Organizational order and authority from within and without

An organization may be autonomous or heteronomous, by which Weber means the governing order has been established by their own members on their own authority, versus imposed upon them by the outside.  Organizations are also either autocephalous or heterocephalous, meaning the chief and the staff are either appointed by the autonomous order of the organization itself, or from outside the order.  (49-50)

Intentional communities are almost completely on the autonomous and autocephalous side of Weber’s definitions, perhaps more than almost any other form of organization.  The internal order is created by the members themselves, setting up a structure for things that are typically not altered in other organization, such as property rights (at least, I’ve never worked for an corporation in dominant culture that had extensive agreements on personal ownership).  As explained above, those who we could consider to be chiefs and staff (although I’m sure many people would object to those terms, Weber is using them quite broadly here) are appointed through the processes that the group has come up with themselves.

While intentional communities are largely autonomous and autocephalous, they are not completely so.  By virtue of having to interact with the rest of the world, in particular with regulations from the modern State, communities need to take on certain roles or functions that I doubt they would otherwise.  For example, at Twin Oaks there are yearly elections for what they call the Shadow Board.  These are the Board of Directors that the state insists that all organizations of a certain type have, consisting of a President, VP, Treasurer, and Secretary.  These names need to be filed with the appropriate regulatory office, and legally these are the people who can sign their names on paper on behalf of the community.  Legally they can also be held responsible for the corporate actions of the community.  However, these positions would not exist if the State did not require them. In terms of the internal order of the community, these people have no decision making authority whatsoever.  Their entire job consists of signing any official documents put in front of them by someone with legitimate internal authority, going to jail for the community if it comes to that (if this were a realistic possibility, I imagine there would be trouble filling these positions at all), and making entertaining campaign speeches for this privilege.  However, these positions still have to exist, so to some degree the order of the organization must be heteronomous and heterocephalous.

Lack of complete autonomy can also be seen in dealing with various State regulations.  The organization has to pay taxes, which means that businesses have to operate in a certain way, and there must be specific systems of accounting, and people to do those tasks.  It is unlikely that these positions would operate in the same way if such external regulations did not exist.

Beyond the organization itself, the same voluntary/imposed dichotomy can be applied to specific rules that are imposed either from within or without (52-53).

Again with Weber, these terms are a matter of convenience and degree, and are only useful to the extent that they help us to understand what we are studying.  He thinks that we can also use these terms to examine different sub-parts of an organization, so such a group can fit into different categories in different areas.  For example, a local government may be largely autonomous and autocephalous in terms of its school system, but the opposite in terms of criminal law and enforcement.  Some of the teams that run Twin Oaks are pretty much self selecting (the current team members choose a candidate to fill an empty seat, subject to varying but relatively minimal levels of wider approval), while other managerial positions are directly appointed by the council that area falls under.


~ by Ethan Tupelo on 02015.01.23.

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