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Agencies Class, Fall 1999

California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Latest update: October 29, 1999
E-Mail Curran or Takata.

jeanne's Lecture Notes on Exercise 9: Information Control within Organizations
Sample E-Mails on Information Control

jeanne's Lecture Notes on Exercise 9:
Information Control and Bureaucracy

Shuck, on p. 58, discusses the complexities of "reasoned decision-making." As experts vie with policy makers to gain decision-making authority, which is an important facet of power, the administrative courts are often called on to decide just how reasoned this "reasoned decison-making" was. And that is not an easy call.

Foucault would say that power is at the essence of everything. Whether you agree with that perspective or not, you realize that much of the bureaucratic interplay involves power plays. And information control is the lowest and easiest form of control, hence, power. One plausible reason for that is that information control does not require any special skill. It requires only the withholding of information. So anyone can play that can get control over some essential information.

To the extent that you are the only one who knows how to do some essential task in the organization, you have control over others who need that task done.

Sample E-Mails on Exercise 9: Information Control

On October 26, 1999 Bobby Berglund wrote:

Dr. Curran,

Can you please explain briefly to me about Information Control ? You discussed it last week in class, but I don't think I fully understood it.

Bobby Berglund, SOC 328 (Agencies)

On October 27, 1999 jeanne wrote:

Dear Bobby:

Information control is the most common kind of control used in both work and family environments to gain power. At work, if Mary K. is the only one who knows how to fill out travel forms, then you must always come to Mary K. when you need to fill out a travel form. If Mary K. just never has the time to teach anyone else to do this task, she becomes indispensable to the organization, because she holds key information. By selecting several pieces of information that they "control" people create a sense of their importance to the organization and a false consciousness of "security." Because they are often very helpful in doing their special tasks for you, they do not appear to be grasping for power and control, unless you are someone they don't like. Then you may have difficulty getting the task done.

In the family, the same kind of control exists. The "head of the household" may work outside the home and control others by refusing to do home-related tasks on the basis of his/her having a heavier workload. While the workload may be heavier for that person, there may also be status related to the earning of money, and that status may be used for unfair control. Or one family member may have the knowledge of how to work certain machinery, and just never have the time to teach others, so that everyone who needs to use that machinery must gain his/her help to do that. Again, they may be very nice about helping you, but very unwilling to share their special knowledge.

In this way, information permits us to control.

Does this help? jeanne