Mr. Ng Essay

Submitted By nprotect
Words: 1754
Pages: 8

Title of Book: Writers on Organizations (Fourth Edition)
Authors: DS Pugh and DJ Hickson
Year: 1989
Place published: London
Publisher: Penguin Business
Pages: 5-8

Max Weber
Max Weber (1864-1920) was born in Germany. He qualified in law and then became a member of the staff of Berlin University. He remained an academic for the rest of his life, having a primary interest in the broad sweep of the historical development of civilisations through studies of the sociology of religion and the sociology of economic life. In his approach to both of these topics he showed a tremendous range in examining the major world religions such as Judaism, Christianity and Buddhism, and in tracing the pattern of economic development from pre-feudal times. These two interests were combined in his classic studies of the impact of Protestant beliefs on the development of capitalism in Western Europe and the USA. Weber had the prodigious output and ponderous style typical of German philosophers, but those of his writings which have been translated into English have established him as a major figure in sociology.
Weber’s principal contribution to the study of organisations was his theory of authority structures which led him to characterise organizations in terms of the authority relations within them. This stemmed from a basic concern with why individuals obeyed commands, why people do as they are told. To deal with this problem Weber made a distinction between power, the ability to force people to obey, regardless of their resistance, and authority, where orders are voluntarily obeyed by those receiving them. Under an authority system, those in the subordinate role see the issuing of directives by those in the superordinate role as legitimate. Weber distinguished between organizational types according to the way in which authority is legitimized. He outlined three pure types which he labelled ‘charismatic’, ‘traditional’, and ‘rational-legal’, each of which is expressed in a particular administrative apparatus or organization. These pure types are distinctions which are useful for analysing organizations, although any real organization may be a combination of them.
The first mode of exercising authority is based on the personal qualities of the leader. Weber used the Greek term charisma to mean any quality of individual personality by virtue of which the leader is set apart from ordinary people and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities. This is the position of the prophet, messiah or political leader, whose organization consists of a set of disciples: the disciples have the job of mediating between the leader and the masses. The typical case of this kind is a small-scale revolutionary movement either religious or political in form, but many organizations have had ‘charismatic’ founders, such as Lord Nuffield (Morris Motors) and Henry Ford. However, as the basis of authority is on the characteristics of one person and commands are based on that person’s inspiration, this type of organization has a built-in instability. The question of succession always arises when the leader dies and the authority has to be passed on. Typically, in political and religious organizations the movement splits with the various disciples claiming to be the ‘true’ heirs to the charismatic leader. Thus the process is usually one of fission. The tendencies towards this kind of breakdown can be seen in the jockeying for position of Hitler’s lieutenants, Himmler and Goering, during the first few months of 1945. It exemplifies the problem of an heir to the leader, and even