History and Culture

51: The Tyranny of Light — Hari Tsoukas

  

Haridimos Tsoukas

Haridimos Tsoukas‘ 1997 article “The Tyranny of Light” was a bold article that challenged conventional wisdom about the oncoming information society. The Internet, personal computers, and the dot-com boom were still new and exciting. With information technologies advancing at an incredible pace, the sky (and the capacity of silicon) was the limit. Internet start-ups were sprouting up everywhere as young entrepreneurs strove to become the next Bill Gates. Never mind that the vast majority failed and faded quickly away (see Episode 49 and the example of normative control in a tech company). The possibilities seemed endless.

But so too were the dangers. Hari Tsoukas foresaw the problems that an information dominated society might produce. Could greater access to information have undesirable consequences, such as the loss of understanding or the growth of distrust? Could an information society disrupt socio-political norms? If these became true, what would happen.

Bolstered by hindsight and knowledge of how the information society evolved, we (your intrepid podcasters) take a look back at 1997.  To what extent Tsoukas got the future right, and what else transpired that Tsoukas could not have known or anticipated. What does this suggest for society and its leaders today?

 

 

You will also be able to download the audio files here: Part 1 | Part 2 |  Part 3. What Did Tsoukas Get Right, and What Else Came to Pass? (forthcoming)

Read with us:

Tsoukas, H. (1997). The tyranny of light: The temptations and the paradoxes of the information society. Futures, 29(9), 827-843.

To know more:

Rivera, L. A. (2012). Hiring as cultural matching: The case of elite professional service firms. American sociological review, 77(6), 999-1022.

Rivera, L. A. (2016). Pedigree: How elite students get elite jobs. Princeton University Press.

Turco, C. J. (2016). The conversational firm: Rethinking bureaucracy in the age of social media. Columbia University Press.

43: Centralization/Decentralization Debate – The Federalist Papers


For this episode, we decided to do something very different! A debate about centralization vs. decentralization in organizations using a very important historical document as our lens. The theme for the debate, and the debate questions are kindly provided by Todd Bridgman and Stephen Cummings, authors of The New History of Management

Two teams. Four podcasters. Red versus Blue. Ralph and Pedro vs Dmitrijs and Tom… a prime-time event, epic showdown and battle royale all rolled into one! Centralization or De-centralization? Which is the way to go? Which way will you go?

The Federalist Papers was a series of writings from American history leading up to its current Constitution, completed in 1787. Formed as thirteen separate colonies, this newly independent nation tried to form a central government that granted maximum autonomy to the States to prevent the emergence of an American monarchy.

It quickly failed as the central government was left too weak to perform its basic duties and the nation risked falling apart. Prominent writers like Alexander Hamilton and James Madison developed a series of papers arguing for a new Constitution with a much stronger central government. Two of them – Federalist #9 by Hamilton and Federalist #10 by Madison – present cogent arguments in favor of centralization. Meanwhile, the so-called Anti-Federalists continued to press for States’ rights and individual liberties.

Who will win? Find out as the podcasters debate this issue that is relevant and current, yet as old as government itself.

You may also download the audio files here:  Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Appendix (Text version here)

Read with us:

Hamilton, A. (1787). The union as a safeguard against domestic faction and insurrection. Federalist #9. Albany, NY: The Independent Journal.

Madison, J. (1787). The same subject continued: The union as a safeguard against domestic faction and insurrection. Federalist #10. New York: The New York Packet.

Works referenced during the episode:

Abbott, A. (1989). The system of professions. Chicago: U. of Chicago Press. 

Bridgman, T., Cummings, S. and Ballard, J.A., (2018) Who Built Maslow’s Pyramid? A History of the Creation of Management Studies’ Most Famous Symbol and Its Implications for Management Education. Academy of Management Learning & Education

Cummings, S., (1995). Centralization and decentralization: The neverending story of separation and betrayal. Scandinavian Journal of Management11(2), pp.103-117.

Cummings, S., Bridgman, T., Hassard, J. and Rowlinson, M., (2017). A new history of management. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lewis, M. (2000). Exploring paradox: Toward a more comprehensive guide. Academy of Management Review 25(4), 760-776.

Luescher, L. S. & Lewis, M. (2008). Organizational change and managerial sensemaking: Working through paradox. Academy of Management Journal 51(2), 221-240.

Van de Ven, A. H. & Poole, M. S. (1995). Explaining development and change in organizations. Academy of Management Review 20(3), 510-540.

 

37: Socrates on Management – Oeconomicus by Xenophon

with Special Guest Peter Adamson

Xenophon

In a complete departure from the previous episode, where we tackled a contemporary work, Episode 37 takes us to ancient Greece and one of the great practical philosophers, Xenophon (pronounced ZEN-uh-phun). His Oeconomicus may have been one of his “minor” works in the world of philosophy, but it is a fascinating work for those interested in management and organizational studies. We welcome special guest Prof. Peter Adamson from the LMU in Munich and host and founder of the great podcast series History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps. Peter begins this episode with a discussion about where this work fits in the historical context of Greek philosophy. In the discussion, the podcasters found many parallels to modern organizational behavior despite the obvious differences in context and artifacts of ancient Greek culture.

The book is written as a dialogue, with Socrates playing a sort of narrator who engages with a young wealthy man named Critobulus (kri-TAH-bou-lous) who desires help in increasing his riches. Socrates instead encourages him to become more virtuous and recommends that he become learned in agriculture and being master of his own household. When Critobulus invites Socrates to be his personal mentor and join his household, Socrates politely declines as he is not experienced in such matters, and instead asks him to learn from someone more experienced.

This becomes an introduction for the remainder of the book with Socrates relaying an earlier dialogue with another man who is deemed to be virtuous, Ischomachus (is-‘HAM-uh-kuhs). In this Socratic dialogue, Ischomachus explains how he trained his young wife to run a household, how he runs his farm and the workers in it, and what he knows about the art of agriculture. 

What does it mean to be a leader or manager then and now? What did the Greeks value in organization, and how does that compare to today? What can we learn from better understanding how this important ancient society functioned?

You may also download the audio files here:  Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 

Read with us:

Xenophon (n.d.). The Oeconomicus or A Treatise of the Management of a Farm and Household, trans. John Selby Watson (1878). London: George Bell & Sons

To know more:

Bragues, G. (2007) Socrates on Management: An Analysis of Xenophon’s Oeconomicus. Available at: https://ssrn.com/abstract=997057 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.997057

History of Philosophy Without any Gaps (Episode 15) – Socrates without Plato: the accounts of Aristophanes and Xenophon. Available at: https://historyofphilosophy.net/socrates-without-plato

10: Twelve Angry Men (1957) – Directed by Sidney Lumet

Sidney Lumet, Director

12 Angry Men, directed by Sidney Lumet, is one of the major milestones of film history. It dates back to 1957 and tells the story of a jury, the twelve angry men of the title, and how they decide on the innocence or guilt of a young boy accused of murder. The entire film takes place in the jury room, with the exception of a few scenes, namely those in the courthouse and in the bathroom.

The protagonists are not known by their names but only by their jury numbers, with the exception of two characters who introduce themselves to each other only during the final scene. Gradually, the characteristics of the jurors are revealed during the discussion in the jury room. The main character is played by Henry Fonda: he is juror number 8, an architect, who is the only one voting “not guilty” from the very beginning. Juror number 3, played by Lee J. Cobb, is considered the main antagonist of the drama. He appears to be rather frustrated and irascible throughout the discussion, where issues with his own son emerge. The other actors are as follows: Martin Balsam (juror number 1, the foreman who deals with organising the voting), John Fiedler (juror number 2, a quiet bank clerk), E.G. Marshall (juror number 4, a stock broker), Jack Klugman (juror number 5, who spent his childhood in a slum), Edward Binns (juror number 6, a house painter), Jack Warden (juror number 7, a salesman who is interested in leaving early to see the match), Joseph Sweeney (juror number 8, a pensioner), Ed Begley (juror number 10, a garage owner), George Voskovec (juror number 11, a watchmaker from Europe), Robert Webber (juror number 12, who works in advertising).

The film starts with the scene in the courthouse, where the judge presents the jury with their duty and then we follow the jurors to the jury room. They decide to do a preliminary voting and only one juror votes “not guilty”. So, they decide that the other 11 should explain their reasoning, in order to reach a unanimous verdict. The discussion, therefore, takes off and gradually one step at a time each aspect is examined. The other jurors start changing their vote, one at a time, until they reach the verdict of “non guilty”.

The film was originally based on a teleplay with the same title by Reginald Rose, broadcast in 1954. It received excellent reviews from critics, despite poor ratings at the box office. It has also been listed among the greatest movies of the 20th century and the 42nd most inspiring film by AFI. It was nominated for the Academy Awards of best director, best picture and best writing of adapted screenplay. It also won the Golden Bear at the Berlin International film festival.

12 Angry Men is interesting for organizational theory for the many themes which are intertwined with each other within the story and the unfolding of the discussion. Among these, first of all, there is a general topic of decision making and consensus building with regard to the ways in which the jury’s final verdict is reached. During the discussion, there are different opportunities in which aspects related to leadership emerge within the group. Interestingly, when referring to the jurors’ and the witnesses’ sense of responsibility, we can relate to topics of motivation. Finally, there are occasions for reflections on the validity of evidence, on the construction of knowledge and on the notion of reasonable doubt.

Please join us for Episode 10, where we shall discuss the film and the aspects related to our previous readings and to organizational theory in general!

You may also download the audio files here:  Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 

Watch with us:

Lumet, S. (Director, 1957). Twelve Angry Men. Available at YouTube Movies.