Power in organizational culture
Department of Sociology and Human Geography University of Oslo Blindern, Norway
In the literature on organizational culture, two distinct traditions may be singled out. On the one hand the long wave of management literature from the early 1980s and onwards, initiated by Peters and Waterman's "In search of excellence" (1982). On the other hand the neo-institutionalist literature in the wake of seminal papers by Meyer and Rowan (1977) and Powell and DiMaggio (1983).
Both traditions have power as a central concern, but for understanding organizations and their culture in terms of power, both are unsatisfactory. The management literature has a strong tendency to overrate the power of managers in shaping the culture of organizations, and likewise quite exaggerated expectations as to the effects on efficiency. Neo-institutionalism, on the other hand tends to underrate the significance of power. This does not mean that power is absent in neo-institutionalism, organizations are shaped by professions, the state and other agencies may coerce them into specific behaviors. Surprisingly, however, management and leadership are virtually absent in the neo-institutionalist world, and power structures become blurred at best.
The paper will seek to bridge the two literatures by on the one hand analyzing the limitations of the managerial approach in terms of theoretical work on power and communication. At the same the paper aims at disclosing the actor related power aspects of neo-institutionalism by linking them to organizational strategies.
The main thrust of the paper is theoretical, but empirical illustrations will be drawn from knowledge base organizations such as publishing houses and research institutes.