Rethinking organizational hierarchy, management, and the nature of work with Peter Drucker and Colin Ward
Philosophical anarchism is a defensible position in theory. The only trouble with it is it never works. (Drucker, 2010: 40)
We have to build networks instead of pyramids. (Ward, 2008: 33)
Peter Drucker (1909-2005) has always romanticized the role of the manager. For the so-called ‘father of management’, the manager ‘stands between civilization and barbarism’ by helping institutions make society’s resources productive (Beatty, 1998: 104-5). The manager is the one element that organizations cannot do without. The anarchist Colin Ward (1924-2010), however, viewed management as a coercive ‘technique’ that drained workers of spontaneity and initiative (Ward, 2008: 48). He did not fear that managers were not competent or knowledgeable – some might very well be both. The fear is that they forced those beneath them to behave passively and perform tasks solely to satisfy evaluation standards. Drucker and Ward are at odds on the role of the manager in organizational hierarchy. Comparing their ideas, however, shows some common ground, at least initially.
Both of them seek an approach to organization that can solve society’s needs, but with less exploitation of those involved. Drucker tries to humanize capitalism by taming its excesses, but he ultimately admits the system can only allow minor reform. While Drucker is not so disgusted by capitalism that he rejects it, he finds himself at an impasse: seeking worker empowerment that does not seem possible within the boundaries of the capitalist organization. Ward shares Drucker’s misgivings about business and goes much further. While freer organizations can exist within a capitalist economy, he argues, they cannot themselves be capitalist. Ward would stress that Drucker’s impasse occurs because Drucker seeks an outcome that capitalism simply cannot provide, whatever the quality of the organization’s management. Ward shows how anarchist theory can provide organizations that actually accomplish goals of worker empowerment and involvement that Drucker sought. Ultimately we find that management theory cannot transcend its capitalist framework and offer workers a free organization. The coercion from management and the alienation of the workers will remain.
Colin Ward, one of the great British anarchists of the twentieth century, is a useful representative of anarchism to explore when studying organizations. He wrote many stimulating essays and books, but his 1973 masterpiece – Anarchy in Action – criticizes managerial approaches to industrial production, offering instead actual examples of anarchist practice within organizations. His expertise was in architecture and urban policy, but his writings touched on self-determination in nearly every facet of society. He defined anarchists as:
people who make a social and political philosophy out of the natural and spontaneous tendency of humans to associate together for their mutual benefit. (Ward, 2008: 24)
His understanding of anarchism can be approached from two observations (Goodway, 2012: 316). The first is a response to a view from someone like Drucker: anarchism will never work. Ward observes that anarchism already exists and already works. People in every country around the world have created some spaces or groups that are self-determining and non-hierarchical. The focus here should be on expanding these spaces or adding to these groups. Much of his research was to document examples of autonomous action, that people might see how possible it is (White, 2007).
The second observation he had was that people have been encouraged to misunderstand their own natures. Many might claim that we live in a dog-eat-dog world of constant competition: how could we ever shed our self-preserving ‘human nature’ to all work together in some anarchist utopia? Ward observes we already are working with each other with a high degree of cooperation. Any corporation would disintegrate if not for a sense of sharing and collaboration, at least in some areas. Here he follows Peter Kropotkin, the nineteenth century anarchist, and his idea of ‘mutual aid’ in evolution (Ward, 2008: 10). Those who survived were not always the fittest, but were those who worked together. Ward pushes his readers to expand these areas of cooperation in their own lives: to join self-determining groups and to build on the already-existing cooperation they have in their lives.
Drucker and Ward have competing approaches to organizational culture and hierarchy. In a 1981 lecture, Drucker observes that organizational structure is best approached by one of two paths (2010: 83-4). The first path is that of the ‘constitutionalist’, which brings to mind the checks and balances or separation of powers in the American Constitution. This approach emphasizes an organization’s institutional restraints that limit wrongdoing and its institutional supports that encourage desirable outcomes. Drucker believes this approach was so prevalent during the twentieth century that it led to lopsided results (an over-reliance on limiting power through organizational structures) (2010: 84).
To correct this dependence on organizational ‘constitutionalism’, Drucker focused more upon the second path: character formation. He calls it ‘the education of Christian princes’, a reference to a body of thought from political theory that is found in ancient authors like Plato, through medieval authors like Erasmus, and beyond into the Enlightenment era. He asks: how does one socialize people to work hard and be trusted to do the right thing? Drucker believes that this ‘formation of people’ needs to be carefully examined and applied, as it cannot be done without (2010: 84). The formation could occur through an organization providing training programs, through the organization’s culture, or through some outside source (like an MBA).
Ward takes a very different approach here. He equates the ‘formation of people’ with brainwashing. While Ward does believe that a general tone of compassion and reason is needed in a community, he does not seek a carefully-crafted organizational culture. He would dismiss this as empty jargon designed by ‘out of touch’ managers. Ward’s rejection of the creation of an organizational culture gets to the heart of the anarchist critique of hierarchy. The state rules in an authoritarian way over citizens’ bodies (e.g. police force, incarceration, etc.), but also their minds (discouraging spontaneity, encouraging dependency, etc.). The state passes this authoritarianism to all hierarchical organizations throughout society (Ward, 2008: 33). This kind of oppression includes organizational culture, essentially a way to indoctrinate workers to function like robots.
Ward’s view would be less interesting if the only criticism of organizational hierarchy and culture is that it removes autonomy. He sees another problem: hierarchical institutions rob people of initiative and efficiency (Ward, 2008: 35). It is not that organizations are oppressing workers so that they can get the most effective work from them. It is that organizations are ensuring they do not get the best work out of their workers by having such a hierarchy. When asking what keeps workers most productive, one faces two alternatives: a high degree of autonomy or a manager above who will keep him or her focused. Ward reasons that initiative and efficiency increase as autonomy increases because the ‘whole’ worker is being involved, not just a few isolated skills. Decision-making abilities become honed. Creative solutions and experimentation are tried out in practice. One invests more in a project that one has more control over. In practical terms, a worker closer to the project has a clearer sense of what the limitations are and what might be a waste of resources.
Flattening pyramids into networks
This approach to organizing is important to Ward because of the choice it makes – a choice away from more hierarchies and toward less hierarchies. Ward was a student of organizations and the way order can emerge in non-hierarchical situations. Instead of hierarchy, he prefers networks without a center that have shifting leadership (Ward, 2008: 33, 66). Instead of being reduced to passive robots, individuals in the work place may thus act as individuals, charting their own course. The wellbeing of workers mattered to Ward because he connected each individual decision we make in the workplace – or anywhere else – to whether society becomes more anarchistic. Rather than advocating immediate and violent revolution for an anarchist utopia, he wants to gradually expand the capacity and space for self-determination. David Goodway characterizes Ward’s views in stating that:
[there is] a prolonged situation of dual power in the age-old struggle between authoritarian and libertarian tendencies, with outright victory for either tendency most improbable. (Goodway, 2012: 316, 320)
Ward observed that an anarchist society will never be consented to by all of the people, thus the state will remain (White, 2007: 13-4). What people are able to do, however, is take on as much responsibility themselves as possible, while giving as little to the state as possible. Choosing ‘authoritarian solutions’ continues to delegate power to a centralized authority, whatever sphere of life that decision takes place in. If people continually choose libertarian solutions over authoritarian ones, there are increasing amounts of self-determination.
In contrast to the authoritarian position, Ward favors individuals making as many decisions as they possibly can, it makes for better work and a better society. He believes responsibility for oneself is taken on through ‘direct action’. Direct action is, according to Ward, one of the essential elements of a non-hierarchical organization. It refers to actions that immediately realize an end, rather than an action that entrusts some other entity or force to realize that end. The example Ward borrows from David Wieck is that of a butcher who cheats in the weighing of meat, that he may charge the customer more. ‘Indirect action’ is contacting the Department of Weights and Measures, and hoping they may eventually do something about it. Direct action would be to ‘insist on weighing one’s own meat, bring along a scale to check the butcher’s weight, take one’s business somewhere else, help open a co-operative store’ (Ward, 2008: 34). Ward observes that once one looks for opportunities for direct action, more and more opportunities are found. Workers learn how to take on new responsibilities and how not to thrust all their problems on a central organization.
The main point here is that networks or groups working within an organization need continuous practice in taking on responsibility. Each decision they take must reinforce that they are decision-makers. Otherwise, the decisions appear to not matter, the stakes decrease, and individual leadership will give way to passivity. Ward offers many such examples of ‘spontaneous order’ emerging without hierarchy and he cautions that they do not immediately coalesce from chaos into order. Groups of adults – and even groups of children – will organize themselves, with one another as leader and led. The problem is that this can take a substantial amount of time. Some of the organizations he describes required 8 months or more to find the decentralized order emerging (Ward, 2008: 41). It is emphatically a learning process, where one discovers how to have different relationships (Ward, 2008: 30).
Within an organization, groups would need to learn through trial and error how to share leading and being led (Ward, 2008). New attitudes are formed and behaviors befitting this kind of group emerge. Many different personality and administrative problems must be encountered, that the group will learn how to govern itself. The amount of time required for this may be difficult to grant in some organizations, especially if money appears to be continually draining without anything to show for it.
Clearly, then, there are practical hurdles to implementing the sorts of groups Ward prefers, but there are also more fundamental philosophical problems. He often shows glimpses of a somewhat essentialist view of human nature, where a common view of human nature leads one to diagnose common problems and common solutions. More recent work – such as that from Todd May (2005), Richard Day (2005) and Saul Newman (2011) – has helped anarchist thought move beyond its somewhat under-theorized condition, especially with regard to essentialism. This has been an important gain for anarchist theorizing, given that previous approaches to anarchism (like Ward’s) bundle essentialist anthropologies into their critique of hierarchies. Another problem is that his understanding of management is somewhat outdated. He tends to view management as supremely centralized (reflecting his experience of the institutions of the Cold War era), while many organizations have increasingly adopted varying degrees or blends of decentralization (see Ward, 2008: 65). Ward’s view of the economy is also rather industrial at a time when many economies are increasingly postindustrial. Part of his optimism about decentralization comes from a factory-based view. When discussing whether total control by workers is possible, he writes that:
there are no technical grounds for regarding workers’ control as impossible…. [D]ecentralization is not so much a technical problem as an approach to problems of human organization. (Ward, 2008: 35)
The mechanized nature of industrial production lends itself more easily to self-management than knowledge work, insofar as determining the amount of production, the duration of it, etc. are more concrete kinds of decisions. Ward has his examples of anarchist approaches to knowledge work, to be sure, such as an architecture firm whose design process seemed to completely avoid traces of egotism, professional rank, or even experience level (Ward, 2008: 52). All that seemed to matter was the quality and appropriateness of the design. Nevertheless, these knowledge-work examples of his are brief and do not give a clear sense of how the teams involved handled challenging tensions: dynamics between junior and senior workers, how the group understood merit, how the group decided on the ‘best’ approach, etc.
Splicing management theory and anarchism
This line of thinking of course recalls the logic of decentralizing an organization and empowering lower layers of management. The difference here is that Ward does not seek to empower the lowest managers – which only makes cosmetic changes to a still-intact hierarchy but to empower all workers. Thus, he anticipates self-managed and self-directed teams. Both kinds of teams work together in accomplishing common goals, often rotating leadership and handling many different steps in a process. The key difference between the two kinds is this: self-managed teams pursue goals set outside the team, while self-directed teams pursue goals set by the team. The latter is of course closest to Ward’s vision. However, he and other anarchists were writing about these decentralized socialist approaches decades before capitalist versions of teams were tried in corporations or praised in works such as Tom Peters’ Liberation Management (1994). Students of management like Drucker and Peters were of course not anarchist – or even sympathetic to any socialist vision. They did, however, find themselves attracted to a similar approach for organizing.
Despite Drucker’s reservations about the viability of autonomous groups, he in fact supplements Ward’s analysis of them. As noted above, Ward’s understanding of organizations was largely an industrial one: he focused on coordination in factories. The sorts of behaviors Ward imagined workers needed amounted to somewhat intuitive ‘virtues’: being tolerant, humble, willing to be led, willing to lead, etc. In an era of white-collar (capitalist) organizations, Drucker would add quite a bit to that list. A departure point would be the sorts of topics covered in his 1967 book, The Effective Executive. One would have to have a sophisticated understanding of how to budget time, to know what one’s strengths are and how best to use them in each context, to know which part of the task to put first, which elements must be accomplished at all costs and which could be jettisoned if need be, and so on. Drucker wants his team leader to maintain productivity and generate results. Consequently, each member of the team must be like that team leader (i.e., cross-trained as a manager). If only one member had that training, that person would end up creating an informal hierarchy. Each member must be able to gauge the strengths of each person on the team, see the big picture beyond their specific contribution, know how to understand what time should be allocated for (beyond one’s specific contribution), etc. Management becomes self-management (Drucker, 1999: 84).
Self-management must take place within an organization that can foster it. A continuum can be posed for a single organization, ranging from a more authoritarian organization to a more libertarian one. What ultimately pins an organization down in this continuum is not whether different layers of managers have autonomy, but how individuals make decisions. Do they seek answers or permission from some part of the structure above them because they are required to do so or because they choose to do so? Or, do they tackle problems, in a libertarian way, by addressing the problem themselves? Drucker believes that so many American organizations remove decision-making from most individuals because most early organizations originally borrowed structural elements from the American Constitution (Drucker, 2010). This set a structural precedent for subsequent organizations. More than merely resembling the states institutional hierarchy, these structures reinforce it (Ward, 2008).
Drucker has something to offer here. He understood that smaller, self-directed groups were emerging. He knew the enormous discipline they would need for self-regulation (Flaherty, 1999: 312-3). Self-directed groups seem to bring Drucker and Ward closer together. A difference, however, is immediately clear as Drucker insists on the need for a team leader. This is his romanticized manager’ figure: the team leader may not know how to play the instruments of the orchestra, but will get them to play together a single piece of music. His alternative to this view of ‘large organization as orchestra’ is to view it as a jazz combo that creates its own score as it goes along. He points out that no one knows how to intentionally make these jazz combos in their organization (Beatty, 1998). Drucker remains resistant to removing all hierarchy, even as some groups become smaller and more autonomous. As always with his work, Drucker’s view is a humble and nuanced one: he admits to not knowing the best form hierarchy should take or even if one is needed (2010: 86). He simply points out that many semi-decentralized groups cannot coordinate well within a hierarchical corporate structure, but cannot do with it either. As has often been true in practice, the interface between the self-managed/directed team and the rest of the organization poses the toughest problem.
Drucker’s famous ‘management by objectives’ (MBO) approach is consistent with these kinds of teams (Drucker, 1993: 430). It is useful for teams to focus on their broader objectives, as opposed to any one person emphasizing their specific contribution. The way the team completes its objectives should be unregulated, given that the process might appear unusual or even counter-productive. If someone does not flourish, this means they are on the wrong team (and need a different dynamic) or have been taking on the wrong tasks. Either way, this process requires a high degree of self-knowledge on the part of each member, as well as a highly insightful person to assemble the team.
MBO could be self-applied by some groups, to the point that MBO is essentially stood on its head. It will always be limited, as Drucker conceives it. Typically with MBO, the objectives are set from above (as with self-managed teams). In setting objectives, however, a better strategy is to borrow from the anarchist approach to federation. Federation allows groups to coordinate in broader ways without creating hierarchies. Ward describes federation like this:
[U]nits would federate together not like the stones of a pyramid where the biggest burden is borne by the lowest layer, but like the links of a network, the network of autonomous groups. (Ward, 2008: 34)
Instead of assigning objectives to various autonomous teams, their autonomy should be extended by encouraging them to work together, as with self-directed teams. Here, MBO would find the objectives determined by the group and each other group it works with. Drucker seems to resist a commitment to autonomy like this as impractical. However, one could imagine breaking down a complicated production process into many steps that are spread over a few groups. Consequently, each team would have to determine how to coordinate with other teams, how to adjust objectives to what they learn about other teams, how to rearrange processes in light of what other teams do, and so on.
Rather than self-directed teams that exist in a small autonomous space within a hierarchical framework, there would be many teams whose cooperation and coordination replace much of that hierarchical framework (see Ward, 2008: 72, 74). The decision-making norm would shift from hierarchy toward the individuals doing the work. Whatever benefits an organization may find in creating self-directing teams (or even self-guiding teams) could be found in greater scale by insisting the teams interface with each other, rather than with the hierarchy. Drucker was reluctant to jettison his ‘effective executive’, but that figure is not needed. The elements that go into making the effective executive need to be shared, so all could take on some of that managerial work.
The divergent goals of management and anarchism
The ideas of Ward and Drucker are illuminating to consider in tandem. Whatever their approaches to decentralization may share, a fundamental fact must be recognized: Peter Drucker ultimately supported corporate capitalism and Colin Ward rejected it. If we assume that Ward’s anarchist approach understands something fundamental about people and their incentives, that understanding must ultimately be situated in today’s economy that allocates goods and services via a market system driven by self-interest. Capitalism puts limitations on decentralization that Ward would not. Most of the organizations Drucker discusses are businesses, designed to supply profits to owners or shareholders. Those who provide the capital to the business will be treated differently than labor – profit-sharing, work councils, etc. will be treated less seriously within the organization.
When looked at from this angle, there simply is a disconnect between anarchist values and partially-decentralized businesses that openly embrace their role in the capitalist economy. Ward is an unapologetic critic of capitalism and yearns for its demise. Drucker hopes for a kinder, gentler free market, but nonetheless wants his markets and wants them free. Some common ground remains, however: both Drucker (the capitalist advocate of management) and Ward (the socialist advocate of anarchism) unambiguously prefer the increasing decentralization of production, even if not to the same degree. They also agree that the closer an organization gets to decentralization, the less management is needed. From Ward’s perspective, one can see this as an essential element a more radical direction for organizations.
A problem that remains is whether anything really comes of management’s empowering of workers: does the increased autonomy really means anything? The French philosopher Gilles Deleuze views this as many do who take a skeptical view of just how much empowerment and autonomy is really involved. Although he does not explicitly describe himself as an anarchist, Deleuze (especially with Felix Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus) appears sympathetic as his writings often seek a withdrawal from hierarchies. In 1990, he describes the transition from an industrial economy to a post-industrial one, and the new sorts of incentives that management provides:
There were of course bonus systems in factories, but businesses strive to introduce a deeper level of modulation into all wages bringing them into a state of constant metastability punctuated by ludicrous challenges, competitions, and seminars. If the stupidest TV game shows are so successful, it’s because they’re a perfect reflection of the way businesses are run. (Deleuze, 1995: 179)
Capital ultimately has the final say for Deleuze, as he finds employees continually exerting themselves in the pursuit of monetary prizes and new job titles. It seems as though the training opportunities, competitions, etc. are to benefit the workers, or at least keep them interested. Deleuze, however, sees these ‘employee of the month’ challenges as simply adding a layer of control (see also Costea, Crump, and Amiridas, 2008). Management no longer only demands that you show up and work at such-and-such a pace. Now, it controls how well you are invested in the outcome by dangling various prizes in front of you.
For Deleuze, the goal of management begins with a particular situation, where the workers may waste time on the job, feel periods of disillusionment about their work, only give partial effort to the job, etc. They must creatively use various incentives to bend the wills of the workers so that they give themselves over entirely to their work. Integrating decentralized groups into the workplace could function as a similarly manipulative tactic – you’ll finally have some freedom and the boss won’t be watching your every move. Ultimately, firms may only employ decentralization if they believe their employees perceive it as a gift or if it makes them more productive workers. This is generally the logic that Drucker employs with much of his approach to management, though he shows greater sensitivity and concern for the welfare of workers than some other pro-business thinkers do.
Ward would certainly not claim a corporation that simply adds decentralized groups is being more humane to its workers – what about everything else happening in that corporation and the economic system it functions within? When we confront the anarchist Ward with the pro-business Drucker, it seems to cast organizational decentralization in a cynical light: whatever keeps the worker bees happy is fine with the management. The problem here is bigger than the management of a given firm: it extends to the very existence of management. Capitalist society becomes arranged into large organizations, and the moving parts of each organization are coordinated by management. The managers direct these various groups of people in their organization so that they do more together than they could have done separately. Society’s resources become that much more productive, at least in theory. As Ward asks, however, ‘is management necessary’? In a capitalist society, it is necessary if one must coordinate diverse groups of people in pursuit of a goal that many of them have not chosen and may not want. The pursuit of profit requires many people to act as automatons and encourages dependence. It also requires that many of those people have access to less of society’s resources than others. With so many people born into a world where they join the workforce in a somewhat uncritical way, management is needed to keep them motivated, organized and always moving forward.
Quoting from Nigel Balchin, Ward frames the issue this way: ‘industrial psychologists must stop messing about with tricky and ingenious bonus schemes and find out why a man, after a hard day’s work, went home and enjoyed digging in his garden’ (2008: 117). The answer is that this person has complete autonomy over his garden, how he works it, and for what ends. Large factories and other organizations could put aside their ‘ingenious bonus schemes’ and become worker-operated, much like one’s garden. Ward recounts examples of a tractor factory and some mines that were coordinated by the workers themselves, ‘without supervision’ or ‘paternalistic management techniques’ (2008: 123, 127). He emphasizes that these examples of complex production and resource extraction were carried out with productivity and efficiency that was comparable to their hierarchically-managed counterparts.
Ward, anticipating the famous Deleuzian notion of a line of flight, observes that the state had to be weakened by the ‘strengthening of other loyalties, of alternative foci of power, of different modes of human behavior’ (2011: 17). As noted above, he believed anarchism doesn’t arrive some day in the future or at the conclusion of a bloody revolution. Anarchism already exists, it ‘is’, it flourishes right now in certain spaces. His goal was to expand those spaces, so those networks of people making decisions for themselves also expand. Increasingly decentralized organizations could contribute to this. One could imagine that sampling a kind of false empowerment at one’s job today might well whet the appetite for a more real empowering tomorrow. If one accepts Ward’s premise that a violent revolution for an anarchist society is repugnant, one is left to find a more gradual embrace of autonomy. Ward does suggest that a shift to a decentralized organization can offer greater productivity in many cases. In other cases, the productivity is comparable, but the outcome is far more desirable: greater freedom and an approach to work that moves from servitude to creation.
This logic may appear more persuasive when thought about as a broader trend against the state and capital: the internet and other digital technologies have created greater potential for decentralization across society. The sheer presence of decentralization (or technologies that suit it) does not mean that it will happen or that the state won’t exert its own authority through those same technological channels. However, Ward insisted that anarchism took place on a continuum, with areas of less autonomy on one side and greater autonomy on the other. This kind of decentralization of business does cultivate the ‘other loyalties’ and ‘alternative foci of power’ that he mentioned. Workers carrying out projects they have greater control over are relying less on the guidance of the state and of corporate management. These efforts toward decentralization are quite obviously not anarchistic in and of themselves, but it could provide a glimpse to many workers of what could be. With less managerial interference, many workers could entertain more genuinely radical views. In today’s pervasive climate of neoliberalism, this can be difficult to imagine. However, Ward encouraged a continual optimism in making small transitional changes, building upon what is already being done. A push for worker autonomy could become more than a management tactic for incentivizing hard work.
Regardless of whether a more radical future arrives, post-industrial economies require greater attention to a worker’s state of mind and even to that worker as an end, not as mean. As we find an increasingly educated workforce doing knowledge work that is difficult to track (compared to industrial work), anarchism may provide a better model than a more hierarchically-based one. As Ward and many anarchists pointed out, less hierarchy could encourage more initiative and creativity, while honing decision-making skills and responsibility. Having teams that are composed of members trained as managers/executives and given time to build a group dynamic together in a leaderless fashion could offer a more productive work environment. More importantly, that environment would be more humane and satisfying, allowing for creativity, self-expression, and a better quality of life.
Anarchist theory, ever concerned about the spontaneity and autonomy of the worker, might provide the answer Drucker never really found. Popular culture – ranging from the movie Office Space to the two television versions of The Office – mock office drones. The popular perception this sort of entertainment taps into portrays employees that seem sucked dry, with no freedom to act and utterly menial tasks to complete. A more serious cliché about organizations (like the corporation, the military, etc.) focuses on how many have engaged in unabashedly unethical behaviors. Drucker’s question is silently answered in the popular views. What is the legitimacy of white-collar work? There is none. It provides income, but nothing more. A greater preponderance of such approaches as self-directing teams that coordinate across organizations might very well lead to a greater legitimacy: drones might gradually be seen as workers who hold real decision-making power. Blending some of the views of anarchists like Ward with mainstream organizational and management theory might help workers find legitimacy in what they do. It might also set the stage for workers to find lives that are productive, engaged, and creative.
It is not clear whether groups such as self-managed/directed teams will continue to grow in the future or not. For Drucker’s part, as he watched the twenty-first century come into focus, he observed how little people know about how to manage knowledge work and how to keep knowledge workers productive. Always an astute observer, he had found a permanent problem of capitalism. Corporations can really only scare or bribe people to be more independent or more productive. Drucker knew that this is not a good solution, but he had nothing left to offer. A better solution is to pursue the freedom that emerges from moving beyond the concept of work used here (a kind of servitude to someone else) and to one that emphasizes creativity and freedom. Completely decentralized organizations are capable of providing that – Ward spent a lifetime collecting examples of them from around the world. Building toward these decentralized organizations requires constant, gradual changes that allow people to take on greater independence. Looking beyond mainstream approaches to organizational theory and management is a way to begin.
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J. Christopher Paskewich is an associate professor of Politics at Centre College, USA. He is currently researching post-structuralist approaches to understanding how management practices are used in universities and colleges. He teaches courses on political theory, urban policy, technology, and European politics.
Email: c.paskewich AT centre.edu