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Philip SelznickIdeals in the World$
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Martin Krygier

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780804744751

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804744751.001.0001

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The “Tragedy of Organization”

The “Tragedy of Organization”

(p.15) Chapter One The “Tragedy of Organization”
Philip Selznick
Stanford University Press

This chapter considers the two major influences on Selznick's early thought about politics and sociology: Leon Trotsky and Robert Michels. Trotsky represented both the incarnation and the failure of exalted ideals. He also identified a specific culprit for that failure: the Soviet bureaucracy. To an extent unprecedented and uncomfortable within orthodox Marxism, the concept and machinations of bureaucracy had dominated the Trotskyist worldview by the time Selznick was initiated into it. The message from Michels had a similar subject but broader implications. The propensity of bureaucracy to undermine cherished ideals was not, on his analysis, a conjunctural, tactical danger, a temporary backstep ultimately to be overcome. It was, as it were, ontological, written into the nature of political life and above all into the need for organization in politics.

Keywords:   Philip Selznick, politics, sociology, Leon Trotsky, Robert Michels, Soviet bureaucracy, orthodox Marxism

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