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American Historians and the 11 Organizational Factor'' ROBERT D. CUFF In the last few years, historians have given an increasing amount of attention to the "organizational factor" in American history, to the development of those sprawling networks of large-scale organizations which dominate the United States and other industrial societies. The origins of this interest are diverse. In one respect, it is but a resurgence of that institutional orientation characteristic of American historiography at the turn of the century. In a much more important and direct sense, the recent literature reflects prior and concurrent developments in the social sciences. This includes the theories of Weber and Burnham and their critics on the academic level, and the work of Boulding, Whyte, Reisman, Galbraith, Ellul and others on a more popular level. The interest springs as well from the historian's sense of his own situation. Historians are studying organization -building and associational activity in the American past because those processes are so obviously fundamental for understanding the American present, and the historian's place within it.1 The /J'new institutionalism" 2 or ''organizational synthesis", 3 as this multifaceted field has been called, has proceeded apace since World War II without much reflection about its problems, principles or methods. It must clearly be an interdisciplinary enterprise, for no single segment of academia is adequate to cope with so far-reaching a topic as social organization . Yet the best relationship between history and social scientific concepts of organization and bureaucracy is by no means obvious. The 11 organizational factor'', moreover, draws our attention to very difficult questions about the role of organizations in social change, the balance between persistence and change in organizational forms, the relationship between cultural values, ideology and organization, and the interrelationship between social structure and organizational growth in the context of a general struggle for power. But the implications of these kinds of questions are by no means so clear as to offer ready guides for historical investigation . Questions remain too about the kinds of approaches to take in research on organizations, for some methods are more suitable to certain ends than others. This paper is simply an exploratory probe into a field of THE CANADIAN REVIEW OF AMERICAN STUDIES VOL, IV, NO. 1.1 SPRING 1.973 study which still remains undefined. My purpose is to discuss briefly some of the questions raised above, to indicate briefly some of the most interesting work in the recent literature, and finally, to offer some suggestions for future research. The social sciences contain a vast literature on complex organization and historians are indebted to it for a number of tools and insight. Louis Galambos has argued, for example, that "organizational historians" generally share Weber's model of bureaucratic authority. 4 But if indeed this is so, then certain implications follow for both the practitioner and the field. For Weber, human history moved inexorably away from the irrational , the unscientific, and the traditional. Bureaucracy as a form of organization embodied rationality in its highest form. It supplanted traditional authority, or custom, as well as the charismatic authority of the self-appointed leader, with a consciously-constructed set of legal rules and codifiedprocedures. In bureacracy, the rules themselves command authority . Specialization of function, a hierarchical arrangement of offices, lifetime careers, the norm of efficiency, and an impersonal application of procedures all are characteristic. 5 Though Weber's ideal type is the starting point for the study of complex organizations in the social sciences, it has been qualified so significantly over the years as to raise questions about its usefulness as even a point of departure for understanding administrative networks in American history. The dysfunctions of bureaucracy in practice are well-known: deadening routine, ritualistic behavior, differential application of the rules, irrationality, and so on. These are negative qualifications, and they augment the pessimism which Weber himself felt about the future of human freedom in a rationalized society.6 But there are other views which qualify Weber's model in a different direction. Michel Crozier offers a brilliant and provocative alternative in The Bureaucratic Phenomenon. Crozier argues that the dysfunctions of Weber's ideal type (which is really what popular usage of 0...


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