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Social Cocoons: Encapsulation and Identity Transformation Organizations*



The transformation of personal identities is an implicit or explicit goal of many organizations, including “new” religious movements, self-help groups, “deprogramming” enterprises, rehabilitation programs, and others. This essay describes and accounts for one important structural feature of identity transformation organizations (ITOs): encapsulation. Three types of encapsulation are described–physical, social, and ideological–and reasons why different ITOs emphasize certain types of encapsulation rather than others are suggested. Finally, we discuss how the need for encapsulation may conflict with other organizational imperatives of ITOs and we discuss the implications of this organizational dilemma for the successful functioning of ITOs.
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... High boundary religious groups offer a distinct case in our spiritual/religious marketplace as they are extremely active in constructing and rendering absolute worldview and practices meant to order cultural chaos and produce settled lives (Berger 1967;Davidman 1991;Kanter 1972). I use the descriptive term "high boundary" here to represent a group with high levels of social and ideological encapsulation (Greil and Rudy 1984), groups where, as Kanter (1972, 52) suggests, members "have a clear sense of their own boundaries" and construct a "strong distinction between the inside and the outside." The ICOC, as one such high boundary religious organization, worked hard to erect social and ideological walls, and to distinguish itself from secular society and other Christian churches while supporting cultural values, beliefs, and practices that these outside institutions embraced. ...
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Doctoral thesis accepted at HEC Montréal. A comparative organizational ethnography of peer support and mutual aid in the Canadian province of Quebec.
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... Additionally, the literature on the Social Cocoon (Greil and Rudy, 1984) is useful in terms of understanding the behavior of the police and media concerning the tragedy. According to the concept of the social cocoon, the proximal forces (i.e., cognitions and emotions) are heavily influenced by distal ones (i.e., ongoing narrative and socialization practices of an organization). ...
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Artykuł podejmuje problem postrzegania i odczuwania ciała w praktyce nabywania tożsamości praktykującego hatha-jogę. Proces stawania się praktykującym jest związany z praktykami pracy nad ciałem i ich definiowaniem oraz określonym postrzeganiem ciała i odczuć z niego płynących. W tekście opisuję fazy tego procesu: 1. faza wstępna – konstruowanie motywów i pierwsze kroki; 2. faza pełniejszego rozpoznawania efektów psychofizycznych i przypisywania im odpowiednich znaczeń; 3. faza pełniejszego rozpoznawania duchowych aspektów hatha-jogi (quasi-religia). Relacje umysłu i ciała komplikują się w momencie znaczącego zaangażowania się w praktykę jogi i zdefiniowania praktyk cielesnych jako zarówno umysłowych, jak i duchowych. Praca nad ciałem może zmienić zachodnią perspektywę definiowania ciała jako elementu materialnego ludzkiej egzystencji (wizja kartezjańska) w wizję traktowania go jako substancji uduchowionej (wizja filozofii wschodniej), co jednak nie zawsze jest możliwe, jeśli przyjmuje się założenia innych religii (np. katolickiej). Zmiany w ciele i psychice trzeba wtedy inaczej zdefiniować i – by pogodzić założenia religii konwencjonalnej z nowymi doświadczeniami duchowymi – muszą pojawić się ich określone objaśnienia językowe (często przyjmujące schemat stałych formuł językowych).
Boundary spanner corruption—voluntary collaborative behavior between individuals representing different organizations that violates their organizations’ norms—is a serious problem in business-to-business (B2B) marketing relationships. Drawing on insights from the literatures on the dark side of business relationships and deviance in sales and service organizations, the authors identify boundary spanner corruption as a potential dark side complication inherent in close B2B marketing relationships. The same elements that generate benefits in interorganizational relationships, such as those between customer and seller firms, also enable the development of boundary-spanning social cocoons that can foment corrupt activities under certain conditions. A conceptual framework illustrates how trust at the interpersonal, intraorganizational, and interorganizational levels enables corrupt behaviors by allowing deviance-inducing factors stemming from the task environment or from the individual boundary spanner to manifest in boundary spanner corruption. Interpersonal trust between representatives of different organizations, interorganizational trust between these organizations, and intraorganizational agency trust of management in their representatives foster the development of a boundary-spanning social cocoon—a microculture that can inculcate deviant norms leading to corrupt behavior. Boundary spanner corruption imposes direct and opportunity costs on the involved organizations, with the additional burden of latent financial risk associated with potential exposure. The authors substantiate their multi-level framework and propositions with field-based insights from qualitative interviews with senior executives. The multi-level framework of boundary spanner corruption extends beyond extant marketing literature, highlights intriguing directions for future research, and offers new managerial insights.
This article sheds light on how a group of workers manage to create an enduring collective resistance, in an uncongenial context of neoliberal management pushing for compliant behaviors. Research on resistance has given scant attention to the concrete conditions through which collective resisting efforts can be sustained, despite adverse contexts. We highlight the process through which everyday collective resistance produces substantial effects and becomes viewed by management and workers as an integral part of an organization’s power relations. We particularly illuminate how practices that mutually constitute belongingness and insubordination continuously reinforce collective resistance to make it the very texture of workers’ lives. We therefore analyze everyday resistance as a way of life, through which workers aim to simultaneously contest managerial authority and protect their own social boundaries in a neoliberal context. Thereby, we offer a way to reconcile recognition and post-recognition politics in a dialogue envisaging the ‘efficacy’ of resistance in a new light.
One of the more controversial and yet little examined aspects of the current "new" religions, such as the Unification Church and the Hare Krishnas, is their common strategy of public fundraising, i.e., depending on the very societies which they condemn for voluntary contributions. Using a resource mobilization approach from social movements theory, we examine the organizational infrastructure of such a fund-raising strategy (in terms of organizational requisites, subcultural ideology, and situational constraints) as it comes to be used by world-transforming movements. The analysis describes the dynamics of a strategy that elevates the ritual of public solicitation to sacramental significance and indicates what its potential returns for certain social movements might be.
Studies of recruitment to social movements have focused mainly on the social psychological reasons for joining or the interaction between members and prospective recruits. This paper examines the inter-relationship between recruitment strategy, ideology, movement structure, and external social forces in the development of the Hare Krishna movement. A survey of over 200 Hare Krishna devotees shows that opportunistic exploitation of local conditions, rather than ideology or structure, has been responsible for the growth of the Hare Krishna movement in the United States.
Unlike the psycho-physical interpretation of the Pavlovian approach (Hunter, 1953; Hinkle and Wolffs, 1956) or psychoanalytic notions (Lifton, 1961; Meerloo, 1956) on thought reform, we contend in this paper that contemporary religious deprogramming of American young “cultists” may be best analyzed in terms of ego-identity change as suggested by Schein (1961). The ego-identity change occurs in interaction with “significant others“ who provide a unique plausibility structure through three specific stages: a shock treatment of “defreezing,” “protective” or “coercive” persuasion to eliminate “floating” influence of the “cultist mind-control,” and readjustment of the changed subjective reality to the larger society. A set of data was collected through intensive interviews with 17 deprogrammed youths and a few deprogrammers and rehabilitators, and through participant observations in the deprogramming-rehabilitation sessions. The data then were used as illustrative and interpretive materials in support of our contention.
In this paper, testable propositions are developed regarding the conditions under which an individual’s previous dispositions may be expected to play a greater or lesser role in the process of conversion to the perspectives of social and religious movements. It is then argued that most situations in which cases of conversion are to be found are such that the role played by previous dispositions will be relatively great. It is therefore suggested that cognitive style is a variable which must be taken into consideration by those concerned with understanding the appeal of particular social and religious movements. Attempts to operationalize the cognitive style concept are encouraged.
Upon encountering an unconventional belief system, people are often heard to exclaim: "How could anyone in his right mind believe such nonsense?" This sentiment is not restricted to the layperson. A more subtle version of it is featured in some of the social scientific literature on religious cults an movements. As such, it gives rise to explanations of cult or movement viability that are premised on an assumption that unconventional religious beliefs are highly vulnerable to everyday experience and therefore inherently fragile. This assumption prompts some scholars to propose the existence of elaborate "plausibility structures" that are presumably required to maintain the tenuous beliefs and to protect their respective adherents from cognitive dissonance. This paper challenges the view that unconventional belief systems are necessarily fragile and owe their persistence primarily to the power of plausibility structures. It is also argued that such assumptions can function as barriers to understanding of contemporary religious movements and other unconventional beliefs.
Explanations for the spread of a modern religious movement are sought within the dynamics of the movement itself. Five key factors are identified and functionally analysed: (1) an acephalous, reticulate organizational structure, (2) face-to-face recruitment along lines of pre-existing significant social relationships, (3) commitment generated through an act or experience, (4) change-oriented ideology, and (5) real or perceived opposition. It is suggested that these five factors are common in other types of movements and that when they are present and interacting, the conditions which were causal in the genesis of the movement become facilitating only and are not essential to its spread.
Drawing from the writings of Becker, Kanter and others, an investment model of the process of commitment to an organization is developed. The commitment process can be described as a funnel wherein commitment demands are gradually escalated as people invest more and more of their resources in the line of action sponsored by the organization. The utility of this model is illustrated through an analysis, based on observational data, of the commitment process as it occurs in Alcoholics Anonymous.