| MONTHLY WEB UPDATE |
|February 1, 2002 International Organization
Behavior Post-September 11, 2001
The American tragedy of September 11, 2001 raises a number of questions--
some obvious and widely understood, others controversial, yet others
relatively slow to emerge because time is required for reflection--
that could have profound implications for international organization
behavior. The terrorist attacks-- as an attack on democracy, capitalism,
and the relationships among different cultures-- raise issues about
the values that underpin international organization behavior and influence
the management practices derived from organization behavior.
Accelerated by the events of September 11, 2001-- at least in our consciousness--
many forces have been at work for several decades changing international
organization behavior. These include globalization of the economy, digitization
of communication, and the virtualization of organizations. To consider
what, if anything, has occurred as a result of September 11, 2001 to
alter the course of these processes the following sections briefly discuss:
(1) center and periphery; (2) convergence vs. divergence; (3) democratic
values, and (4) the values of capitalism.
I. Center and Periphery
The values of the United States dominate world business and influence
cultures in a variety of ways. Herve Varenne, a cultural anthropologist
and renowned analyst of American culture, emphasizes the role of the
United States in the world:
Above all, anthropology [or organizational behavior or management]
of America must be anthropology of the center because, whether we like
it or not, America is, if not "the" center of cultural life on the globe
in this second half of the twentieth century, at least one of the two
or three most powerful centers. To study the center of America is, by
implication, to study the whole world, since in a very direct sense
the whole world is constrained by what happens there. Indeed, one cannot
understand the fringe, as fringe, unless one also understands what makes
it a fringe (1986:37).
Because America is the center-- or at least representative of the center
as a postindustrial society-- the fringe simultaneously emulates, envies,
hates, and ultimately, in some cases it appears, targets its values and
II. Convergence vs. Divergence
In opposition to the distinction of center and periphery, there has been
considerable discussion of the extent to which nations have either converged
or diverged. This argument assumes that there is movement among countries
with some becoming more like the center and some moving toward the periphery.
The questions are: To what extent have countries and organizations within
them become more similar as a result of globalization, virtualization,
and digitization? Has there been fundamental, enduring change in the cultures
of the countries and organizations? In other words, has convergence of
various types occurred among advanced industrial countries? What are the
prospects for convergence in developing nations?
Saskia Sassen's The Global City: New York, London, Tokyo argues
that there is a great deal of convergence in organizational behavior and
management, because the flow of investment capital around the world has
reshaped the economy and dominant organizations. One result of convergence,
however, is a solidification of the center in relation to the periphery.
Or, have countries and organizations largely remained unaffected by technological
progress and social processes? That is, they have not changed significantly
but merely incorporated new technologies and new management principles
into their culturally distinctive way of doing things? Put differently,
are there limits to convergence and, in some cases-- Afghanistan and the
Taliban are an example, a reaction against these processes and re-establishment
of specific culturally determined ways of doing things? Mauro Guillen's
The Limits of Convergence: Globalization and Organizational Change
in Argentina, South Korea, and Spain presents data to support the
thesis that economic, cultural, and organizational convergence is limited
and unlikely to increase convergence.
III. Democratic Values
Another issue concerns the underlying values of organizational behavior.
The dominance of American corporations throughout the world as well as
the accumulation of American social science findings in psychology, social
psychology, sociology, anthropology, and political science and their application
to management and organizational behavior theories, is pervasive throughout
the world. Is this centrality also a problem because it blinds American
researchers and teachers to other possibilities? Did the events of September
11, 2002 change this situation? Should they?
How democratic are the values of American business organizations? Should
the values and governance structures of business organizations become
more democratic? If not the values of democracy, what values do American
corporations export? What does the world understand as American values?
IV. The Values of Capitalism
What are the values of late capitalism? Are they consistent with democratic
values? Are they consistent with the values of organizations? Are they
consistent with the values of organizational behavior?
Some problematic issues are the organization behavior and social science
view of human progress, the role of the individual as agent, the nature
of authority relations, the nature of organization change, and the structure
of social inequality. A more concrete and less global example is the concept
of creative destruction (Schumpeter 1942), the continuous reinventing
of products and processes-- for instance, continually reinventing organizations--
as engines of economic growth. How does creative destruction translate
into other cultures?
Another issue is the ethical and moral underpinnings of capitalism. The
Enron debacle-- and many less explosive implosions-- raise the issue of
the abuses of capitalism qua capitalism rather than, for example,
whether it exploits certain social groups or is inherently anti-environmental.
The question then is, what are the values of capitalism that are taken-for-granted
or overtly influence the assumptions that underlie organization behavior?
How do these values influence the international perspective of organization
behavior? How do these values influence those who teach organization behavior?
Western capitalist society with its praise for individualism, future orientation
and devotion to progress may neglect other viewpoints.
The World Wide Web can assist in answering these questions. For example,
a site with a variety of definitive articles that illuminates the events
of September 11, 2001 is http://www.annual
reviews.org/biohazards. The articles, whose relevance for international
organization behavior varies, range from "Ending Revolutions and Building
New Governments" to "Deterrence and International Conflict" to "Anthrax."
A new search engine http://vivisimo.com
is more effective for organizing web sites than previous engines like
altavista and yahoo.
Using vivisimo see what the results are for topics such as:
-national and organizational culture
-capitalist economic systems
From this list you can try to generate other terms that lead to other
web sites (the law of the WWW is that: "Web sites beget web sites"). The
objective is to see what information is available and how interesting
and useful it is. No one knows what exists on the Web but exploring it
can be its own reward.
Guillen, M. (2001). The Limits of Convergence: Globalization and Organizational
Change in Argentina, South Korea, and Spain. Princeton: Princeton University
Sassen, S. (1991 ) The Global City: New York, London, Tokyo. Princeton:
Princeton University Press.
Schumpeter, J. (1942). Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy. (Third edition).
New York: Harper & Row.
Varenne, H. (1986). Doing Anthropology in American. In H. Varenne, Symbolizing
America. Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press.
© 2002 Prentice-Hall, Inc.|
A Pearson Education Company
Upper Saddle River, New Jersey 07458