• Historical and Contemporary Contexts: The Representation and Character of ‘Modern’ Organizations

      Stokes, Peter; University of Chester (Kogan Page, 2016-04-01)
      Chapter 2: Historical and Contemporary Contexts: The Representation and Character of ‘Modern’ Organizations Peter Stokes Objectives This chapter aims to outline the modernistic and positivistic philosophies and paradigms which underpin contemporary markets, management and organizations by: • elaborating the historical context of the role of the enlightenment and the emergence of science; • explaining the development of the Industrial Revolution, the development of positivism and the recognition of modernism and its powerful implications for the shape and nature of organizations and management; • elaborating the nature and role of Taylorism and Fordism as consequences of the general modernistic movement and events; • contextualising modernism and positivism by developing a conceptual understanding of epistemology and frames of reference; • providing examples of modernistic effects in organizations such as hard and soft management and corporate cultures, key performance indicators and metrics, audit cultures, managerialism, McDonaldization and the role of fashions and fads in management thinking and ideas. Introduction Chapter One mapped out the contemporary nature of the work and organizations and their environments, in local and global terms, and underlined the contexts and issues which have become important for organizations. The Chapter now proceeds to examine modernism and the phenomena of, for example, managerialism, Taylorism and McDonaldization and how they have endured as powerful influences on contemporary work settings. The management of change and evolution have been a recurrent experience in business and organizations generally. It has become common to read in texts that, in the contemporary era, change is happening at an unprecedented rate and on a global scale. However, organizations and societies have always undergone change. At times, this change has seemed radical and unpredictable whilst at other times there have been periods which have provided a semblance of stability and continuity (Linstead, Fulop and Lilley, 2009:619). Historically, it is possible to cite many major events which have caused severe and extensive disruption to established society processes and structures which have caused companies and organizations to go bankrupt and disappear forever. Changes might be relatively small or, alternatively, may be on a continental scale. These might include major tragedies such as, for example, plagues and illnesses (the Black Death and the post-First World War influenza outbreak (1918-1919) both of which killed hundreds of thousands of people and brought about significant transformations in social hierarchies, land and wealth distributions); conflicts (such as World War I and II (1914-18 and 1939-1945)) and economic collapses and depressions (The Wall Street Crash (1929) and the ‘Credit Crunch’ Recession (2008)). Moreover, whatever changes are taking place in a period, different periods of history are characterised by particular values and beliefs regarding the drivers that shape the epoch. Such beliefs are likely to change over time and acknowledging this is important for contemporary managers and organizations because by generating an appreciation of this it will facilitate a better understanding of the energies and forces at play in the contemporary world and workplace. A key philosophy that has shaped the 20th and 21st Centuries has been that of modernism which can be considered to have followed on from pre-modernism. Modernism can be considered to have exerted influence from the mid-1600s until the contemporary era, whilst Pre-modernism embraces Ancient History (that is, for example, Ancient Greek, Roman and other civilizations of the surrounding eras) leading up towards the early Medieval period (Cummings, 2002). Modernism is important to understand because the values it embodies are very different from those that prevailed in the preceding pre-Modern and Medieval eras.