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The persistence of social dominance in different organisational forms

Diefenbach, T. and Sillince, J.A.A. (2009) The persistence of social dominance in different organisational forms. In: 15th World Congress of the International Industrial Relations Association (IIRA), 2009-08-24 - 2009-08-27. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

That subordinates often comply with, even actively support the very hierarchical structures which oppresses them is a well-known fact. It is still intriguing to see how comprehensive and thorough social order usually is which is based on the principle of hierarchy, i.e. dominance and submissiveness. The social actions, identities and ideologies of both superiors and subordinates seem to complement each other and jointly create hierarchical social order which is quite persistent throughout the centuries and in very different social systems. This persistent hierarchical order has been also the constituting and guiding principle for the relationship between managers and employees. Obviously, bureaucratic organisations as well as traditional forms of business organisations such as Taylor's or Ford's factories are hierarchical throughout. But how about modern or even post-modern forms of organisations, such as teamwork-oriented, project-based, collegial and collaborative organisations and networks? Has the iron fist been replaced by the velvet glove? In this sense, the paper copes with two questions: 1. How do superiors' and subordinates' differing social actions, identities and ideologies constitute together persistent hierarchical social order? 2. Is hierarchical order restricted to orthodox organisations or can it be identified in different types of organisations? For interrogating these questions, this paper develops a theoretical model which describes how superiors' and subordinates' identities, ideologies and social action jointly constitute persistent hierarchical order. Secondly, the model will be applied to different (ideal-typical) forms of organisations in order to investigate whether or not hierarchical order persists in different types of organisations. The key findings of this analysis are not very encouraging, but hope springs eternal.