On the Economic Approach to Institutional Organization
Chapter 3: Behavioural Approaches to Institutional Organization: Towards a ‘Science of Human Nature’?
3. Behavioral approaches to institutional organization: Towards a ‘science of human nature’? Industry . . . must recognize that if it is to use human beings effectively, it must treat them in terms of their complete nature rather than in terms of those characteristics that appear to be suitable to their organization. Industry cannot progress by continuing to perpetuate a half-conceptual view of man. (Herzberg, 1966, p. 170) Many sociologists and other social scientists leave the equivalent of the axiomatic, that is their major premises, unstated. But if unstated they are still there, like ghosts waiting to materialize. (Homans, 1976, p. 65) It is beyond the purpose and scope of this book to outline in depth a behavioral approach to institutional organization. The following focuses on selected issues that are important for assessing the portrayal of human nature in behavioral research. The chapter discounts behavioral criticism of the image of human nature of economics by investigating heuristic and theoretical–practical aspects of behavioral research. Section 3.1 suggests that even behavioral philosophy cannot portray human nature in solely empirical, holistic terms. Behavioral sciences that aim at empirical holism encounter further limits, namely regarding the problem-dependent nature of scientific research. Section 3.2 questions whether psychological theory and practice, which focuses on individual behavior, can solve social problems in the firm, especially performance problems. Section 3.3 stresses that behavioral research is, like economics, grounded in a pre-empirical, heuristic model of human nature. Section 3.4 discusses how contextual factors, such as value pluralism (‘the condition of modernity’)...
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