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Organizations and bureaucratization

Video transcript

- Although we might not realize it organizations and bureaucracies play an increasingly large role in our lives. When social scientists talk about organizations, they are talking about institutions that are designed for a specific purpose. They have a collective goal and they are often set up to achieve or to try to achieve maximum efficiency. The U.S. Postar Service delivers our mail, McDonald's gives us fast food, the same fast food wherever we might travel, and Time Warner Cable delivers TV and internet access. There are three main types of organizations: utilitarian organizations, normative organizations and coercive organizations. In utilitarian organizations members are paid for their efforts. This includes things like businesses and government jobs, but it also includes universities. You might not get paid to attend, but you do receive a diploma in exchange for your time. In normative organizations members come together through shared goals. This will include things like religious groups or groups like MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Because shared goals are really the focus of these organizations, they're typically characterized by a positive sense of unity and purpose. Coercive organizations are organizations where the members really don't have that much a choice about membership. This can include individuals in a prison who don't really have the opportunity to simply leave, but it could also include organizations like the military. You might enter voluntarily or you could be drafted, but you need to be discharged in order to leave. Coercive organizations are often highly structured and they have very strict rules. One of the main goals of organizations is they try to achieve maximum efficiency and they do this through bureaucracy. This is the term that sociologists use to describe the rule, structure and the ranking that guides organizations. This is somewhat different from the way that we talk about bureaucracy in everyday life where it often has a really negative connotation. For example, when i think about the word bureaucracy I usually think about long lines and piles of paperwork with complicated language and lots of red tape. When social scientists talk about bureaucracy, they're talking about the structure of the organizations that keeps them running day to day. That said, we also use the term bureaucratization to describe the process by which an organization becomes increasingly governed by law and policy. I think the best example of this is how customer service has changed. I'm old enough to remember just being transferred to a single person when I called customer service, but now I have the experience and maybe you have it too, of being moved through 12 different menu options before I find what I need or being passed around from person to person as they try to figure out who can help you with your problem. This also relates to what is referred to as the Iron Rule of Oligarchy, which describes how even the most democratic of organizations tend to become more bureaucratic overtime until eventually they are governed by just a select few. Why would this happen? Well, conflict theorists would point out that once a person gains a leadership role in an organization, they might often be hesitant to give it up, so they would have a vested interest in clinging to power. It's also possible that people who achieve power often have certain skills or knowledge that might make them really valuable leaders. Another process that influences organizations is McDonaldization, which describes how the policies of fast food organizations have come to dominate other organizations within American society. Specifically, we're talking about the principles of efficiency, calculability, predictability and control. These principles have come to dominate really everything. >From medicine to education, even sporting events and entertainment. Think about movie theaters. Movie theaters have become increasingly similar to one another, especially in terms of seating and number of theaters and how their concession stands are set up. You used to have to show up at a theater in order to buy tickets, but now you can do so over the phone and even online using the exact same ticket systems for basically all theaters. Concession stands don't just look the same from theater to theater, they also carry the exact same brands. They all generally show the same popular movies and have the same pre-show entertainment in the form of quizzes or movie facts or commercials for other films. I don't necessarily mean to imply that any of these is a bad thing because I don't necessarily believe that that's the case. I think that just like everything else, this has both positive and negative aspects to it. However you decide to view McDonaldization, the important thing is to know that it exists and to be able to recognize it in the society.