By his own account, Jackall (Anthropology and Sociology/Williams) had a very hard time gaining access to large US...


MORAL MAZES: The World of Corporate Managers

By his own account, Jackall (Anthropology and Sociology/Williams) had a very hard time gaining access to large US corporations. Consequently, his anecdotal appreciation of high-echelon executive life is longer on depth than breadth. The author's bleak judgment that expedient morality is a norm in the upper reaches of industrial/commercial organizations also raises questions as to who bought all the New Age management guides that were written and sold in recent years (cf. Michael Maccoby's Why Work, reviewed below). All told, Jackall probed only two concerns--a southern textiles-maker that he dubs Weft Corp., and the Alchemy Chemicals Division of Covenant Corp., a pseudonymous conglomerate. Largely on the basis of conversations with the individuals who run these companies, the author reaches some sweeping and decidedly distressing conclusions, characterizing managerial mores as adaptive and flexible rather than rooted in ""some set of internally held convictions or principles."" In like vein, he argues: ""only men and women who can accept the world (in which they work) as it is. . .have a true calling to higher corporate office."" Stewardship, the author finds, is an alien concept for the careerists of big business who nonetheless profess allegiance to the Protestant ethic. He theorizes that corporate bureaucracies ""create for managers a Calvinist world without a Calvinist God,"" thereby inducing vague unease--and genuine anxieties. While Jackall has a sharp ear for the euphemisms that pass for communication among executives, he frequently lapses into academic jargon. All too many of his appraisals are couched in terms like ""dichotomous modes of thinking,"" ""fealty,"" ""objectifying habit of mind,"" and ""patronage."" In brief, then, a provocative, disturbing--and distorted--assessment of executive values that does not measure up to such better-balanced studies as Rosabeth Moss Kanter's Men and Women of the Corporation and William H. Whyte's classic The Organization Man.

Pub Date: March 1, 1988

ISBN: 0199729883

Page Count: -

Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1988