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The Organization Man

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  259 ratings  ·  32 reviews
Regarded as one of the most important sociological and business commentaries of modern times, The Organization Man developed the first thorough description of the impact of mass organization on American society. During the height of the Eisenhower administration, corporations appeared to provide a blissful answer to postwar life with the marketing of new technologies--tele ...more
Paperback, 448 pages
Published June 27th 2002 by University of Pennsylvania Press (first published 1956)
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I changed this to a 3 1/2 on the assumption that if I read it again (assuming I could get through it) I'd think a bit more of it than I did 53+ years ago.

(originally posted 1/25/13)

I read this book fifty years ago now, in the summer of '62. It was to be read before starting my freshman year in college.

I don't think I got much out of it. Although I had had good marks in high school, I came from a small town in the Midwest. My classmates in college were mostly from big high schools in the east. So
Sally Duros
Sep 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: social-change
The world has sure changed!

Published June 2003 in WorldWIT.
Taking the Organization out of the Man
Sally's World, June 2003


There's a book I have to read. It's called The Organization Man. It was written in 1956 by William Whyte, and it's about time that I learned what the book says.

When I was a girl, I held a secret deep and true, and that was that somehow even though I was female I would grow up to be an "Organization Man." My dad was an Orga
I read this about a dozen years ago in grad school, and I believe it is one of the seminal academic books of mid-century America. Whyte documented the radical shift in social importance that large corporations had attained along with their economic preeminence.

However, the book is obsolete as anything but sociological history. The faithful organization man required a paternalistic corporation to make sense, and that pairing collapsed with the advent of deep international competition in the seven
Terri Griffith
May 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I bookmooched this just to read a couple of chapters on a Chicago suburb called Park Forest. I started reading somewhere in the middle and became so engrossed that when I finished I started back at the beginning. On the surface it would appear that a book that discusses the rise of the company businessman (white men, all) would yield nothing important to my life, but instead this book gave me a glimpse into an America that I never knew first hand yet is still mythologized by the media and Republ ...more
Jan 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Eileen, Celeste
This book was originally published in 1956 and reissued in 2002.

It was remarkably prescient in its warning against conformity and groupthink. Whyte advocated a healthy ecosystem of divergent personality types and thinking patterns in order to build more resilient companies/communities/societies. This is a very topical and thought-provoking book and I am enjoying it immensely.
Jul 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
It's all that and a bag of myers briggs tests...

I love books like this, It calls bullshit on about a century of management theory, oddly enough, it was written in the middle of that century, making even more telling.
Doug Garnett
Jun 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is a tremendous book - and I thoroughly recommend it for anyone involved in business. The lessons are as fresh and important today as they were 50-60 years ago. If you will, the "Organization Man" won out and we've forgotten Whyte's lessons about why this will be a problem.

Have to say, though, the modern intro is a silly introduction. Some writer (probably well know) at Fortune tells us "nice read but we don't have these problems any more"... Yikes. I don't think he's ever lived within the
Vasil Kolev
Apr 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
It's very hard to remember through the book that it was written in the 1950s - even though a lot of stuff in the family dynamics seems old-fashioned, most of the observations on the dynamic in the corporations and the people that work in it seem spot-on.

There are some great discussions on individuality, on the scientists in the corporations and academia, the group life and its consequences. Some times the book reads like an anti-utopia, sometimes it has more utopia-like tones, but in the end it'
Jan 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
Today, students graduating go work for organizations. Whether you're an engineer, a teacher, or even a doctor, you usually join some kind of company.

This book is about that phenomenon, and how in joining these organizations, people place part of the control of their lives into the hands of others.

Written back when large multi-national corporations were rare. It's interesting even to read about any alternative to joining large corporations.
Oct 23, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: psychology, history
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nathan Storring
Whyte's cultural analysis of the American corporation is an aging classic. While incredibly influential at the time, its content and structure don't necessarily hold up to contemporary standards.

There are still some great insights here, particularly about the tensions within the American ethos in general, as well as a prescient socio-spatial analysis of suburban neighborhoods near the end of the book that foreshadows Whyte's later work on public space. You can also see how his ideas, methodolog
Mike Bloom
Feb 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book, first published in 1956, captures the state of American society that I was born into. Anyone born before President Kennedy was assassinated (for me a mere 8 months) should read this book. It describes the corporation-dominated world that Kurt Vonnegut ominously foreshadowed in "Player Piano" and that Ronald Reagan enthusiastically pitched on behalf of General Electric. The author contrasts the expanding number of relatively convenient paths to the good life offered by "The Organizatio ...more
Mar 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: planning
Will this book ever be non relevant? I would be really surprised if it were. The information is not just intetesting, but well organized and consistently written in a clear and complex manner.
Apr 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
"By social ethic I mean that contemporary body of thought which makes morally legitimate the pressures of society against the individual. Its major propositions are three: a belief in the group as the source of creativity; a belief in 'belongingness' as the ultimate need of the individual' and a belief in the application of science to achieve the belongingness." (7)

"Hell is no less hell for being antiseptic." (30-1)

"Potentially, they [private colleges] have a value far beyond their numbers as mo
Mar 18, 2008 rated it it was ok
As an architect interested in US settlement patterns, I was mainly under whelmed with this one. Perhaps it's the constant references to Organization Man in seemingly every other book or journal article that has touched on the subject of suburbia. Not that it shouldn't be referenced – a couple parts were interesting - but there's the issue that most of the other authors obvious haven't read Whyte's book! I'm not going into detail as it was a while back when I spent way too much time with this, bu ...more
Jun 23, 2007 rated it really liked it
along with 'white collar' and 'lonely crowd' truly a window into our soulless, conformist, insecure, alienated 21st century existences. i'm currently reading the chapters on suburbia, but not making a ton of headway. if i had actually gotten a real job out of college, i might understand it better. i think if there's one tag that business would love to live down its this one. i think the second it came out there was a knee-jerk response to declare "THAT'S NOT US!" and hence-forth their have been ...more
Lukas Szrot
May 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An important (and at times uncannily prophetic) counterpoint to the 'modernization and social progress' just-so story. Some of it is a bit dated, but the sections on religion and the academy are brilliant, and could have been written last year. The creeping sense that bureaucratization and rationalization would usher in a new era of conformity and mediocrity was delineated by Max Weber and Friedrich Nietzsche on the cusp of the twentieth century. "Organization Man" updates, extends, and challeng ...more
Sep 08, 2012 rated it liked it

There is a copy of this book in the Smithsonian Museum of American History, in the transportation section. So much of our world has been defined by the postwar suburban mode of living -- and the tenuousness of highly leveraged families is laid out as a stark warning back in the 50's. I think that there are a number of folks still living in this world today ... though the organizations themselves have less and less use for them.
Michael David
This book is interesting as a zeitgeist of 1950s corporate America, but is obsolete nowadays. Its chapters on The Organization Man in fiction were enjoyable, but the Organization as a surrogate father seems to be a pipe dream nowadays. Companies focus nowadays on efficiency (outsourcing is one of its methods of getting a job done), and the paternalistic Organization of yesteryear is all but extinct.
Aug 10, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Written in the 1950s, this book is a classic study of American middle class conformity. Whyte describes the organization man—his aspirations, his training, his workplace and his residence of choice—the suburbs. Whyte’s journalist background is evident—the book reads well, with the exception of the first section, a theoretical reflection on individualism and conformity.
May 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: planning
This book is pretty amazing, and worth reading on several levels. Most of all, reading it more than 50 years after it was written exposes big changes in social expectations over just a few generations.

I wrote a longer review here:
Jul 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Time is nonlinear; in some ways we may have moved on from the group way described in this book but in other ways it is still very much alive. And the central dilemma of the individual versus the collective will always be with us. For this reason, as well as the amazingly lucid prose and keen observations, this is a true classic.
David Wen
Feb 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
A good book detailing the rising middle class during the 1950's. Interesting comments made about them at the time sounds remarkably similar to the same comments being made about millennials. (Not saving money, not working as hard as the previous generation, care only about life and not enough about work, etc.) Very detailed studies regarding social circles and cliques as well. A worthwhile read.
Sep 01, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
A little dry in places, but it got much better as it went along. It's fascinating to read Whyte's concern about unmanageable mortgages and revolving credit (in the days before credit cards) ... the more things change, etc.
May 16, 2009 rated it liked it
Amazing to see what corporate life was like in the 1950s, and how it's changed so much that this book is basically a historical document.
Paul Billington
Sep 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Not supprising that this book is not mentioned in business school. It makes me wonder whether "Business School" is still an appropriate title for these organisations.
Jeff Keehr
Nov 24, 2015 rated it liked it
I read this many years ago, before I started summarizing my thoughts about books after I finished them. But I have good memories of this one.
Stanley Lee
Jan 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
pedagogical to learn how the society wanted the masses to think
Mar 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Fascinating book. Some parts were still smokingly relevant to the 21st century, others were painfully dated. Loved the gendered language and had to wonder when a girl began to be called a woman. Working in a large organization myself, I see the emphasis on committee work and consensus as something that both traps us and empowers us. Came to this book from Mad Men and The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit. The Lonely Crowd is next (Whyte mentions Riesman's work in several places).
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William Hollingsworth "Holly" Whyte (1917 - 12 January 1999) was an American urbanist, organizational analyst, journalist and people-watcher.

Whyte was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania and died in New York City in 1999. An early graduate of St. Andrew's School in Middletown, Delaware, he graduated from Princeton University and then served in Marine Corps. In 1946 he joined Fortune magazine.

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“The I.B.M. machine has no ethic of its own; what it does is enable one or two people to do the computing work that formerly required many more people. If people often use it stupidly, it's their stupidity, not the machine's, and a return to the abacus would not exorcise the failing. People can be treated as drudges just as effectively without modern machines.” 6 likes
“But the process should not be confused with science. When tests are used as selections devices, they're not a neutral tool; they become a large factor int he very equation they purport to measure. For one thing, the tests tend to screen out - or repel - those who would upset the correlation. If a man can't get into the company in the first place because he isn't the company type, he can't very well get to be an executive and be tested in a study to find out what kind if profile subsequent executives should match. Long before personality tests were invented, of course, plenty of companies proved that if you only hire people of a certain type, then all your successful men will be people of that type. But no one confused this with the immutable laws of science.” 4 likes
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