Oslo Summer School in Comparative Social Science Studies 1996

Comparative Perspectives on Work and Organizations

Main discipline: Sociology
Lecturer: Professor Arne L. Kalleberg
Institution: Department of Sociology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, USA
Dates: 29 July - 2 August, 1996

Work is an activity that is central to the functioning of economies and societies, and to peoples' life experiences. In industrial societies, most people are employed by organizations, which are the main sites wherein work is carried out. A comparative approach to studying topics related to "work and organization" is necessary, since macro-level forces linked to a nation's culture and institutions have important impacts on the structure and processes involved in work and organizations.

The course will provide an advanced introduction to the comparative study of selected important topics related to work and organizations. First, theoretical and methodological issues raised by the comparative study of work and organizations are discussed. Then we shall discuss comparative approaches to a number of important topics: organizational commitment, the labor process and organization of work, patterns of labor market segmentation, careers and mobility, the meaning of work and job satisfaction, inequalities in earnings, and sex segregation. For each topic, we will discuss the rationale for a comparative approach and recent research on cross-national differences. The goal of the course is to give students a better appreciation of the need for comparative thinking about topics related to work and organization, and to help them define research problems related to these issues.


Lecture 1: Comparative Studies of Work and Organizations - Concepts
This lecture presents an overview of the main work structures that are useful for studying issues related to work and organizations. These include organizations, occupations, industries, classes, and unions. We will discuss the interrelations among these concepts and how they differ among nations. The utility of a comparative approach to studying these work structures will be illustrated by how union structures differ among industrial nations.

Lecture 2: Theories of Work and Organization: Comparative Approaches
We will compare five major theoretical explanations that are useful for the comparative study of work and organizations: market (economic), Marxist, culture, institutional, and network theories. After discussing the essentials of a theoretical explanation and major characteristics of each theory, we will illustrate the theory using an exemplary research study. Emphasis will be placed on identifying the kinds of topics for which a particular theory is and is not useful.

Lecture 3: Methodological Issues in the Comparative Study of Work and Organizations
We will consider some of the methodological issues raised by the various theoretical explanations of work and organizations. In particular, we will discuss the relative advantages and disadvantages of case studies vs. large-scale surveys (for example, what can and can't you say about work and organizations using these studies?), and go over examples of each approach. Special attention will be given to issues (e.g., sampling, reliability and validity) that arise in surveys of individuals and organizations.

Lecture 4. Cross-National Differences in Organizational Commitment
This lecture will describe cross-national studies of the determinants of organizational commitment in the U.S., Japan, and Norway. Organizational commitment is a useful concept for the comparative study of the relations of individuals to their organizations, since commitment is influenced by cross-national differences in culture as well as the organization of work.

Lecture 5: The Organization of Work and the Labor Process
We will discuss some of the main theoretical ideas that have been suggested for why work is organized the way it is in industrial societies. We first outline the problem of labor control in various societies. Then, we will examine patterns of work organization in comparative perspective, and possible theoretical explanations of these cross-national differences.

Lecture 6: Labor Market Segmentation
This lecture will consider cross-national patterns of labor market segmentation. In particular, we will examine why some organizations "internalize" employment relations by constructing firm internal labor markets that provide their employees with training and opportunities for promotion, and why other organizations "externalize" employment relations by hiring workers on a temporary basis or subcontracting out work activities.

Lecture 7: Careers and Mobility
We will examine intragenerational, career mobility as well as promotions within organizations. Special emphasis will be placed on identifying cross-national differences in promotions and careers between men and women.

Lecture 8: Meaning of Work and Job Satisfaction
This lecture will present a comparative perspective on the meaning of work for individuals. Theories will be discussed and empirical data presented on cross-national differences in: the centrality of work to peoples' lives; the importance of various aspects of work to individuals; and peoples' satisfaction with their jobs.

Lecture 9: The Rewards of Work: Inequalities in Earnings
Some persons earn more from their jobs than others, and organizations differ in the wages they pay their employees. This lecture will discuss research and theories about earnings inequality, with a special emphasis on cross-national differences in the earnings of men and women.

Lecture 10. Patterns of Sex Segregation
Men and women in all industrial countries work in different organizational positions and in different kinds of occupations. This lecture will provide an overview of theory and research on sex segregation in the division of labor.

Essential preparation