The collegial phenomenon : a structural theory of collective action among peers
Recently, original neo-Weberian theories have listed a series of formal characteristics differentiating « collegial » organizations from bureaucratic ones. This paper sketches a structural theory of collective action among peers that completes the neo-Weberian approach. Using the study of partnerships as an institutional form, it reconstitutes three generic social mechanisms characterizing this form of cooperation at the collective level : a multiplex and generalized exchange system, a lateral control regime, and the negotiation of precarious values among multi-status oligarchs. This reconstitution is based on a minimal conception of actors as interdependent and niche seeking entrepreneurs trying to carve out a place for themselves in the organization by participating in various forms of status competition and by solving problems of collective action without autocratic leadership. Illustrations are taken from a structural case study, that of a corporate law partnerhsip, and from the literature on organizations of professionals and experts.