I am Professor of Sociology and Business at the University of California, Berkeley. I hold a B.A. in history (1982, University of Toronto), an M.B.A. (1985, University of Toronto), and a Ph.D. in organizational behavior and industrial relations (1990, University of California, Berkeley). I worked at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business from 1990 to 1994, at Cornell University's Johnson Graduate School of Management from 1994 to 1999, and Columbia University's Graduate School of Business from 1998 to 2007. I joined U.C. Berkeley in July 2006.
I study how organizations, the fields in which they are embedded, and the careers of their members and employees evolve. I investigate questions that relate to organizational stability and change: How do new kinds of organizations emerge and how do new industries develop? How strong are the forces that impel or inhibit change in existing organizations' structures, strategies, and actions? What are the consequences of organizational change for organizations themselves and for their employees? How does industry evolution affect social structures? My current work involves American magazines, U.S. wineries, and Chinese listed firms.
American magazines. I am studying the early magazine industry in America from its inception in 1741 to the eve of the Civil War in 1860. I tell the story of how, between 1741, the year the first American magazine was published, and 1860, the eve of the Civil War, that great sundering of community, magazines emerged as a distinct genre, with its own material practices and social conventions, and how magazines built a coherent, distinctively American and increasingly modern society. By transmitting facts, opinions, and entertainment, magazines in this era literally mediated between people, weaving “invisible threads of connection” (Starr 2004: 24) that connected geographically dispersed individuals into cohesive communities whose members shared values, principles, and ideas (Park 1940; Anderson 1983 ). Thus, magazines helped create and sustain the kinds of translocal groups that characterize modern societies. Magazines both shape their surroundings and are shaped by them; therefore, my treatment of magazines, modernization, and community probes reciprocal causal processes: I examine how developments in American society supported and constrained magazines, as well as how the growing number and variety of magazines promoted and directed modern community-building in America, as well as anti-modern reactions to that process. To do this, I analyze data gathered from over 100 archival sources, which cover virtually all magazines published before the Civil War that left any trace of their existence (over 5,000) and key magazine personnel (founders, editors, publishers). My analysis highlights both material and cultural features of American society: efforts to build the fledgling republic, the co-evolution of intellectual property rights and cultural conceptions of authorship, fundamental shifts in American religion, manufacturing, agriculture, and commerce; the birth of modern social movements; and the development of the market for literature. It focuses in detail on three arenas of social life that were shaped by magazines: religion, social reform, and the economy.
American wineries. With Anand Swaminathan at Emory University and Lisa Cohen at McGill University, I am studying U.S wineries and their employees from 1940 to the present. We are analyzing links between the strategies adopted by wineries (size, level of specialization, and vertical integration) and wineries' internal demography (number of distinct job titles, variety of functional areas represented, and amount of hierarchy in job titles). We are also investigating the link between industry structure (the number and variety of wineries) and industry evolution (the burgeoning of specialized "boutique" wineries) and the evolution of job structures and career paths.
Chinese listed firms. With Yongxiang Wang and Nan Jia at USC and Jing Shi at Australian National University, I am studying the continuing economic transition in China. Markets developed rapidly in China during the reform era, opening many new opportunities for business, increasing competition, and heightening uncertainty. But because the political system remained autocratic, state officials retained considerable power over the economy through their control over resources such as land and capital. Moreover, decentralization gave local officials substantial authority over local businesses. We argue that in this context, politically embedded firms (i.e., those with ties to state authorities) bore lower regulatory burdens and had easier access to state-controlled resources; therefore they faced less uncertainty, could more easily take advantage of new business opportunities, and performed better than politically unembedded firms. Political embeddedness was especially important in more competitive markets because there was more uncertainty and more at stake there, and for smaller firms because they were not well-positioned to handle increased competition or gain access to state-controlled resources. We investigate two mechanisms by which political embeddedness affected firm performance in this context: by facilitating access to bank loans and by protecting firms from pressure to make loans to other firms in their business groups. Analysis of panel data from 1992 to 2007 on firms listed on the domestic stock exchanges supports our arguments. In combination, these results suggest that connections between economic and state actors have highly contingent effects – strong in some contexts, for some firms – and that they operate through flows of funds into and out of firms.
Work in Progress