Defining Organizations

For Weber, an organization is a closed or limited admission social relationship whose regulations are enforced by specific individuals.  Those individuals, through whatever legitimate process they reach their positions in that organization, thereby have “executive powers.”  “Organized action” is therefore either actions taken by the administrative staff, or members’ action as directed by the staff.  This applies to all organizations, whether communal or associative.  (48)

A lot of this is tied into points I was getting at in the last post on representation versus mutual responsibility, but in this case Weber is clearly asking who is empowered to make decisions in a particular organization.  There are many varieties of ways in which such executives are chosen or derive their legitimacy.  The main point that Weber seems to be making is that organizations have to have some person or group able to make decisions on behalf of an organization, and then, for whatever reason, those others that make up the organization will follow those decisions.  If there is no probability that others will follow these decisions, then the most we can say exists sociologically is a social relationship, but not an organization.

Like I explained previously, this is easily observable in larger intentional communities like Twin Oaks or East Wind.  Each of those communities have a large number of managers, teams, committees, boards, and other positions that have specific responsibilities.  Decisions made by those legitimately created individuals or groups in their specific area of administration are (generally) followed by the other members.

I again wonder how smaller communities that operate by consensus would fall under Weber’s definitions here.  The best that I think I can fit a consensus based process like at Acorn Community would be to say that all of the members constitute executive powers in the context of community meetings, and otherwise follow the decisions of that meeting when it is not in session.  That would seem to work, although it’s hard to see that Weber would have intended this definition to apply to all members of a group.  I also don’t think it’s fair to not be able to call a consensus based community an “organization” and instead just a social relationship, something like a cultural group without any method of making binding decisions.

 

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~ by Ethan Tupelo on 02014.09.27.

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