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Authority: the vertical order of society (RV of EAC Research Series no 76)

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Authority is seen as one of the three components of culture which underlie the pattern of institutions in a particular society, the other two features being 'identity' or the basis for cooperation and horizontal order, and 'rationale' or the sets of ideas which convey purposes for behaviour. The role of authority is to provide the vertical order in the societal architecture, and the paper examines the way this occurs historically in the context of the evolution of business systems. The fundamental notion is one of the emergence of distinct and societally embedded business systems. Classifications of types of authority are considered, using a mainly Weberian set of categories, and so a continuum of traditional to legal/rational. Components of this typology are examined, and the role of religion in affecting it is described. Empirical data on worldwide variations along the key dimensions is presented and discussed, drawing mainly on Inglehart but also Hofstede. Three societal systems are then examined as cases to illustrate the emergence of alternative business systems deeply affected by different systems of authority. The first of these is Western bureaucracy, seen in terms of the influence of Roman law, then Christianity, then rationality. The second analysis is of the Japanese business system, and its origins in Japanese social history. The influence of decentralized feudalism in early Japan and its being carried forward during the Tokugawa period is brought into the account, and the diffuse nature of power in Japan today is described. In contrast, the final case, that of the Chinese system, as it developed outside China and now as it is emerging in China itself, is presented as an instance of the role of belief systems, in this case Confucian, on the retention of a centralized structure. In each case, some proposals are made about the impact of such forces on present day practices in the world of managing and organizing.

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