A key assumption here is that the rationalization of more and more aspects of modern life can unite (or, at least, create the possibility of uniting) all parties around a common set of principles of right conduct that have been established through the application of reason. While this sounds like a veiled appeal to a Whiggish notion of liberal progress – if only we would let reason prevail then we could all get along without the need for coercion – it should be noted that some Marxists (most notably, Lenin) also believed that, once the fault line of capitalism had been removed under Communism, bureaucracy would come into its own as a perfectly disinterested and efficient mode of administration that could serve the interests of ‘a class for itself’ (Gouldner, 1955). Still, regardless of whether bureaucracy is justified under conditions of liberalism or socialism, when considered in this way it nevertheless leads to a pathologization of deviance in that a refusal to
follow the prevailing principles of right conduct is cast as an affront to a common morality that can therefore be legitimately subject to correction. This position is summed up in Cohen’s (1983: 1) definition of social control as a matter of the way in which ‘society responds to behavior and people it regards as deviant, problematic, worrying, threatening, troublesome or undesirable in some way’. Thus, control is couched as a negative heuristic, that is, how we prevent people from failing to live up to our prevailing standards of right conduct. In an organizational context, Elton Mayo (1880-1949) prominently subscribed to this view through his belief that employee disobedience and recalcitrance was not an authentic expression of autonomy in the pursuit of true interests but the manifestation of ‘reveries’ that would disappear if only the poor unfortunates could be brought to see the error of their ways (Mayo, 1933). In such a situation managers are not only perfectly entitled to coerce subordinates to comply with the organization’s edicts and expectations for the good of everyone; they are actually morally obliged to do so for the sake of the recalcitrant employee’s personal well-being. Mayo’s view thus still runs through much of the human resource management literature that emphasizes the pursuit of unitary interests, with the corollary that any kind dissent or disobedience is, by definition, an irrational act.