TVA and the Grass Roots: A Study in the Sociology of Formal Organization

By Philip Selznick | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
TVA AND THE FARM LEADERSHIP: THE CONSTRUCTION OF AN ADMINISTRATIVE CONSTITUENCY

In adhering to the memorandum of understanding, the Authority is not protecting simply an institution but also the principle of our concept of democracy. If there had been no land-grant colleges in existence in 1933, in order to carry out an integrated program in the Tennessee Valley region the Authority would have found it necessary to recommend and support the establishment of such institutions.

DIRECTOR OF AGRICULTURAL RELATIONS,
TENNESSEE VALLEY AUTHORITY ( 1941)

THE PRECEDING chapter has been devoted to an interpretation of the grass-roots idea as official TVA doctrine. Such an analysis may stand by itself in some respects. But if we ask for the meaning of a policy in terms of its consequences in action, we must trace the history of the events within which the policy is presumed to have been effective. Moreover, it is impossible otherwise to document the hypothesis suggested above that the grass-roots policy functioned for TVA as a mechanism by which the agency achieved an adjustment to institutional forces within its area of operation.

Among the varied efforts of the TVA to execute its responsibilities under the guiding principle of grass-roots administration, the Authority's agricultural program is probably the outstanding example. This activity is a major phase of the TVA's work, and accounts for most of the funds expended under contractual arrangements with local agencies.1 The agricultural officials within the Authority constitute the most vigorous proponents of the grass-roots approach, and it is in this field that the possible implications of the administrative principle have been most clearly worked out in action.2 We therefore turn to this major phase of TVA's program as a case study of the policy of executing a regional program with and through existing local institutions.


TVA'S AGRICULTURAL RESPONSIBILITIES

The TVA agricultural program derives in theory from the idea of a unified development of the watershed of the Tennessee River, whereby water control on the land complements the control of water in the river

____________________
2
It should perhaps be said that a number of officials within TVA would consider the agricultural program a somewhat extreme rendering of the grass-roots method. However, the central place afforded to it here is in fact a reflection of its equally

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