Work Organisations: A critical introduction by Paul B. Thompson, David McHugh

By Paul B. Thompson, David McHugh

Acting as a serious advent to association reports, this e-book discusses numerous matters imperative to that subject. those diversity from the classical theories and bureaucratisation of construction, to studying administration as a labour process.

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But though this has some validity, it is not clear how significant it is. Aside from the fact that Weber is not always clear about the separation and its consequences (see Storey, 1983: 26-34), from the 22 Work Organisations viewpoint of evaluating mainstream perspectives as a whole most theorists influenced by Weber have acted as if rationality and efficiency are the same thing. As a result they have tended to be rather uncritical of existing organisations. Reed notes: The causal link which he is thought to have identified between rational bureaucracy and technical efficiency provided a substantive focus and theoretical bone of contention from which a general theory of organisations, based on a systems frame of reference, could be constructed in the course of the 1950s ( 1985: 17).

It may be argued that this reproduces a one-sided partiality that is the reverse of the management orientation of mainstream theories. There is always that danger. But the existing realities and power relations in organisations will, for the foreseeable future, enable critical theory to maintain a certain distance and intellectual independence. Furthermore, any critical theory not testing its ideas through empirical investigation or practical intervention is ultimately arid. We now turn to look at some of the specific theoretical contributions themselves, starting with one that is linked to the above discussion in that it represents more of a different way of seeing organisations than a macro-model of work organisations in their societal context.

Aviour with organisational rationality itself . . organisations must be conceptualised as tools for the pursuit of personal, group or class interests' ( 1984: 10-11). Furthermore, traditional notions underestimate the role of rationality and efficiency as ideological constructs which help to legitimise the positions, rewards and activities of dominant groups (Salaman, 1979: 177-82). For example, when changes take place, such as mergers or closures, they are often described in terms of rationalisation as if the decision of managers or boards of directors are inevitable and the only way of doing things.

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