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  • Print publication year: 2001
  • Online publication date: July 2009

2 - Schism and Solidarity


A generic model of organizational schism can be constructed around Max Weber's simple and widely known analytical distinctions between different types of social relationships. Weber distinguished two basic dimensions: associative versus communal relationships (vertical axis) and open versus closed relationships (horizontal axis). The labels given to the four cells of the resulting table (Table 2.1) resonate with contemporary parlance: fellowship (open, communal), clan (closed, communal), interest association (open, associative), and bureaucracy (closed, associative).

My basic argument is that organizational schisms will occur when communal groups move toward closure – from fellowship to clan. Communal closure entails the articulation of sharply drawn symbolic and behavioral boundaries between in-group and out-group, an elaborated “closed” ideology, hierarchical authority, centralized control of ritual, and a process of depersonalization (of individuals or constituent units). Communal closure represents an alternative path of organizational rationalization to Weber's well-known analysis of routinization as a strategy of organizational maintenance (and may be initiated in opposition to it); instead, communal closure corresponds to Weber's analysis of the transformation of a religious sect into a hierocratic organization (church). In that transition, personal charisma is transferred to the institution of the church, and a priestly corps monopolizes the “administration of grace.” Communal closure is a likely strategy of organizational maintenance (in contrast to routinization) the more that community is regarded as an end in itself, that is, when communal identity is a large part of individual identity or when it is treated as an object of sacred reverence.