Maintenance of hierarchy

Galloway, Alasdair (1990) Maintenance of hierarchy. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Full text available as:
[thumbnail of 1990gallowayphd.pdf] PDF
Download (49MB)
Printed Thesis Information:


This work considers how it is that company structures, based on hierarchy, are able to persist over time. This question, though simple, is basic to industrial society, since although business organizations do in general operate with sufficient cohesion to produce their goods/services for sale, the traditional hierarchical structure has on occasions come under attack. Our aim will be to establish and understand the conditions under which hierarchy is able to persist - or conversely, under what conditions we might expect it to come apart. Our consideration does not however, preclude the possibility that the attack on hierarchy is more apparent than real - that any attack is at the level of limited ideology rather than social praxis. Hence it will be our position that we shall suspend belief in the persistence of the hierarchical structure and in this way be able to consider the conditions both for its persistence, and also for any challenge to be made to it. By pursuing the initial problem in this way we do not preclude the possibility of either 1) the permanence of hierarchy, or 2) the inevitability of its replacement with more/less democratic structures. Our aim is to understand the conditions for the persistence of hierarchical structures, and by implication the conditions under which they may be challenged by more democratic structures. There are two important features to our theoretical perspective: A) the process of knowledge selection to produce and structure expectations, B) a theory of power to structure the situation in which these expectations are made. In respect of the former we shall rely heavily on the work of Schutz, Habermas, and of Laing and Esterson, while for the latter we shall consider Lukes' three dimensional theory of power, developed from the perspective of Habermas, and in particular his Ideal Speech Thesis. This will result in a theory of the Lifeworld, which while substantially consistent with Schutz continues to establish in what respects the Lifeworld creates but conceals the possibility of the exercise of power. The importance of Schutz for us is that he provides a theoretical basis for knowledge creation for the individual social actor, and the structuring of knowledge into categories, which is consistent with our own view. We shall argue, however, that the view presented by Schutz does not take adequate account of the `restricting' or `limiting' aspects of the Lifeworld and the taken-for-grantedness (or uncritical attitude) which it sets up - that as Morgan's `Images' suggests the Lifeworld (as our `subjective stock of knowledge') can be a `Psychic Prison'. This argument in turn leads on to possible exercises of power of which the participants (ie power holder and subject) are not conscious. This will be developed by reference to Habermas's work. The importance of Lukes is his provision of an analytical framework for power, which recognises that power is a concept of greater variation than has been realised. Lukes, however, does not make sufficiently clear the meaning - particularly at the empirical level - of his third ('radical') dimension of power. For this reason we shall introduce the thesis of ideal speech, put forward by Habermas, to clarify and extend Lukes' work in a manner which is theoretically and empirically stronger, and methodologically more practical. We shall use a synthesis of Lukes and Habermas as a basis for our analysis of the social situation in which expectations are a) structured b) developed as a project in a social situation. By bringing together these two elements (ie the Habermasian adaption of Schutz and Lukes) we shall argue that individuals make expectations on their company which they develop from their Lifeworld and its subjective stock of knowledge. This process of knowledge selection and development of expectations, analytically sets a number of issues which shall be important to us in considering whether there is the social asymmetry we suggested exists as a support to existing organizational structures: 1) the knowledge selected may be so structured as to forestall the development of particular expectations, or so constrain behaviour that, in either situation, the structure of the organization goes unchallenged. 2) expectations can only be satisfied in competition with others - hence interaction with other employees will be important and particularly the Lifeworld definition of these employees (for instance competition between Management and Hourly paid may be influenced by the definition which the latter make of the former). 3) expectations shall be arbitrated upon by the company decision-making system (ie by the individual/group who have the authority to make the decision in question). At a relatively superficial level we must consider the values of this individual/group - but we have to go still deeper to understand the conditions under which this authority is regarded as legitimate or conversely regarded as illegitimate. These issues are closely connected since the legitimacy and illegitimacy or the decision-making system are largely determined - in our model - by the selection of knowledge, part of which is constituted by one's experience and/or interaction with other employees, as well as wider social knowledge which is employed by defining and interpreting the behaviour of others to develop expectations. Our perspective on this process is composed of two parts: 1) Employees make expectations of their company. 2) These expectations are generated in a process of experience and learning. We see no causal implications in this, but instead take the view that employees select from the knowledge available to them, in order to structure, guide and justify their behaviour. For instance this may be to A) justify the expectation of having more influence in their company's decision-making, and to indicate what would be appropriate behaviour to this end. Or alternatively B) indicate that this is not a reasonable expectation, and not a reasonable form of behaviour. Similarly the knowledge which is accessible can be employed to define and interpret the behaviour of relevant others in their own group and throughout the work situation -to account for, and explain what is happening, to foretell how to behave/not behave in the future. The process can, in other words, encourage or discourage the taking up of particular projects. Our particular interest is the dominance of hierarchy is maintained, restraining the development of more democratic organizational forms.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > Adam Smith Business School
Supervisor's Name: Weir, David
Date of Award: 1990
Depositing User: Elaine Ballantyne
Unique ID: glathesis:1990-1972
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 30 Jun 2010
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:49

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year