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Comments on the Theory of Organizations*

Herbert Simon

American Political Science Review, 1952, vol. 46, issue 4, 1130-1139

Abstract: This is an attempt to sketch in very rough form what seem to me some of the central concepts and problems of organization theory. In the first section I have tried to define the field of organization theory and to indicate with some care what justification there is for regarding it as a distinct area of theory, related to, but by no means identical with, the theory of small groups and the theory of social institutions. The comments in the second section on subject-matter areas simply spell out the implications, many of them perhaps obvious, of the central argument of the first section.This paper is concerned with all kinds of organizations, and not simply with those that fall within the area of public administration. This definition of the scope of organization theory reflects my own conviction that there are a great many things that can be said about organizations in general, without specification of the particular kind of organization under consideration. Moreover, even if we were interested solely in governmental organizations, I believe that a great deal can be learned from the comparison of their characteristics with those of other kinds of organizations, and from attempts to explain the similarities and differences that are found. Neither of these statements denies the existence of numerous and important phenomena that are peculiar to governmental organizations or the need for theory in public administration to deal with these phenomena.

Date: 1952
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