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date: 22 October 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This article aims to revisit the classical body of theoretical and empirical work on the dynamics of bureaucratic power and control and to reassess its significance for the intellectual renewal and regeneration of contemporary organization studies. First, it examines the strategic sociological, political, and ethical issues that these works were responding to during a historical period of deep-seated structural changes—that is the period between the Great Depression in the 1920s and 1930s and the rise of the ‘corporate state’ between the 1940s and 1960s. Second, it considers the cycle of imaginative reformulations that these modern classics have experienced as the intellectual dominance of structural functionalism and systems theory between the late 1940s and 1960s gave way to the much more theoretically open and contested trajectory that organization studies followed from the 1970s onwards. Third, it evaluates the major theoretical debates that have emerged out of the modern classics and continue to frame the intellectual agenda constitutive of organization studies in the twenty-first century.

Keywords: bureaucratic power, organization studies, corporate state, structural functionalism, system theory, organization ethics

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