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date: 15 August 2020

Abstract and Keywords

That Tocqueville wrote so much about topics that are central to organization theory is perhaps not so peculiar, since he considered ‘the science of associations’ to be absolutely central to modern society. But even if one can easily show that Tocqueville for some reason has been passed over in organization theory, it is more difficult to decide what constitutes the best way to show the merits of his case and why he should be regarded as a classic. One possibility is simply to go through Tocqueville's work, extract everything he has to say about organizations, and discuss this. While this is a reasonable (and economic) way of proceeding, it also builds on some silent assumptions, which need to be discussed. This article makes an attempt both to provide a straightforward account of which parts of Tocqueville's work are relevant for a discussion of ‘Tocqueville as a pioneer in organization theory’ and to show what Tocqueville meant with the terms he used and the problems he addressed. The same goes for paying attention to the general context of his work and the state of social science in Tocqueville's day.

Keywords: organization theory, Tocqueville, social science, science of associations, modern society, classic study

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