The Organization Man

The Organization Man

The Organization Man

The Organization Man

Synopsis

"The Organization Man is one of the most influential books of the twentieth century. It established the categories Americans now use when thinking about the workplace, the suburbs, and their lives."--David Brooks, senior editor at the Weekly Sta

Excerpt

Joseph Nocera

“The Organization, Man”

Sometime in the aftermath of the publication of william H. Whyte’s The Organization Man, the DuPont Corporation produced a print advertisement with the above headline. in the upper right-hand corner of the ad was a classic 1950s-era sketch of a handful of, well, organization men, dressed in look-alike suits and ties and fedoras, striding purposefully toward some unseen office. in the bottom left-hand corner sat a solitary figure, “Bernie the Beatnik,” in sandals and jeans, holding a guitar. in between the two images were about 200 words of copy, in fairly small print.

Given that The Organization Man came out in the fall of 1956 and stayed on the best-seller list through the following autumn, the ad was probably produced sometime in 1957. Eisenhower was in his second term, the cold war was ablaze, and what we now think of as 1950s values—in many ways, the real subject of The Organization Man—dominated the nation’s psyche. Yet when the ad first came to my attention not long ago, I blithely assumed that its purpose was to repudiate Whyte’s central thesis, which is that the American organization—and especially the large corporation—was systematically stamping out individuality, that people were foolishly allowing this to happen, and that this loss of individuality would eventually be ruinous to both the individual and the corporation. From my vantage point at the dawn of the twenty-first century, I assumed that DuPont would be using the ad to say that corporations were not as hellbent on conformity as Whyte had described them—that at DuPont, at least, a free-thinker like Bernie the Beatnik could blossom and thrive. After all, DuPont is a company that depends on science to create new products, and one of Whyte’s strongest beliefs was that scientific innovation would be greatly diminished if companies stopped hiring scientists who were free-spirits and even renegades. As he put it in a brilliant chapter, “The Bureaucratization of the Scientist,”

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