The sociological citizen

Written by Panagiotis Karkatsoulis on .

citizenMuch has been written and even more has been tried regarding the product of the osmosis between the rational and the irrational. The combination of the formal written norms with the oral tradition is no longer considered a pathodology, on the contrary, it is the means for inspiration and productivity both in the private and the public sector’s organizations. The heterogeneity of human action versus the homogeneity of the rational norms seems to create a model of an active subject that does not agree neither with the rationalists of therational choicenor with the individualists of “methodological individualism”. According to Piore[1] the sociological citizen[2] is much more concerned with the “management of the organizational culture” than with the direct management of the operating agents. He is investigating the “systemic consequences of a complex organization”. Therefore innovative managers and imaginative implementation of regulations are needed, that go way beyond the norms. Standard and innovative trends are fused in order to achieve the organizational objectives.

Following the lead of Durkheim (“patterns of action”) and C. Wright Mills (“Sociological imagination”) the sociological citizen / manager creates relational rules in order to be able to understand and also to implement norms, programs and behests that have been produced in laboratory/sterilized environments. In order to do this he must see potential where others see dead ends, and mobility where others see inertia and immobility. He must have a relational methodology that permits him to correlate between different situations and subjects, a “high octane theory” to recall the apt transfer of Niklas Luhmann for his own theory of self-referential systems.

The relational manager “discovers” the room between typically determined and registered posts/tasks and roles, connecting them either with organizational culture and concepts or with collective dynamics developed with the implementation of actions and programs. This is confirmed by many examples of several different countries, and Greece as well. Citizen Service Centres in the past and functional review more recently, show how an essential idea is transformed through succeeding mechanisms in a product with a unique identity that permits its existence and sustainability. The final form includes idiosyncratic concepts, themselves products of a mix of experiences and understandings of the “others”. In the first case we had aone-stop-shopreflecting Greek needs and priorities and in the second an unprecedented quantitative and qualitative registration and evaluation of public service by the employees themselves. The interpretation of these facts on the basis of the above theoretical approach shows the sociological citizen/employee/manager to be a pragmatist who wants to experiment but also is very capable of adjusting, according to S. Coslovsky[3].  

However we should stress that here is the limit of the sociological citizen approach. If he uses whatever means in order to achieve his organizational objective, one cannot help but wonder what is his difference from his twin described by Merton[4], who noted that both illegitimate crime and legitimate innovation adopted unconventional means to achieve “culturally appreciated objectives”. In the theory of autopoietic systems, this note led the way for the potential of the operator to meet the relative potential of the organization as shown in its main values (objectives, structures, budget etc.). These are no longer outside limits but belong to the organization itself. Their interface accommodates common understandings, communications that function as cohesive matter, consisting the unique identity of the organization.

This aspect of the theory is of academic interest to those who like regulatory imperatives only, however in our opinion, it is of even greater interest to the administrative and political practice. It seems a promising approach versus the leveling administration practice that offers no solutions imposed by domestic and other powers in our country. So let us try it!  

[1] Piore, M. J. (2011), Beyond Markets: Sociology, street-level bureaucracy, and the management of the public sector. Regulation & Governance, 5: 145–164.

[2] Some thoughts on the occasion of reading the special issue of “Regulation and Governance” (2011)5 on the “sociological citizen” and “relational regulation”. The “sociological citizen” is the socially aware citizen, who sees the “broader image” in every situation, and the relations developed between the operating agents. The sociological citizen adapts his behavior to this relational environment aiming to the achievement of organizational objectives while using the existing social dynamics.

[3] S. Coslovsky και R. Pires, Τhe pragmatic politics of regulatory enforcement, Jerusalem Papers in Regulation & Governance Working Paper No. 29, December 2010

[4] On Social Structure and Science, The University of Chicago Press: Chicago


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