The Organization Man
Book

The Organization Man

University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002
First Edition: 1956 more...

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Recommendation

William H. Whyte’s classic 1950s study of American corporations and their white-collar workers is a bittersweet trip back to a lost world of munificent corporations, placid suburbia and cookie-cutter “organization men.” When Whyte’s book appeared in 1956, 99% of white-collar workers were white men, and they tended to remain with their employers for their entire careers. As young men, they looked forward to superior benefits and generous pensions. But organization men paid a hefty price for this security: their souls, in the form of their individuality. getAbstract recommends this insightful study, which was groundbreaking for its time, to any thoughtful person who wants to understand the midcentury origins of modern corporate life.

Summary

Circa 1956: “The Organization” and Its War on Individuality

America’s giant corporations are laying the groundwork for a profound shift in societal values. Individuality is stepping down to give way to the promise of the “collective.” Management boards strive to stamp out originality so that everyone adheres to the organization’s line. Beguiled by robust executive training programs, generous pension plans and potential lifetime employment, white-collar workers acquiesce to groupthink, bureaucracy and the absolute need to belong to a group. These “organization men” lead cookie-cutter lives of drab conformity at work, and their wives do the same at home in soulless suburbs.

The “Protestant Ethic” once guided US workers to be individualistic, hard-working strivers so they could attain the American Dream. But that principle is gradually ceding its position as moral arbiter to the idea of the “Social Ethic,” which preaches coming together as a harmonious group for the benefit of all. The Social Ethic doesn’t overtly require mindless conformity. Rather, it stresses the beneficence of big organizations, and they are benevolent in many ways. The practical result is a brotherhood...

About the Author

William H. Whyte was an editor at Fortune magazine and a distinguished professor at Hunter College of the City University of New York. The publication of The Organization Man established Whyte as America’s foremost organizational analyst.


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