Case Study: Culture in Organizations

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Organizational Culture

Culture in Organizations

Do organizations have cultures?

Do organizations have cultures?

Structural-functionalism, conflict theory, and symbolic interactionism

In the field of sociology, several distinct concepts of how societies function have been generated: that of the structural functionalist school, the conflict theory school, and the symbolic interactionist school. Structural-functionalism stresses that social institutions generate positive forces that create order and meaning for individuals in society. Institutions, customs, and written and unwritten social rules are the 'glue' that hold a society together. It implies that by studying such institutions one can understand and hopefully improve 'society.'

In contrast to the harmonious emphasis of structural-functionalism, conflict theory perceives social institutions not as 'natural' but as imposed structures that bolster the wealth and positions of people currently in power. Conflict theory has strong ties to Marxist theory and views society in a continual conflict between the 'haves' (the bourgeois and previously, the aristocracy) and the 'have-nots' (proletariat). Conflict theory "refutes functionalism, which considers that societies and organization function so that each individual and group plays a specific role, like organs in the body" while conflict theory sees groups as constantly at war (Conflict theory, 2011, About sociology). Competition for scarce resources is an inherent part of modern life according to conflict theorists and only revolutions can upset the current balance of power. Even new, post-revolutionary regimes are inherently unequal in the manner in which they redistribute resources.

Symbolic interactionism, in contrast to previous sociological schools of thought, does not see power as a fixed and entrenched concept. Even individuals who do not possess formal positions of authority can exercise power in a cultural fashion, as outsiders. In this theory, the emphasis "on symbols, negotiated reality, and the social construction of society lead to an interest in the roles people play," consciously and unconsciously, formally and informally (Symbolic interactionism, 2011, Grinnell College). Symbolic interactionism puts a strong emphasis on the 'script' that people follow, however unintentionally, in social interactions.

Are organizations cultures?


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APA Format

Culture in Organizations.  (2011, January 9).  Retrieved August 22, 2019, from

MLA Format

"Culture in Organizations."  9 January 2011.  Web.  22 August 2019. <>.

Chicago Format

"Culture in Organizations."  January 9, 2011.  Accessed August 22, 2019.