Book | Organization Theory by Mary Hatch

Organization-Theory-Hatch-Mary-Jo-9780199260218Hatch, Mary Jo, and Ann L. Cunliffe. Organization Theory: Modern, Symbolic, and Postmodern Perspectives. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

The Author

mary jo hatch

Mary Jo Hatch is Professor Emerita, McIntire School of Commerce, University of Virginia. She has been a Visiting Professor at Gothenburg University, Adjunct Professor, Copenhagen Business School and Adjunct Professor, Boston College, and earned a PhD from Stanford University.[1]


Hatch says, in her preface, “I wanted a book that paid due respect to the modernist perspective, but that went beyond mere recitation of the findings of modernist research to explore the contributions of ethnographic studies that often challenge modernist notions, and that would give voice not only to the criticisms raised against organization theory as a tool of managerialism, but also to alternatives emerging from interdisciplinary research in the social sciences.”[2]

Organizations Theory is designed to be a textbook that offers a comprehensive survey of both the history of and dominate theories of organization from three majors perspectives—Modern, Symbolic-Interpretive, and Postmodern. The text is divided into three major parts.

Part One: What is Organizational Theory?

Part Two: Core Concepts and Theories.

Part Three: Practical Issues and New Directions in Organization Theory


Part 1: What is Organization Theory?

1. Why Study Organization Theory? (3-22)

Theories and theorizing organizations

Theories are built from abstractions known as conepts (5)


Prehistory 1900-1950’s

Modern 1960’s and 1970’s

Symbolic-Interpretive 1980’s

Postmodern 1990’s


Concepts and abstraction in theory development

A theory is an explanatioin rooted in the specification of the relationships between a set of concepts (10)

Multiple Perspectives

Burrell and Morgan – knowledge is based on different paradigms, each with its own assumptions about the world. (11)

Ontology concerns our assumptions about reality (12)

Epistemology is concerned with knowing how you can know.(13)

Positivist epistemology assumes you can discover what truly happens in organizations through the categorization and scientific measurement of the behavior of people and systems.

Interpretive epistemology assumes that knowledge can only be created and understood from the point of view of the individuals who live and work in a particular culture or organization.

Comparing Modern, Symbolic and Postmodern Perspectives


A Conceptual Model of Organization




Social structure

Pysical Structure


2. A Brief History of Organization Theory (25-60)

Organization theory at its inception

Adam Smith, Political-Economist (1723-1790, Scottish)

An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776)

Division of Labor

Karl Marx, Philosopher-Economist and Revolutionary (1818-1883, German)

Founder of the field of sociology

Emile Durkheim, Sociologist (1858-1917, French)

Published The Division of Labor in Society (1893)

Proposed distinction between informal and formal organization

Max Weber, Sociologist (1864-1920, German)

3 types of authority

      • traditional
      • charismatic
      • rational-legal

theory of bureaucracy

Weber warned that formal rationality without conscious consideration of substantive rationality would led, in his colorful phrase, to an ‘iron cage’ capable of imprisoning humanity and making every human being a ‘cog in an ever-moving mechanism.’(31)

F.W. Taylor, Founder of Scientific Management (1856-1915, American)

Scientific method applied to maximize efficiency

Mary Parker Follett, Scholar, Social Reformer, Government and Management Consultant (1868-1933, American)

She envisioned self-governing organizations, pointedly suggesting that organizations within a democratic society should embrace democratic ideals, and that power should be power with not power over people. (34)

Henri Fayol, Engineer, CEO, and Administrative Theorist (1841-1925, French)

Responsibilities of the manager: planning, organizing, commanding, coordination, and control.

Luther H. Gulick, Administrative Theorist (1892-1992, American)

Built on Fayol’s theory that organizational efficiency could be increased by dividing work into small, specialized segments, allotting the work to those skilled in that specific segment, and coordinating the work through supervision, clear task definition, instruction, and direction.








His work highlights one of the central tenets of modernism – that universal rules and principles can be found an applied to any organization, in this case any administrative institution whether it be a business, hospital, government, prison or school. (35)

Chester Barnard, Executive and Management Theorist (1886-1961, American)

The Functions of the Executive (1938)

Cooperative social systems

Hybrid of all that had come before him.

Modernist influences on organization theory

From a modernist perspective, effective organizations are able to balance internal and external pressures,develop core competencies, increase efficiency and adapt to hange. Three theories provided much of the logic underpinning modernist organization theory today:

General Systems Theory

Bertalanffy – a system is a thing with mutually interrelated parts called subsystems.

Boulding – hierarchy of systems

Socio-Technical Systems Theory – managers need to find the best fit between technical and social systems.

Contingency Theory – organizational design is contingent upon many factors, including the environment, goals, technology, and people, and effective organizations are those in which these various elements are aligned.

Symbolic-interpretive influences

Social construction Theory

Sensemaking Theory and Enactment



Some postmodern influences

Language and language games


Grand Narratives and Giving Voice

Lyotard (1979) criticized the grand narratives of the the Enlightenment Project

Discourse and Discursive Practices

Michel Foucault

Deconstruction, Difference


Simulacra and Hyperreality






[1] (accessed August 21, 2013)

[2] Mary Jo Hatch and Ann L. Cunliffe, Organization Theory: Modern, Symbolic, and Postmodern Perspectives, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), ix).


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