Power Plays

Critical Events in the Institutionalization of the Tennessee Valley Authority

By Richard A. Colignon

Subjects: American Labor History
Series: SUNY series in the Sociology of Work and Organizations
Paperback : 9780791430125, 367 pages, December 1996
Hardcover : 9780791430118, 367 pages, January 1997

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Table of contents



1. Institutionalization

2. Tennessee Valley Authority As a Contingent Event

3. Genesis: The Roots of Tennessee Valley Authority

4. The Tennessee Valley Authority Act

5. Public Interest Conflicts

6. Tennessee Valley Authority As a Microcosm of Society

7. Power Pooling and Reappointment

8. Judiciary Act of 1937

9. Institutionalization through Purge and Purchase

10. Tennessee Valley Authority As an Instrument: Part of the Sociopolitical Processes of the 1930s




Identifies the importance of New Deal conflicts, policy networks politics, and ruthless domination as critical events in the creation and early development of the Tennessee Valley Authority.


CHOICE 1997 Outstanding Academic Books

Power Plays provides a conflict model of organizational behavior based on a historical reanalysis of the creation and early development of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) from its origins as a World War I munitions plant to its consolidation as the largest electric utility in the United States. It also examines Philip Selznick's classic work, TVA and the Grass Roots. The book shows how the interactions among the Depression, New Deal politics, the promise of electricity, and diverse ideologies with the strategic and tactical maneuvers of a policy network explain the institutionalization of the TVA.

Richard A. Colignon is Associate Professor in the Center for Social and Public Policy and the Department of Sociology at Duquesne University.


"The author puts forth an important thesis—organizations are better understood as contested political struggles than as objects sui generis—and makes it stick in the empirical discussion. " — David Strang, Cornell University

"The author does a good job of pointing to the weaknesses of the current version of 'institutional' organization theory. He pays meticulous attention to the historical record. The work is a compelling statement of an 'action' oriented organization theory. "— Wolfgang Bielefeld, University of Texas at Dallas