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Whistleblowers: Broken Lives and Organizational Power Paperback – January 10, 2002

4.3 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"From interviews and support groups for whistleblowers, Alford learned that such support is sorely needed because society does not truly value ethical resisters."―Book News, November 2001

"When I fortuitously received my review copy of this book the day before my Employment Law class was to consider the subject of whistleblowers, I expected to gain a few new insights that would deepen the class discussion. While this was true, it is wholly inadequate to describe the value of this extraordinary book. . . . Whistleblowers is a powerful philosophical examination that changes how one looks at the most fundamental institutions of our society."―Ellen Dannin, California Western School of Law. Industrial and Labor Relations Review, April 2002, Vol. 55, No. 3

"Alford has written an imaginative, provocative,and occasionally frustrating book. . . . The list of whistleblower contributions to public safety and integrity is long. Alford alludes to little of this. These omissions, while notable, do not undermine the value of Alford's critique of organizational practices to smother dissent or his account of the high price paid by ethical employees and their families. Alford's exposure of the misuse of organizational power stands as a worthy challenge to theories of organizational democracy, and this is one of his main goals."―Myron Peretz Glazer, Smith College. Contemporary Sociology, Vol. 31, No. 4

"Alford is concerned with why whistleblowers choose to go public and challenge their organizations, but he is also interested in what they have learned from their experiences. He is fascinated by the costs incurred by the 'autonomous individual' who confronts the organization, an entity that Alford says demands obedience, conformity, and loyalty. Instead of noble causes and vindication, Alford finds individuals who become isolated from co-workers, friends, and even family and who often admit that they would not repeat their actions if they had to do it over again."―David Rouse. Booklist, April 2001

"Alford draws on a wide range of sources, from the stories of whistleblowers themselves to the writings of Max Weber, George Orwell, Emile Durkheim, Hannah Arendt, Michael Foucault, and others. He believes that the organization is dedicated to the destruction of the individual. The whistleblower is a politicized actor in a nonpolitical world, where feudal chiefs clash and loyalty is not to the organization or to the wider society, but only to one's boss."―Charles Willett, Counterpoise, Vol. 7. No. 1, Oct '03

"Alford's work must be considered mandatory reading for anyone serious about government, public service, business, ethics, or the professions. For those campaigning for ethics, Whistleblowers is discouraging, but for those who can overcome the 'dread,' it provides the impetus to begin the organizational discussion on whistleblowing."―Craig S. MacMillan, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Canadian Public Administration 46:2, Summer 2003

"While the existing literature on whistleblowers is useful, none of it is put in the context of social power and individual identity. Innovative and exciting, Whistleblowers will contribute importantly to our understanding of organizational control and dissent."―Frank Anechiarico, Hamilton College

"Whistleblowers offers an almost completely different account of its subject matter than is found in any of the existing literature. As such, it is a significant original contribution. It is also an unremittingly dark book that shows how organizations, at their best, are neutral and benign and at all other times, are malevolent destroyers of the moral individual."―Guy A. Adams, University of Missouri

"C. Fred Alford has put together a provocative and disturbing analysis of the lonely road of the whistleblower and the devastating societal and organizational consequences of speaking truths that governments and corporations want left unspoken. Whistleblowers raises fascinating and controversial questions about the few unlikely heroes in our midst and why their seemingly small acts of heroism make the rest of society so uncomfortable."―Kate Bronfenbrenner, winner of the Labor Party's first Karen Silkwood Award

About the Author

C. Fred Alford is Professor of Government and Distinguished Scholar-Teacher at the University of Maryland, College Park. A recipient of three awards from the Fulbright Commission, he is the author of more than a dozen books in moral psychology, most recently, Psychology and the Natural Law of Reparation.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press; 1st edition (January 10, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801487803
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801487804
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 0.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #422,470 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jeane Goforth on July 29, 2007
I suspect that the problem with this book is that it is mostly read by whistleblowers who've already acted.
It needs to be read by management in every organization so that they understand whistleblowers, and perhaps will deal with them differently.
It needs to be read by those contemplating whistleblowing, although it would likely convince many not to act--and then where would the world be?
I am a whistleblower, but early in the process. This book describes my feelings and the reaction of others to the point of being eerie. It has helped me understand what is happening. This makes Mr. Alford's prediction of the likely outcomes very distressing. I believe my outcome will be different, but he says that is a common delusion among whistleblowers.
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Little has been written about Whistleblowers outside of popular media. Popular media tends to cast them as well received heros. This well researched and well written book describes a darker side. While they may be heros from a larger society perspective, they seem to universally suffer and often do not recover, from their decision to "do what their conscious told them to do."
This should be read by anyone considering whistleblowing, and perhaps mandatory reading in all college classes. Certainly, anyone with a job in a corporation.
I found it to be one of the most thought provoking books I have read in a while. I just wish that the author, a Professor, had continued work in this area.
A book on how to protect the whistleblower is needed.
"Moral rebels are resented wehn their implicit reproach threatens the positive self image of individuals who did not rebel." Benoid Monin.
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Although this book may discourage some, I find it quite helpful, that while any whistleblower may not experience all these things, many of them are still active in spite of all the laws against it. The author says there appears to be no social science characteristics that make us typical; I suggest for future research someone see if most of us cannot be classified as Myers-Briggs T people -- "extreme logical thinkers," as I am. That means we want to make most of our decisions on the basis of rational analysis instead of on how other people will feel. My only disagreement with the author is that my motive is not narcissist but rather satisfaction with having accomplished something very important, helping to make the Systems of society more efficient, even if I personally am not better off. Yes, the most serious potential victims (people who will be seriously injured and killed) I am working for are nameless, but I am also working for fair competition between firms, some of whom are now "cheating" (gaining a financial advantage) by breaking the law. At a time in our society when a long history of violations of regulations has occurred before the great disasters in the oil business, the mining business, the airline industry, and now even the egg business, it is imperative that society continue to pass laws that protect us. I plan to attempt to get protection for whistle blowers from trade association sanctions, by getting them declared an Antitrust violation when the organization is covered and the sanctions and process used meets the same characteristics as those declared illegal for employers.
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By aek on February 7, 2014
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I'm one, and Alford got my story almost perfectly. This is an ignored area of research and support for those of us who have done it, are contemplating doing it, or who deal with others who have done it. Alford's research is careful, meticulous and excruciating to read.
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