Summary of in the Shadow of the Organization by Robert Denhardt

Topics: Sociology, Scientific method, Management Pages: 5 (1590 words) Published: October 28, 2011
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. 85). 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,...
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