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with scientific protocols and proceeding

in accordance with standard rules of evidence

and proof. In Alvin Gouldner’s 1962 analysis of

Weber in Social Problems, “Anti-minotaur: The

Myth of a Value-free Sociology,” interpretation of

facts may be infused with personal values, but the

research techniques that produce those facts are


The quest for objectivity has been met with

resistance on a number of points. One of the


arguments against objectivity concerns the debate

between realism and relativism. Relativists

argue that scientific truth may be different seen

from different perspectives, thus there can be

multiple and non-contradictory reports of the

same phenomenon.

There is also opposition to the positivistic

notion that sociologists should seek to imitate

the natural sciences. While sociology may employ

systematic methods of inquiry and evidence-based

theories, human activity and interactions may require

different approaches to investigation from

objects of nature. The reality of sociological research

means that access and rapport with one’s

informants is often a consequence of a personal

approach from one human being to another

rather than from scientist to subject. If sociologists

are determined to maintain their objective

stance they are at risk of damaging their fieldwork

relationships. Emotional distance will in turn

affect what the subject allows the researcher to

observe or hear about their lives. Feminist research

has led the main challenge to the positivist

orthodoxy that sociology should strive to be objective,

arguing that it is only by a transition to

friendship and a collaborative approach to research

that a more insightful account of women’s

experiences will be generated.

It has also been argued that sociological work

cannot be objective in that it is influenced by

sociologists’own experiences and values. Sociology

is by its very nature ideologically driven, thus the

notion of value-free social inquiry is unsustainable.

Thus, Howard S. Becker, in his paper in

Social Problems, “Whose Side are we on?” (1967),

maintained that sociologists are constantly presenting

someone’s point of view and have traditionally

been unable to remain neutral in the

face of moral and political controversies. The issue

therefore focuses less on whether objectivity has

been maintained but rather whose interests are

served by the sociologists’ subjectivity. Sociologists

may therefore be caught in an ethical tension

between a desire to present themselves as

objective to their audiences and their commitment

to principles of social justice.


occupational segregation

– see occupations.


In complex societies with a high division of labor

specialized work roles develop. On the one hand,

mile Durkheim argued in the Division of Labour in

Society (1893 [trans. 1960]) that this increased interdependence

of each of us on others leads to social

integration. On the other hand, Karl Marx claimed

that such specialization leads to alienation and

the fragmentation of the self. What is clear, however,

following the work of Max Weber, is that

occupational roles provide the basis for a social

hierarchy, with some being positively valued

status groups and others negatively valued. The

Registrar General in the United Kingdom explicitly

recognizes this hierarchy, providing a list of

social classes based on occupation. These are:

I. professionals; II. managerial; IIIN. skilled nonmanual

occupations; IIIM; skilled manual occupations;

IV. partly skilled occupations; V. unskilled

occupations; and VI. the armed forces. Occupational

inequalities thus provide sociologists with

a proxy measure of class differences. For example,

sociologists use this classification to examine the

impact of occupation on life-chances, and sociologists

of health and illness have demonstrated that

people in socio-economic classes V and VI have

lower life expectancy and higher morbidity than

people from the non-manual classes (I, II, and IIIN).

Feminist sociologists have also demonstrated

that occupations are structured by gender, with

women pooling in the “pink-collar occupations” of

nursing, teaching, and service and secretarial

work, a phenomenon known as “occupational segregation.”

Even where women participate in male

occupations, they find it difficult to rise to the

top, either because of the existence of a “glass

ceiling,” as informal sanctions are applied, or the

“mommy effect” as they break their careers to rear

a family. Women also tend to be concentrated in

the “caring occupations.” This impact of gender

on the structure of occupations is reflected in the

fact that, even when women medical practitioners

go on to specialize, they do so, for example, in

psychiatry and pediatrics, reflecting wider social

assumptions about their caring and nurturing


Occupational groups protect themselves to enhance

their social status and income, a process

known as social closure, through credentialism.

That is, they set entry criteria, usually marked by

tertiary-sector qualifications, that are not necessary

to the performance of the occupational role.

This closure has the effect of keeping out lower

social-status groups, and especially ethnic minorities,

who do not have access to the resources

(such as time and money) to pursue these qualifications.

The occupational structure of society thus

both reflects and maintains patterns of social inequality

based on class, gender, and race and

occupational segregation occupations


ethnicity. Participation in an occupation is less

likely to be structured as a career, as is the case

for the professions, to be more discontinuous,

and in postindustrial society, to be insecure and,

increasingly, part-time. KEVIN WHITE

Ogburn, William F. (1886–1959)

A lifetime proponent of empirical positivism,

Ogburn pioneered the study of social change and

the systematic use of social indicators. Born in

Butler, Georgia, and raised in a middle-class

home, Ogburn studied under Franklin Henry

Giddings (1855–1931) at Columbia University and

received his PhD in sociology for a statistical analysis

of child labor laws in 1912. He spent most of his

career at the University of Chicago (from 1927

until retiring in 1951) where, during a time of

ascendant qualitative studies, his quantitative approach

attracted a number of distinguished

scholars, including Samuel Stouffer and Otis

Dudley Duncan.

While he was skeptical about the value of social

theory, Ogburn’s work Social Change (1922) had a

huge impact on the theory of social evolution.

He argued that social change is brought about

not by social action but by “inventions” – novel

combinations of existing cultural material. Social

problems, in turn, emerge from disjunctures, or

“cultural lags,” between one aspect of culture that

changes due to invention, and another aspect of

culture that must adjust accordingly.

In his 1929 presidential address to the American

Sociological Society, Ogburn predicted that

sociology would become increasingly a science of

“verification and proof.” The methodological

domains he cultivated include ambitious projects

of interdisciplinary cooperation, techniques to

measure social change, and large-scale government

surveys to inform policymakers (largely

through work as Director of the President’s

Research Committee on Social Trends [1930–3]).

Through his study of secular social trends, Ogburn

came to argue that such trends usually persist

even in the face of disruptive events – so much

so that deviations from these trends are more

noticeable than the overall course of change.



According to the classic Aristotelian typology, oligarchy

is a system of rule by a few, exercised in

their own interest. It is contrasted with monarchy,

aristocracy, tyranny, democracy, and polity. Classic

elite theorists Vilfredo Pareto, Gaetano Mosca,

and Robert Michels, who popularized the term,

saw oligarchies as synonymous with consolidated

elites. Michels in Political Parties (1958)

coined a famous “iron law of oligarchy”: all complex

bureaucracies give rise to elites. For some

social analysts, oligarchy acquires a more specific


In The Class Structure of the Advanced Societies

(1973), Anthony Giddens analyzed effective power

in relation to elite formation (consolidated versus

diffuse power), and “issue-strength” (broad versus

issue-specific). He defined oligarchic rule as involving

consolidated “strategic” elites with power over

a restricted/specialized set of issues. Such oligarchic

elite power was contrasted with autocracy

(consolidated elites and broad power), hegemony

(diffused and broad), and democracy (diffused and

restricted). Traditional oligarchies consisted typically

of top aristocratic families (magnates) controlling

monarchs. Modern oligarchies take many

forms. Power elites involve the leaders of big

business, the top government officials, and the

top echelons of the military. Strategic elites include

a number of well-integrated but sectorspecific

elite groups. Ruling class (see social class)

is an oligarchy consisting of owners and controllers

of corporate capital. The inner circle consists

of executives of the largest corporations. Some

students of communist elites refer to “party–

state” power oligarchies (the nomenklatura). The

term oligarchy is seldom used in contemporary

sociology of politics; it has been largely superseded

by the term elite(s). J AN PAKUL SKI

online communities

Both the idea and practice of communities have

always been an essential component of sociological

theorizing. Such communities were originally

location-based constructs. But as studies of

them deepened, another category has developed,

namely the idea of conceptual communities. Thus,

one could for instance speak of the scientific

community. The enormous growth in online activities

has led scholars to question whether communities

could exist online, and what differences

might arise between traditional physically based

communities and their online counterparts.

C. Arensberg and S. Kimball in Culture and Community

(1965) identify three elements to the concept

of community: environment, social form, and

patterned behavior. I. Sanders in The Community

(1966) asserted there were four: a place to live, a

spatial unit, a way of life, and a social system.

Using the former, it can be argued that online

groupings that have these elements can qualify

as a community. Reliance on the physical and

Ogburn, William F. (1886–1959) online communities


spatial dimensions of the term, by, for example,

Sanders, would force one to dismiss the possibility

of online communities at all. Yet despite their lack

of physical reality, it seems plausible that, since

communities are mental constructs in the first

place, they could be virtual as well as physical in

their nature. Interestingly, the absence of the

necessity of overcoming geographical distance,

combined with computer processing power, makes

many new types of communities possible.

J. Meyrowitz in No Sense of Place (1985) has argued

that communities, both online and off, can be

viewed in a context that is both upward to institutions

and downward to social roles. He analyzes

social roles and identities in terms of information

systems that comprise patterns of access to social

information, determined by the mix of physical

settings, media, and mental constructs. Regarding

mental constructs, he extends George Herbert

Mead’s notion of the generalized other to the

mediated generalized other. He describes how

people gain a sense of who they are in part by

imagining how others, both live and mediated,

view them. Additionally, he anticipated much discussion

of virtual life by advancing the notion of

the generalized elsewhere, wherein one imagines

how distant others imagine one’s own location

and general environment. With considerable variation,

this schema allows one to have a grasp of

the general theoretical outlines possible in attempting

to pin down, then contrast, online communities

to their physical counterparts.



In sociology, an ontology responds to generic (that

is transhistorical and transcultural) questions

about the properties of social life. Though quite

fundamental to all disciplinary concerns, ontological

issues in sociology are more modest

than ontological issues in the broadest philosophical

sense. In philosophy, ontology refers to metaphysical

issues concerned with the nature of

existence and the structure of reality at large, a

concern that has intellectual precedents reaching

as far back as Aristotle (384–322 BC). Whereas most

philosophical schemes are hierarchical, with some

form of human “being” or “existence” at the top,

sociological ontologies may be more loosely structured

and do not concern themselves with “being”

at all. Thus, the twentieth-century ontologies

by Martin Heidegger and the early Jean-Paul

Sartre have no correlated sociological ontologies.

Examples of sociological ontologies include structuration

theory, which identifies structured social

practices as the basic constituents of all aspects of

social reality. Karl Marx’s preface to Critique of

Political Economy (1849 [trans. 1859]) includes a

crude materialist ontology. The well-known first

chapter of E´mile Durkheim’s Rules of Sociological

Method (1895 [trans. 1958]) makes an elementary

case for a collectivist ontology. Some commentators

interpret Max Weber’s basic concepts of

social action in ontological terms, though others


Though social theorists have always relied upon

ontologies, the term only recently entered the

lexicon in the wake of the declining influence of

positivism in the 1970s. Positivists tried to deny

that what they termed metaphysical issues had

any legitimate place in scientific thought. The

term ontology gave these issues a place to stand

in post-Kuhnian sociological theory. I RA COHEN


– see Falsification.

organic anology

– see organicism.


Sociology has often linked human society to

organisms. Herbert Spencer, for example, drew

attention to the fact that low animals or the

embryos of high animals have few distinguishable

parts, their elements becoming more numerous

and differentiated during evolution or lifetime

development. Similarly, he suggested, societies

become increasingly complex and subdivided as

they grow. E´mile Durkheim’s well-known distinction

between “mechanical” and “organic” forms of

sociology also relies on an organic analogy, one in

which society becomes more complex as it develops.

In the middle of the twentieth century,

Talcott Parsons argued for a general evolutionary

law, change again taking the form of increasing

differentiation between elements of the social

“subsystem” – the home and the factory, for

example. Forms of organicism are alive and well,

especially among German sociologists strongly influenced

by Parsons. Niklas Luhmann, for example,

envisaged society as a set of distinct subsystems

with their own rules and codes, making society

very complex and difficult to manage.

Analogies between societies and organisms

were important in establishing sociology as a new

discipline. But they are highly misleading when

carried too far. Organicism can easily become

teleological, social change apparently having a

direction, purpose, and maturity, processes

ontology organicism


analogous to human growth and which all societies

must inevitably experience. Another questionable

implication is that of an unproblematic

“progress” being steadily made, “simple” societies

being replaced by more complex social forms.

More generally, organicism can be criticized for

implying that human societies, with all their

power relations and divisions of labor, are somehow

a product of nature. Despite such criticisms,

however, organicism has had an important heuristic

value, suggesting new hypotheses about

social change and social organization.


organization man

William H. Whyte’s The Organization Man (1956)

was a famous commentary on American business

culture, but it belongs to another era: one in

which careers could be foreseen in a large organizational

bureaucracy, in an era before feminism,

with its demands for a new type of man as well as

the equal participation of women, a new approach

to parenting, and a new set of commitments. It

was also an era before downsizing, rationalization,

and outsourcing threatened individual careers

and lives. The organization man of the title was

expected to be a loyal and conformist member of

the organization. Indeed, in mid-1950s America,

he was expected to be a loyal and conformist


Whyte was doubly well placed to produce an

outstanding ethnography of the organization

man. First, the times were right: he wrote during

the height of the Eisenhower administration

(1953–61), when corporations appeared to provide

all the necessities of modern life – careers, consumer

goods in abundance, and suburban lifestyles.

Second, as an editor of Fortune, Whyte could observe

corporate America up close, and what he

saw belied what he and many others believed.

America was shifting from a land of individual

initiative to one of corporate control.

Whyte observed that the young men who

entered organizations saw their whole working

lives as being committed at that point: their interests

were inexorably tied to those of the organizations

that employed them. The assumption was

that they would be rewarded in their career for

the time they invested in the organization. The

Organization Man showed the white-collar employee

as increasingly shaped by employer

demands: focused on advancement through the

firm, he became narrow, conformist, and unwilling

to innovate. This figure’s fear of original

thought and his lifestyle (situated in rationalized

suburbs and marked by consumption rather than

community) stood in direct opposition to the

ideology of American competitive individualism.

As recently as the 1980s, Whyte revisited the

organization man and claimed little had changed.

Today he would have to draw different conclusions.

The social contract has been broken.

Managers and professionals work harder than

ever – but more often than not for their individual

as much as organization interests. While organizations

seek to align individual and organization

interests with inducements and salaries, they do

not promise lifelong careers. Project-based careers

are increasingly becoming the order of the day.

Downsizing does not produce loyalty but survivor

syndromes, where loyalty is contingent, bought

with high salaries, bonuses, and stock options,

until a better offer comes along or until the manager

is dismissed. Pay is performance-related, and

managers cannot afford to slacken the intensity of

their work if they are to maximize their income.

The expectation is, increasingly, of a career in

projects and parts, rather than a commitment to

one organization, with the expectation of the pursuit

of central life-interests occurring outside work

rather than through the job. Organizations have

increasingly become de-bureaucratized and more

marketized, with correlative shrinkage of organization-

man opportunities. While cultural consent

may still be valued, it is increasingly bought and

specifically contingent on the risk/reward package

negotiated. STEWART CLEGG

organization theory

The work of Max Weber was initially influential in

shaping the sociological analysis of organizations.

It offered a unifying frame – the theory of bureaucracy

– within which to research organization

processes and, unlike early management theory,

did not offer prescriptive and mutually contradictory

principles. Typically, researchers first started

to interpret organizations using Weber’s ideas,

which they then revised as they attended to features

of reality that were not captured in his

model, producing an influential body of postwar

work (see, for example, that reviewed in S. Clegg,

M. Kornberger, and T. Pitsis, Managing and Organizations,

2005). Until the mid-1950s, the case study

was the dominant method of research and Weber a

central resource. These were based on substantive

aspects of specific cases, and thus their generalizability

was low and hard to cumulate into a consistent

body of interrelated theoretical knowledge.

In the 1950s, after the emergence of the journal

Administrative Science Quarterly, the systems

organization man organization theory


perspective came increasingly to dominate organization

analysis. The perspective solved some problems

inherent to the typological approaches.

Systems perspectives such as that of Talcott

Parsons promised a general approach to any and

every organization, conceived as a system of

inputs, transformation processes, and outputs.

General systems theory was scientifically influential

and organizations became a specialist domain

of its analysis.

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