All the Pieces Matter:
Organizational Legitimacy in Season Two
of The Wire
Rebecca Steiner
n Season One of David Simon’s television series
The Wire, most storylines involve two main
organizations: The Barksdale Drug Empire and the
Baltimore Police Department. During the span of
Season Two, these organizations each make gains
and face setbacks. Storylines during the second
season still involve the Barksdale crew and the
Baltimore Police Department, but two more
organizations become important: an international
crime cartel led by The Greek and the Dockworker
Union led by Frank Sobotka. In John Dowling and
Jeffrey Pfeffer’s seminal work “Organizational
Legitimacy: Social Values and Organizational
Behavior,” they wrote, “Organizations seek to establish
congruence between the social values associated with
or implied by their activities and the norms of
acceptable behavior in the larger social system of
which they are a part” (122). When an actual or
potential disparity exists between the two value
systems, there is a threat to organizational legitimacy.
In this essay, I discuss how organizational legitimacy
informs many of the behaviors and actions of the four
major organizations in Season Two of the The Wire. I
focus on the way organizational legitimacy influences
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