Organizations, Networks, and Work

Rutgers Sociology has a cluster of scholars who conduct research on organizations, social networks, and the key characteristics of the contemporary workplace. From cradle to grave, day in and day out, complex formal organizations—businesses, schools, government departments, law firms, hospitals, non-profits, NGOs, media organizations, religious groups, universities—profoundly shape our lives. They dictate the kind of work that is available and the nature of that work. They exert a powerful impact on the distribution of resources and authority in society. They create roles and relations among their members, and they deeply influence individuals’ subjective experience of the world. Sociologists have identified important properties and tendencies existing in formal organizations, many of which apply regardless of the specific tasks organizations set out to do. Furthermore, organizations—for-profits and non-profits alike—interact with each other, and as a result, they often come to look and behave similarly.

The formal and informal networks that operate within and between organizations are among the factors playing a decisive part in bringing about their convergence. But networks—relationships among people, families, groups, events, objects, and more—exist ubiquitously throughout the social world, often independently of formal organizational structures, driven by their own distinctive logics and dynamic processes. Social network analysis is an especially vibrant intellectual field today, devoted to theorizing how social relations and, more broadly, social structure, generate crucial outcomes such as identity formation, unequal resource distributions, occupational and geographic mobility, technological innovation, information diffusion, cultural transformations, and social protest. As a research cluster, we support and encourage both formal organizational and social-network theoretical frameworks, and in adopting them, we deploy a variety of methods, including qualitative, experimental, comparative-historical, and structuralist techniques, signifying our commitment to a holistic approach to the topic of social organization.

Core faculty members in this cluster are particularly interested in: mobility, precarity, and social inequalities in the workplace (Mai, Chaudhary, Roos, Shepherd, Smith); organizations' capacities to foster immigrant integration, collective action, and transnational development (Chaudhary, Brooks); political and economic elites (McLean); adolescent networks (Shepherd); inequality and the organization of incarceration (Friedman); civil society and the environment (Brechin, Mai); the intersection of social networks and culture (McLean, Shepherd); and organizations’ capacity to create and manage risk and disaster (Brechin, Clarke). Students interested in this cluster can also benefit from an engagement with other expert faculty in the Rutgers Business School, the Department of Human Ecology, the School of Communication and Information, the School of Social Work, the School of Management and Labor Relations, and the Bloustein School of Public Policy.