wisdom to win

 Wisdom to Win
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Amitai Etzioni (1929- )Amitai Etzioni


German-born American sociology professor and expert in people’s work and social behaviour (pictured right).



Key books


A Comparative Analysis of Complex Organizations (1961)


There are three types of power in organizations:


1. Coercive 

(forcing people to do things by punishment or the threat of it) .


2. Utilitarian 

(power from giving financial rewards like pay).


3. Normative 

The power of the work group and rewards that relate to people’s psychological needs like love, affection, prestige and recognition.


There are three categories of “involvement” (the degree to which employees are positively or negatively involved in their work):


1. Alienative

Where employees are totally negative about the organization e.g. prisoners.

This is normally associated with coercive power.


2. Calculative 

Where employees are neither positive nor negative about the organization

Usual in most businesses and normally associated with utilitarian power.


3. Moral

Where employees are intensely committed to the values and objectives of the organization e.g. churches

Usually associated with normative power.


Key quote (from the revised 1975 edition)

Most organizations employ all three kinds of power, but the degree to which they rely on each differs from organization to organization.



The Moral Dimension (1988)


Self-interest will be socially beneficial only if it takes into account:


1. People’s morals  and emotions.


2. The interests of the community 


3. The balance of power within organizations

(if managers are too powerful, they can exploit people inside and outside the organization).


Etzioni supports an “I & We” philosophy which


1.Combines an “I” with a “We” ideology 

  • “I”  is based on the individual’s rights.
  • “We”supports a “responsive community” in which people act responsibly towards the community because they feel a part of it.


2. Results in individuals and society influencing each other’s values and behaviour.


Key quote on society

“The I’s need a we to be”.



The Spirit of Community (1995)


Individual rights and moral responsibility (reinforced by schools and the family)  must be balanced with:

  • social responsibility.
  • a strong commitment to the community (being a “Communitarian”).


So, in The New Golden Rule (1997), Etzioni says that a good society balances:

  • social order (from morality).
  • individual autonomy.


Key quote on society 

Free individuals require a community.

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