Summary is getting deep into our individuality.
Summary of Robert Denhardt’s book: In the Shadow of Organization The book focuses on the impact of individuals within organizations and how organizational efficiency or rationality is getting deep into our individuality. The author states that the modern organizations and the way their administration work are the results of heavily borrowed principles of rationality and objectivity from the sciences.It has resulted in a one-sided focus of placing the rational goals of the organization above, and often in place of, those of the individual members of the organization. Denhardt relates science and administration by putting examples of many scientific theories which relate to the human and natural aspect of everyone’s lives.
Denhardt argues that rational organizations striving for efficiency choose individuals to participate in their organization based on the individual’s ability to accept organizational goals as their own.In doing so, the organization exercises their power and domination over the individual by restricting personal creativity, morality, and interactions which is indeed true and most of the time it relates to carelessness during the work as it no longer motivates the workers because they are asked only to obey orders and work on them without using their brains. Indeed, it is the goal of organizations to impersonalize and objectify our lives such that we can more easily follow higher bureaucratic goals.
However, Denhardt attests that these methods of objectification within the organization are spilling over into our personal lives. Hence, even decisions of such personal significance as our own morality begin to take on the rationality and objectivity of the organizations to which we are a part. As a result of this organizational dominance in our personal decision making, individuals can easily substitute their own morality for that of the organization.
Within the organization, individual lapses of morality are justified by the “greater purpose and superior rationality of bureaucracy” (p. 5). Yet workers are still falsely drawn to the rational organization for a sense of immortality and compensation for the “irrationality in human life” (p.
90). “The satisfaction of certain needs may be supported by the ethic of organization, but the needs of the spirit cannot” (p. 132). In the Shadow of Organization seems to provide public administration a counter to the purely positivistic views of organizational administration outlined by scholars like Taylor, Weber, and Simon.Robert Denhardt searches for a philosophy that integrates the individual with an organization without any loss to the inherent essence of the individual. In this book, his revolutionary approach is constructed on the notion that the structures of our social institutions reinforce how we think and are models of methods as to how we learn.
This means that our daily functioning reinforces thought patterns and knowledge acquisition. Conversely, our ability to function is consistent with existing organizational arrangements.If we were able to alter our thinking and social understanding, according to Denhardt, then we might open the possibility for restructuring social institutions and a new way of perceiving the world. He advocates examining the connection between forms of social scientific inquiry and the structure of social relationships from the perspective of critical theory.
He seeks to construct a philosophy of life as an alternative to the worldview of the ‘ethic of organization. ‘ His goal is to find new avenues to change thinking on organizational life.He asks: “What are the keys that might open our minds to different ways of believing and behaving in complex organizations? (Denhardt,1981)For example, he postulates that the archetypal relationship between masters and slaves is played out historically and psychologically in organizational life.
Furthermore, he believes that this master-slave relationship underlies the contemporary relationship between superiors and subordinates in complex organizations. He advances the idea that modern organizational superiors seek a sense of their own mortality through manipulation of people and objects at the expense of their subordinates.Slavery, he asserts, is the state of being a mere instrument, and the organization can reduce man to the stature of a thing. Instead of constructing human relationships on the outworn patterns of labor and authority he advances the alternative: leadership based on deriving meaning, action and continuity in our work in complex organizations. He suggests that leadership should not be seen as merely a position someone holds but rather as a dynamic that occurs within a group or organization.He suggests that the face-to-face encounter is the essence of freedom and it is also the primary unit of analysis in self-discoveries.
This new definition of leadership has three essential functions: (1) to help the group or organization understand its needs and potential (2) integrate and articulate the group’s vision and (3) act as a “trigger” or stimulus for group action. When viewed developmentally, this form of leadership can be enabling and fulfilling in Denhardt’s estimation. However, this places a very high value on communication skills and tilts again toward Freud: what we feel and why.
Denhardt further advocates the notion that leadership should be distributed throughout society because leadership’s essence is to create an energizing effect. The necessary leadership skills are then not management, nor control, nor manipulation but rather those skills that assist individuals and groups in realizing their fullest potential. He boldly asserts that leadership is educative, concerned with human growth and development and that leadership based upon power is seldom enduring.
This radical reordering is designed to give primacy to the growth of the individual rather than the efficiency of the productive process.Denhardt adopts a Personalist approach that establishes one’s personal meaning, develops contexts for action and establishes “oneness” with the environment. This approach constructs an image of the world, then determines its own truth and then is motivated by a deep-seated search for meaning. Under this Personalist approach Denhardt plans to bring together such apparent opposites as politics and administration, with efficiency and responsiveness , also facts and values and at last theory and practice.His theory is based on the premises that in the end there are no permanent answers for those seeking guides to action. Denhardt asserts that the fundamental failure of the past has not been a failure of theory, but rather of theory building. Theories developed absent of practice are then passed on to practitioners who then seek to apply these ideas.
The practitioner was not part of the theory development process and the theorist was not part of the work of the organization. The resultant matches between theory and practice are flawed. At best it is imperfect, says Denhardt, at worst unsuitable.He suggests that theory and practice seem to be connected in the process of personal learning. It is the same place that leadership germinates.
The result is that any approach to action in public organizations must encompass not only a theory of organization but an approach to learning as well. The crux of the matter is that there is a need to refocus, but not on theories of governing and administration but rather, on the building of theories of organization. A new ethic is called for that balances concern for Book Review Essay 512 organizational questions with a concern for learning.Problems cannot be excised through control but instead a durable and effective response must be communicative and consensus seeking. The resolution must be of itself enabling of action. Denhardt offers a hardy work that introduces a critical theory of organization approach designed to (1) examine the technical basis of bureaucratic domination (2) provide ideological justification for this condition and (3) offer a means as to how clients and public servants can come to understand the limitations placed on their actions.
This approach sees the formulation of public policy on a “value-critical” basis. Denhardt’s goal is to emphasize conditions of power and dependence that characterize contemporary organizational life and the considerable potential for conflict and disorder that these conditions portend. His critical approach offers an alternative style of management aimed not at control but at assisting individuals.
Denhardt notes the distinction to include organizational members and clients in discovering and pursuing their own developmental needs even when they may be at odds with those of the bureaucracy.This revolutionary approach sees the structure of our social institutions not only similar too but intimately linked to how we learn. This means a continued reliance on existing methods of acquiring knowledge and thinking patterns. If we were able to alter our thinking and social understanding Denhardt maintains we might open the possibility for restructuring social institutions. He suggests using critical theory perspective to examine the connection between forms of social relationships and the connection to social scientific inquiry? Denhardt has combined science and administration, by integrating the thoughts of sociologists, social psychologists and others who have been contributing to the analysis of the organizations.
The book also talks about the maintenance of the balance between life and the world. This approach is applied to the organizational and administrative structure. The book gives an insight on how individuals can actually live in harmony with their own individuality and also in a place like the organization where they are totally different human beings.
The book also lays emphasis on the dominance of organizations over the individuals. Overall this book combines the various examples that the individuals are theoretically part of a small organization but a bigger part of the nature, where keeping a balance between the two is the key. (Denhardt, 1981) Bibliography Denhardt, R. (1981). In the shadow of the Organization.
Kansas: University Of Kansas Press.