Types and Positions

Rosabeth Moss Kanter and Rakesh Khurana

in The Oxford Handbook of Sociology and Organization Studies

Published in print March 2009 | ISBN: 9780199535231
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Business and Management C

Types and Positions

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  • Organizational Theory and Behaviour
  • Business History



This article aims to make a case for using Georg Simmel's ideas to illuminate features of organizational life that connect individuals, groups, organizations, and society. It first summarizes three related aspects of Simmel's approach to social action that are relevant to organizational research: his method of using ‘pure types’ for describing social roles; positions for locating social actors in relation to each other; and structure for describing recurring social relationships. It then examines Simmel's applications of these ideas to social groupings of increasing complexity beginning with simple social interactions consisting of a monad, dyad, and triad; pyramidal hierarchies of dominant and subordinate relations; and finally, overlapping and interacting affiliations. The article continually draws parallels between Simmel's conceptual ideas and how they relate to critical topics in organizational behavior and to the larger social context. The article concludes by suggesting that Simmel may be even more relevant to a post-industrial age than he was to the machine age in which bureaucracy dominated, which might account for his relative neglect in the past and possible re-emergence today.

Keywords: Georg Simmel; social action; organizational life; social roles; social relationship; organizational behavior; post-industrial age

Article.  6695 words. 

Subjects: Business and Management ; Organizational Theory and Behaviour ; Business History

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