Formal Organizations

How has one specific formal organization changed your life in some significant way? Explain how the institutional culture has shaped your personality, attitudes, values and/or beliefs. What role did bureaucracy play in this process?

When I was born, I was labelled a member of my parent's church. There was a ceremony (like a christening) that solidified my membership in the eyes of the other members. As I grew, I was socialized to accept the governing structure of the church as being "right" and "obviously the way things should be". When I was a bit older, I was officially made a member, and given a "vote" and felt as though I was an important piece of the organization. This illusion stayed with me until I grew old enough to realize that what we were told, and reality were quite different.

One interesting facet of this church is that it is highly structured and bueracratic. The power structure is VERY rigid and standardized across all congregations. There is a "handbook" for every position, and there are rules for every possible situation. The local administrators are usually well off, business oriented/minded men - even though the members are from all walks of life, and the leadership is *supposed* to be democratic. Once you move beyond the local sphere, there is a HUGE amount of inner-circle self-promotion going on, and it is impossible to get into a position of power without knowing someone or being promoted from a lower position. The sunday school lessons were standardized in the 60s, and now everyone in the world learns from the same book (translated), and hears the same information being regurgitated every week.

When I was 18, I was assigned to teach the 4 and 5 year olds, and had my first experiance of being told that I was not allowed to deviate from the lesson manual, and then realizing that I was being asked to socialize these young children with values and norms that I did not necessarily agree with - ie with being obedient members of the church bueracracy. I had been raised with a strong personal value of education and that there is always more to know about any given topic, and so when I started taking the "adult classes" and realized that it was really just the same exact thing I had been learning for the last 18 years, I lost all interest in being a cooperative member of the group.

Even though I am no longer a member (I was kicked out for heresy :-) ), I still look at some portions of the social structure and can admire it for being very efficient, and working for a large number of people who do not rebel against their socialization. It is very difficult to entirely step away from something that you were born and raised into, and even today, I find myself with values that originated from this organization. There was a emphasis on learning to speak publically, and each member was trained to become a member of the administration, even though most of them would never actually be appointed (it helped maintain the illusion that it was possible), and even today, I can get up in front of a bunch of people and wax philosophical for as long as needed to fill in the time.

Unfortunatly, I believe that the more they move towards a formally burecratic organization and away from their original form, which emphasized creativity, democracy and life-long personal and social change; the less powerful their method of socializing their members and KEEPING members through adulthood will be. If I had been a member in the 1800s when they were still radically progressive (even by today's modern standards) I might have stuck around.

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