September 29, 2007
Comparative Organizations
Posted by Gordon Smith

Over the past two days, I have been nestled in at the Sundance Resort in Provo, Canyon, attending the BYU Comparative Organizations Conference. The conference was organized by Dave Whetten of BYU's business school, along with junior colleagues Brayden King and Teppo Felin of Kieran Healy, Omar Lizardo, and Fabio Rojas of are also present, as is Peter Klein of Organizations and Markets. I am the only law professor in the group, which comprises mostly sociologists and management scholars.

The conference is premised on the notion that organizational scholars "are incapable of delineating a theoretically-sound justification for 'organizations are different.'" If you find this premise surprising, my guess is that you are a lawyer or an economist. Peter Klein and I were wondering why comparative studies in law and economics didn't seem to count. Joe Galaskiewicz provides a possible answer: lawyers and economists are interested in "incentives, choices, and outcomes," while sociologists and psychologists tend to be interested in "behavioral patterns and environmental selection." Only within the latter group would the statement "organizations are different" be controversial.

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