Cultural Theory and Contemporary Management Organization

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Abstract

Mary Douglas's cultural theory of grid and group provides a framework for the description of three distinct cultural types corresponding to three logics for the legitimation of collectivity and collective coercion. Each type is distinguished by characteristic structures of classification, power, and moral order operating at the individual cognitive level. In this paper, the theory is used to illuminate some of the major developments in the structuring of business organizations in the late twentieth century, including the introduction of matrix, project and network organizations, the focus on de-layering, downsizing and outsourcing, and the emergence of concerns with cultural control, organizational learning, and core competence. The problems arising from these developments are discussed in terms of an unresolved conflict between the cognitive frameworks of two of Douglas's cultural types, market, and hierarchy.

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