates of corruption falling as women’s participation in government rises. Some scholars assume that this relationship is based on gendered traits. Corruption, they argue, is gendered because women are more prone to honesty and good civic sense. Others suggest that not essential gender traits but systemic factors explain the relationship between gender and corruption—it is liberal democracy that explains both, gender integration as well as honest government. In the course of fieldwork with women police in Pakistan, however, I found that the gendered character of corruption might be the outcome not of quantity or propensity but of opportunity and quality. In other words, both men and women do corruption, they just do it differently.

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Invited Essay: Gendered Organizational Change — Insights from the Archives of the International Olympic Committee

As part of our November newsletter, Madeleine Pape shares findings from her 2018 ASA paper on gendered organizational change within the International Olympic Committee.  Madeleine Pape (www.madeleinepape.com) is a PhD candidate in Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison whose research and teaching interests include gender, Science and Technology Studies (STS), health and medicine, political sociology, organizations, socio-legal studies, and physical cultural studies. 

Every four years the Summer Olympic Games capture the imagination of millions of people across the world… and provoke the ire of feminist activists, scholars, and sports fans when again, still, the sporting field bears witness to blatant gender discrepancies. In Rio di Janeiro in 2016, for instance, a major talking point was the US media’s representation of high achieving female athletes: triple-world record holder Katie Ledecky was described as “the female Michael Phelps;” trap shooter and bronze medalist Corey Cogdell-Unrein was referred to simply as the “wife of a Bears’ lineman;” and one commentator attributed the successes of Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszu to her husband, describing him as “the man responsible” for her gold medal and world record. Just when we appear to be closing in on gender parity in terms of the numbers of male and female athletes competing at the Summer Olympic Games, these commentators remind us how far we still have to go before sport becomes a space where women athletes truly enjoy equal respect and recognition. In the words of feminist sports historian Susan K. Cahn, “you’ve come a long way, maybe…” (1994, p. 279).

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Meet Your Council: Jennifer Bouek

bouekprofilepictureJennifer Bouek is the 2018-2019 OOW Council Student Representative.  She was the recipient of the 2018 Thompson Graduate Student Paper Award for her Social Problems paper, “Navigating Networks: How Nonprofit Network Membership Shapes Response to Resource Scarcity.”  Her dissertation, The Ecological Patterning and Effects of Child Care Markets, which is supported by the National Science Foundation, explores the institution of child care using in-depth interviews, as well as spatial and archival analysis of administrative records, survey data, and observational data. Bouek is currently finishing her Ph.D. in the Department of Sociology at Brown University. Below, she discusses her research and experiences at ASA.

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