Blau's Theory of Differentiation: Is It Explanatory?

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This paper examines Blau's recent attempt to construct a deductive theoretical explanation of structural differentiation in formal organizations. Blau claims that certain generalizations are explanatory, and cites certain philosophers in support of this claim. A closer examination of these philosophers' views shows the resemblance between these generalizations and explanatory scientific generalizations to be only superficial. They can be better understood as descriptions of patterns. These patterns hold in virtue of the following of certain practices by organizational participants. Explanations of the instances covered by the generalizations which refer to these practices may be provided. These explanations require no supplementation. This suggests that the dependence is parasitic, insofar as explanation is concerned. Blau's explanations add nothing, nor are they full independent alternatives.

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The Sociological Quarterly, v. 18, issue 1, p. 17-32