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The Selfish Organization: Technology and the Rise of Transnational Corporatism

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In 1911 Frederick Winslow Taylor published Principles of Scientific Management . The ideas he presented became the standard for industry for most of the century. According to Dobyns and Crawford-Mason, "Taylor suggested precise, scientific methods of organizing a factory to get the most out of it" (1991, p.19). Taylor's work helped to launch the era of mass production.

 

As technology radically changed, so did the sociopolitical environment. The new environment affected our perception of and the meaning of our world, our neighbors, and ourselves. For example, in the past when more people were living in an isolated rural environment, family was more likely to be central to daily activities because the entire family, often including the extended family, worked the farm together. Family was central to an individual's sense of belonging and sense of identity. Furthermore, a neighbor's support was crucial to survival in an isolated agricultural setting.

 

In the new cities, working long hours at factories away from home and family became more of a focus. Success in the work place became a greater part of self-definition. In crowded cities, workers were interchangeable and work environments were harsh and dehumanizing. Certainly under these new conditions our sociopolitical environment was destined to change.

 

The technology for achieving organizational goals became more mechanistic.

People felt increasingly isolated, endangered, and mistreated at work, and as a consequence a social adaptation occurred: unionism. Industry responded by creating what we now call human-resource offices.

 

In 1913 Hugo Munsterberg published his groundbreaking book Psychology and Industrial Efficiency (Robbins, 1998). With this publication, unionism, and the birth of human resources, the stage was set for a new era of organization--a more humanizing era.

 

During the 1930s, a new view of workers emerged based on the social-man theory. This theory reminded us that human beings are social animals, and that organizations are the sum of the human beings through which they are animated.

 

The Wagner Act was passed in 1935. This act legitimized the collective bargaining of workers, and the business establishment was forced to come to terms with the idea that workers were more than just cogs in the wheel--they had a collective voice that business was compelled to listen to (Fire Department Company Officer, 2001). The goals of industry began to include meeting the social and humanistic needs of the work force as part of the cost of doing business. Industry began to ask: how do we establish work environments that create happy, more motivated workers? How do we develop human beings into better employees?

 

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John G. Mentzos earned his Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior and Development from the Union Institute. For more than 25 years he has consulted with leaders in nonprofit management, government, foundations, business, education, human services and (more...)
 

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