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The Selfish Organization: Technology and the Rise of Transnational Corporatism

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Thanks to the work of behavioral scientists a new approach to organizing for profit emerged--human capital. The human-capital approach combined both the scientific-management and human-relations models. Workers were seen as investments, but investments worthy of nurturing and developing. This model also espoused the importance of management developing environments that supported employees who strove to achieve corporate goals (Robbins, 1998).


By the end of World War II, a great expansion of the middle class occurred known as the golden age of American capitalism. According to, the period is marked by the following characteristics:


Two-hundred billion in war bonds matured, and the GI bill financed a well- educated workforce. The middle class swelled, as did the GDP and productivity...

This growth was distributed fairly evenly across the economic classes, which  some attributed to the strength of labor unions. (Post WWII Economic Expansion.   Retrieved September 25, 2012.)   


As unions worked to distribute corporate profits across the classes (cutting into industries' bottom line), the world's economies became more interactive. By the 1970s  American businesses faced growing competition, losing billions of dollars to cheap foreign-labor markets such as Japan. U.S. corporations responded to these challenges by deploying a new strategy focused on influencing public opinion, elected officials, and legislation. The political class was treated as a highly valuable form of human capital.

Corporations began to invest an increasing amount of money and time into developing and nurturing politicians that pursued corporate goals.


Between 1981 and 1985 the number of lobbyists in Washington essentially quadrupled--dramatically increasing corporate power: "Savvy GOP operatives steered the money toward the Republican Party" (Confessore, N., retrieved, 2012). Policy began to tilt toward industry:


In August 1981, President Ronald Reagan fired thousands of unionized air-traffic  controllers for illegally going on strike, an event that marked a turning point in  labor relations in America, with lasting repercussions. In the decades before 1981,  major work stoppages averaged around 300 per year; today, that number is fewer  than 30. (Schalch, K., 2006, P. 4.)

This trend in favor of corporations continued during the era of Clintonomics (1990s). The development of policies like NAFTA (North American Free Trade Act) weakened unions and led, like never before, to the flow of jobs to cheaper labor markets outside of the United States. The deregulation of banking (e.g., Gram-Leach-Bailey Act of 1999) during the decade not only allowed Americans to live beyond their means through easy credit opportunities, but also put at risk their dwindling savings. As a consequence of these developments, among others, the stage was set for the American economic and labor crisis of the early twenty-first century.


Contemporary civilization, in essence, is an evolving, extremely complex organization consisting of informal and formal organizations of all sorts. But the driving organization, arguably, of civilization today is industry. Industry is becoming dominant over the governments of the world through its control of information (e.g., television, journalism, and academic research), leadership (e.g., political funding), economics (e.g., central banks, IMF), organization (e.g., covert and overt advocacy efforts--see Moyers,  B., 2012), and in some cases, through coercion (Perkins, 2007; Klein, 2007). The technology used for achieving the goals of industry has changed, but the goals have not; they are still primarily focused on the achievement of profit and the control of markets, consumers, and workers' behavior.

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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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