Lindebaum D, Moser C, Ashraf M & Glaser VL
Academy of Management Review
Publication year: 2022

We review Jacques Ellul’s book The Technological Society to highlight ‘technique’ – the book’s central phenomenon – and its theoretical relevance for organizational and institutional theorists. Technique is defined as “the totality of methods rationally arrived at and having absolute efficiency . . . in every field of human activity” in society (1964: xxv, italics added). More than simply ‘machine technology’, technique involves the rational pursuit of standardized means or practices for attaining predetermined results. What makes Ellul both unique and relevant for organizational and institutional theorists is his historical analysis delineating the characteristics of, and the processes through which, technique has evolved into an autonomic and agentic force. We build on and mobilize Ellul’s analysis to explore two aims in this essay. First, we aim to illuminate the process through which technique transforms values – a process we describe as the mechanization of values in organizations and institutions. Second, we identify the consequences of value mechanization for organizational scholarship. We discuss the wider ramifications of Ellul’s work for management theory, practise, and education.


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