deep time organizations

A paper from the anthropocene review exploring institutional longevity by looking at the longest living still present institutions. It frames it all in an ecological imperative.

The institutions surveyed range from the Svierges Riksbank to a cricket club.

They pull out patterns in three categories:

  1. Situatedness: the organizations identity, purpose, and context
  2. Relations: how the organization relates to the external world, including things like out reach
  3. Management: internally how the organization functions
  4. Dissemination: distributing the organizations "products" to external environment

1 Situatedness

  1. Each organization connected it's identity to a large almost unacheivable goal
  2. Elites were involved, whether political, social, or economic, in the establishment and operation
  3. Many organizations were located in areas of relative peace, that didn't have revolutions or foreign occupation (also in national, imperial, countires)

2 Relations

  1. Exclusion and restricted membership
  2. Connected to state power
  3. Stable outreach efforts without large experiments

3 Management

  1. Two main patterns of management: strong public state involvement in management OR an internal hierarchical system.
  2. Decision making incorporates control mechanisms with rarely changing rules
  3. They need to react to change in their environment
  4. By becoming system relevant
  5. Turning the events into their advantage (i.e business model)
  6. Incorporate change (like Catholic churches encylical)

4 dissemination

  1. Provide either basic or transcendental needs
  2. They're mostly monopolists that provide key services that are embedded in their societies and culture
  3. They generate feedback over long periods of time
  4. If they seek real world social change or stability they can measure and respond to that directly
  5. They can be "prototypes" that are imitated
  6. The individuals participating can increase they're status


The authors of the paper tweak several of the observations to fit into a design framework.

1.1 is modified to be about placing the organization in a safe but connected region, instead of being just limited to nationalistic imperialist regimes

3.1, strict heirachies based on private bonds (like religion, class or family) , is modified to be "prominently involve the public" (I don't see how these connect lol)

3.2 focuses on rigid rules, and the authors don't like them. So it gets turned into "create ownership and responsibility for the public in decision making "

These tweaks are motivated by the needs of the Anthropocene.

further implications

  1. Novel organizations emerge with increasing societal complexity. We're reaching the end of spatial differentiation. Time is the next stage.
  2. Most concepts dealing with organizational survival over time are out of date. They're either too restrictive or too assumptive

Also many of the successful organization are based on restricting freedom and participation based on gender, class, or family, and are pretty undemocratic.

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