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Göran Ahrne and Nils Brunsson

A growing number of organizations are meta-organizations; rather than individuals they have other organizations as their members. This comprehensive book explains, in-depth, the unique way in which meta-organizations function, how they differ from organizations with individual membership, and how they are crucial agents in the process of globalization.
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Chapter 4: Creating and Sustaining Meta-organizations

Göran Ahrne and Nils Brunsson


3. Environment, members, and meta-organizations We base our theory of meta-organizations on two fundamental arguments: one connected with an organization’s environment and another with its membership. At least in their most general form, we expect these arguments to be uncontroversial. We do not intend to present new theories about environments or members, but we do find it necessary to specify clearly the aspects of existing theories on which our theory of meta-organizations is built. Our first argument is based on standard organization theory: we argue that organization makes a difference. It matters whether or not human interaction and communication are arranged under a formal organization. When meta-organizations are formed, organizations create a new order among themselves. If the included organizations have previously been in contact with each other, it has been another type of contact; they have been involved in an order other than that offered by a formal organization. They have, in organization theory terms, constituted an environment for each other. In the first part of this chapter, we highlight some significant elements of the order offered by formal organization. Our second argument is that it is important to differentiate between the individual and the organization. Meta-organizations work under different conditions than other organizations, because their members are organizations rather than individuals. In the second part of this chapter, we specify some differences between the organization and the individual that are central to our understanding of meta-organizations. The view of environment and 43 44 Meta-organizations membership of organizations that...

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