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  • 8/14/2019 Cultural 10 Cernea


    The Large-Scale Formal Organization and the Family Primary GroupAuthor(s): Mihail CerneaSource: Journal of Marriage and the Family, Vol. 37, No. 4, Special Section: Macrosociology ofthe Family (Nov., 1975), pp. 927-936Published by: National Council on Family RelationsStable URL: 29/07/2009 03:08

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  • 8/14/2019 Cultural 10 Cernea


    T h e Large-Scale F o r m a l Organization n d th e

    F a m i l y P r im a r y G r o u p *MIHAIL CERNEA**

    Institute of Philosophy, Bucharest

    The relationship between thefamily as a primary group and the large formal organi-zation is examined in this paper, the emphasis being on the influence of the familyon theformal organization in which it participates. Data from Romanian coopera-tive farms show that the introduction of the family as a work unit in the structure hasan important impact on the functioning of this type of organization. Data showingpreference for working in family teams as well as their organization and relationshipto the rural cooperative farm are presented and discussed.

    A cardinal research problem both for thesociology of organizations as well as familysociology is the relationship between formallarge-scale organizations and primary groups.Our age is one of an unprecedenteddevelopment of formal organizations, what-ever their nature: economic, administrative-bureaucratic, scientific, educational, etc., theefficiency of which is differentially correlatedwith the degree of integration of theirsubgroups. When the family as a socialgrouping is one of the types of groupsincluded in an organization, a very inter-esting question comes up regarding the extent

    of influence that the family system is able toexert upon the formal organization.William Goode (1963) has correctly

    pointed out that the sociology of the familyshould not confine itself to studying theinfluence of the global society upon the familyas a microgroup. For family sociology to gobeyond parochialism and reach the point ofrelevant theory-building, it has to reverse thequestion and answer another one: in whatways and to what extent does the family as aninstitution influence and control the global

    society? Under which circumstances does thefamily act as an independent variable?Of course, such broad theoretical questions

    can be answered only through extensiveresearch on a large variety of specific

    *The author is indebted to Professors William Goode,Reuben Hill, Alex Inkeles, John Mogey, and H. H.Stahl, as well as to the Editor of this special issue,Professor Constantina Safilios-Rothschild, for theirvaluable comments and suggestions on earlier versions ofthis paper.

    **Department of Sociology, Institute of Philosophy,Bucharest, Romania.

    instances, in which the relationship betweenformal organizations and family systems can

    be clearly identified and analyzed. Thepresent article undertakes the limited task ofanalyzing certain specific aspects relevant tothis relationship.

    The contemporary village in Romaniaoffers a propitious social setting for such astudy, since during recent years it hasundergone comprehensive social change dueto nationwide implementation in the country-side of a large scale formal type of organiza-tion: the agricultural producer cooperative.In the following discussion, as far as the fam-

    ily system is concerned, we will focus on thepeasant family, while the producer coopera-tive farm organization will be viewed as thespecific exponent of the global society.

    In Romania, at present, the agriculturalproducer cooperatives account for 91 per centof peasant agricultural land. According to theRomanian statistical yearbook, these coopscomprise about 3,500,000 families, whichamounts to 94 per cent of all peasantfamilies. All existing 4,500 producer coop-erative farms are run on the basis of identical

    by-laws. Therefore, the social patterns'In Romania, the agricultural producer cooperatives

    were constituted by the combining of several small orvery small peasant family farms. The collectivizationprocess started in 1949 in a handful of villages and wascompleted throughout the country by 1962. Some 4,500producer cooperative farms are currently operating.Each comprises, on the average, about 760 families andabout 2,000 ha. (that is, 5,000 acres). The small farmerstransferred their land and production means to jointownership. Therefore, the main features of this type ofcooperative farm society are: (a) common ownership ofland and of the main means of production; (b) collectiveorganization of agricultural workers; (c) proportional


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    established within this type of large-scaleorganization are more or less similarthroughout the country. Since the imple-mentation of the cooperative farms wasessentially a politically-induced rural socialchange, it can be inferred that the place

    assignedto the

    family bythe


    organization mirrors the attitude of theglobal social system toward the peasantfamily's possible roles. Conversely, thepossible impact of the peasant family uponthe cooperative farm organization, if proven,should be considered a relevant theoreticalissue.

    The conceptualization of the relationshipbetween the formal organization and theprimary group has not yet been tackledsatisfactorily by modern sociology, possiblybecause of some one-sided


    the small number of empirical investigations.Litwak and Meyer (1967) were probably rightin pointing out that "sociologists have beengenerally more concerned with the incompati-bilities between bureaucratic organizationsand primary groups than with their comple-mentarity." An example of this is MaxWeber's argument, endlessly resumed, thatthe processes of industrialization and urbani-zation are slowed down wherever theextended family system displays a markedcohesiveness. This one-sided outlook shouldbe reversed and completed by studying thecomplementarity between formal organiza-tion and primary group.

    When I say one-sided, I am also referringto the research perspectives which havecovered only a relatively limited range ofsocial situations. Some sociologists havestudied, for instance, the relationshipbetween the school as a modern organizationand the family as a primary group; but in thiscase, the family is situated outside the

    distribution of proceeds according to the amount of workperformed by each member. In addition, each family wasattributed by the initial statutes a small plot of land (lessthan one acre) for the usufruct of the family household.Thus, the scattered small, private peasant family farmswere replaced by a large-scale formal organization. Theimplementation of this type of formal organization,through a planned change, sponsored politically andeconomically by the government, was meant precisely tosupply a new structure and organization for the humanand natural resources of the traditional village. Thesocial organization of the village was thus brought to beconsistent with the new socioeconomic and politicalstructures of the global society.

    (school) organization. Quite a number ofstudies concentrate on the relationshipbetween the industrial enterprise and theinformal primary groups within it, but hereanother difference appears: the primarygroup under study is not the family but


    groupof friends within a certain

    plant or enterprise.In exploring the relationship between the

    peasant family and the cooperative farm, wealso have the advantage of introducing adistinct type of social situation, which hasbeen seldom examined so far. This type ofsituation-agricultural-has a relatively lowrate of incidence in Western societies butquite a high one in socialist societies. It thusprovides a new and fertile field for theinvestigation of those interactions, congru-encies, or

    incongruenciesthat exist between

    the formal organization and the family-aprimary group within the former. Thisfacilitates the task of identifying the variety ofexisting connections, including feedback,between