R.M. Kanter and F. Tonnies: A Comparison
Rosabeth Moss Kanter is a Sociologist who specializes in business management. (Bernhut, 2006) She currently holds a position as a professor of Business at Harvard Business School. She has written a number of pieces on the subject of Change Management, a subfield which is considered to be her specialty. (Bernhut, 2006)
Kanter was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1943. She went to college at Bryn Mawr College, majoring in English and Sociology. (Bernhut, 2006) She shortly thereafter obtained a PhD in Sociology from the University of Michigan. (Bernhut, 2006)
Though she has written many books, mostly on the subject of Change Management, she is most well-known for her theory about tokenism.( Chafetz, J. (Ed), 2006) Tokenism is a theory that posits that being a member of a minority group can effect and individual’s performance due to such factors as increased visibility and increased performance pressure. ( Chafetz, J. (Ed), 2006) She posits that a person who is a visible minority will be under increased scrutiny due to an inability to “blend in” to the group of workers. ( Chafetz, J. (Ed), 2006) She further suggests that such a person would face performance pressure, either real or perceived, from acting as the “representative” of their particular minority group to the management. ( Chafetz, J. (Ed), 2006) That is to say, if he or she performs better than average, it will create the perception that all minorities from a similar group would also be above average. ( Chafetz, J. (Ed), 2006) The pressure to perform derives from the fact that the opposite holds true as well. ( Chafetz, J. (Ed), 2006) If a minority performs poorly, that performance may be generalized by management to be typical of that minority group. ( Chafetz, J. (Ed), 2006)
Kanter’s most renowned book, Men and Women of the Corporation, is considered a classic work in critical management studies, bureaucracy analysis and gender studies.( Kanter, R.M.1993) The five-year study paints a grim picture of corporate life in the 1970s, particularly for women. ( Kanter, R.M.1993) Kanter describes the cyclic nature of their circumstances: Women have trouble getting ahead, despite effort, they therefore become apathetic, and their job performance suffers, further excluding them from opportunities to better their situation. (Kanter, R.M.1993) Women in management, according to Kanter, suffer from the worst effects of tokenism. ( Kanter, R.M.1993) Their successes are considered to be exceptional, while their failures reflect poorly upon all women in the workforce. ( Kanter, R.M.1993)
Kanter concludes that the situation has improved for workers in recent times. First, opportunities outside major corporations, where these pitfalls are the most pronounced, have increased. ( Kanter, R.M.1993) Further, modern management positions are now more demanding, and therefore more fulfilling. ( Kanter, R.M.1993)Workers in slimmer, more streamlined companies are more empowered. In contrast, though, Kanter points out that job security has disappeared, while the pressures of the work environment have increased. ( Kanter, R.M.1993)
Another Sociologist, Ferdinand Tonnies, was more of a pioneer in the field. ( Vernon, 1972). He is considered to be the first German Sociologist. (Vernon, 1972). Born in Danish-controlled North Frisia Schleswig in 1855, he studied at several universities in Europe, eventually receiving a doctorate at Tubingen in 1877. ( Vernon, 1972).
Toonies wrote over 900 works on subjects in Sociology and Philosophy. ( Vernon, 1972).Many of his publications furthered the new field of pure Sociology. He is particularly well known for creating the paradigm of Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft.(Toonies, 1887) Toonies theorized that everybody could be classified into one of these two groups. Gemeinschaft translates loosely to “community”. (Toonies, 1887) This means that the group is tied together through mutual bonds and togetherness, which are the goals for this group. (Toonies, 1887) Gesellschaft refers to financial ties and other social ties and focuses on individualism and superficial monetary ties to others. (Toonies, 1887) Examples of this include corporations, states, and other voluntary associations. (Toonies, 1887)
Tied into these concepts by Toonies is two distinct types of will. (Toonies, 1887) The first of these, “essential will”, is where the actor sees himself as the means of further the goals of the social group. (Toonies, 1887) This will is associated with Gemeinschaft. The other type of will is “arbitrary will”. (Toonies, 1887) This will sees the group as a tool for furthering an individual’s goals.
In Gemeinschaft, moral equilibrium is attained through morals, conformism, and social exclusion as a disciplinary measure. (Toonies, 1887) In Gesellschaft, equilibrium is achieved thorough laws, tribunals and prisons. Rules are implicit in the former paradigm and explicit in the latter. (Toonies, 1887)
These concepts are essential for “pure” Sociology, but have been criticized as being too general and simplistic. In reality, as opposed to “pure” sociology, these wills and roles blend together depending on the individual and the circumstances.
Kanter and Tonnies are very different in their approaches and their conclusions. Kanter is far more empirical, basing her conclusions on specific study and measurements. ( Suls & Wheeler, 2000) Tonnies, on the other hand is more theoretical, offering theories that are broader, and more descriptive than practical. Tonnies work might be applied to a larger audience, describing as it does entire societies, while Kanter’s work is specific to the corporate world from the 1970s on. ( Suls & Wheeler, 2000)
While very different as Social Scientists, Kanter and Tonnies do share quite a few common characteristics. Both are concerned with motivations for behaviors in a given setting. Both theorize about the dynamics of a society that is more or less defined by economics. As individuals, both contributed significantly to the field of Sociology. ( Suls & Wheeler, 2000) Toomis on Pure theory and Kanter on practical application. ( Suls & Wheeler, 2000)
Kanter and Tonnies are both valuable contributors to the field of Sociology. Toonies helped shape the theoretical underpinnings of sociological theory, while Kanter developed theories that were situation-specific and suggested a meaningful course of action.
Bernhut, Stephen, 2006. “In Conversation- Rosabeth Moss Kanter” retrieved from website Ivey Business Journal Online: http://iveybusinessjournal.com/topics/the-workplace/in-conversation-rosabeth-moss-kanter#.Um_mDVBQFN8
Chafetz, J. (Ed), 2006. Handbook of the Sociology of Gender. Springer Science and Business Media, LLC. New York, New York.
Kanter, R.M. 1993. Men and Women of the Corporation. BasicBooks, New York, New York.
Suls, J. & Wheeler, L. 2000. Handbook of Social Comparison Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers New York, New York.
Toonies, F. 1887. Community and Society .Michigan State University Press. Lansing MI.
Vernon, Glenn. 1972. Human Interaction: Introduction to Sociology Ronald Press Co. New York, New York