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

By Philip Selznick | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI
UNANTICIPATED CONSEQUENCES, 2: LAND-USE POLICY AND THE CHARACTER OF TVA

The purchase of a minimum amount of land around TVA reservoirs would provide opportunity for private enterprise to exercise its initiative in the development of the waterfront free from the stifling effect of public ownership and in accord with the public demand.

THE TVA AGRICULTURISTS ( 1941)

THERE IS A VAGUE and ill-defined quality which, unacknowledged and often poorly understood, represents a fundamental prize in organizational controversy. This is the evolving character of the organization as a whole. What are we? What shall we become? With whom shall we be identified? Where are our roots? These questions, and others like them, are the special responsibility of statesmen, of those who look beyond the immediate context of current issues to their larger implications for the future role and meaning of the group. To pose these questions is to seek more than the technical articulation of resources, methods, and objectives as these are defined in a formal program or statute. To reflect upon such long-run implications is to seek the indirect consequences of day-to-day behavior for those fundamental ideals and commitments which serve as the foundation for loyalty and effort.

"Consequences," writes Dewey, "include effects upon character, upon confirming and weakening habits, as well as tangibly obvious results." And in an earlier passage from the same work: "Character is the interpenetration of habits. If each habit existed in an insulated compartment and operated without affecting or being affected by others, character would not exist. That is, conduct would lack unity being only a juxtaposition of disconnected reactions to separated situations."1 These considerations from the social psychology of the individual provide us with tools for organizational analysis. Organizations, like individuals, strive for a unified pattern of response. This integration will define in advance the general attitudes of personnel to specific problems as they arise. This means that there will be pressure within the organization, from below as well as from above, for unity in outlook. As unity is approximated, the character of the organization becomes defined. In this way, the conditions under which individuals may "live

____________________
1
John Dewey, Human Nature and Conduct ( New York: Modern Library, 1930), pp. 46, 38.

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