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date: 08 August 2020

Abstract and Keywords

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

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