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A revised edition of the classic text on the sociology of management and organization

Engineering Culture

Control and Commitment in a High-Tech Corporation

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Revised Edition

Gideon Kunda

"Overall, this is one of the finest ethnographies of an organization culture I have read."
Administrative Science Quarterly

Engineering Culture is an award-winning ethnography of the engineering division of a large American high-tech corporation. Now, this influential book—which has been translated into Japanese, Italian, and Hebrew—has been revised to bring it up to date. In Engineering Culture, Gideon Kunda offers a critical analysis of an American company's well-known and widely emulated "corporate culture." Kunda uses detailed descriptions of everyday interactions and rituals in which the culture is brought to life, excerpts from in-depth interviews and a wide variety of corporate texts to vividly portray managerial attempts to design and impose the culture and the ways in which it is experienced by members of the organization.

The company's management, Kunda reveals, uses a variety of methods to promulgate what it claims is a non-authoritarian, informal, and flexible work environment that enhances and rewards individual commitment, initiative, and creativity while promoting personal growth. The author demonstrates, however, that these pervasive efforts mask an elaborate and subtle form of normative control in which the members' minds and hearts become the target of corporate influence. Kunda carefully dissects the impact this form of control has on employees' work behavior and on their sense of self.

In the conclusion written especially for this edition, Kunda reviews the company's fortunes in the years that followed publication of the first edition, reevaluates the arguments in the book, and explores the relevance of corporate culture and its management today.

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Excerpt

Read the Preface (pdf)

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Reviews

"This book remains the classic attempt to come to terms with the reality of work in the new economy, as it emerges to replace the alienation of mass production. Kunda recognizes, even celebrates, the autonomy and engagement of work which has grown up around IT. But he also identifies the ways management quite deliberately limits and controls that autonomy and exploits engagement. And he underscores the price which the new work place exacts from the workers excluded from the realm of autonomy, from those who become overcommitted to it, and from those who, often inadvertently, overstep its boundaries."
Michael Joseph Piore, David W. Skinner Professor of Political Economy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

"Kunda's book is unique in its qualities.... The study combines the management focus with the shopfloor approach by studying executives and high-level professionals as both subjects and objects of control. This permits a humane, sympathetic perspective on people in high organizational positions without ever espousing their manipulative ambitions.... Kunda's study is not one of the 'poor rich executives' variety, but one which reveals the paradoxical spiral of contribution and opposition to control mechanisms, where, eventually, the cleverest manipulators can be unmasked as dupes and where victims show how to preserve dignity in situations of threat and anxiety."
Barbara Czarniawska, Economic and Industrial Democracy

"Among the numerous studies of organizational culture, Gideon Kunda's work stands out for its nuanced and sophisticated depiction of culture as a control strategy within an engineering firm. Cultural and normative pressures exert effects on employees even though they are often aware that they are being manipulated and cognitively distance themselves from espoused ideologies."
W. Richard Scott, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Stanford University

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Contents

Acknowledgments
1. Culture and Organization
2. The Setting
3. Ideology: Tech Culture Codified
4. Presentational Rituals: Talking Ideology
5. Self and Organization: In the Shadow of the Golden Bull
6. Conclusion
Appendix: Methods—A Confessional of Sorts
Notes
References
Index

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Subject Categories

Labor Studies and Work
Sociology

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