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.
My research lies in the macro side of organizational theory. It can best be summarized as the analysis of 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 strong are the forces that impel or inhibit change in organizational structures, strategies, and actions? What are the consequences of organizational change for organizations themselves and for their employees? My published studies have investigated California thrifts (1872-1928 and 1960s-1990s), Iowa telephone companies (1900-1917), Manhattan hotels (1898-1990), California hospitals (1978-1991), American magazines (1741-1860), and U.S. electric utilities (1980-1992).
My current work involves American magazines, U.S. wineries, and Chinese listed firms.
Magazines. I am studying the early magazine industry in America from its inception in 1741 to 1861. I aim to tell the story of how magazines built a coherent, distinctively American society and, at the same time, sustained many separate and often opposing communities. Magazines both shape their surroundings and are shaped by them; therefore, my treatment of magazines and community in America probes both how forces in American society supported and constrained magazines, and how the growing number and variety of magazines promoted community-building. I analyze data gathered from over 90 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. 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, the birth of modern social movements, and the maturation of American literary life. It focuses in detail on three arenas of social life that were shaped by magazines: religion, social reform, and the economy.
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. In the wake of this transition, there has been much debate about how ties between political and economic actors, in particular between state bureaucrats and business firms, changed. In our paper, we argue that given the lack of political reform, the value of politician connections for business strengthened. Economic reform created many new business opportunities; in the absence of political reform, political connections became more important for acquiring state-controlled resources and for gaining state authorization of business activities that allowed firms to take advantage of these opportunities. Our analysis of Chinese listed firms from 1992 to 2007 supports this argument: as market development progressed, firms’ political connections had increasingly positive effects on overall performance and access to bank loans. These effects were more pronounced in more-competitive markets because there was more at stake there. These effects were less pronounced for larger firms because they benefited from economies of scale and so were better-positioned to handle increased competition; they also had easier access to state-controlled resources and lower risks of state expropriation of their assets. Overall, our result reveals that economic reform without political reform has made political actors in China increasingly powerful economic actors.
Work in Progress
Book Chapters and Recent Journal Articles