Saturday, April 02, 2005

A comparative study: extended families and modern organizations

A very interesting field of study that is crying for attention would be comparisons between the institution of the extended family and modern/professional organizations.

1. Just as there are professionally appropriate means of communication/behavior, there is an appropriate way of communicating/behaving within extended families (that is as intricate, if not more intricate than professional requirements).

2. Just like how there are different corporate cultures and standard operating procedures, families diferentiate themselves by the way they interact and behave.

3. Families differ Horizontally and Vertically. Families from different clans & sects, regions & villages behave differently. Differences can also be found vertically (i.e. within sects and villages). Therefore, families that are "higher up" interact differently than those that are lower in the clan hierarchy. These differences can also be seen in the modern paradigm. Organizations have different cultures within each other (i.e. at different levels), and compared to other organizations.

My point is to "demystify" or break any barriers of understanding that may exist between different cultures. Organizations are organizations; be they traditional/familial or modern. Once we understand that, we can more critically analyze them.

Anybody have some thoughts on this one? It's really just a budding idea...


Don Cox said...

Very good idea.

There might be some work like this by anthropologists?

Solomon2 said...

I'm working on the family "honor" issue. It turns out it can be quite compatible with democracy -- if done right. I'll have a post about it on my website tomorrow.

Brian H said...

Power has to be distributed somehow. Any stable pattern constitutes "organization", so in a sense your thesis reduces to the statement that power is exercised within both organizations and families. The question is whether the modes and patterns are similar or different, and if so, how.

Raja said...

I look forward to reading your comments. The immediate impression I get is that family structures, just like any other hierarchical organization, are inherently undemocratic. Secret ballots are supposed to overcome that problem, but just for the sake of comparison, immagine your CEO telling you to vote for one candidate whereas your preferences lie elsewhere.

Raja said...


Good point! Patterns and modes differ among extended families, and between extended families and modern organizations.

If you observe carefully, you will notice minute differences in patterns and modes of interaction between Lebanese families from different regions of the country. The sect is merely one of at least three variables that may be relevant: sect, region & "rank".

In the West, "organizations" of extended families no longer exist; instead people are organized around modern institutions: national armies, state bureaucracies, corporations, NGOs, Labor Unions, etc....

You definitely have these institutions in Lebanon, but peoples' loyalties are torn. Also, you really don't find a "professional culture" in Lebanon, because traditional institutions permeate all aspects of life - both political and business.