54 Rationality and power as social structures

Brad C. Anderson

shape organizations’ actions. Through our actions, we reinforce those structures, creating stability, or we attempt to change them.

The above chapter explored some ways through which the structures of rationality and power operate in organizations. Through the above insights, we can become more conscious about the systems that govern social systems, which will allow us to be more effective in the actions we choose to take.

Social systems such as organizations can be complicated as inter- and intra-organizational groups act to advance their interests. Taking action often requires a coordinated effort from multiple groups. Resistance from other groups is a constant threat with which we must contend.

The next two chapters discuss how we can combine values, rationality, and power to create wise organizational action.

In This Chapter, You Learned

How rationality enables and constrains action

  • Rationality enables action
    • Rationality justifies actions
    • Bureaucratic rationality gives action structure
  • Rationality constrains action
    • Rationality argues against actions
    • Bureaucratic rationality can stifle action

How individuals may overcome the constraining nature of social structures

  • Individuals may use different forms of rationality to overcome constraining structures.

How rationality and power interact

  • Power gives rationality the force to enable or constrain actions.
  • Power gives rationality the capacity to overcome constraining structures.
  • Power gives rationality the ability to define reality.
  • It is through bureaucratic rationality that power is
  • In organizations, bureaucratic rationality may take official and unofficial forms.
  • You learn bureaucratic rationality by developing your institutional and contextual rationality


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Rationality and power as social structures by Brad C. Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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