Sociological Theory: Present-Day Sociology from the Past

By Edgar F. Borgatta; Henry J. Meyer | Go to book overview

THE ORGANIZATION OF EFFORT

B Y EDWARD A. ROSS

ORGANIZATION is an effective way of combining the efforts of many for the achievement of a common end. From planless, haphazard co-operation--settlers fighting a prairie fire or lynchers storming a jail--organization is approached by a number of steps. One is the submitting of like efforts to direction, as when planters fortify a levee against a flood or citizens come together as a sheriff's posse. Another is the combining, under direction, of unlike efforts, as in a barn-raising, a rabbit-drive, or road-building. When, as in railway operation, a military enveloping movement, or a fleet maneuver, the several diverse efforts must be very precisely timed and adjusted to one another, direction will be very minute and authoritative. If the work is difficult, an authority will be needed to assign tasks according to individual aptitude or skill, and, if the organization is permanent, to provide that individuals are especially trained for the performance of their special functions. In large organizations there appear subheads, deputies, and supervisors, so that a hierarchy of authority grows up, uniting the apex of the pyramid with the base. Finally, organizations may, with or without modification, be combined into larger organizations, and these, in turn, enter into still more comprehensive schemes.

The chief determinant of the character of organization is the nature of the task. If it is something to be done, say erect a building or move trains, an organization is called for, the parts of which work smoothly together like the wheels and levers of a machine. But if the purpose sought is the beneficial influence which members may exert upon one another, organization is merely a means of promoting association and fellowship.

Again, is the effect aimed at physical or psychic? In an organization dealing with brute matter, like a plantation or a factory, the spirit of the workers is by no means as important as in the case of a newspaper staff, an associated charities, a propagandist society, or the soliciting force of a life-insurance company--all of them working in the realm

____________________
Abridged from: Ross Edward A., "The Organization of Effort", American Journal of Sociology, 1916, 22, 1-18. Reprinted by permission of the University of Chicago Press.

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