EIRC Internal Seminar – Christof Brandtner on “The formation of a city administration: A computational grounded theory of capacity to act in Fin de Siècle Vienna”
Date: Tuesday, November 15th, 2022
Time: 12:00 to 13:30
Paper by: Christof Brandtner
On November 15th, 2022, Christof Brandtner presented his working paper on “The formation of a city administration: A computational grounded theory of capacity to act in Fin de Siècle Vienna”.
The originality and complexity of his work generated an exciting discussion!
“The formation of a city administration: A computational grounded theory of capacity to act in Fin de Siècle Vienna” by Christof Brandtner
Institutional scholarship has theorized the conditions and consequences of the expansion of actorhood. The question of how collective actors initially form has received less attention to date. To address this lacuna, we develop a recursive theory of the formation of organizational actorhood by studying the Vienna city administration—an organizational, collective actor representing the city—at the turn of the 20th century. A computationally grounded analysis of administrative reports from 1867 to 1913 and an archival case study show drastic increases in administrative capacity and local autonomy during the Fin de Siècle. Counterintuitively, Vienna’s pioneering formation ahead of other cities in the same cultural and administrative domains is inconsistent with dominant institutional and legal-rational explanations that explain state and actor formation. Instead, we observe the formation of the city administration as a process in which the capacity to act of the city’s administrative apparatus develops hand in hand with the city’s increasingly sophisticated and differentiated perception of its environment. Our analysis of this feedback loop adds the concept of recursivity to institutional actorhood theories and invites rethinking the notion of organizational form.