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  • Modern Organizations. by Amitai EtzioniReview by: William Foote WhyteAdministrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 10, No. 3 (Dec., 1965), pp. 400-402Published by: Sage Publications, Inc. on behalf of the Johnson Graduate School of Management,Cornell UniversityStable URL: .Accessed: 12/06/2014 16:53

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  • Book Reviews

    Modern Organizations. By Amitai Etzioni. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1964. 120 pp. $3.95 clothbound, $1.50 paperback.

    This book is designed to be an introduction to the study of organiza- tions. It is an able treatise by an able scholar, yet it seems to this reviewer more interesting for what it reveals about the lack of consensus as to the nature of this field of study than for what it contributes to a general introduction. The book might be more accurately entitled, "A Structuralist View of Organizations," for Etzioni identifies himself as a "structuralist," and he presents this point of view.

    Anyone who undertakes the difficult task of writing an introduction to a field in such a brief book must choose carefully among the topics to be covered. He cannot be criticized fairly for failing to cover everything of interest and possible importance. Nevertheless, it is in- structive to examine the emphasis in topics covered and uncovered. The book begins with a relatively extended discussion of the history of organizational research and a critique of several of the schools of thought in this field. It continues with discussions of control, leader- ship, and authority (administrative and professional), and concludes with discussions of the relations of the organization to the client and to its social environment.

    Except for a page and a half on staff-line relations, Etzioni fails to give attention to the network of horizontal and diagonal relations, which increasing numbers of students in the field are coming to con- sider of equal importance to that of the line of authority, at least in large organizations. While recognizing that technology is important, Etzioni gives no attention to the way in which different types of tech- nology and different systems of organizing the flow of work tend to channel behavior in organizations. He takes great pains to demonstrate that the workers are likely to have interests different from those of

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    management and that these differences cannot be communicated away by skillful human relations techniques, but he gives no attention to the union, which is the major institution in industry for channeling and thrashing out conflicts of interest.

    It is indeed paradoxical to find a man who calls himself a structural- ist and yet fails to give attention to such structural features of organiza- tional life as horizontal and diagonal relationships, technology and workflow, and union-management relations. Apparently, structuralism to the structuralists consists primarily of examining the formal orga- nization structure (in relation to the informal) and in dealing with such large and ambiguous concepts as power and authority.

    In his discussion of the human relations literature, Etzioni is more generous than earlier critics in acknowledging contributions, yet, in seeking to demonstrate the superior merits of the structuralist approach, he rests his case on the following caricature:

    The differences in approach may be highlighted in the following case. In a typical Human Relations training movie we see a happy factory in which the wheels hum steadily and the workers rhythmically serve the machines with smiles on their faces. A truck arrives and unloads large crates containing new machines. A dark type with long sideburns who sweeps the floors in the factory spreads a rumor that mass firing is imminent since the new machines will take over the work of many of the workers. The wheels turn slower, the workers are sad. In the evening they carry their gloom to their suburban homes. The next morning, the reassuring voice of their boss comes over the inter-com. He tells them that the rumor is absolutely false; the machines are to be set up in a new wing and more workers will be hired since the factory is expanding its production. Everybody sighs in relief, smiles return, the machines hum speedily and steadily again. Only the dark floor sweeper is sad. Nobody will listen to his rumors anymore. The moral is clear: had manage- ment been careful to communicate its development plans to its workers, the crisis would have been averted. Once it occurred, increase in communication eliminated it like magic (page 43).

    There are two things wrong with this hypothetical case:

    1. Etzioni does not appear to be the sort of scholar who spends enough time studying training movies to be qualified to tell us what "a typical human relations training movie" is like. I cannot claim to have spent much time on this unrewarding task myself, yet I have seen very few training movies that approached the level of naYvete of the Etzioni example. But that is just a minor point.

    2. More important, Etzioni falls into the common error that one might hope we were at last outgrowing. He lumps together in the same

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    basket men who have done serious and pioneering research on human relations in industry and some of the enthusiastic popularizers within management and in management consulting, who have tried to sell the idea that conflict avoidance or resolution in industry depends entirely upon skillful communications. As Henry Landsberger so ably argued in Hawthorne Revisited, Management and the Worker-which might be regarded as the very cornerstone on which the foundation of human relations studies rests-gives no comfort at all to those who see the answer to all problems in skillful communication. Dalton, Roy, Sayles, Strauss, and others commonly identified with human relations studies have dealt extensively with conflicts of interest and with power and with some of the structural aspects of power and conflict that Etzioni neglects. It is unfortunate that so distinguished a contributor to re- search on organizational behavior should fail to make the elementary distinction between the research literature and popular writings.

    In his chapter on organizational control and leadership, Etzioni falls into a curious error. He says: The dispensation of part of the rewards by the organization without regard to performance is more common in the less modern parts of the country than in the more advanced ones, and in less developed than in more developed countries; it is one of the reasons why organizational control is less effective in the less developed countries (p. 59).

    At this point, he introduces a footnote to the J. C. Abegglen book, The Japanese Factory, which presents a classic case of a factory where rewards bear little relationship to performance. Can it be that Etzioni considers Japan one of the "less developed countries" or is arguing that "organizational control is less effective" in Japan than in other industrialized nations? It would be difficult indeed to find a citation less appropriate for the support of Etzioni's point than the one used.

    The book does indeed have positive values. It presents a good restatement of Weberian theories of bureaucracy. It presents a useful comparative approach to a study of organizations designed to fulfill different purposes and provides valuable material on the often neglected topics of the relation of the organization to its clients and to its social environment. Finally, it is valuable as a statement of the structuralist position in organizational research and should be read from that point of view. As a general introduction to the field of orga- nizational behavior, it seems to me one-sided and inadequate.

    WILLIAM FOOTE WHYTE Professor of Industrial Relations Cornell University

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    Article Contentsp.[400]p.401p.402

    Issue Table of ContentsAdministrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 10, No. 3 (Dec., 1965), pp. i-iv+289-421Front Matter [pp.i-iv]An Axiomatic Theory of Organizati


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