Organisational structuration

emergent social action in committee work

Grant Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The concept of structuration is still under construction. After tracking its development to date, this paper asks what happens to the concept when it is applied to understanding work behaviour in an organisational context. The concept of structuration is made more elaborate by introducing a new constituent to the process, the element of preferential role. What influence, if any do the actuations of preferential roles by individuals have on the social structure and of the collective group behaviour? The paper serves as a model for anyone who seeks ways of testing the concept of structuration in practice. The research reported in this paper suggests an answer to a practical question thrown up by the concept of structuration. Structuration is one way of resolving the opposition between those collectivists who seek to observe structure as a determinate of individual behaviour and those individualists who see group behaviour as nothing more than the sum total of individual behaviours. Anthony Giddens, who is generally credited with the formulation of the concept, provides little instruction on how to actually operationalise the concept of structuration in an empirical investigation. Great in theory; how is it studied in practice? Moreover, how can the concept be put to work in understanding the social organisation of work and its outcomes? After sketching the development of the concept of structuration, this paper reports on one attempt to study structuration as it occurs in a work setting (a house of parliament) that has particular characteristics that make it ideal for the observation of structuration in action. The unit of work that is studied is the parliamentary committee. A single parliamentary inquiry provides a unit of work to observe, which is at once discrete and well bounded and also has a wider institutional context within which the committee fits. It also provides people to study who are both political actors (in the sense prescribed by political science) and social actors (in the sense prescribed by sociology). The parliamentary committee is an ideal group to choose to test the influence of preferential role and structuration, since it is here that stl1lcturation can be observed in a highly explicit form. Parliamentarians are not wage slaves, limited by official role descriptions and duty statements. They are out to shape structures in ways that can assist individual agendas and are expected to some extent to construct their own roles. That said, the parliamentary committee is also a work group, the structure of which is - at least in theory determined by collective agreement. Nine parliamentary committees were studied in this project. Two of those committees are cased in this paper. However, in all cases observed, structuration occurred through the interaction of two pervasive sets of forces: the corporatist dictates of party structures and the actuation of the preferential roles of committee members.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-47
Number of pages15
JournalInternational business and economics research journal
Volume3
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2004

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