Organizations As Political Systems Essay Typer

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Kathy & Dan





Chapter 6 Interests, Conflict, and Power: Organizations as political systems




Morgan begins this chapter with a quote from a troubled factory worker. His issue is that outside of work he is afforded all of the rights of every other citizen in the particular democratic society in which he lives, but that at work, he is subject to the capricious whims of his authoritarian supervisor. 


While it often seems that the governance of organizations is an apolitical phenomenon, Morgan suggests that it might be useful to view organizations as "instrinsically political" entities. This is based on a view that organizations consist of groups of people who need to be "managed" or "governed"--essentially controlled. Morgan describes how Aristotle viewed politics as a means controlling a diverse group of people without reverting to forms of "totalitarian rule." (Morgan, 2006, pp. 150-151)


Morgan gives examples of six basic forms of government that might be exemplified in organizations: autocracy (rule by one or a few), bureaucracy (rule through the use of rules/laws), technocracy (rule through use of knowledge/expertise), co-determination (rule by coalitions of opposing groups), representative democracy (rule by elected representatives), direct democracy (decision-making by all members in the group). No group, according to Morgan, is likely to be governed exclusively by any one of these forms of government. Rather, it is more likely that organizations will exhibit combinations of these various forms. (Morgan, 2006, pp. 153ff)


In Morgan's analysis of organizational politics, he focusses on the relationship between interest, conflict, and power. The tension that is created by the differences inherent between group members is where the political work in organizations occurs. This work, Morgan says, is often accomplished behind the scenes "in a way that is invisible to all but those directly involved." (Morgan, 2006, p. 156)


Interests are further divided by Morgan into task interests; career interests; and, extrmural interests. Task interests are related to the work one does 'on the job.' Career interests represent a worker's "aspirations and visions as to what their future might hold" and might be unrelated to the organization in which the worker is currently situated. Extramural interests represent the combination of beliefs, preferences, values, and other factors possesed by workers that are external to the organization, but that influence both job performance and careers. (Morgan, 2006, p. 157)


Conflicts, according to Morgan, arise when interests collide. He cautions against viewing conflict as entirely negative, suggesting that it is better to view conflict as an inherent and natural characteristic of organizations. (Morgan, 2006, pp. 163-166)


Power is described as the "Medium through which conflicts of interest are ultimately resolve." Power can be viewed as a resource, as a social relationship "characterized by some kind of dependency, or as the ability of one person to "get another person to do something that he or she would not otherwise have done." Morgan describes a variety of sources of power: formal authority; control of scarce resources; use of organizational structure; rules and regulations; control of decision processes; control of knowledge and information; control of boundaries; ability to cope with uncertainty; control of technology; interpersonal alliances; control of counterorganizations; symbolism and management of meaning; gender and management of gender relations; structural factors that define stage of actions; and, the power one already has. (Morgan, 2006, pp. 167ff)


Morgan then describes interests, conflict, and power in light of three different organizational frames of reference: unitary, pluralist, and radical. A unitary frame of reference is one in which organizational goals are paramount to individual concerns, conflict is managed to make it disappear, and there is tight control of the organization by a few. In a pluralist frame of reference, differences between group members are expected, conflict is seen as natural and possible beneficial, and power is derived from a variety of sources. The radical frame of reference is one in which the organization is comprised of competing subgroups competing toward "incompatible ends," conflict is expected, and power distributions are reflective of those in the larger society. (Morgan, 2006, pp. 195ff)


Analyzing Chapter 6 through Charles Handy's Concepts for Understanding Organizations




If we view motivation as the expression of individual (or group) desire for the achievement of a given end (goal), then politics can be the means by which that end is achieved. Politics can influence how individuals work together toward the achievement of common goals, and can be leveraged by individuals working against each other when they possess competing interests and are working toward different goals.


Understanding the motivation of individuals is likely the first step in understanding how and why political power is being deployed. Morgan says that it can be helpful "to understand the power dynamics within an organization" and that doing so can "identify the ways in which organizational members can attempt to exert their influence." (Morgan, 2006, p. 166)




The roles of individuals in organizations is often to related to the way in which power is conceptualized and exercised.  Roles can also be assigned based on the type of political rule that prevails within an organization. For instance, in an autocratically goverened organization, one is either the "ruler" or the one of the "ruled." 


Leadership, Power, & Influence


The expression of leadership in an organization, viewed as a political system, is bound up--like roles--in the form of governance that prevails.  In other words, the prevailing system of organizational  governance contains inherent leadership roles. In an autocracy, someone is the 'autocrat.' Leadership can also be expressed through the actions of individuals in the interest of advancing a particular agenda--one which may not coincide with the goals of the organization. These leaders operate through the use of politics, leveraging their power and influence.


Power and influence, in this chapter, is read as political power, or the ability to effectively use politics to achieve some desired end--or to prevent the achievement of someone else's desired end, as described above.




Morgan (2006) described how Aristotle saw politics as a means of controlling diverse groups of people. An analysis of organizations as political systems would be meaningless if there did not exist within organizations competing groups or individuals to engage in 'politics.' Groups, in this view, are likely to form along lines of common interests and common ideologies.




The form of governance prevailing within an organization, as well as the kinds of 'politics' that are expressed help to shape organizational culture. If politics is an inherent aspect of organizations, it will also be an inherent aspect of the culture of the organization.


Types of democracy refers to kinds of governments or social structures which allow people to participate equally, either directly or indirectly.[1]

Direct democracies[edit]

A direct democracy or pure democracy is a type of democracy where the people govern directly. It requires wide participation of citizens in politics.[2]Athenian democracy or classical democracy refers to a direct democracy developed in ancient times in the Greek city-state of Athens. A popular democracy is a type of direct democracy based on referendums and other devices of empowerment and concretization of popular will.

An industrial democracy is an arrangement which involves workers making decisions, sharing responsibility and authority in the workplace (see also workplace)).

Representative democracies[edit]

A representative democracy is an indirect democracy where sovereignty is held by the people's representatives.

Types of representative democracy include:

  • Electoral democracy – type of representative democracy based on election, on electoral vote, as modernoccidental or liberal democracies.
  • Dominant-party system – democratic party system where only one political party can realistically become the government, by itself or in a coalition government.
  • Parliamentary democracy – democratic system of government where the executive branch of a parliamentary government is typically a cabinet, and headed by a prime minister who is considered the head of government.
    • Westminster democracy – parliamentary system of government modeled after that of the United Kingdom system.
  • Presidential democracy – democratic system of government where a head of government is also head of state and leads an executive branch that is separate from the legislative branch.
    • Jacksonian democracy – a variant of presidential democracy popularized by U.S. President Andrew Jackson which promoted the strength of the executive branch and the Presidency at the expense of Congressional power.
  • Soviet democracy or Council democracy – form of democracy where the workers of a locality elect recallable representatives into organs of power called soviets (councils.) The local soviets elect the members of regional soviets who go on to elect higher soviets.
  • Totalitarian democracy – a system of government in which lawfully elected representatives maintain the integrity of a nation state whose citizens, while granted the right to vote, have little or no participation in the decision-making process of the government.

A demarchy has people randomly selected from the citizenry through sortition to either act as general governmental representatives or to make decisions in specific areas of governance (defense, environment, etc.).

A non-partisan democracy is system of representative government or organization such that universal and periodic elections (by secret ballot) take place without reference to political parties.

An organic or authoritarian democracy is a democracy where the ruler holds a considerable amount of power, but their rule benefits the people. The term was first used by supporters of Bonapartism.[3]

Types based on location[edit]

A bioregional democracy matches geopolitical divisions to natural ecological regions.

A cellular democracy, developed by Georgistlibertarian economist Fred E. Foldvary, uses a multi-level bottom-up structure based on either small neighborhood governmental districts or contractual communities.[4]

A workplace democracy refers to the application of democracy to the workplace[5] (see also industrial democracy).

Types based on level of freedom[edit]

A liberal democracy is a representative democracy with protection for individual liberty and property by rule of law. In contrast, a defensive democracy limits some rights and freedoms in order to protect the institutions of the democracy.

Religious democracies[edit]

A religious democracy is a form of government where the values of a particular religion have an effect on the laws and rules, often when most of the population is a member of the religion, such as:

Other types of democracy[edit]

Types of democracy include:

  • Anticipatory democracy – relies on some degree of disciplined and usually market-informed anticipation of the future, to guide major decisions.
  • Associationalism, or Associative Democracy – emphasis on freedom via voluntary and democratically self-governing associations.
  • Adversialism, or Adversial Democracy – with an emphasis on freedom based on adversial relationships between individuals and groups as best expressed in democratic judicial systems.
  • Bourgeois democracy – Some Marxists, Communists, Socialists and Left-wing anarchists refer to liberal democracy as bourgeois democracy, alleging that ultimately politicians fight only for the rights of the bourgeoisie.
  • Consensus democracy – rule based on consensus rather than traditional majority rule.
  • Constitutional democracy – governed by a constitution.
  • Delegative democracy – a form of democratic control whereby voting power is vested in self-selected delegates, rather than elected representatives.
  • Deliberative democracy – in which authentic deliberation, not only voting, is central to legitimate decision making. It adopts elements of both consensus decision-making and majority rule.
  • Democratic centralism – organizational method where members of a political party discuss and debate matters of policy and direction and after the decision is made by majority vote, all members are expected to follow that decision in public.
  • Democratic dictatorship (also known as democratur)
  • Democratic republic – republic which has democracy through elected representatives
  • Democratic socialism – a form of socialism ideologically opposed to the Marxist–Leninist styles that have become synonymous with socialism; democratic socialists place an emphasis on decentralized governance in political democracy with social ownership of the means of production and social and economic institutions with workers' self-management.
  • Economic democracy – theory of democracy involving people having access to subsistence, or equity in living standards.
  • Ethnic democracy – coined to describe democracy in China.
  • Grassroots democracy – emphasizes trust in small decentralized units at the municipal government level, possibly using urban secession to establish the formal legal authority to make decisions made at this local level binding.
  • Guided democracy – is a form of democratic government with increased autocracy where citizens exercise their political rights without meaningfully affecting the government's policies, motives, and goals.
  • Interactive democracy – proposed form of democracy utilising information technology to allow citizens to propose new policies, "second" proposals and vote on the resulting laws (that are refined by Parliament) in a referendum.
  • Jeffersonian democracy – named after American statesman Thomas Jefferson, who believed in equality of political opportunity (for male citizens), and opposed to privilege, aristocracy and corruption.
  • Market democracy – another name for democratic capitalism, an economic ideology based on a tripartite arrangement of a market-based economy based predominantly on economic incentives through free markets, a democratic polity and a liberal moral-cultural system which encourages pluralism.
  • Multiparty democracy – two-party system requires voters to align themselves in large blocs, sometimes so large that they cannot agree on any overarching principles.
  • New Democracy – Maoist concept based on Mao Zedong's "Bloc of Four Classes" theory in post-revolutionary China.
  • Participatory democracy – involves more lay citizen participation in decision making and offers greater political representation than traditional representative democracy, e.g., wider control of proxies given to representatives by those who get directly involved and actually participate.
  • People's democracy – multi-class rule in which the proletariat dominates.
  • Radical democracy – type of democracy that focuses on the importance of nurturing and tolerating difference and dissent in decision-making processes.
  • Semi-direct democracy – representative democracy with instruments, elements, and/or features of direct democracy.
  • Sociocracy – democratic system of governance based on consent decision making, circle organization, and double-linked representation.

See also[edit]

Further types[edit]


External links[edit]

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