Neo-Carnegie: The Carnegie School's past, present, and reconstructing for the future

Giovanni Gavetti*, Daniel Levinthal, William Ocasio

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

258 Scopus citations


Cyert and March's (1963) A Behavioral Theory of the Firm and the broader Carnegie School form critical theoretical underpinnings for modern organization studies. Despite its impact, however, we suggest that researchers who rely on the Carnegie School have progressively lost touch with its defining commitment to a decision-centered view of organizations. Decision making has given way to learning, routines, and an increased focus on change and adaptation; the organizational level of analysis, although frequently invoked, has been largely supplanted by either a more micro or a more macro focus. In this paper, we argue for restoring the School's original mission and perspective. Our proposal for how this overarching goal can be achieved encompasses three central points. First, we believe the School needs to resurrect a few select ideas that, despite their fundamental importance, have been neglected over time. Second, we believe there is a need for greater paradigmatic closure amongst the School's central theoretical pillars. Loose coupling among such pillars might keep key insights on organizational decision making from emerging. Finally, there is the need to incorporate major developments that have been generated post-Carnegie School, both within organization theory and in the behavioral and social sciences more broadly. In particular, we point to the shift to more open systems perspectives on organizations, the conceptions of organizations being embedded in larger social contexts, and recent developments in the study of individual cognition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)523-536
Number of pages14
JournalOrganization Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2007


  • Bounded rationality
  • Carnegie School
  • Decision making
  • Loose coupling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


Dive into the research topics of 'Neo-Carnegie: The Carnegie School's past, present, and reconstructing for the future'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this