Gerald F. Davis

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Gerald Fredrick (Jerry) Davis (born 1961) is an American sociologist, and Professor of Sociology at the University of Michigan, known for his work on corporate networks, social movements and organization theory.


  • Organization theory is the branch of sociology that studies organizations as distinct units in society. The organizations examined range from sole proprietorships, hospitals and community-based non-profit organizations to vast global corporations. The field’s domain includes questions of how organizations are structured, how they are linked to other organizations, and how these structures and linkages change over time. Although it has roots in administrative theories, Weber’s theory of bureaucracy, the theory of the firm in microeconomics, and Coase’s theory of firm boundaries, organization theory as a distinct domain of sociology can be traced to the late 1950s and particularly to the work of the Carnegie School. In addition to sociology, organization theory draws on theory in economics, political science and psychology, and the range of questions addressed reflects this disciplinary diversity. While early work focused on specific questions about organizations per se – for instance, why hierarchy is so common, or how businesses set prices – later work increasingly studied organizations and their environments, and ultimately organizations as building blocks of society. Organization theory can thus be seen as a family of mechanisms for analysing social outcomes.
    • Gerald F. Davis (2013). "Organizational theory," in: Jens Beckert & Milan Zafirovski (eds.) International Encyclopedia of Economic Sociology, p. 484-488

"Agents without principles?" 1991


Gerald F. Davis, "Agents without principles? The spread of the poison pill through the intercorporate network." Administrative science quarterly (1991): 583-613.

  • This study compares the agency theory of the firm with interorganizational theory in examining the factors associated with the adoption of the poison pill-a takeover defense issued by a firm's board of directors that can dramatically increase the cost that a hostile buyer would have to pay to acquire the firm-by a panel of Fortune 500 firms between July 1984 and August 1989. The pill's rapid spread is traced to a combination of ownership structure and other firm-level factors and an interlock network diffusion process. The results support a social structural perspective on the market for corporate control in which the interlock network provides a social context favoring continued managerial dominance. The findings are also more consistent with models of cohesion rather than structural equivalence as the social structural mechanism responsible for diffusion.
    • p. 538 ; Abstract

Organizations and organizing, 2007


W. Richard Scott and Gerald F. Davis. Organizations and organizing: Rational, natural and open systems perspectives. Routledge, 2007; 2015.

See W. Richard Scott#Organizations and organizing, 2007

Quotes about Gerald F. Davis

  • Davis’s research is broadly concerned with the effects of finance on society. Recent writings examine how ideas about corporate social responsibility have evolved to meet changes in the structures and geographic footprint of multinational corporations; whether "shareholder capitalism" is still a viable model for economic development; how income inequality in an economy is related to corporate size and structure; why theories about organizations do (or do not) progress; how architecture shapes social networks and innovation in organizations; why stock markets spread to some countries and not others; and whether there exist viable organizational alternatives to shareholder-owned corporations in the United States.
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