Meso-Level Structures: Communities and Organizations

This chapter deals explicitly with communities versus organizations as meso-level social formations. The concept of community involves a subjective emotional sense of being linked with others on the basis of similar values, interests, or experiences. Organizations, in contrast, are formally constructed to achieve goals that individuals are unable or unwilling to try to achieve on their own. From the perspective of the last two chapters, organizations are seen as reflecting rational choice considerations while communities are based on shared emotional identification that provides a sense of belonging.

The following topics and themes will be explored:
  • Communities—The concept may refer either to actual relationships among people or to an abstract cultural ideal. In either case a sense of community emerges from similarities and shared interests. Our discussion will focus explicitly on the following:
    • Geographical communities;

    • Ecological interdependence and community formation in urban areas;

    • Communities of shared interests and values.

  • Formal organizations—Such social formations are intentionally established to pursue various goals. (The definition is essentially the same as for James Coleman’s concept of “corporate actors.”) The following aspects of formal organizations will be discussed:
    • Beneficiaries of organizational goals—based on an organizational typology developed by Peter Blau and Richard Scott.

    • Organizational control and compliance structures—based on Amatai Etzioni’s comparative perspective.

    • Bureaucrats versus professionals in organizational settings—a distinction that is related to issues of organizational identification and control.

    • Organizations as open systems—Dealing with Issues of Boundary Maintenance, Input/output Transactions, Internal Interdependence, and Interorganizational Relations.


Formal Organization Residential Location Organizational Goal Business Firm Shared Interest 
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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

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