Eclectic Curiosity

Modernism and Bureaucracy

Posted on January 16th, 2005, by Steve Hardy in Archives, Uncategorized. No Comments

From Paul H. Ray and Sherry Ruth Anderson’s book The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People are Changing the World (page 227):

Modern bureaucracy demands business as usual. The organization chart may be reorganized to be lean and mean, new technologies may be put in place, and the individual actors may come and go – managers, politicians, political programs, and individual firms – but the logic of a machine-based system may not be questioned. The three Bigs – big government, big business, and big media – have difficulty dealing with issues that cannot be isolated from other issues and solved with the tools at hand.

The blind spot is not just a matter of bureaucratic policy. The hired experts, including in-house scientists and public relations specialists and lawyers, have become successful by narrow and precise focusing. Rarely are they interested or able to look at wide-ranging systemic effects or the interdependent parts of a system. They’ve learned to be very good at cutting each issue into thin salami slices. To do otherwise is, as the many expressions go, to open Pandora’s box, stir up a hornet’s nest, open up a can of worms – in short, to wade into a swamp of sticky, interconnected, and politically explosive problems. Why would anyone want to do that?

And, a few pages later, they go on…

Finally, like the three Bigs – government, corporations, and media – many of the politically based social movements themselves are still caught in narrow, specialized viewpoints. Many still operate as if they were mom-and-pop stores selling just to their own neighborhood: cultivating a constituency, honing issues they can call their own, and emphasizing how unique they are in their fund-raising letters and other publications. They do this in part because each organization tends to believe that it is in competition with all of the others for a limited supply of volunteers, funds, and even media coverage. Activists, too, are Modernism’s children, believing that they must become specialists.

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