The Subconscious in Organizational Control: The Case of Mitsubishi Heavy Industry

By Nussbaum-Gomes, Mina | International Journal of Comparative Sociology, January-April 1994 | Go to article overview

The Subconscious in Organizational Control: The Case of Mitsubishi Heavy Industry


Nussbaum-Gomes, Mina, International Journal of Comparative Sociology


I. Culture and the Study or Organization

ALTHOUGH LONG TRADITIONS of theory and research in the social sciences address the orientations of employees to their jobs and places of employment, there has been in recent years a convergence of interest, from highly diverse quarters, in the problem of control within, and commitment to, the work organization. From industrial psychologists to organizational sociologists to Marxist labor process theorists, a focus on the efforts by companies to foster dependence, loyalty and identification in a workforce has superseded older scholarly concerns with industrial attitudes, performance, and conflict. Part of the reason for the renewed attention to the question of commitment and cohesion is a widening theoretical interest in the role it plays in modern organizational control and its connection to culture.

Since many centuries ago fundamental work values of Western countries stemmed from the Protestant Work Ethic, with its advocacy of individual achievement, personal responsibility and independence (Weber, 1920). Adam Smith reinforced these values by his moral philosophy in which he claimed that individuals should pursue their self-interest in order to have better consequences for society (Campbell, 1981). However, in recent years, increased attention has been paid to the concept of culture and its interorganizational implications, its relation to interpersonal network in organizations and to its contribution to organizational effectiveness. In a large and growing number of studies scholars have attempted to define, refine, and apply a cultural prospect to the illustration and analysis of organizational phenomenon.

The concept of culture has in recent years been used with increasing frequency in the area of organizational studies, obliging experts to define it. In the field of sociology, culture is used as a collective noun for the symbolic and learned aspects of human society. Kluckhohn (1962) states that culture consists of patterns transmitted by symbols and the essential core of culture consists of traditional ideas and especially their attached values. Geertz (1973) also encounters culture with signs and symbols as instruments for collective communication. Hence, culture refers to a shared system of values, norms, and symbols which have become crystallized in the institutions they have built together.

The continuing interest in the concept of culture suggests a change in emphasis in the study of organizations. The focus on culture is associated with a stress on the subjective realm, and a turn to interpretative and qualitative approaches in sociology, and organizational sociology in particular (Hofstede, 1986). The rise of organizational symbolism should involve the introduction into organization theory of formerly remote disciplines, including anthropology and history (Turner, 1990 quoted in Rowlinson & Hassard, 1993). In the field of organizational behavior the concept of culture has been welcomed in the hope that it might make organizational behavior relatively less reliant on the empirical analytical sciences and more dependent on the hermeneutic sciences.

When attributed to organizational contexts, culture and its related perceptions present a relatively new approach and precise lexicons combining with a type of original hypothetical variables to the study of organization. According to Dobson (1990) culture in organization is observed as the result of shared organizational values that are stipulated in an unspoken, implicit contract between employer and employee. Berlin & Reimel (1992) who presented the organizational culture as a system of values which are meaningful to and shared by all members of the organization. Therefore in that concern, culture is principally perceived as the communal principles governing subjective and effective aspects of membership in an organization, and the means whereby they are shaped and expressed. Within the broad perception of culture, special emphasis has been attributed to the shared meanings, norms, and values that govern workrelated behavior, in particular the functionalist and structural causes and consequences of cultural forms and their relationship to various measures of organizational effectiveness (Kunda, 1992). …

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