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Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism

To dissolve, submerge, and cause to disappear the political or governmental system in the economic system by reducing, simplifying, decentralizing and suppressing, one after another, all the wheels of this great machine, which is called the Government or the State. --Proudhon, General Idea of the Revolution

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Monday, November 07, 2005

Hagbard Celine on Organizational Culture

Accurate Communication is Only Possible Between Equals

This is a very simple statement of the obvious, and means no more than that everybody tends to lie a little, to flatter or to protect themselves, when dealing with those who have power over them, especially the power to punish. (this is why communication between parents and children is notoriously befoolzled).

Every authoritarian structure can be visualized as a pyramid, with very few at the top and very many at the bottom, as in the flowchart of any corporation or bureaucracy. On each rung, participants bear a burden of nescience in relation to those above them. That is, they must be very, very careful that their natural sensory activities as conscious organisms---the acts of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling, drawing inferences from perception, etc.---be in accord with the wishes of those above them. This is absolutely vital; job security depends on it. It is much less important---a luxury that can easily be discarded---that these perceptions be in accord with actual reality....

But this leads to an equal and opposite burden of omniscience on those at the top, in the Eye of the authoritarian pyramid. All that is forbidden to those at the bottom---the conscious activities of perception and evaluation---is demanded of the master classes, the elite and the super-elite. They must attempt to do the seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling, thinking, and decision making for the whole society.

But a man with a gun (the power to punish) is told only what his target thinks will not cause him to pull the trigger. The elite, with their burden of omniscience, face the underlings, with their burden of nescience, and receive only the feedback consistent with their own preconceived notions.

In other words, as Kenneth Boulding said, those at the top of large organizations live in completely imaginary worlds.

While you're at it, check out Jeff Vail's amazing blog. I just stumbled onto it. See especially his post "'Span of Control' and the Inefficiency of Hierarchy," and his online book Theory of Power.



Blogger buermann said...

On the same note, from somewhere:

"There is a great deal of evidence that almost all organizational structures tend to produce false images in the decision-maker, and that the larger and more authoritarian the organization, the better the chance that its top decision-makers will be operating in purely imaginary worlds."
--Kenneth Boulding

November 09, 2005 12:58 AM  

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