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Contribution to Collected Edition

The Governance of Large Technical Systems: The Case of Telecommunications


Schneider,  Volker
Projektbereiche vor 1997, MPI for the Study of Societies, Max Planck Society;

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Schneider, V. (1991). The Governance of Large Technical Systems: The Case of Telecommunications. In T. R. La Porte (Ed.), Social Responses to Large Technical Systems: Control or Anticipation (pp. 19-41). Dordrecht: Kluwer.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0001-31A1-1
The varieties of organizational forms societies have developed in their evolution have always been cornerstones of social analysis. From such a perspective institutions ranging from kinship and family structures to state organizations were often conceived as the basic elements of social organization, fulfilling important tasks in societal reproduction and social integration. As a consequence of the behaviorist revolution in the social sciences and the rise of functionalist systems theory, empirical institutions as analytical entities paradoxically lost their importance. In the search for the fundamental forces which are shaping human action, system-functionalism treated institutions as only surface phenomena. When this viewpoint declined in the last decade and when the “sociological deficit” of the new dominant rational choice approach became apparent, the social sciences were in the same way rediscovering the importance of empirical institutional analysis.1 From this new perspective, institutions are seen as autonomous entities which exist in their own right and play an important role in societal self-regulation. Similar theoretical developments took place in economics, where empirical institutions have been disregarded for a long time. In neoclassic theory, for instance, the fiction of the market as “the natural state” of economic organization was for a long time the dominant perspective.2 Since the 1970s, however, there is a trend toward the formulation of theories which take into account the variety of organizational forms that historical societies have invented. In this undertaking the concept of governance structures plays a significant role.