Essays in Organisation Science

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Essays in Organisation Science  (1919) 
by Alexander Bogdanov
Очерки организационной науки (Ocherki organizatsionnoi nauki) Proletarskaya Kul'tura, No. 7/8 (april-May, 1919)

What is organisation science?[edit]

The unity of the organisational point of view[edit]

I

Throughout humanity's struggle with the elements, their task has been to assert their power over nature. Power is the ratio of the organiser to organised. Humanity successfully procedes step by step, which means that step by step they organise the world - for themselves and for their own advantage. This is the meaning and content of humanity's secular work.

However Nature resists humanity, with a countless and endless army of elements, whose tremendous force is spontaneous and blind, dark and chaotic. To defeat Nature, humanity must organise itself into a mighty army. And this organising has been going on for a number of centuries, from when labor groupsemerged from small tribal primitive communities to the modern era of co-operation of hundreds of millions of people. This is still unconscious but very real.

If humanity organised itself in face of the world only using those forces and means which have been granted by nature, humanity would have gained no advantage over other living beings, who are also fighting for themselves against the rest of nature. However humanity takes tools from external nature and implements it in their work. This is the basis of success. This gave and continues to give humanity a growing superiority over even the most powerful and fearsome threats. This is how life that sets humanity apart from the rest of her kingdom. But humanity faces an even more difficult task for humanity - to organise themselves, their efforts, their activity at the individual and at the collective level. There are contradictions hidden amongst the complexity of the human body and natural forces of society. These contradictins can be as menacing and destructive, as the very forces of nature, which spawned mankind. Fate has made us witnesses of the monstruous immensity of total warfare. The full story is played out through chains of history, covered with fire and blood, full of the subjugation of millions to the horrors of starvation and hard labour while the few enjoy the parasitic luxury which arises from their cruel domination. The self-organisation of humanity is the struggle with our inner spontaneity, at a biological and social level. Just as humanity takes up tools to fight external nature, the tools of the organisation are no less necessary to humanity. Mankind produces them only with great difficulty and great sacrifices.

  • The first such instrument was the word. All the conscious co-operation of people is facilitated through the word: a call for work, in the form of requests or orders combining staff, and the distribution of roles between them in their work, an indication of the sequence and context of their activities, encouragement to work, concentrating their forces, a warning where a disagreement starts, stops work, rearrangement, change of direction of effort - all this is done verbally. Giant teams are created by the power of words, and giant teams are managed by this power. The people of the twentieth century saw the imperious word direct millions of people in an unprecedented hell of iron and dynamite to kill and die. ... No wonder the old way of thinking, immersed in innocence, gave rise to the myth of the creation of the world in a word. No wonder people believed in the limitless power of the word over the elements: water and mountains, storms and tempests, disease and death all thought to obey those who knew and spoke the proper word ... The organising power of these instruments was fetishised and generalised to the whole world. But this broke free from the primitive mind, just as it can break free from the modern mind.
  • The second such instrument is more complex and subtle, it is the idea. The idea fulfils its role in the organisational scheme as technical regulations, scientific knowledge, or artistic concepts, whether expressed in words, other signs, images or art. The idea of ​​the direct technical and apparently co-ordinated employment of the efforts of people up to the scientific level - does the same thing only more indirectly and on a broader scale. It becomes an instrument of the highest order, as illustrated by the scientific technology of our era, by the idea of ​​art is a living tool for rallying the team in the unity of perception, feelings, moods. In this way we are brought up one for our life in the community, we are prepared for the organisational elements of the group, we are introduced to its internal structure. The old way of thinking was vaguely aware the organisational role of ideas, seeing them as guidance from above: the latest in most cases and it has lost consciousness(?).
  • The third such instrument is the social norm. In all its forms - a custom, law, morality, decency - the social norm sets the attitudes of people in the collective, and fixes their relationship. Thus patriarchal consciousness created the specifc rules of its times understood as a legacy of the ancestors or the command of the gods, fetishised, to suit the collective life, and the latest abstract thinking. It did not penetrate into the socio-organisational nature of these regulations. Nor did it seek the spiritual foundations of their individual experiences.


Where does humanity find such instruments as speech, ideas and norms? Not from external nature, as with material tools, but from our own nature - from our activities and experiences, from my experience. All of this - the products of organising experience are performed by mankind in the course of millennia. The word is not an empty phrase. The social views and aspirations are crystalised and passed amongst the collective from person to person, as with more complex forms of ideology.


We can now summarise how the overall scheme of the content of human life unfolds before us. Let's summarise: Engels, the founding father of scientific socialism, created the formula: the production of people, the production of things and the production of ideas. The term "production" contains hidden within it the concept of organizing activities. Let's refine the formula more accurately: the organisation of the external forces of nature, the organisation of human power, the organisation of experience.


So what went wrong? Mankind has no activities other than the institutional; there are no problems other than the organisational. Do we not see destructive work of disorganisation wherever we look? Yes, but it is - a special case of the same trend. We are in a society, where classes and groups face each other in a destructive way. They disorganize one another, precisely because each such group seeks to organise the world and humanity for themselves in their own way. This is the result of isolation in which social forces are organised separately - they do not reach a point of unity with a shared simplified organisation. This is the struggle of organisational forms.


So, all the interests of humanity support the conclusion that we have an organizational problem. Hence it follows that we should place the organisational perspective on life and the world at the centre. And if you have not come to realise this, it is only because our thinking has not quite broken free of the fetishism of the shells, which wrap us up within our isolated experience of development.

II

The primordial unity of the organizational point of view was based on the weakness of human work-experience and the authoritarian structure of a homogeneous society. However social development overcame this weakness and created new social relations. This led to the collapse of primordial unity and the fragmentation of experience, placing it in an entirely new context.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923.

The author died in 1928, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.