The characteristics of the association in society are as follows:
I and II. The contract and the Interest:
McIver and Page observed that wherever people recognize a like, complementary common interest that can be effectively promoted by collective action, an association may be formed. A ‘like’ interest is individualized in the sense that it does much require a sharing of interests by several persons; a ‘common’ interest must be shared by more than one person. In the formation of an association as well as in participation in it, either of these interests can come into play.
Thus, when labourers take up employment in an economic association like a manufacturing se, each worker has the like interest of earning a livelihood, but workers together e the common interest of bargaining when they set up a labour union.
Similarly, the employer has the like interest of earning profits from his establishment, which is also d on the common interest of success and prosperity in the industry. In an educational institution, each student has the like interest of acquiring knowledge; he has with his ellows also the common interest of working as a team.
Any association will then have a specialized interest which its members seek to mote. For example, there will be ‘economic’ associations which have specialized economic interests, as in business units and unions, occupational, professional or otherwise. Political associations with political interests will be the State and political ties. There is the educational interest in the school and the college, while different cultural associations exist with particular secondary interests, as a club is forced with the objective of promoting social intercourse among its members, the church with religious objectives and artistic associations and learned societies with aesthetic or philanthropic interests.
McIver and Page observe that not all these interests are of uniform duration in an individual’s life. While educational interests restricted to certain-age groups and are, therefore, short-lived, the large-scale associations like the State, the church or the economic associations for production competition are of unlimited duration so far as their respective interests are deemed. Besides that, as the same authors observe, all different interests may t in a kind of an ‘institutional complex’.
Each interest may have its own characteristic features by which its nature will be recognized, but all such interests as form the basis different associations are so interwoven that they form into an institutional complex. In other words, in an individual’s life, only one association cannot have its y to the exclusion of the others; all the associations will together serve his different interests.
Thus, capitalism may be an economic institution, but it is distinctly ked with political and other interests for its continuance as a practice, just as the institution of democracy cannot survive unless it is backed by a comparatively freer economy and a more independent legal system than what are found in dictatorial systems. Again, these economic and political ideals and interests must be complemented educational and other cultural interests; and no individual may be said to be in y way free from the pattern of the institutional complex that the relations between e different interests create for him.
The interests together form in a society what may be described as the ‘functional system’, which is none other than the measure of adaptation of one interest to the other in order to serve the different social functions, that are relevant to modern man.
Although the various associations together form an institutional complex, each of them stands for a distinct interest that has to be recognized. However, any attempt at classifying the association according to a particular interest only may not always be a correct exercise. While on the one hand every association goes by a certain professed interest, such interest may not be the dominant or the determinant interest in it.
For example, economic or political interests may be garbed in idealized appearances and a political party which is obviously aiming at power may proclaim that it stands for the classes that have been subverted by society; or a businessman may profess that his organization stands for exploiting the resources of the nation and not for selfish and personal gains. Again, in some cases it becomes difficult to ascribe a dominant interest to an association, particularly when its activities are well diversified.
The confusion over the role of missionaries in olden days might no longer prevail, but one would be hard put to define the dominant interest of a chamber of commerce, a federation of trade unions, or philanthropic organizations like the Moral Re-armament Army, the Young Men’s Christian Association, the Bharat Sevasram Sangh or the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh. The activities of some of these are so well diversified that none of them can be branded as a mere economic, religious or cultural association.
The history of some of these would even show that quite of a few of them changed interests, dominant or otherwise, at different points of time. In fact, personalities operating the organization in each case, or the social set-up in which the association functions, may give a clear direction to its activities. For example, the Bharat Sevasram Sangha can perform duties relating to hygiene and sanitation in parts of the country in which the official machinery is indifferent about these duties; it can take upon itself the obligation of helping flood victims in West Bengal or it may help pilgrims who have assembled at religious festival gatherings like the Kumba Mela or the Rathayatra Cluster at Puri.
McIver and Page further observe on the point of recognition of dominant interests in associations that there would be occasions when an association that has been formed with a particular objective would tend to identify itself with interests of power, though ostensibly such objective is totally delinked from power.
Thus, a club may be formed with a social objective or a cultural one; but sooner or later it inducts membership of such quality and distinction that people begin equating it with social prestige and power.
These clubs and other like bodies then become power-wielding centres in the society and its professed, original interest no longer carries any conviction. Several clubs, societies, educational institutions, shops and political parties have even in our country picked up these power and prestige attributes from time to time, and in each case their advertised determinant interest is forgotten.
III. The Organization:
Max Weber has pointed out in one of his Essays in Society that an organization possesses certain characteristics of administration which may be described as ‘bureaucracy’. Bureaucracy, or the new type of administrative structure in an urban industrial society, is to be observed in governmental or economic associations, educational institutions, in industry and in health and social services.
The organizational system of associations cannot be understood unless attention is focused on their administration; and it may be asserted that the administrative bureaucracy that one finds in an association is the best means for furthering its interests.
Bureaucratic organization in any administration has grown and developed because it has been found to be better than any other form of organization; and the following features make it stand out as a distinct administrative machinery:
(1) ‘Elaborate rules’ adopted by each association govern the duties and obligations of each member as also the method of integrating their work. These rules are usually written and are moderately rigid in form, although amendments are accommodated moderately to meet the demands of complex situations.
These rules are, in fact, the very basis of a bureaucratic organization, for every individual taking part in it relates himself to the other on the basis of their technicality and not along lines of personal understanding. Therefore, even if there is an emergency, unless the rules permit, workers will not stay beyond the working hours for completing their work.
(2) Membership of associations is voluntary and based on a definite system of boundaries, membership cards, roles or contractual recognition of same other type determining the status of every member and limiting his activity. So far as the State as a political association is concerned, membership is not voluntary though it is based on fixed rules.
(3) Associations are based on a hierarchical structure of authority to which is connected the idea of status related to positions. The superior has a relationship with the subordinate that is prescribed by the formalities of law, and from either side there is full recognition of the system defining the relationships.
Within the hierarchy, there are levels of supervision. A subordinate has a superior who may, in turn, have an authority to whom he must remain accountable and these different levels are also determined dispassionately by the cold letter of the law. In order to make the system of hierarchical authority function effectively, there is a defined system of communication; and every superior must make his mind known to the subordinate not through personal wishes, but through the ‘proper channel’ which again builds up the chain of communication, responsibility and discipline.
The channelized command is an order which carries a responsibility on either side, and the implementation of policies incorporated in commands becomes a matter of discipline.
(4) An organized administrative system must necessarily be based upon a clear- cut division of labour. Each person is given a particular task in the organization and nobody’s work carries meaning and conviction if it is taken out of the context in which it is performed. When the different duties are taken together as a sum-total of activities, the pattern followed by the organization becomes clear.
Charles Chaplin points out in his Modern Times how telling the effect of this division of work can be upon individual psychology but. if viewed dispassionately by the student of sociology, it would appear that this bureaucratic organizational structure is working with amazing efficiency in our times, even though it has rendered human life a mere mechanical device.
G. Duncan Mitchell observes that the staff who work in a large- scale association share certain characteristics some of which are stated below:
(i) They are not accountable to their superiors except in respect of their impersonal obligations in their office;
(ii) Every office has a clearly defined system of competence organized on the basis of hierarchical authority;
(iii) The staff are appointed according to merit, their relationship with the office being contractual and their promotion determined according to achievement and seniority;
(iv) Every person employed in the office has to operate within the precincts of his place of work under a well- defined system of discipline and control; and
(v) No member of the staff can appropriate to himself his own position which must not be determined by the organization itself; nor can be determine for himself the rules and the means of administration.
(5) Every association acquires an entity, legal or otherwise, that is distinct from the individuality of its members or each of them. Individuals can come and go but the association continues in its existence not infrequently to further the interests that were originally projected by persons who have not lived to enjoy their property. The respective positions in any organization, therefore, are not person-based; they are function-based.
A ‘general manager’ is a functional person that may be represented by different individuals from time to time; the coming and going of these individuals does not affect the organization in a very big way, at least in cases of democratized associations, since every individual has to curb his inclinations according to the limits set down by organizational rules and as such his intentions of making personal talents felt are not given a free outlet.
(6) Since every association is linked with an interest, it carries with it a mission for fulfilling its ‘goals’. Goals of associations cannot be accomplished by individuals or by groups of certain persons. The administrative structure that is known as bureaucracy is a modern device well suited for the purpose, and elaborate devices for assessing and reviewing performances are inducted into the structure.
Concepts of supervision departmental responsibility and harmonizing different activities relate themselves all to the same task of assessing performance. Several heads are, therefore, put together on the basis of rationality in decision-making and fixing the modes of action.
Each act at each stage is judged by efficiency and only those persons are accredited with the task of decision-making whose qualifications and experience have established a general, rational credence as to their capability. The factor of efficiency based on rational analysis discards every other factor in shaping the ways of the organization.
(7) G.Duncan Mitchell in his Sociology observes that the system of having distinct ‘positions’ related to ‘status’ in a bureaucratic administration has distinct] advantages. The hierarchical authority that it allows to be exercised makes room for a centralized control over the different processes and activities, since each task s specialized and only those who are fully engaged in it fully understand the nature and purpose of such work. Besides that, since the position is more important than the individual, ‘continuity of process’ can be maintained with one individual succeeding another in office.
Duncan Mitchell feels that the Pyramid of authority with the Board of Directors at the top effects a chain of command, that at the same time indicates the channels of communication. The pyramid establishes the points of status, and each point is officially established by means of ceremonies relating to appointment; the induction and the terms of appointment of a manager being more formal and ceremonious than those relating to subordinates.
Since the superior has j to give orders and he must be obeyed, his right to command is institutionalized; nobody makes an order upon a subordinate except according to the terms of the authority that is vested in him. This power of the superior to give commands ingrained in the status that he holds, and not necessarily in the technical knowledge that he as an individual possesses.
Duncan Mitchell terms this status as ‘scalar status’ as distinct from ‘functional status’, which allows a person to command simply because he possesses specialized knowledge, as in the case of a medical practitioner whose specialized advice is readily followed.
From the very fact that authority in an a organization goes together with ‘scalar status’ it follows that orders and the communication of them are made on the impersonal plane. No officer makes the order individually, nor is the person upon whom it is made addressed by his personal name; the respective designations indicate the individuals who are involved in the process. Communications may be made both up and down the hierarchy, the superior making orders and the subordinate submitting reports and memoranda for the consideration of higher authorities.
Again scalar status has another attribute that must not be missed by the sociologist. It serves to invest the incumbent with a recognized social prestige. Duncan Mitchell points out that although the services of an agriculturist are necessary, his social status is low; the archaeologist enjoys a higher status even though his work is not absolutely essential.
Similarly, organizational status is a recognition granted by society; and such recognition may either inflate his ego by exaggerating his position or depress his mentality by slighting his importance. Duncan Mitchell explains this anomaly by arguing that in an organization, efficiency as well as adaptability to changes must be maintained; efficiency alone will not be the guiding factor, since stability of the organization is of prime importance.
(8) Max Weber maintains that bureaucratic organization is technically superior to all other forms of organization. But the efficiency of this form of organisation must necessarily be related to ‘activities on a large scale’. In primitive societies, the demands of hunting and fishing did not requisition bureaucratic administration and, when in the pre-industrial cities the different arts and crafts developed with the artisan working with his apprentices, he came near to the modern form of organization.
Bureaucratic organization started taking shape when the State began organizing its army, organizing state religion and engaging in mercantilist practices, although the Industrial Revolution truly advanced the desirability of having a full-fledged administration system that the sociologist would later recognize as bureaucracy. On the one hand, modern economic activities have covered many spheres of social behaviour and, on the other stable political systems with centralized authority have become necessary.
The enlarged scope of activities that industrialization provides for require a type of organization that is capable of handling men and materials on a large scale. The individual owner has now given his place to companies and corporations, the artisan’s household has been replaced by the spacious factory as the centre of production, and the stable political system has emerged in place of the whimsical monarch for providing operational security to business. All these new developments require a large-scale organization, and bureaucracy has answered the need.
Conflict and Cohesion in Organization:
Since every association is based on a determinant interest which it seeks to fulfil with the help of an organization that we have called bureaucracy, such interests may on the one hand bring cohesion in the organization and on the other, introduce conflicts. The element of cohesion is ingrained in the very fact that an association is formed out of an agreement upon an interest; and when people agree to work together for furthering their interests, cohesion in their activities becomes an expected corollary.
In this sense, conflict is not in principle associated with any organizational activity; but conflicts arise in an association when individual members find that their respective individual wishes are being baulked or hindered by those of the association itself or even by reason of a clash of mere personal interests.
On the side of cohesion and solidarity, one finds that traditions and the feelings of unity among members can operate as a distinct advantage; and attitudes in associations may be shared by members as common attitudes and these, in turn, will build a harmonized social relationship among them. But even though in principle it may appear that common interests create common bonds which make relations in any organization stable, conflicts tend to arise in the field of these interests.
Every organization to some extent suffers from instability because of these conflicts and, if it survives, it would merely show that the forces of integration are stronger than those of disintegration, as in the case of the larger social order itself.
McIver and Page observe that conflicts within an association can be a more absorbing study than the conflict that it may have with other associations or individuals who may be regarded as outsiders.
Intra-associational conflicts of interests can be of three types: conflicts within the interest-complex, conflicts between relevant and irrelevant interests and conflicts between alternate policies in pursuit o-f interests.
Almost all associations in a complex society suffer from these types of conflicts or any of them:
(a) Conflicts within the interest-complex:
While every association that is formed with a particular interest is regarded as an entity distinct from its members, the members of each such association cannot individually or collectively be equated with such entity; every member is a part of the association, and, at the same time, an individual. At times, there may be a lack of harmony between the associational interests and individual interests.
In illustrating the point, McIver and Page emphasize the clash that may arise between the personal interests of a professional man and those that his profession prescribes. A lawyer may have private ends to serve and this motive of his may not fall in line with the rules of etiquette laid down by his professional association.
A medical practitioner may find private practice to be more remunerative rather than the limited scope of work that his professional group affords him. These conflicts exist in commercial firms and political organizations too, not to leave out the educational and cultural ones in this regard.
If the standards of service that an employed person is expected to achieve in the performance of his duties, cannot be reconciled with the orders of a-superior, and if the superior is bent on being more exploitative than what organizational and economic interests allow the conflict becomes very sharp and its effects can destabilize the organization itself.
However, every associational organization has a built-in mechanism for handing extreme situations and the fact that bureaucratic administration has survived shows that conditions are not generally allowed to go out of hand. The contribution of the leader in the association in resolving disputes has got to be of significant value.
(b) Conflicts between relevant and irrelevant interests:
Associations may be formed with interests, which by and large stand for certain socially accepted values or standards. To impart education, to tend the ailing or to produce and distribute goods to the community in general are interests that may be regarded as universal so far as human acceptance is concerned.
Yet in the implementation of any of these programmes, a course of action may become almost institutionalized in the association; and any attempt to deviate from it may be opposed by sections of members whose wishes cannot be disregarded. The conflict may be caused simply by outside interests like orthodoxy, group prejudices or even hostility of dominant individuals towards feats of novelty.
Therefore, there may be divergence of views in a men’s educational institution over the admittance of women students, or there may be sharp division in a religious institution over the question of admitting or employing persons who profess a different faith. In each of these cases, the conflict in question tends to shift attention from the main theme, that is, the main interest upon which the association is founded.
McIver and Page give us another example upon this point when they analyse the conflict of interests within democratic associations like political parties or even the State as a political and democratic set-up. Certain persons who enjoy positions of authority may seek to consolidate their own interests, and their attitudes will then not be in accordance with the wishes of the other members of the association.
Leaders and persons in authority may then seek to promote their interests at the expense of others’ interests and, in the process, antidemocratic attitudes adopted by them may seriously prejudice the practical application of projects that seemed theoretically to be very sound.
For example, the directors of a company may not be eager to hold elections out of fear that they may lose their position and to this end they may seek to alter or amend rules and laws that carry constraints of democratic behaviour. Wherever authority and leadership tend to behave in that manner, interests that are irrelevant to an association seek to gain dominance over the relevant ones.
(c) Conflicts between alternative policies:
An association is founded upon an agreement made between persons who collectively seek to promote an interest; but such an agreement cannot at its inception predict on the suitability or otherwise of any course of action that may be adopted by the members in furtherance of their objectives.
The means to achieve the ends must be reviewed from time to time, and the group must meet in order to decide upon a course of action in a particular situation. It is on these occasions that a clash of group interests arises. Different policies for implementing programmes may be discussed, and the discussion may take into account not only the avowed objectives of the association but the changing social conditions too.
Though all the members are agreed upon the objective, the proper means to be adopted may become a matter of controversy. In commercial organizations in Calcutta, the questions of making use of electronic devices may find violent opposition from the working class who may fear that the machines would ultimately convert them into a surplus-age.
Similarly, an economic association may vacillate between different plans for fighting competition in the market just as the Government may have opposing formulae for fighting inflation or curbing disorder in essential services. Therefore, unless a suitable agreement is arrived at in the association as regards implementation of programmes, the stability of the administrative set-up will be threatened and the association may meet with an untimely death, as in cases of clubs, political parties and philanthropic institutions where discordant notes ring very high.
An adjustment may be made between conflicting interests when the members’ sense of solidarity prevails, and a workable programme of action may finally be adopted; but much will depend upon the leadership that takes upon itself the full brunt of the situation.
IV. Leadership in Organizations:
In any group behaviour, leadership assumes its significance and the study of the nature of leaders is of considerable importance to the sociologist. The leader may stand for a principle and then he may even be opposed to the establishment: and he may be a leader primarily because he occupies a position of authority. Usually, when he represents a group by being merely its mouth-piece, he is not a leader truly speaking.
Whether in an informal organization like a holiday party or in a formalized group like an economic association, one usually finds a leader who enjoys a high place because of his admitted ability to combine forces that will collectively advance certain interests.
These persons may be ‘natural leaders’ who have a flair for taking a practical stock of different situations and to act according to the need of the hour: they may not hold any position of authority and may merely appear as a reflection of the general choice that their followers spontaneously make. If they can find themselves situated in the context of any emergent need of their people, they may even rise to positions of ‘charismatic’ leadership, as in the cases of Napoleon, Hitler or even Nehru of our own country.
According to Max Weber, a charismatic leader possessed such qualities as would invest him with authority on the popular conviction that he is either inspired by the Almighty or is specially designed by Nature herself to act for the deliverance of the nation. The natural or the charismatic leader may not be in authority and, when he is not, he can pose a severe threat to the establishment.
When he combines with his leadership qualities the advantages of authority, he not only consolidates his own position but enhances the prestige of the establishment that he represents. India’s prestige abroad under Jawaharlal Nehru reflected partly the democratic values that the Indian people stood for and partly the personality of the man of destiny whose moral injunctions had considerable influence upon the world community.
But a consideration of leadership in an organization must be made along different lines. No project that involves a number of persons can get started by itself. An association is formed by several persons in the furtherance of certain common objectives; but all persons who are members of it cannot work out the programme for its formation. A leader is required in the association even from its formative stage. An association remains a mere idea before someone gives it a shape.
The leader must get persons together and make them understand the utility of coming together in furthering their respective interests. A true leader will not ignore the group interest and emphasize his own but will know how to harmonize the different wishes and attitudes so that working together becomes an attractive proposition. Again, any leader who knows how to assemble persons must also know the reactions of such persons to propositions of his leadership.
Once the association is formed, in the course of its functioning’s the leader will have even more challenging duties to perform. If the associational interests are political or economic in character, their very nature may tend to hold the members together, even though there is any reservation about the qualities of the leader.
The political organization has power motives that allow it to continue to function, and the economic motives of individuals and groups help the economic association to remain united; but philanthropic interests or interest of cultural types require a strong leadership to play up the need for associations and these bodies tend to rise or fall according to the availability or otherwise of capable and zealous leaders.
Associations ranging from world peace societies or dramatic societies to those that seek to promote adult literacy or secure the emancipation of women can witness strong enthusiasm at their inception which would soon be replaced by indifference or apathy.
Times of crises may arise in associations when conflicts and disputes tend to destabilize their organization. Capable leaders can always rise upto the occasion and solve intricate issues. In this regard, the observations made by McIver and Page are of considerable interest.
The authors maintain that when the association has an economic interest, the individual members as also the leader may have the ‘like” interest of maximizing rewards and profits, and there may follow a competitive struggle for leadership in it, as is witnessed in affairs at the top levels of management in commercial concerns. Such struggles can ultimately prove to be beneficial since, in the process of selection, leaders with appropriate qualities are likely to emerge.
But such will not be the case when an organization is built up with common interests, as in the case of a political party. The leader will together with the other members seek to promote the political interests of the party, that is, to capture political power in the country.
But it cannot be forgotten that the leader is an individual and he shall have like interests also. While he would strive for the preferment of the party before the electorate, he would also work for personal gains or consolidation of his own power. In labour unions too, leaders may have the tendency to remain in power rather than to work for the benefit of the masses. McIver and Page observe that ‘in all spheres of organization, socially beneficial leadership involves some reconciliation of like and common interests.’
The pity of the matter is that individualistic responses tend to place like interests above common interests, and sooner or later the idealized interests are subordinated to personal considerations of selfish and narrow-minded leaders.
In the Western countries, definite programmes are now-a-days being adopted for training management personnel so that they can get practically acquainted with the demands of leadership. The people who occupy managerial positions in different concerns may meet over seminars and study human behaviour including interactions of groups, hold group discussions on leadership and study other aspects of challenges that may be thrown up by sudden problems.
Leadership has now become a scientific study; and the psychiatrists explanations of leadership qualities is that a man becomes a leader when he can study the behaviour of the people around him, diagnose the symptoms that seem to work out as a pattern in such behaviour, and can understand the effects of any action that he may take in that regard. Yet this view would present a mere approximate of leadership abilities, and still no study can very effectively predict what would make a very capable leader.