Daily bread to chew on

Organisational Change. First Edition - Organizational Change - The Sociology of Work
February 26, 1999

Studs Terkel, in his poignant book Working, defined work as "a search for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash, for astonishment rather than torpor, in short, for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying". All three of these books attempt in different ways to explore the deeper sociological implications of work implicit in Terkel's definition.

Keith Grint's The Sociology of Work is a standard, comprehensive text exploring the nature of work from, as the title suggests, a sociological perspective. It examines work from an historical framework, not deviating much from other similar texts in highlighting the classical theories of Marx, Weber, Durkheim, and then on to more contemporary approaches (systems theory, action research, human relations school). After a conventional start, it moves into chapters on class, gender, race and ethnicity, and here the emphasis is different from other organisational sociology texts in not overemphasising class and exploring the more contemporary themes of gender, race, ethnicity, and latter on technology and globalisation. This is a well-crafted book that covers most of what one might expect in an organisational sociology text, and is particularly appropriate for final-year undergraduates and postgraduates. It could have benefited from a chapter on organisational change, but is a solid account of what exists and where the field has come from and is likely to go.

The theme of organisational change, however, is covered by the other two books reviewed here. Barbara Senior's book on Organisational Change is a comprehensive text exploring not only the historical context of change and the nature/causes of change (in her first section on the "context of change"), but also more apposite chapters on change and "culture", "politics", and "leadership" (in the second section); and ultimately on strategies for managing change (in the final section). This book is truly a textbook qua textbook, and is peppered with many illustrations, figures, brief conceptualisations in stand-alone boxes and many other student-friendly guides throughout. It is well written, easy to follow and provides the student with a wide range of material in the change field.

The final book is by David Collins, Organizational Change , again from a sociological perspective. This book goes over some of the same ground as Grint's book but does emphasise change, with chapters on approaches to the study of change, research studies in the field, socialised models of change, and theories for the analysis of change. Unlike Grint's volume, this book is more likely to be of interest to postgraduate students on MBAs or in organisational behaviour/ sociology, although there are section that are similar to Senior's book on topics to do with culture, human resources mangement and the like.

All three of these books are well organised and well written, and serve a particular role within the broad field of the sociology of work, the latter two on the dynamics of change and the former a more comprehensive, macro text. They all, in one form or another, attempt to understand the culture of work and the processes of change, trying to uncover the subtle behaviour that underpins Machiavelli's observation in The Prince : "It should be borne in mind that there is nothing more difficult to arrange, more doubtful of success and more dangerous to carry through than initiating changes. The innovator makes enemies of all those who prospered under the old order, and only lukewarm support is forthcoming from those who would prosper under the new."

Cary L. Cooper is professor of organisational psychology and health, UMIST.

Organisational Change. First Edition

Author - Barbara Senior
ISBN - 0 3 62491 1
Publisher - Pitman
Price - £22.99
Pages - 288

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