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The Aesthetic Imperative of a Rational-Technical Machinery: A Study in Organizational Control Through the Design of Artifacts

Author(s): Robert Witkin

Journal: Music and Arts in Action
ISSN 1754-7105

Volume: 2;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 56;
Date: 2009;
Original page

Keywords: sociology | aesthetics | organisations | affordance

The development of modern business and administrative organizations that are formally rational and technical in their structures and operations has given rise to the false conclusion that the aesthetic dimension does not figure at all in their making. The present paper argues that the opposite is the case, that the organization as a ‘rational-technical machinery’ gives rise to an aesthetic imperative characterized by those familiar elements of modernist design: the sharpness and simplicity of line, the suppression of color, the smoothness and hardness of tactile values, and the preference for planar forms. By such aesthetic means, modern organizations successfully cultivate, in their members, a presence through which the organization is made and re-made; this presence is characterized by the separation of head from body, of work life from private life, of rationality from sensuous values, of production from consumption, and of organizational function from personal expression.
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