chapter  3
41 Pages

Power and Control within Organisations

One of the constituting principles of hierarchical organisations, perhaps of any social system, is power. Power forces people to do certain things in a particular way (or not to do certain things). Power controls people and it is power which keeps social institutions, structures and processes going-for better or worse. And power means powerful actors-who in the case of contemporary organisations are mostly managers. The times when power in organisations was primarily based on crude physical and despotic means are, allegedly, long gone-at least in most business sectors and organisations in developed economies. With the emergence of the so-called new economy and the development of modern management since the second half of the 20th century, it seems that the concepts and means of power and control have changed to a great extent. According to the dominating orthodox / functional approaches within management and organisation studies (e.g. Zaleznik 1989, Chandler 1977, Drucker 1954, Fayol 1949), contemporary organisations seem to be almost ‘power-free’ (Lacey 2007, p. 131). They are portrayed as rationally designed enterprises, functioning smoothly because of established policies and procedures, elaborated structures and sophisticated processes. Orthodox management and organisation studies claim to cope primarily (if not solely) with the functional and technical aspects of organisations and management. They are predominantly about the effi cient performance and management of systems and the whole organisation-all described and analysed in functional, and (allegedly) value-free, objective ways with little mention of power at all (e.g. Yanow 2007).1