Director's Statement

The Center for Culture, Organizations, and Politics (CCOP) has been formed to explore sociological, political, and historical institutional perspectives on the construction of social institutions. The Center works to bring together scholars with similar theoretical interests but who come from different disciplines and work in very different empirical settings to explore common theoretical problems.

There is a renewal of interest across the social sciences in how social institutions (defined as rules to guide interaction) are formed. This has been fueled by attempts to understand important changes in politics and economics, such as the emergence of identity politics of all kinds, the crises of national production systems, the transformation of work, the globalization of production, and the problems of economic development presented by both Third World and formerly socialist societies.

Institutions are produced by people who are trying to stabilize their interactions with one another. Culture is used to define the ways we perceive ourselves and the system of power in which we are embedded. Formal organizations are the main vehicle by which institutions are propagated. The formal politics of law and society impinge on most aspects of modern life. The informal politics of organizational life pervades social life with and across organizations. Together, culture, organization, and politics are the building blocks that produce institutions that work to both enable and constrain people.

The Center began as an informal seminar organized in 1996 by Professor Fligstein. The main activity of the Center will be a workshop that meets every two weeks. The seminar is composed of graduate students and faculty from Sociology, Political Science, and the Law School. The seminar discusses individual scholars’ work in progress. Papers will be distributed beforehand, and the session will involve no formal presentations by the papers’ authors but will instead involve free flowing and open discussion.

There are has had many activities over the years. It sponsored a conference with the France-Berkeley Fund on "Media in France and the U.S." that produced a recent book edited by Rod Benson. The Center sponsored another conference that brought leading scholars together to discuss the newly emerging field of economic sociology. Scholars at the conference worked to form the Economic Sociology Section of the ASA. Many of the scholars in attendance at the conference have sponsored subsequent conferences and opened up Centers. The Center has co-sponsored a speakers’ series in cooperation with the Institute for Government Studies on "Institutional Analysis in the Social Sciences." The Center housed the Sloan Foundation's Project "The Corporation as a Social Institution". This project brought together graduate students from many disciplines and universities across America for meetings in Berkeley and funded their research on corporations. The Center continues to provide small grants to support the research of graduate students from different departments who are involved in the seminar.

Neil Fligstein, Director