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- a type of collectivity established for the pursuit of specific aims or goals, characterized by a formal structure of rules, authority relations, a division of labour and limited membership or admission. The term is used mainly to refer to large-scale or ‘complex organizations’ which pervade all aspects of social life in modern society, e.g. business enterprises, schools, hospitals, churches, prisons, the military, political parties, trade unions, etc. Such organizations involve patterns of social relationships which differ from other social groups such as the family, peer groups, and neighbourhoods which are largely spontaneous, unplanned or informal (compare PRIMARY GROUP). Forms of association in organizations tend to occupy only a segment of a person's life (with the notable exception of TOTAL ORGANIZATIONS).
- any purposeful arrangement of social activity or set of activities (compare SOCIAL STRUCTURE). Organization in this sense implies active control over human relations for specific ends. For example, the organization of work involves specifying the allocation and coordination of tasks, patterns of authority, forms of recruitment and employment relationships.
The fundamental problem in defining organization in sense l concerns the specification of‘organizational goals’. To state that organizations have goals either reifies the collective concept ‘organization’ or assumes that the goals of an organization are identical to those defined by the power holders at the apex of the organization (see FUNCTIONALISM). Clearly, organizations, as such, have no goals. Rather, groups and individuals within organizations may hold a variety of different and competing goals. Organizational controllers may attempt to establish over-arching goals for the organization through selection, training, rewards and punishments, and the perpetuation of an ‘organization culture’, but the nature and extent of compliance by subordinates and the degree of cooperation and conflict within an organization can only be established by empirical research. This issue is reflected in the distinction between formal and informal organization. The former refers to the ‘official’ hierarchy and lines of authority, with their spans of control, as first described by formal theorists of organization and scientific management; the latter refers to the ways in which official rules are negotiated or subverted through the informal practices of subordinates as in the early Hawthorne experiments. See HUMAN RELATIONS SCHOOL
There is, in fact, no generally accepted definition of organization; its meaning varies in terms of the different theoretical approaches to organization in the literature (see ORGANIZATION THEORY).
(1) The internal ordering and coordination of interactions of more or less differentiated and autonomous parts of a whole caused by the structure of the whole. (2) The totality of processes or actions leading to the formation and refinement of relationships among parts of a whole. (3) An association of people working together to achieve a certain program or goal and acting according to definite procedures and rules.
The concept of organization is applied to biological, social, and some technical objects, usually in association with the concepts of structure and system; in this case, the concept of system describes those phenomena whose more concrete characteristics, which generally pertain to the internal regularities of the system, are expressed in the concepts of structure and organization. The concept of structure usually refers to what is relatively constant and static in a system, that is, to the composition of the system’s parts and to the ways in which the parts are linked together. The concept of organization, on the other hand, refers to the dynamics of a system, that is, to the functioning, behavior, and interaction of the parts.
Two aspects of organization are distinguished: order and direction. Order is defined quantitatively as the inverse of the entropy of the system and is expressed in units of information called bits. The direction of organization characterizes the correspondence or lack of correspondence between the system and its environment, the viability of the particular type of organization from the point of view of maintaining normal system functioning, the organization’s adaptability to the environment, and so on.
Because the degree of order of a system is usually higher than the degree of order of the environment, there must be special mechanisms that make it possible to maintain and perfect the organization of the system under conditions of random influences by the environment. These mechanisms can be both inside and outside the system. In the former case, the system is called self-organizing. Self-organization is achieved by external and internal feedback; negative feedback serves to maintain organization, and positive feedback makes it possible to increase organization. Hierarchy, that is, the presence of a number of coordinated levels, is an essential characteristic of complex organizations.
Problems of organization have been an object of scientific inquiry since ancient times, but usually the independent role of the processes of organization was not recognized. Only in the early 20th century was it demonstrated in biology and psychology that objects that differ significantly in composition may exhibit similar characteristics because of similar modes of organization. Indeed, not only the parts but also the ways they are organized determine the properties of the whole. The broad diversity of organizational processes and forms stimulated attempts to construct a general theory of organization. One of the first such conceptions was tectology, the universal science of organization, formulated (1913) and developed by A. A. Bogdanov, who gave a general description of the highly diverse processes involved in the emergence and disintegration of organization. Later, the generalized approach to problems of organization was used in cybernetics and in general systems theory, both of which have influenced all scientific disciplines that study complex systems. This approach has not yet led to the construction of a general theory of organization in the strict sense of the word, but it has been an important stimulant to the study of the organization of specific objects, especially in biology and the social sciences.
In biology, a focus on problems of organization has made it possible to take an important step toward overcoming the antitheses between vitalism, which attempts to explain the specific features of life by the action of nonmaterial factors, and mechanism, which completely denies the existence of these specific characteristics. The concept of organization has made possible a rational explanation of the integrity and qualitative uniqueness of biological objects, because both these qualities depend upon the workings of the varied interconnections that permeate all levels of life. Moreover, once the importance of organization in living systems was recognized, a leading role in the search for knowledge about the nature of life was assigned to the study of interconnections and interactions among parts that ensure the dynamic stability of biological objects under conditions of a variable environment.
With the penetration of information theory ideas and methods into biology it became possible to interpret the phenomena of biological organization as processes of cybernetic control based on information exchanges among elements of different systems. Another line of development in ideas about biological organization is linked to the expansion of the boundaries of biological knowledge through the study of suborganismic phenomena such as subcellular (molecular and submolecular) structures and the study of such supraorganismic factors as population and biological community.
This broadening of biological research has raised the question of the organization of living nature as a whole. The notion of a hierarchy of levels of organization of living matter was a direct expression of this expanded approach to the problem. Although the issue has not yet been finally decided, ordinarily the following major levels of organization are distinguished: the cell, the organism, the population, the community, and the biosphere. Because none of these levels can objectively be considered primary and because organization is universally important, biologists were forced to renounce earlier ideas of the primacy of any one level, such as the organism or, more recently, the biological species. The problem of the interrelationship of different levels of organization is one of the central problems in contemporary theoretical biology. Yet another important general biological problem involves the nascent synthesis of the theory of organization and the theory of evolution.
The concept of social organization in the broad sense characterizes the ways that the actions of individuals and social groups are ordered and regulated. The various mechanisms of social organization that encompass all levels and spheres of relationships among people perform an integrative function and ensure control of individual actions by the social system. These mechanisms (1) create conditions and prerequisites for participation in social relations by means of socialization and individual assimilation of prevailing norms and values in the given social system and (2) are expected to influence the individual through social checks and a system of sanctions so that the individual’s actions do not exceed what is permissible in the given system.
In the narrower sense, a social organization is a relatively autonomous group of people who are oriented toward a predetermined goal requiring joint and coordinated action. A typical feature of such developed organization is the presence of specialized personnel trained in administration.
Social relations are regulated by traditional norms, which emerge and function spontaneously. The rise of capitalism leads to a breakdown of these norms, and this process of disintegration intensifies with the transition to state monopoly capitalism. Gradually, new and more or less consciously constructed types of organization emerge. A very important measure of this process is rapid growth in the number and size of various organizations that thoroughly regulate the life of the individual and mediate interpersonal contacts. While the development of large organizations is an objective need created by present-day social production, it comes into contradiction with that element of society which is based on private ownership. The growing role of organization under capitalism leads to a situation where the competitive struggle taking place at the level of giant organizations has especially devastating social and economic consequences. Increasing division of labor, growing technological complexity, concentration of production and formation of large organizations, and exploitation of the working people, which is also intensifying and taking on ever more refined forms, are accompanied by significant growth in the number of administrative personnel, the appearance of many new functions, and a sharp rise in demands for efficiency in the organizational work of administrative personnel.
The first research in social organization in bourgeois social science was extremely practical and normative; its goal was to rationalize organizational and managerial activity. F. Taylor (USA, 1911) originated the study of optimal methods of distributing administrative functions and responsibility among elements of the administrative apparatus. Praising the rational aspects of Taylor’s conception, V. I. Lenin showed that Taylor’s ideas also served as a means of strengthening the ruthless system of extracting profit for the capitalists (see Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 23, pp. 18–19 and vol. 36, pp. 189–190). Leninist methodology makes it possible to evaluate all later capitalist conceptions of organization as well. The German sociologist M. Weber proposed an ideal model of bureaucracy, a maximally rationalized system of control and management, and formulated the principles on which relations in such a system must be based. Weber’s studies emphasized the formal aspects of social organization: the necessity for a systematic code of rules and restrictions governing relations among workers that would be embodied in explicit written instructions.
In the late 1930’s C. Barnard, F. Roethlisberger, and W. Dickson established the effect of informal, personal relations among workers on efficiency and productivity. Arising spontaneously through direct contacts among workers, this type of informal association is an inevitable and essential supplement to formal organization. The doctrine of “human relations” as a mode of managerial behavior toward subordinates grew out of these studies, which brought out the social-psychological aspect of the problem. This doctrine was yet another means of intensifying exploitation, but it also increased the efficiency of industrial management.
In the postwar period the range of problems dealt with in research on social organization has steadily expanded. Current research focuses on such topics as flows of information used in decision-making, mechanisms for proposing, adopting, and changing goals, and discrepancies between an organization’s actual and stated goals. Other research subjects include identification of criteria for the efficiency of nonprofit organizations, problems of conflict and change within an organization, and motivational analysis of managerial personnel. The latest trends in the field of social organization in the capitalist countries are related to the widespread introduction of computer technology and new methods of data processing and decision-making, such as computer modeling, linear and dynamic programming, the theory of games and decisions, and systems analysis. These trends are also associated with the creation of special-purpose organizations formed to implement particular social programs, carry out scientific and technical research, or perform specialized tasks for the military.
Bourgeois sociologists, such as W. Whyte and D. Riesman, have analyzed how the modern organization contributes to the alienation of individuals, while H. Marcuse, his Frankfurt school colleagues, and other ideologists of the “new left” have been especially critical of the effects of organization. This criticism does reveal many of the true contradictions of bourgeois organization as a whole; however, it remains abstract because it lacks a class analysis and ignores the fundamental differences between capitalist and socialist forms of organization.
The problems of social organization acquired a fundamentally new and very broad significance in the theory of Marxism-Leninism and in the practice of the socialist revolution and building a socialist and communist society. K. Marx and F. Engels stressed that socialism inevitably replaces capitalism precisely because of its superiority in organizing social production; the very idea of the hegemony of the proletariat is based on the conclusion that the proletariat surpasses all other classes and strata because it is the most highly organized class.
The Leninist theory of socialist revolution and the building of socialism stresses the problems of organization; V. I. Lenin demonstrated the validity of the doctrine of the proletarian party as the highest form of political organization of the working people. Lenin considered the organization of production and all social life on the basis of socialist principles to be one of the main tasks that the dictatorship of the proletariat would carry out under party leadership. Lenin also gave thorough treatment to such fundamental theoretical concerns of organization and administration as the principles of democratic centralism, one-man management in party and state leadership, monitoring the activity of the administrative apparatus, and combating bureaucratic tendencies.
Lenin’s ideas have been further elaborated in the theory and practice of the CPSU, which always proceeds from the assumption that the very nature of socialist society requires the maximum organization and planned transformation of all aspects of social life. Broad steps to perfect the management of the economy and to foster social development and the activities of trade unions, the Komsomol, and other mass organizations and production collectives in socialist society serve this end. Based on the unity of the fundamental interests of the people and on conscious principles, socialist organization by no means suppresses the personality; rather it is an essential condition for the free and comprehensive development of the human personality.
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Lenin, V. I. “Kak organizovat’ sorevnovanie.” Ibid., vol. 35.
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Lenin, V. I. “Luchshe men’she, da luchshe.” Ibid.
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B. G. IUDIN