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The Organization Man Paperback – May 30, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0812218190 ISBN-10: 0812218191 Edition: New Ed
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Recognized as a benchmark, Whyte's book reveals the dilemmas at the heart of the group ethos that emerged in the corporate and social world of the postwar era."—Nathan Glazer



"The Organization Man is one of the most influential books of the twentieth century. It established the categories Americans now use when thinking about the workplace, the suburbs, and their lives."—David Brooks, senior editor at the Weekly Standard and contributing editor at Newsweek



"The Organization Man remains a worthwhile read today."—Philadelphia Inquirer

About the Author

William H. Whyte (1917-1999) was editor of Fortune magazine and Distinguished Professor at Hunter College of the City University of New York. He is the author of numerous books of social and environmental analysis, including The Last Landscape, also available from the University of Pennsylvania Press. Joseph Nocera, Fortune magazine executive editor, is an award-winning financial journalist. He is the author of A Piece of the Action: How the Middle Class Joined the Money Class, which won the New York Public Library's Helen Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism, and he anchored the 1997 PBS Frontline documentary "Betting on the Market." Jenny Bell Whyte, a fashion designer, is credited with introducing African textiles to the mainstream American clothing market. Her current company, Museum Pieces to Wear, restores old textiles and incorporates them into new clothes. She and William H. Whyte were married in 1964.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press; New Ed edition (May 30, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812218191
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812218190
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #690,054 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

63 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Hefele on May 11, 2005
Format: Paperback
William Whyte, who was an editor at Fortune magazine, argues in this 1956 bestseller that some people not only worked for an organization, but sold their psyches to them as well. These "organization men" willingly subordinated their personal goals and desires to conform to the demands of corporations and other organizations. This is different than modern-day workaholism -- the "organization men" of the 1950's hoped to gain loyalty, security and "belongingness" in exchange. In their view, the organization is a friend, not a foe; it's should be co-operated with, not questioned.

Whyte argues that the ideology behind the organization man is a "social ethic." Its core beliefs are that the group is superior to the individual, and individuals lack meaning and purpose outside of that group. "Belongingness" is assumed to be the ultimate emotional need of the individual, and to achieve it society should not hesitate to use a bit of social engineering. The result, however, is an ethos of over-conformity at any price.

As Whyte looked around the world in the mid-1950's, he saw the ethos of the Organization Man everywhere. He saw it in college graduates who joined big corporations, pledging their loyalty with visions of a safe stable life in exchange. He saw it in corporate executives who willingly pulled up their roots every time the company wanted to transfer him. He saw it when educators were asked to teach kids social skills so they could get along, rather than teaching academic subjects that forced kids to think for themselves.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Ke Smith on March 18, 2006
Format: Paperback
The secondary title applied to this excellent work was " Moulding Team Players for Free Enterprise" The principal idea was how Big Business through the educational system and the prevailing culture indoctrinated a generation of aspiring corporate executives and middle managers into company men - similar to armed forces indoctrination of career officer cadets.

This excellent work is applicable today as it was 50 years ago, and is an invaluable work to all who wish to understand corporate culture. One only has to think of the many examples of Corporate interest over riding individual executives concience to see the relevance.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mary Ellen ross on September 7, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I believe I said all that I need to in my title. I would simply recommend it to anyone interested in sociological forms of social criticism. I would also recommend The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit (good book -- also good film).

However, and I cannot emphasize this strongly enough -- everyone should start with Max Weber's magisterial The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, which is the origin of all works treating the subject-matter in the works I cite above. You will never view the term "work ethic" the same way again.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Samuel L. Robinson II on December 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I give this book a 5 star rating because I ordered it used and received and early printing (a nice thing for collectors). Really...It reads like many of the erudite books of the 50s and 60s but it basically shows how the American work psyche and ideas on successful work turned away from free thinking and small business ownership/self employment to top-down driven corporate thought where the boss is right because he's the boss and not because he is right. It made me see the American work psyche as moving towards that of the military work psyche. For example, in the military, if the general says the sky is green, you say yes Sir. In corporate America, I'm sad to say, it is the same. For all of the patriotic types (I'm one of them), I can not apply the same sadness for the military because it requires submission and a top-down system of authority to get some of the crazy things accomplished that debate or double thinking would ruin.

This books benchmarks the change and the process in America to a Yes Man culture. As a footnote, I read this book a while ago but took a while to write a review. I think I will reread it on my next deployment.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J. Smallridge on June 9, 2011
Format: Paperback
This book offers a unique sociological look at the American world on the mid-20th Century. Parts of this book are exceedingly boring, but the overall thesis is important, and when the author deals with his argument, he is spot on.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By S. Tracy on April 18, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book gives amazingly timeless observations about corporation life that are crucial for people to revisit. I found the information very valuable in validating and understanding my experiences in trying to not only survive but also thrive in organization life. The book made me realize that corporate life is a relatively new structure in terms of how humans make their livings. Highly recommended and I have flagged many passages for further reflection.
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10 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Jiang Xueqin on March 25, 2012
Format: Paperback
This work is considered a classic of American sociology, and is continually referenced in ground-breaking current works such as Richard Florida's "Rise of the Creative Class." Unfortunately, the title and idea of the book are far more compelling and interesting than the book itself. In the introduction, noted journalist Joseph Nocera calls the book "a jeremiad," and that's quite an understatement. Not only is the book difficult to read -- written in that abstract lofty language reserved for Ivy League doctoral dissertations -- but provides very little in terms of concrete evidence and examples.

The premise of the book is the Protestant Ethic, the survival-of-the-fittest market mentality that has made America great (Whyte often correlates it with rugged individualism), is under attack by the Social Ethic (or Bureaucratic Ethic), which threatens to make Americans -- gasp -- like working in a group. The idea that individualism is what represents innovation and progress, and that group belongingness is what represents conformity and obedience is a fine argument to make if you're either Ayn Rand William H. White, a WASP aristocrat -- but if you're just a lowly normal human being like 99% of Americans then it's an idea that's kind of hard to swallow. What's wrong with seeking job security and family life over professional ambition? What's wrong with trying to fit in and having friends at the cost of generating new and original insights?

The most persuasive part of the book is the section on how organizations and committees hinder scientific innovation and progress. At no point did large corporations favor scientific research for the pursuit of pure knowledge -- everything had to be justified in terms of the bottom line.
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