complex organizations: a sociological amitai etzioni

Download Complex Organizations: A Sociological Amitai Etzioni

Post on 24-Jan-2017




3 download

Embed Size (px)


  • Complex Organizations: A Sociological Reader. by Amitai EtzioniReview by: E. William NolandSocial Forces, Vol. 40, No. 4 (May, 1962), pp. 371-372Published by: Oxford University PressStable URL: .Accessed: 16/06/2014 01:29

    Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at .

    .JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range ofcontent in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact


    Oxford University Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Social Forces.

    This content downloaded from on Mon, 16 Jun 2014 01:29:05 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions


    By Amitai Etzioni. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1961. 497 pp. $6.75.

    As the subtitle of this publication reveals, this is a collection of readings on complex organizations, a subject currently receiving burgeoning emphasis by sociologists. Of the 39 articles used, 6 are appearing for the first time. The remaining 33 are equally divided between reproductions or adaptations of journal ar- ticles and adaptations of parts of books (including symposia volumes, university research studies, and monographs). Most of the articles chosen by Editor Etzioni are by sociologists we have come to identify with this special focus. To play the game of suggesting other articles which would have been more appropri- ate than some which were chosen would hardly be worth the effort, for one can see little more than the general outlines of the criteria of choice used and would, therefore, run risks in speculating on specifics. From among the many evaluative criteria which ap- parently are used from time to time to review this type of book, I shall choose two: (1) quality and ap- propriateness of articles chosen; and (2) quality of job done by the editor in introducing and tying them together. So chockful of ramifications to the study of complex organization and so valuable a source book of ideas which need expanding and coordinating into a definitive effort is this work that the criteria of qual- ity and appropriateness of the articles chosen can be handled well only by a brief comment on each.

    The first of the seven parts into which the book is divided addresses itself to theories of organization. In the eight articles which fall here we find discussions of the relationship of the legal mode of authority to bureaucratic organization; organizations as systems of cooperation; organizations as both adaptive and cooperative systems; how policy, allocative and coor- dination decisions are employed as mechanisms to implement the goals of an organization; "trained incapacity" and dysfunctionality of discipline and im- personal treatment of clients in bureaucracy; an or- ganization as a system in which inducements are ex- changed for contributions; the folly of regarding bureaucracy as inevitably bad; and the convergence of Max Weber's and C. I. Barnard's formulations on the nature of organizational effectiveness and systems of authority.

    Of the four articles in Part 2, "Organizational The- ory Applied," one brings human relations theory up to date, another criticizes Elton Mayo, another de- fends Mayo, and the last, by Editor Etzioni himself, equates industrial sociology with the study of eco- nomic organizations.

    The third section treats organizational goals-how they are arrived at and changed; conditions under which they are neglected or substituted for; and the mutual dependence of goal alteration, organizational structure, and environment. Here the National Founda- tion for Infantile Paralysis is used as an example of

    organizational goal succession; the adult education system illustrates the vulnerability of organizations to the values which underpin them; two prison systems, one treatment-oriented and the other custodially- oriented, handle quite differently an unstated insti- tutional goal, the protection of inmates; and goal selection is seen as dependent upon the organization- environment nexus and as a function of four forms of organizational interaction-competition, bargaining, co-optation, and coalition.

    Part 4, "Organizational Structures," consists of seven articles describing as many types of organiza- tions. Etzioni presents the articles in the order of "increasing degree of commitment required from lower participants for effective operation of the or- ganization." From low commitment to high commit- ment fall, in order, the prison, the military establish- ment, industrial plants, the trade union, the mental hospital, the public school, and religious organizations. In the prison, there is "corruption of authority" (the opposite of degree of commitment) because the guard finds himself incapable of playing his theoretical role of impersonal enforcer of the rules; the military is seen as moving in the direction of less domination and more manipulation; the industrial plant (three are discussed) is examined in terms of factors conducing to line-staff competition and conflict; the trade union is pictured as slowly becoming bureaucratized; factors making a mental hospital an effective therapeutic com- munity are examined; the various defenses and types of secrecy the public school teacher must employ to preserve a semblance of authority and combat paren- tal intrusion are discussed; and an examination of variations in organizational dimensions of the ecclesia, the sect, the denomination, and the cult, is made.

    Six articles on important types of complex organiza- tion in our modern society compose the next section. Here the Civil Service is seen as a bureaucracy which theoretically maintains a neutral position under changes in political power but actually blocks change that appears to be a threat to its security and legiti- macy; equilibrium between bureaucracy and environ- ment is put into tripartite typology: where the bureauc- racy is autonomous and distinct; when it displaces service goals with those of power by extending tenta- cles into different areas of social life; and when it "falls prey"-loses its autonomy and has its goals minimized-to groups around it; conditions under which the public and a government bureaucracy interact constructively, in a fashion making for social and political integration, are examined; conflict is viewed as a fundamental social process, which, when properly institutionalized, becomes manageable and, indeed, eufunctional; the participation of business leaders in community activities is described as being motivated more by the personal needs of these men than by their concern for the public relations payoff it might have for their companies; and total institu- tions (of which five major types are discussed) are


    This content downloaded from on Mon, 16 Jun 2014 01:29:05 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions


    examined in terms of mortification processes, adapta- tion alignments, a staff supposedly committed to humane standards and to the creation of a proper moral climate, and as organizations within which "societies" form (somewhat in contrast to the or- ganization-within-society focus of the other articles of this section).

    The sixth section deals with organizational change. In one article, two government agencies are discussed in terms of conditions under which internal changes, necessary for the maintenance of equilibrium, take place; in another the life-history of an organization is seen as consisting of three phases-the selection of a social base, building the institutional core, and for- malization; the need for careful planning and training of personnel for advancement is seen as the sine qua non of effective bureaucratic succession; the impor- tance of new communication patterns as underpinning for the authority structure when a prison changes from an authoritarian structure to one that is liberal is described; and a quantitative model for this qualita- tive report on prison change is displayed.

    The last section consists of five articles on ways of studying organizational change. One treats the logical and methodological differences between the properties of individuals and social units. Another points up how survey methods can be employed to study organ- izational interrelationships, through contextual analy- sis, pair analysis, partitioning into cliques, and de- termination of boundaries of homogeneity. The third article in this section provides a detailed description of how matrix techniques of sociometric analysis can be applied to separate primary group members from those who are not, to determine the structural niche of such primary groups as well as individuals, and to de- scribe relationships between and among groups. It is a method for studying the effects on individuals of their position in a structure, and relationships between the goals and structure of parts of organizations. In another article is found a discussion of the relevance of laboratory experimentation to the understanding of the functioning of forml organizations, a comparison of research in both settings in terms of duration, size, institutionalization and involv


View more >