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  Organizations are social units which are directed towards the achievement of specific goals. The organization comprises a large group of individuals who are linked by a definite set of authority relations and have been brought together for a specific purpose. There are many different sorts of organizations in social life.

Organizations are not new. In preindustrial societies social units were created with the aim of pursuing specific goals. In ancient Egypt, for example, a permanent work force of several thousand skilled workers was formed in order to build the pyramids, and a large-scale organization was created in order to construct and maintain the complex series of dykes, ditches and canals which controlled the flood waters of the Nile and irrigated the fields.

The development of organizations is associated with an increasingly complex division of labour. In many societies all members need to be involved in the production of food in order to survive. With developments in agriculture and advances in farming techniques, there is no need for everyone to be employed in food production. Those members of the population who are freed from subsistence activities are able to specialize in particular tasks, which makes possible the emergence of full-time craftsmen. This process is accelerated with the development of modern technology and as more and more members of the population are able to specialize in tasks not related to food production the division of labour becomes increasingly complicated, and requires co-ordination and direction. For example, the specialists employed to construct the ancient Egyptian pyramids included artists, engineers, masons, overseers, quarrymen, scribes, surveyors and toolmakers. All these tasks need to be directed and co-ordinated if they were to produce an end product. This highly specialized division of labour generates a hierarchy of authority and a system of rules, which combine to form an organization.

What is distinctive about modern society is the sheer size, number and scope of organizations—a hospital is a typical example. In modern society organizations are formed for a whole range of purposes, not only production. They are formed for military reasons, to make and enforce legal decisions, to decide upon and administer government policy and to provide health care. A particular organizational form is often associated with modern society: the bureaucracy. Sociology owes much to Max Weber who has contributed greatly to our understandings of organizations in general and of bureaucracies in particular. DA

See also church; corporatism; labour process; occupation; profession; rationalization; society; work.Further reading G. Salaman, Work Organizations; , D. Silverman, The Theory of Organisations.



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