Cover of Organizations and Environments by Howard E. Aldrich
Organizations and Environments
Howard E. Aldrich


416 pages.

Paper ISBN: 9780804758291


Excerpts and More

When Organizations and Environments was originally issued in 1979, it increased interest in evolutionary explanations of organizational change. Since then, scholars and practitioners have widely cited the book for its innovative answer to this question: Under what conditions do organizations change?

Aldrich achieves theoretical integration across 13 chapters by using an evolutionary model that captures the essential features of relations between organizations and their environments. This model explains organizational change by focusing on the processes of variation, selection, retention, and struggle. The "environment," as conceived by Aldrich, does not refer simply to elements "out there"—beyond a set of focal organizations—but rather to concentrations of resources, power, political domination, and most concretely, other organizations.

Scholars using Aldrich's model have examined the societal context within which founders create organizations and whether those organizations survive or fail, rise to prominence, or sink into obscurity.

A preface to the reprinted edition frames the utility of this classic for tomorrow's researchers and businesspeople.

About the author

Howard E. Aldrich is Professor of Sociology and Adjunct Professor of Management in the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

"No organizational scholar's education is complete until she has read Howard Aldrich's lucid, provocative, classic Organizations and Environments. Aldrichís prescient book shows us how organizations are shaped by their environments, and how the organizational population evolves through selection, retention, and variation in form. Time has proven Aldrich's insights about relations between firms and changing firm boundaries to be right on the money, making the book more timely than ever."

—Frank Dobbin, Harvard University

"In this landmark text, Howard Aldrich offered the first book-length treatment of the evolutionary perspective on organizational behavior. Indeed, one notable measure of the influence of Organizations and Environments is the extent to which its arguments concerning variation, selection, and retention have become taken-for-granted in the contemporary paradigms of organizational analysis. Both seasoned scholars and fresh graduate students will benefit considerably from an examination of Aldrich's conceptual framework and detailed historical examples."

—Martin Ruef, Princeton University

"Organizational scholars of my generation cut their doctoral teeth on Organizations and Environments. My copy sat proudly on my bookshelf between Weick's Social Psychology of Organizing and Pfeffer and Salancik's The External Control of Organizations. But my delight in seeing it reprinted extends well beyond nostalgia. Aldrich's flair for putting organizations in their contexts provides a model of theorizing that is as relevant today as it was when the book was first published. Now future generations are assured the benefit of its many insights."

—Mary Jo Hatch, University of Virginia

"With this book Howard Aldrich changed how we think about change in organizations and environments. It is the seminal explanation of evolutionary processes of organizational change. With the growing interest in evolutionary models of change, this classic becomes increasingly relevant and influential."

—Andrew H. Van de Ven, University of Minnesota

"Aldrich's important classic, Organizations and Environments, introduced organizational sociology to the ecological perspective while simultaneously addressing the dynamics of political and societal issues. It strongly advanced the field during the late 20th century and warrants re-reading. Organizations and Environments focused needed attention on external resources and developments that impact the behavior of organizations, while also integrating its innovative perspective with a variety of other analytical frameworks. It is a major contribution to the study of organizations."

—Paul M. Hirsch, Kellogg School of Management Northwestern University