chapter  2
17 Pages

Society at Risk in a Society of Organizations

WithCharles B. Perrow

The civil society that grew in the democratic abundance of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries was local, decentralized, loosely coupled, moderately egalitarian, adaptive and flexible. America’s greatest product in the nineteenth century, one historian remarked, was people, and most of that product was imported, though often in an unfinished state. In the nineteenth century the organization had fewer and far cruder concerns about the lives of its employees. Big government organizations not only absorb society just as much as do big corporations, but they develop powerful self-interests in controlling the extra-organizational behavior of their employees because their size gives them the resources to do so. There are three components that make our society of organizations possible: wage dependency, which made citizens available for organizations; the externalization of the social costs of extensive organized activity, which hid the costs from citizens; and the development and spread of a novel form of bureaucracy, “factory bureaucracy,” which made controls unobtrusive.