Orgnisation and Social Order, by Professor Tom Burns


This web site was created to share the final, unpublished work written by Professor Tom Burns, Organisation and Social Order.

Read an Appreciation by Professor Gianfranco Poggi, published by the British Academy. (PDF)

"The Burns manuscript is a posthumous work that could be described as the magnum opus of one of Britain’s most innovative organizational sociologists of the postwar period. Tom Burns died in the middle of 2001. He had been a Professor of Sociology at Edinburgh University for nearly 20 years, from the 1960s to his retirement in 1981. He was best known for his pathbreaking work on the Management of Innovation, published in 1961 (reissued by Oxford UP in 2001), where he introduced the distinction between "organic" and "mechanistic" organizational structures, and their impact on innovative capacities.

After Burns retired in 1981, he disappeared from public view. But actually, what he was doing for the 20 years of his retirement was working on a monumental treatise on the comparative history of organization, from the Greeks and the Romans to the early modern period. For some reason, he was reluctant to have the work published in stages in his own lifetime. What he has bequeathed after his death is a series of historical studies of extraordinary range and interest. No doubt he would have brought the story right up to the 20th century, had time permitted. Ill health interfered all too much in his efforts towards the end of his life.

The manuscript as presented provides an astonishing overview of the evolution of organizational forms and practices over nearly 2,000 years of western (particularly European) history. Nothing like it has been attempted. The fact that the attempt remains incomplete, and would no doubt have been extended had the author had time, does not detract from the magnitude of the work."

- Professor John A. Mathews



site last updated January 2012.
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