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Herbert Simon
: Administration & Society, May96, Vol. 28 Issue 1, p39, 22p
Davis, Charles R.
One of the most prestigious scholars in the social sciences over the past half century has been Herbert A. Simon. His administrative rational model of organization is frequently identified as a generic approach applicable to either government or corporate enterprises. In this critical essay, I examine Simon's model's ability to serve as an impetus to the types of reason and politics necessary for more authentic public organizations. This article also elucidates how the fundamental concerns of his model are antithetical to the political, moral, and rationality criteria required for democratic politics and public action within organizational environments.
Herbert A. Simon is among the most eminent social scientists to emerge in the United States over the past 60 years. Although he earned his doctorate in political science at the University of Chicago during the 1930s, Simon's research has evolved over time to include organization theory, economics, computer science, psychology, and the philosophy of science.
In recent decades, Simon has received acclaim as a pioneer in the development of artificial intelligence. He also earned the prestigious Nobel Prize in Economics in 1978.
Over the years, Simon's scholarship has represented a far-ranging academic voyage. However, specific core themes are found repeatedly across his research experience in various fields of academia. Specifically, these basic issues center around a particular type of organizational rationality and individual instrumental decision-making processes via his celebrated notions of bounded rationality and the criterion of satisficing as a mode of reasoning.
These themes form the basis of Simon's work in the 1940s and 1950s in administrative rationality and behavior. Analyses of these key issues are also found throughout his writings and provide the impetus to his current reputation. As late as the early 1990s, Simon writes in his autobiography, his professional life has been a career-long search for the "Holy Grail of truth about decision-making" (1991, p. xvii).
This article examines the phenomenon of rationality as variously offered in Simon's writings. A particular concern, therefore, is to critically analyze the type(s) of human action presented in his perspective. Consequently, a major thrust centers on evaluating how well Simon's model promotes those human actions needed to establish authentic public organization. Before the public organization issue can be addressed, however, the specific types of rationality that shape Simon's administrative theory warrant closer inspection.
The idea of rationality is the cornerstone of Simon's administrative literature. His use of the term rational varies depending on his level of analysis. In one sense, he uses rationality as a focus on the organization's efficiency. An even more central concern is individual behavior within the organization. This section specifically illuminates Simon's use of rationality as applied to administrative management's orientation to organization.
In coming to terms with Simon's perspective, it is necessary to understand that rational is equivalent to efficient. More than three decades ago, Simon, along with coauthors Donald Smithburg and Victor Thompson (1950), observed that in the broadest sense efficiency is "often used as a virtual synonym for rationality" (p. 490).
Therefore, organizational rationality is understood to mean economic efficiency of the administrative unit. Furthermore, efficiency is a basic organizational necessity for both individuals and management.
Indeed, the theory of administration, Simon (1946) states, is "concerned with how an organization should be constructed to accomplish its work efficiently" (p. 64). He further argues that rationality as organizational efficiency is more than simply a guiding criterion. Instead, efficiency assumes importance as the modus operandi of organization. Put simply, he says efficiency is what is meant by good or correct administration (Simon, 1946).
However, the notion of rationality as efficiency is not universal throughout the organization. Rather, it is primarily the province of a particular group. That is, it is most "commonly used with the values and opportunity costs of activity as viewed by the managerial group in organization" (Simon, Smithburg, & Thompson, 1950, p. 502). Even though this definition of rationality as efficient operations is a prevalent one, Simon's writings do not preclude consideration of other issues. For instance, unlike Luther Gulick, Simon rejects efficiency as the normative value of organization. Instead, Simon sees efficiency in terms of results, as a phenomenon that can be evaluated objectively.
Interestingly, in contrast with both Simon and Gulick, Dwight Waldo noted long ago that although objective and descriptive uses of efficiency had validity, they were possible only within a framework of consciously held values. Moreover, Waldo (1984) said, "It should also be clear that 'effects' or 'results' is a normative conception" (p. 194). One of the enduring lessons of political theory is that practice follows theory, or action follows values or priorities. Indeed, even Waldo lucidly points out that efficiency always serves some specific ends, either articulated or unarticulated (1984).
Over the past several years, other scholars in organizational development, public choice, critical theory, and so forth followed generally the works of Waldo as well as of Dahl (1947) and others. That is, various scholars h ave noted the general importance attached to efficiency in public administration. However, many theorists believe efficiency must share consideration in organization with other concerns. Robert Golembiewski, for example, readily acknowledges the importance of efficiency in organization. At the same time, Golembiewski (1965) recognizes other equally important facets, such as moral organization.
There are other key dimensions to Simon's model besides organizational rationality. These include an (a) understanding of how the structure of authority influences or is influenced by decisions of individuals; (b) examination of how administrative rationality qualifies as a limited or bounded rationality; and (c) investigation into how administrative rationality of individuals is grounded in means-ends cognitive reasoning processes.
In the analysis of any political or organizational theory, central consideration is traditionally given to the role of authority within (as well as external to) the organization. Simon (1976) sees the "exercise of authority in organization" occurring under conditions where an individual "allows his decisions to be guided by decision premises provided him by some other person" (p. xx). Moreover, according to the logic of organizational rationality (i.e., efficient operations), this authority is plainly that of organizational management.
In other words, it is not the free will of individual members that directly influences their own decisions. Instead, behavior is deliberately molded by management. For example, the goal identification of an employee is a product of his or her location within the organization. This is so because being an organizational member "alters an individual's behavior by altering the factual premises that underlie his choices and decisions" (Simon, Smithburg, & Thompson, 1950, p. 502). Employees are thus expected to orient their behavior toward the organization's objectives. As Simon (1976) puts it, "A decision is 'organizationally' rational if it is oriented to the organization's goals" (p. 76-77). But what this situation creates is a psychological environment where members must "adapt" to managerial goals, irrespective of their own idiosyncratic needs or choices (Simon, 1976, p. 79). Thus Simon's rational individual is clearly an institutionalized individual (1976).
Simon further argues that individuals (or managers) engage in rational behavior only to the extent that the consequences of action can be predicted and evaluated (Simon, Smithburg, & Thompson, 1950). In Models of my Life, he describes economic man as one who is basically grounded in global rationality. This economic man has relevant knowledge of his environment; he has a well-organized and stable system of preferences and can calculate alternative courses of action. Global rationality simply permits economic man to optimize his preferences.
In contrast, administrative or organizational man is also calculatively rational, but only to a limited degree. Namely, Simon's theory of intended and bounded rationality is the model of human behavior of those who satisfice because they lack the wits, as Simon puts it, "to maximize" (1976, p. 77). By satisficing, Simon's organized individual "looks for a course of action that is satisfactory or good enough" (Simon, 1976, p. xxiv). Furthermore, these satisficing decisions are not restricted to individual employees but also include management (March & Simon, 1958).
Whether attention is directed to limited rationality or global rationality, both forms are fundamentally cognitive rationality processes. Both are, in short, characteristic of a purposive, instrumental, or calculative form of reasoning. This form of reasoning has been thoroughly and lucidly analyzed by Max Weber and others since the turn of the century. Subsequent sections will critically assess instrumental rationality's capacity for promoting the moral-political reasoning needed for authentic public enterprises. At present, this task is to briefly outline instrumental, means-ends rationality.
In the first place, means-ends forms of analyses and problem solving are purely cognitive processes in which thought is assumed to precede man's social experience. That is, means-ends rational analysis is a calculative process of the personal mind whereby the individual matches one of several means (e.g., job tasks, role) to a given end(s) as typically specified by management. This means-ends thinking, as Simon (1991) reiterates, "is a key component of human problem-solving skill" (p. 220). As he points out, the ends of individuals are merely steppingstones to managerial objectives. Moreover, rationality "has to do with the construction of means-ends chains of this kind" (Simon, 1976, p. 62-65). So, according to Simon, means-ends rationality is essential to administrative choice.
Herbert Simon's organizational perspective has sometimes been designated as a generic model of organization; that is, as a model with private or government sector applicability.
The second part of this article critically evaluates Simon's approach to organization in terms of the criteria his model provides (or falls to provide) to promote the type of human action necessary for a viable public organization. This will include investigating (a) the fundamental concern of Simon's theory; (b)his model's cognitive forms of means-ends rationality; and (c) the basic authority foundation of his model.
By examining each of these three considerations, this article proposes that Simon's rational model is an obstacle, not a facilitator, to everyday democratic interaction among participants. Simultaneously, his model is explicated as impeding the type of human actions needed to genuinely designate the workplace as a public environment.
As noted earlier, Simon asserted that efficiency is what is meant by good administration. Also, "efficiency must be the guiding criterion" of organization (1946, p. 62). Essentially, this efficiency rests in the rationality of organizational management. Therefore, this efficiency is "extended to each member insofar as each member responds to the organization" stimulus (Wolin, 1960, p. 411). So, in a very critical sense, the basic organizational concern for efficient operations is that this type of efficiency serves to substantially establish the perimeters for the types of politics that flourish in the daily work environment.
Although Simon's model does not explicitly adhere to the old orthodox/neo-orthodox politics/administration dichotomy of Woodrow Wilson, Luther Gulick, and others, his focus on and preoccupation with efficiency (as a guiding criterion of organization) serves practically to preclude moral-political reasoning and consideration of alternative values and subsequent actions. In other words, without advocating the politics/administration dichotomy outright, his articulated theoretical priorities separate (by exclusion) political matters from administrative concerns in organization. In short, Simon excludes administrators as explicit political actors. Like Luther Gulick, Simon fundamentally sees organization as an administrative province. He does not acknowledge that discretion or choice, long ago described by Appleby, Lasswell, and others, is a political phenomenon inherent in all human interaction. Rather, discretion in Simon's theory is the prerogative of management. It is not viewed explicitly as a political criterion in his model.
As such, the supremacy of rationality as efficient operations diminishes the importance of other concerns--democracy, justice, equality, and so forth. Other concerns do not and cannot compete with efficiency and rationality. Many years ago, Robert Dahl pointed out that efficiency is not a neutral criterion. Moreover, when it assumes dominance it no longer competes against such concerns as individual responsibility or democratic morality (1947).
Robert B. Denhardt also describes how the concept of public organization is "distinguished by involvement with ethical and political values" (1984, p. 74) However, in any organizational theory, and very notably in Simon's administrative rational model, it is not possible to reconcile efficiency as the dominant concern with the need of the citizen (i.e., civic virtue) or common involvement in administrative decision making (i.e., public involvement). This is especially so in view of the influence that efficient operations have in bureaucratic agencies (Denhardt, 1984). In a scenario in which efficient operations prevail over other concerns, Denhardt (1984) asks, "How should the study of administration evaluate German prison camps of World War II, most of which were highly efficient?"
The use of means-ends analysis in problem solving is, according to Simon (1976), essential to administrative choice. However, the emphasis on the means-ends model of rationality conceals a more universal form of reason. We have seen how instrumental rationality operates to maximize organizational rationality via individual satisficing. But instrumental rationality also assigns a "thing" status to the organization. Furthermore, as applied to individual members themselves, instrumental activity (e.g., means-ends thinking processes within roles) imputes mechanistic properties to employees as functionaries. This mechanistic dimension is indicative of the process of reification.
Simon's purposive means-ends analysis is thus a restricted view of rationality. It is limited because the scope of reason is reduced simply to cognitive calculation. Further, it is limited because it is confined to determining procedures for achieving the primary organizational goal--efficiency. At the same time, in critically assessing this mode of rationality,
issues such as whether a particular goal reflects the need, the morality, the expressed intentions, the subjective desires of various participants, or are reasonable have little consequence. (Davis, 1985, p. 53)
These situations take place as the organizational instrument is consciously designed and managed so "as to structure abstract, purposive rationality into the behavior of its members" (Davis, 1985, p.79).
When instrumental rationality dominates, as in bureaucratic structures, the more traditional and universal understanding of reason is obfuscated, if not concealed outright. Although instrumental or calculative rationality is not precluded from universal reason, it is, at best, only a partial expression for universal rationality. In other words, the more intensely that everyday life is dominated by means-ends rationality, then the more obscure employees' cognizance of the broader aspects of traditional reason become. Put simply, what is specifically concealed is the understanding of rationality "as a force not only in the individual mind but also in the objective world" (Horkheimer, 1947). The focus of universal reason is not on mechanically matching behavior and purpose. Rather, it centers on the problem of human destiny and on realizing ultimate goals (Horkheimer, 1947).
Simon's instrumental rationality does indeed provide problem solving and choice to certain means to given managerial ends. On the other hand, his model restricts employees' deliberative choices and thereby their ability to understand broad policy is sues. In particular, means-ends rationality lacks the evaluative component inherently found in traditional reason.
The rationality of Simon's model can also be described from another vantage point. The rational human, in Simon's perspective, employs a calculative rationality in which means and ends are explicable. However, the formulation of ends themselves is not readily comprehensible. The reason is that in the administrative model of organization ends are the province of management. This holds not only for policy but also for tasks, positions, and functions of the organization. Reasoning is thereby reified. That is, whereas universal reason involves meaning in multiple dimensions, means-ends rationality reduces reason to simply a "mental process of the personal mind and it is further limited to calculating relationships between means and ends." In short, "reflection on and consideration of various moral-political criteria are absent" (Davis, 1990, p. 415). This creates a dilemma for individuals in everyday work life. Namely, adopting this means-ends rationality in daily work situations contributes to the bureaucratization of work life. In becoming the everyday mode of reflection and activity, this rationality contributes to the rationalization of existence that stems from the relationship between means and ends. Indeed, it was Max Weber who originally noted that what
was originally a means (to an otherwise valuable end) becomes an end-into-itself, actions intended as means become independent rather than goal-oriented and precisely thereby lose their original 'meaning' or 'end,' i.e., their goal-oriented rationality based on man and his needs. (Weber, as cited in Loewith, 1970, p. 114)
It is precisely this reversal of means and ends that
marks all modern culture . . . its institutions and enterprises are rationalized in such a way that it is these structures, originally set up by man, which now encompass and determine him like an iron cage. (Weber, as cited in Loewith, 1970, p. 114)
Therefore, adhering to means-ends rationality (i.e., as the primary mode of personal analysis) encourages a form of determinism: acceptance of what appears to be inevitable destiny. Consequently, the only meaningful action for employees within this universal bondage is merely to engage in self-responsibility. Under rationalization, this takes place as "understanding of freedom and meaning" and is restricted "to what is relevant to the inner man." In other words, freedom and meaning are limited to personal cognition and subjectivity (Weber, as cited in Loewith, 1970, p. 114).
In sum, means-ends analysis does certainly promote self-responsibility. However, it does not permit awareness of how oneself and others are fundamentally social and political creatures. Furthermore, it impedes understanding and subsequent political action for participation. Thus the prospects for true public organization are nil in the absence of processes for practical participation.
Simon's employee is not only "an organized and institutionalized individual" (1976, p. 102), but also an individual who "allows his decisions to be guided by the decision premises of others" (p. xx). On close examination, these "others" Simon refers to are obviously management.
Wolin (1960) has noted that Simon's rational perspective
carries broader implications than merely the coordination of different operations for a prescribed end. Indeed, its objective is to create a special environment which will induce the individual to make the best decision . . . a decision most helpful to the needs and ends of the organization. (p. 410)
Wolin vividly elucidates how the authority structure in Simon's model poses barriers to democratic or public interaction. For example, the basis of authority in Simon's theory
can rightly be called Hobbesian. In Simon's writings . . . the discussion of authority centers upon the ability to command subordinates; no concessions are made to elicit consensus or agreement among the members. . . . The superior does not try to convince his underling, but only to "obtain his acquiescence." (Wolin, 1960, p. 410)
In other words, "there is a no-nonsense quality about authority" and "its presence is felt whenever a subordinate accepts the decision of a superior" while simultaneously suspending his own critical faculties. Simon's no-sentimentalizing approach, Wolin points out, is without a sense of participation and belonging (1960, pp. 410-411).
It has been shown that Simon's organization is rational to the extent that it operates to maximize efficiency. However, rational in this context does not mean the organization serves politically democratic or moral purposes (Denhardt, 1984, pp. 75-79). Instead, efficiency in the rational model is an ideology or reified activity. As such, reified efficiency poses obstacles to human growth, democratic participation, and public action in everyday organizational work situations.
There are two basic problems to efficiency as an ideology or as reified activity. First, reified efficiency is a barrier to political, social, and psychological development in humans. Second, efficiency as ideology is an interpersonal obstacle between people in organizations. It is a barrier that inhibits democratic interaction and dialogue among the workforce. Therefore, prospects for more authentically public organizational existence are effectively neutralized. They are blocked as reified activity constricts the participants' range of choice (Berger & Pullberg, 1976), thereby limiting human choices that are available to respond to and alleviate problems in the workplace.
Efficiency as ideology (or reified activity) is an instrumental modality that mystifies social relations in human consciousness. Moreover, this efficiency is confined to the functional roles of humans in organization. Put simply, it
limits work to the sheer exercise of abstract calculation and manipulation of means and ends appropriate to one's task in the organizational environment. (Davis, 1985, p. 74)
Reified activity's foundation, described by Georg Lukacs, is
that a relation between people takes on the character of a thing and thus acquires 'phantom objectivity,' an autonomy that seems so strictly rational and all-encompassing so as to conceal every trace of its fundamental nature: the relation between people. (1971, p. 206)
Another way to understand reified activity is to consider it the autonomization of a social activity and the subsequent treatment of humans as impersonal objects. It is activity detached from the intentionality of the actor(s). In short, "the expressed purposes of the actor(s) are veiled or hidden" (Davis, 1985, p. 75). Thus the reified activity assumes an onto-logical status "as if such activities exist in and of themselves" (Davis, 1985, p. 75, italics added).
Not only does reified efficiency create a dehumanizing understanding of efficiency but it also presents a threat to human consciousness by minimizing human reflection and choice. Also, as Berger and Pullberg (1976) point out, reified activity reduces the process of human understanding of social totality to assumptions grounded merely in mechanical causality.
Therefore, rationality as efficiency reflects but distorts the everyday work environment. Specifically, it is an ideology insofar as it automatizes calculative conduct as the only prescribed manner of thought and action. At the same time, it reinforces these modes as the taken-for-granted reality of organizational life. Consequently, human consciousness toward other values, modes of thinking, and acting (besides those prescribed by reified efficiency) will appear utopian, if conceivable at all. As such, this results in reified efficiency's deceptive appearance as destiny.
How this activity appears inevitable has been described by Lukacs. He says that when individuals confront a reified human structure, this reality appears to be a natural phenomenon alien to themselves. Individuals, therefore, believe themselves to be at the mercy of the reified activity's "laws" (1971, p. 135). The creation of an efficient environment is the creation of a social structure wherein individuals are induced to make decisions most helpful to the needs and ends of the organization. But it is precisely this social structure, which is created by management, that permits efficiency to become ideology or reified activity. Thus the social environment of the organization becomes alienated to everyday employees. A social environment is alienated when seen as a thing able to stand on its own apart from the human activity that produced and sustains it. Hence an alienated environment is a rupture between what humans collectively create and what is created. It is a serious problem to people insofar as such a structure facilitates existential circumstances in which both the organizational world and the self are perceived as atomistically closed and mutually exclusive (Berger & Pullberg, 1976).
Simon's model can also be critically evaluated in terms of the politics his perspective provides for work situations.
An effort to comprehend the nature of politics in Simon's model first entails understanding that organizational problems are considered the exclusive province of management. Second, it requires coming to terms with administrative theory as a covert political theory (i.e., politics in terms of allocating and distributing resources and values in Easton's context or Lasswell's "who gets what, when, and how") (1977, pp. 108,163, 165).
Indeed, the whole notion of organization in Simon's works is understood as an artificially contrived entity. Simon's thinking, like Victor Thompson's, envisions organization as a thing or a technical instrument. For instance, following Weber, Thompson points out that an organization is a "machine-like instrument or tool of external power." Therefore, it is an artificially contrived system of rules and regulations that "does not describe behavior, it prescribes it." In addition, the purpose of this design instrument is to control member units designated as "functionaries" (Thompson, 1975, pp. 13-18).
This view of organization originates with St. Simon, an 18th-century French political philosopher, who said that organization was a new basis of power permitting the exploitation of nature. St. Simon saw organization as a power over things through (a) the rational arrangement of "functioning" parts; Co) the subordination of some tasks to others; and (c) the "direction of work by those who possessed the relevant knowledge" (see Wolin, 1960, p. 377).
Herbert Simon's works strongly parallel St. Simon's in that human employees are basically perceived as abstract resources of the organization. Indeed, perspectives that apply such techniques are characteristic of positivism; and Simon's entire organizational artifice rests upon positivism.
For example, man is considered an abstract category and is reified in two ways. First, "man is an abstract thing as an object of science to discover laws of human behavior" as in the "case of organization and administration." Second, he is a particular thing "as the object of that science applied to actual" everyday situations (Fleron & Fleron, 1972, p. 3-4).
Therefore, Simon's administratively rational view not only fosters the reification of employees in daily work existence but also compartmentalizes and fragments individuals into units of the organization. As such, employees are provided with a correct perimeter of choices (i.e., choices established by management). The rational model is, indeed, a covert political theory. It is a model whereby only material needs of participants are legitimated because human labor is seen only as a means to human existence (i.e., a person's labor is nothing more than a means to material culture). It is consequently a theory that serves the politics of administration. That is, it serves the existing power structure--administrative management.
This occurs as preoccupation with instrumental modalities in making organizations efficient directs an individual's consciousness to the means of accomplishing managerial ends. So, these technical means (i.e., roles, tasks, functions) become ends unto themselves for employees (Denhardt & Denhardt, 1979). Thus perception is deflected away from the employees' own intentions. Furthermore, concentration on management goals inhibits deliberation on the part of individuals about how such goals are determined, by whom, and who ultimately benefits from such arrangements. In actuality, then, employees have only limited choices. In reified organization, therefore, prospects for individual choice are transformed into prospects for regulation. In other words, choice in the rational perspective results in compliance or simple obedience to superior authorities.
In this light, Simon's administrative rational theory of organization is clearly a political theory, but it is equally obvious that it is not a public organization theory. What Simon advances as a neutral and objective approach actually conceals strong managerial preferences.
Whereas Simon's theory gives heavy attention to the internal, managerial considerations of organization, other scholars have increasingly recognized that there exist other equally legitimate concerns in public administration and public management. Much of the recent literature focuses on external interaction dimensions (i.e., interactions external to the organization and with other political actors and institutions) of government organization from public policy and management approaches. Among recent works in this vein are the writings of Bozeman (1987), Rainey (1991), Denhardt (1993), Svara (1990), and various others. It is also important that in the last 20-25 years, many writers have advanced views advocating that government organizations be made more democratic and more public in their internal structure and characteristics. Also, new perspectives have arisen in the realms of phenomenology, public choice, and organizational development, among others.
In the public management literature, for example, Bozeman argues that all organizations are public. He examines the "publicness" of organizations through the dimensions of culture, behavior, and structure (p. 104). According to Bozeman (1987), publicness is conditioned on the extent to which organizations are influenced by political authority. Also, publicness, he says, is a key to assessing any type of organization. In his view, any organization is public in at least some of its processes and behavior.
Rainey's view also parallels Bozeman's attention to the public aspects of public management. Interestingly, in contrast to earlier theories, Rainey lucidly points out that there is no single operating principle in organization. He follows continency theory and says that "organizations adapt their structures to key contingencies that confront them" (1991, p. 223). Also like Bozeman, Rainey sees organizational decision making as closely related to power relations. Rainey acknowledges both the importance of organizational structure and the "impressive" effect of organizational development theory in recent years (1991, p. 223). In addition, he calls for more participation among members of organizations. According to Rainey, good managers are those who seek to "empower" others (1991, p. 262). However, like other management perspectives, the concept of empowerment in Rainey's work is without policy-making prerogatives for individual employees. That is, empowerment in his perspective occurs only within the boundaries of ultimate management authority.
Svara's empirical study of city government is also grounded in managerial presuppositions. His analysis is similarly focused upon the external (vs. internal structure) interactions of organizations with their respective political environments. Svara formulates a dichotomy-duality model and thus elucidates how political power is shared between different political actors and institutions. By delivering services and in responding to citizens (but excluding members of the organization as citizens of the organization), he insists, the managerial approach does not subvert democratic principles (Svara, 1990). Although Svara's position does indeed hold toward an organization's external interactions with other political institutions or actors, he neglects to point out that democratic principles are excluded internally for employees of bureaucratic organizations.
Yet another fascinating analysis focusing on English local government organizations is Rosenberg's (1989) work. Rosenberg also acknowledges the multiple bases of political power in and between local government organizations and other political actors. His analysis is quite insightful in exposing dimensions of real versus ritualistic authority of formal controllers of organizational management.
It is not surprising that most public management literature follows in the tradition of such scholars as Paul Appleby, Norton Long, Francis Rourke, and numerous others who recognize how government administrators are political actors par excellence in the overall political system. In this sense, bureaucracies and bureaucrats are frequently designated public in analysis for the external segments of the population served by a governmental organization. On the other hand, in the internal structure of government organizations these bureaucracies remain dubiously public for employees.
Simply, everyday members of government organizations continue to be viewed as virtually identical to employees of nongovernment bureaucracies. Namely, they are typically labeled and treated as employees (not citizens of the public enterprise) who must remain subject to authority vested in undemocratic, antipublic hierarchical management.
Therefore, management legitimation, for government organization or for society at large, is problematic. According to William G. Scott, managerialism is itself "in a period of moral, psychological and economic disjunction" (1992, p. 186). Along with David K. Hart, Scott has illuminated how the philosophy of management itself poses major obstacles to authentic public organization. Specifically, they state that "management means control and techniques of human control are derived from specific values which shape and legitimate them" (Hart & Scott, 1982, p. 240). Therein lies a monumental problem. Because when techniques of management are continually and uncritically adopted, government is subject to the basic values in which those management techniques are grounded. Furthermore, management values are often incompatible with each other and "most of them are incongruent with American regime values" (Hart & Scott, 1982, p. 243).
Public or publicness cannot be simply limited to one concern of the external environment of an organization. Nor is it merely a concern for the internal structure of organization. Rather, it is a primary consideration for government organizations if such organizations are to be seen as authentically public enterprises. Government organization is public to the extent that public values (i.e., the common or general values arrived at by mutual, open, democratic methods) take priority and prevail over other secondary concerns within and between organizations. In the tradition of democratic theory, public values are central or fundamental values. So, a public enterprise is not restricted to segments of the population served by the organization. It is public by virtue of the commonality of its composition (e.g., common participation or common involvement).
Weber's designation of bureaucracy as a power instrument without comparison is highly accurate. However, it is not, and never was, a prescription. Weber's long fascination and bewilderment with the iron cage was primarily to help him understand the phenomenon of bureaucracy as a central dimension of the political state and as a fundamental source whereby society was increasingly rationalized. Indeed, Max Weber did not see bureaucracy as a realm of the public but rather as a phenomenon of the modern state (see Loewith, 1970; Connolly, 1984, passim).
With the emergence of American progressivism came the founding of American public administration. In this era (spanning the last two decades of the 19th century and the first two decades of the 20th), the designation of public administration originally was simply a substitute phrase for the application of bureaucratic arrangements, both in theory and in practice, for government operations in the United States. This substitution took hold and has remained literally intact. Today, bureaucratic structures are daily designated as public when they are really no more than government entities. In other words, simply because bureaucratic operations are attached to government they are labeled public (Denhardt, 1993). In the same way that the American populist understood that democracy could not merely be confined to the formal institutions of government, public is not restricted to government. The concept of the public is concerned with common or collaborative actions as well as with the quality of social relations (Lustig, 1982).
Specifically in reference to authority structure, democratic political theory has long recognized that public is not synonymous with government. Consider, for example, the government organizations of the Third Reich, Franco's Spain, Peron's Argentina, Stalin's Soviet Union, and so forth. All of these were instruments (i.e., government entities) of state power. None, however, qualifies as public in the tradition of Western political thought. Wolfe (1977), Lustig (1982), and Skowronek (1982) are but a few of the political theorists who have shown how the authority structure of American government organizations makes them thoroughly administrative bureaucracies. Moreover, such bureaucracies have internal structures that are pervasively nonpublic and typically antidemocratic in any policy-making context for the organizational membership at large.
To envision prospects for more genuine public enterprises, it is critical to provide a more humane and less reified understanding of organization. Chester Bernard provided just such a concept long ago in his definition of organization as "a system of consciously coordinated activities as a force of two or more persons" (1948, p. 73). Bernard's focus on the human dimension is congruent with the public component of "communication" (Habermas, 1964) or "expression" (Dewey, 1927) of the general, common, or public good. Furthermore, and more important, the applicability of these components extends to the internal, not merely the external, aspects of human organization. Such components are also compatible with the traditional perspectives of Aristotle, Cicero, and other classical formulations.
According to both Habermas and Dewey, public concerns involve provision for the determination of the common good through mutual and open deliberations. This obviously includes participants within the organization as well as those affected by the services or products of the organization. In essence, public action grounded in public authority structure is based in lateral, and not purely vertical (hierarchical), relations among people. Members of the organization, thereby, are citizens who "collaborate openly and publicly in a common union" (Pranger, 1968, p. 89). Not only is public action dependent upon member participation but also participation directly contributes to the democratization of the organization. Orion White has also pointed out that
the question of how to achieve wisdom in public action is more one of creating effective participation than it is of finding the proper scope of access for people to participate. What is crucial is the dynamic of how people relate as they address issues of public action [White's italics]. (White, as cited in Wamsley et al., 1990)
In addition, in their recent work on participation (1992), Bachrach and Botwinick present one of the more lucid definitions of participation found in modern literature. They state that "participation may be defined as action through which members of the political structures, organizations, and groups effectively exercise power to influence policy outcomes" (p. 57). Pateman (1970), in a similar view, describes how participation possesses an educative dimension psychologically and sociologically for public citizenship. Habermas and Dewey share Bernard's focus on the human dimension inherent in the public component of communication. Specifically, all three scholars fundamentally characterize the public in terms of the expression of common interests arrived at by free and open "discussion, debate, and dialogue" (Dewey, 1927, p. 208) But more important, one of participation's most "valuable assets" is that it "strips away the legitimacy of organizations to rule autocratically" (Bachrach & Botwinick, 1992, p. 16).
For most departments of government (excluding those few that really merit secrecy based on legitimate national security concerns), democratizing government organizations and making them truly public merit serious attention. Indeed, Denhardt has noted that it is essential for organizational values to be subject to debate and deliberation. He adds that anything less is not likely to endure (Denhardt, 1993). Additionally, public organizations require the placing of a priority on the values that are firmly seated in the democratic context. Admittedly, any number of possible concerns have applicability to organization. But for an organization to qualify as public, a commitment to democratization must take precedence over efficiency, leadership, decentralization, and any number of other worthy issues. Certainly, such issues as leadership continue to command attention and rightfully so. Likewise, empowerment, which involves others in the decision-making process, is also quite germane as a public management concern. Specifically, the concept of empowerment could help to promote political power or policy prerogatives of employees. If so, empowerment of organizational members could directly contribute to the internal publicness of organizations. Yet empowerment also has the potential to become yet another ideological tool by which to manipulate employees into adapting to management goals, dependent upon how the concept is defined or used within the organization. For example, it might be used as a technique of what Pateman (1970) calls "pseudo-participation" (p. 68) In this latter usage, empowerment could be appropriated by management as a sophisticated management tool serving organizational superiors rather than permitting political development of employees as policy participants. In the realm of organizational development, just such a scenario has occurred before. Namely, the concept of psychosocial development in some organizational humanism literature essentially is geared to helping individuals grow psychologically and socially to become better employees of the organization. As such, it serves management. In short, psychosocial growth or development is confined to making individuals better members, psychologically and socially, for the organization (i.e., management). Yet this mode of development does not possess a political dimension for substantive participation in the organization's policies or even for the promotion of basic political skills among the workforce. Simply, human development restricted to only psychosocial aspects cannot promote growth for individuals politically. Employees lack political educative growth into the very components needed for democratic participation into their own public organizational affairs (Davis, 1987).
Herbert Simon's rational model has influenced both government and corporate bureaucracies over the years. However, his works have not in any way been substantively concerned with, nor have they specifically contributed to, a theory of public organization.
His fundamental criterion of efficiency affects organization in two basic ways. First, rational decision-making operations are strategically concerned with the efficient fulfillment of management goals. Second, on the level of the everyday employee, efficiency is restricted to cognitive means-ends processes of calculation used in limited or bounded rationality. In this sense, organizational members work for satisfactory solutions to problems faced in their functional work roles.
Although Simon, like other administrative scholars, recognizes that there are many worthwhile or necessary components of organization, the criterion of rationality or efficiency is made a priority of organization. However, this relegates all other commitments or goals to a secondary status in theory and thus in practice. So, Simon's designation of efficiency or rationality as a basic good of organization necessarily conflicts with other criteria. Or, Simon's basic good renders other considerations as bad in practice (or less than a top priority). Consequently, it is easy to understand why democracy, common or public action, ethics, and other commitments have secondary, if any, everyday importance in the rational model.
An equally troublesome dimension of Simon's model is the cognitive means-ends rationality that directly fosters the rationalization of existence originally analyzed by Weber. The instrumental model's basic flaw is it leads to the preoccupation of the self and the subsequent loss of sociality. Likewise, Simon's perspective encourages the ideology of efficiency, which creates interpersonal dilemmas along with diminished prospects for democratic interaction.
A public organization, internally and externally, must assign priority (theoretically and practically) to public values. Other concerns and techniques (and the values upon which they are based) certainly possess merit. But a guiding ethic of organization must reside in democratic participation or the collaboration of organizational participants, as well as those affected by organizational policy. Moreover, authentic public organization necessitates that political education be fostered and sustained among organizational members. This solution includes, but is not limited to, dereifying organizations, demystifying universal reason, promoting democratic morality, and legitimating political (not merely psychosocial) aspects of growth among the workforce.
One plausible starting point is the creation of a public action arena among organizational members in which questions of power, membership, obligation, and the character of political action can be addressed democratically and publicly. A program of political education is one very basic criterion of public organization. Political education is central to continually encourage and to sustain participation (e.g., as civic virtue) among the organizational membership. So, political education is a foundation or centerpiece of human development. It is essential in reinforcing mutual discussion and democratic governance and in establishing public action within organizations.
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