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The Organized Anarchies of School Organization - The Symbolic Perspective of School Organization



The Organized Anarchies of School Organization - The Symbolic Perspective of School Organization


Organized anarchies

This concept originates from Cohen et al., who applied it to educational institutions (universities) which in their view could hardly be said to act 'rationally'. Another concept that Cohen et al. often use is The Garbage Can Model' - which describes, in their opinion, what really takes place in the decision-making process.

Organized anarchies have the following elements:
1. Ambiguous preferences. Preferences are discovered by acting, instead of people acting on the basis of preferences.
2. Ambiguous technology. Even if an organization manages to survive and even be productive, its own processes are not understood by its own members.
3. Variable participation. Participation varies, both as to time spent and the work expended on different areas (Cohen et al. 1972, p. 2).

Decision-making in organized anarchies is often inconsistent with a well-ordered problem-solving process.

When I read works by March and Olsen, especially their work entitled Ambiguity and Choice in Organizations, I am struck by how 'different' their thoughts are from traditional system theory (March and Olsen 1976). Quite a few axioms are turned on their heads, and the way these authors express themselves forces the reader to make a critical reappraisal of 'rational truths' that many of us thought were sacrosanct.

My guess is that the 'anarchy model' can more readily be applied to institutions of high learning than to pre-college schools. One of the reasons for this is the decentralized form of organization characteristic of universities and the conflicts between a central bureaucratic system and academic preferences - which, in my view, are better expressed at the universities.

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