The social construction of cooperation: exchange, identification and collective intentions within the organization

Sguera, Francesco (2009) The social construction of cooperation: exchange, identification and collective intentions within the organization, [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in Direzione aziendale, 20 Ciclo.
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My aim is to develop a theory of cooperation within the organization and empirically test it. Drawing upon social exchange theory, social identity theory, the idea of collective intentions, and social constructivism, the main assumption of my work implies that both cooperation and the organization itself are continually shaped and restructured by actions, judgments, and symbolic interpretations of the parties involved. Therefore, I propose that the decision to cooperate, expressed say as an intention to cooperate, reflects and depends on a three step social process shaped by the interpretations of the actors involved. The first step entails an instrumental evaluation of cooperation in terms of social exchange. In the second step, this “social calculus” is translated into cognitive, emotional and evaluative reactions directed toward the organization. Finally, once the identification process is completed and membership awareness is established, I propose that individuals will start to think largely in terms of “We” instead of “I”. Self-goals are redefined at the collective level, and the outcomes for self, others, and the organization become practically interchangeable. I decided to apply my theory to an important cooperative problem in management research: knowledge exchange within organizations. Hence, I conducted a quantitative survey among the members of the virtual community, “” (n=108). Within this community, members freely decide to exchange their knowledge about the stock market among themselves. Because of the confirmatory requirements and the structural complexity of the theory proposed (i.e., the proposal that instrumental evaluations will induce social identity and this in turn will causes collective intentions), I use Structural Equation Modeling to test all hypotheses in this dissertation. The empirical survey-based study found support for the theory of cooperation proposed in this dissertation. The findings suggest that an appropriate conceptualization of the decision to exchange knowledge is one where collective intentions depend proximally on social identity (i.e., cognitive identification, affective commitment, and evaluative engagement) with the organization, and this identity depends on instrumental evaluations of cooperators (i.e., perceived value of the knowledge received, assessment of past reciprocity, expected reciprocity, and expected social outcomes of the exchange). Furthermore, I find that social identity fully mediates the effects of instrumental motives on collective intentions.

Tipologia del documento
Tesi di dottorato
Sguera, Francesco
Dottorato di ricerca
Settore disciplinare
Settore concorsuale
Data di discussione
3 Giugno 2009

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