One note wonder

As I read through another survey of sociological theories, I’m struck by the repetition of a single theme: That all actions have a single theme.

Things are more complicated and multifaceted than that. It’s pretty obvious in our experienced lives; power relationships explain some things well, psychological theory explains others, biological urges and social grouping pressures others. Work, perhaps, is an excellent example.

Yesterday I mentioned the power struggle and power differentials between workers (collectivized or not) and capitalists – whether the petty bourguoise of middle management or the full-on capitalists of CEOs and executives. That power structure exists in any traditionally organized structure. It might be denied, but underlying every aspect of that relationship is the realization that the manager has power over the worker. This inherently skews the relationship and information that management gets. This always exists in corporate relationships – unless we actively work to eliminate it.

In The Seven-Day Weekend: Changing the Way Work Works, (you WANT to read this book) Ricardo Semler explains how a flattened heirarchial structure and shared goals lead his company to work together. There, management explicitly shares power, decision making authority, and full information with all of the workers. By acknowledging the power structure, it can then be actively dismantled. In Semler’s organization, he can be rather sure that he’s getting 100% from all of his workers – and accurate information about what’s going on. How does he know this? When Brazil underwent its own financial problems in the 90’s, Semler’s employees collaborated on how to divide up work and layoffs to best benefit (or at least, do the minimum of harm) to both the company and the other employees! When power structures and relationships are open and visible they can be worked with, and seemingly intractable problems suddenly disappear.

It’s this way with any of the differential structures – racism, sexism, ableism, hetero-ism, and the like. When those realities are ignored, they simply cannot be dealt with.

It is uncomfortable to talk about and deal with. But for there to be any hope of resolving these issues so that we can move towards common goals – at work or in our society in general – we must discuss them openly, honestly, and continously.

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