- Paperback: 448 pages
- Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press; Revised 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: 14 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #490,690 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Organization Man Revised ed. Edition
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"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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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. He saw it in engineering companies that said that there are "no geniuses here; just a bunch of average Americans working together" (although studies show that innovative engineers and scientists are fiercely independent, thus the direct antithesis of the company-oriented man).
So what to do? Whyte says we must realize that although we need the organization, we must know when and how to resist it. We must tread the fine line between self-interested cooperation and psychological surrender. We must realize that although the group can be a friend, it can also be a tyrant.
Even though this book was written about 50 years ago, many of Whyte's messages still ring true today. Yes, times have changed, and worker loyalty to corporations is passe'. Yet this book is worth reading, if only for its historical perspective on the mood in the 1950's. Also, it's well written - after all, Whyte was an editor at Fortune. Recommended.
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.
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.
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.