Life, Language, Law: Essays in Honor of Arthur F. Bentley

By Richard W. Taylor | Go to book overview

IX
The Illusion of Rationality*

By DON CALHOUN

THE CENTRAL CONCERN of an alive and serious political science is the relationship between organization and the individual person. Never has this problem needed solution more than it does today. If we are to keep the individual from being swallowed up in bureaucracy--or in outright totalitarianism--we must find the answers to several crucial questions.

What are the bonds which tie people to organizations? How do organizations maintain their power? How can individuals maintain a rational and critical attitude toward organizations? Can we have organizations which will stimulate intelligence and individuality rather than fostering illusion and uncritical conformity? And if so, how?

Traditional political science has little to contribute to answering these key questions. For it is formalistic and wedded to appearances rather than interested in underlying realities. It sees the relationship between individual and organization in terms of entities such as "sovereignty," "authority," "powers," "chain of command," "rights," "duties," "democracy," "majoritarianism."

Only gradually have political scientists begun to learn that an organizational structure is not a mechanical arrangement of "political men" and abstract ideas, but a flowing relationship of whole, live people--pushed by needs, interests, hopes, fears, rationalities and irrationalities. They have begun to see organization not as a thing, but as a human process.

The publication of Bentley The Process of Government was a major contribution to this kind of thinking. Since that time Bentley's central point--that organizational action should always be analyzed in terms of concrete group situations and pressures--has been elaborated

____________________
*
"The Illusion of Rationality" is an abridgement of a chapter from an unpublished manuscript, The Psychology of Subordination.

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