As with the recent open thread for lurkers, this post is one from a series which adopts different blogging patterns. At the suggestion of the format is that of a debate, and the topic we have chosen is “The end of the organisation?” after an article by Michael Gilbert. Josien Kapma has kicked off the debate by arguing in favour of the premise that organisations are going to change unrecognisably in response to technology improvements in the means of communications, namely the internet. “The organizations of the future will not look like the organizations of today.”
So I shall adopt the contrary view and oppose the proposition.
I disagree that organisations are shaped by their communications. For me this is a secondary consideration, with the main shaping force being that of economics. I shall argue that as long as the fundamental economic relationships which lie at the base of society remain unchanged then nothing revolutionary is going to happen. A change in the mode of communication will cause big upheavals in some of the light industries which specialise in knowledge work, in publishing and media, that is certain. But these industries are not crucial to the means of sustaining our lives.
The more important work of providing food, shelter, health, transport, energy and infrastucture will continue pretty much the same, regardless of what is happening in the online world.
Ah but I hear objections already. This is surely cheating! For some people, and indeed the scope of the pertinent essay, the concern is with the so-called “non-profit” organisations, the civil society, and my arguments have flown straight outside the boundaries of the arena.
I will also argue that in an economy which is run for and by the owners of big business, the values which are predominant at all levels are those which support the continuation of the system based on free market economics and the private ownership of the means of prodution. The non-profits are not islands of activity which work in isolation. They are part of the wider society, their clients and employees have to live in the current world and their values and economic relations end up reflecting those of the corporations to defend the status quo.