Monday, April 28, 2008

Org Theory Smackdown: Culture v. Structure v. Agency

It is a mark of a highly ambitious, and possibly deluded graduate student to try to say anything about that neverending debate full of fine but possibly false distinctions. Which is more powerful than the other? Which has the greatest potential for harm? Which comes first? Is everything culture? If everything is, what isn't? Is culture embedded in structure, or does structure determine culture? Can agency do anything to affect culture or structure? Is there any agency at all? What explains employment discrimination better: a bad work culture or institutional/structural barriers? Both? What is the more pernicious mechanism that operates to discriminate or prevents the mobilization of rights? What can the employee do about it, and can anything be done at all?

For context, it is like pondering the eternal Roshambo of rock, paper, scissors. Which is more dominant? What if you had like big ol' garden shears and a brittle type of rock? What if the paper is rigid and unyielding and could not cover the rock? Damn it, this is a stupid example.

I was also contemplating some eternally opposed triumvirate example from history or literature, but I can't think of any. Hmm.