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Formal Organizations

Formal Organizations

Author: Zach Lamb

Differentiate between the types of organizations. 

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Source: Intro Music by Mark Hannan; Public Domain

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Hello. Welcome to Sociological Studies. In this lesson, we're going to give a descriptive overview of the types of formal organizations and the reasons we may belong to these organizations. A formal organization is just a large social group, intentionally organized to achieve specific goals.

So for instance, government agencies are designed to achieve specific goals. They are large social groups intended to achieve goals. Likewise, the post office, corporations, Apple, Microsoft, Coca Cola, these are large social organizations designed to achieve specific goals. As is the education system-- schooling, high school, colleges, Sophia here. These are formal organizations.

We couldn't go to the doctor, we couldn't mail a letter, we couldn't get food, we couldn't put gas in our car, couldn't turn the lights on in your house, couldn't buy clothes, you couldn't even watch this lesson, without formal organizations. Formal organizations are a basic, hugely important part of modern society. So this is why we study them sociologically. In order to get rid of formal organizations and try to get them out of your life, you would have to basically live off the grid completely, which is extremely difficult to do.

And organizations can be broken down into various types. And the first type is a utilitarian organization-- utilitarian. I've got to make sure I spell this right, or I'm going to have to do this again. We participate in utilitarian organizations for useful reasons, useful underlying this word utilitarian. Most times we choose to belong to these organizations, but a majority of us belong to them to make a living.

So your job is a utilitarian organization. So for me, Sofia is a utilitarian organization. This is my job. I like doing it. That's why I'm here. And ideally, that's the case. What you want to do-- you belong to it voluntarily, but you also belong to it for a utilitarian purpose, income oftenly.

Second type of organization is normative organizations, which are also typically called voluntary associations because we participate in normative organizations because we want to. We volunteer to be there. Voluntary associations and normative organizations then exist to pursue some goal in common that the participants believe has moral value or is good for society.

So examples of normative of organizations are activist groups, environmental activists who want to see the environment protected. They belong to this group because they believe in it, and they want to. Likewise, gay and lesbian activism in the GLBT, this is a voluntary association. Political protest, boycotts of certain brands or corporations or products, and union participation oftenly is a normative organization.

So belonging to these groups is voluntary, and we do it because we believe in the case. Group membership says something about our identities, our tastes and our preferences. So this normative organization then is much more strongly linked to our identity and our beliefs about how the world should operate and how the world should be.

Finally, we have coercive organizations, which we belong to coercive organizations not because we want to be, but because we have to be. We're forced to be. And often we're forced to be as a part of some kind of punishment. So examples of coercive organizations are prisons, mental institutions. We're not there, ideally, because we want to be, but we are forced to be because of some form of punishment. So these are coercive organizations.

Now, organizations as I've described them might seem compartmentalized and black and white. But that's not necessarily the case. One organization can be all three of these at the same time.

So take that mental institution, for example. The doctor there is there as part of a utilitarian organization. It provides his income. The patients are coerced. They have to be there. They're there because they were punished or for whatever reason. And so that's a coercive organization.

But what about the sociologist who's interested in the medicalization of deviance, and she's doing her dissertation on this topic? So she volunteers and spends a lot of time at the organization. Well then there, she's there for normative reasons. So you see, it's not as black and white as we've laid it out.

And finally, organizations do not exist in isolation, but they exist as part of an organizational environment, which an organization environment is constituted by the social influences outside of an organization that affect its operation and in some cases even its existence. Organizations do not exist in and of themselves or by themselves. They exist in context, enmeshed in society, and they're affected by outside forces such as technology, politics, and current events.

So the Department of Homeland Security, for example, a formal organization, was created after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. So this entire organization exists only because of this outside environment. Economic trends can also affect the organizational mission and existence. Economic trends form part of the organizational environment.

High unemployment rate affects both business organizations and government organizations. High unemployment means that a lot of people might not be able to purchase the commodities that organizations are putting to market. Unemployment agencies-- another formal organization-- might be overloaded. And then you see an interplay of the two.

And finally, organizations are also affected by other organizations. Industry people call organizations dealing with other organizations business to business transactions, B2B. So organizations are completely enmeshed in an organizational environment that affects their operation, and it's important you see them as acting in this fashion, not in isolation.

I hope you enjoyed this introduction to formal organizations and describing the three types of organizations, as well as describing how they exist in an organizational environment. Have a great rest of your day.

Terms to Know
Coercive Organizations

Organizations that are involuntary for their members (i.e. prisons and mental institutions).

Formal Organizations

Large social groups intentionally organized to achieve specific goals (i.e. government agencies, the United States Post Office, corporations, and higher education).

Normative Organizations

Organizations that exist to pursue some goal in common that participants believe has moral value or is good for society (also sometimes called voluntary associations).

Organizational Environment

Social influences outside an organization that affect its operation, and even its existence.

Utilitarian Organizations

Organizations that pay people for their efforts and thereby provide jobs.