43.3 Intentionality within organizations: Reflectivity and the human rights agenda

Wednesday, August 1, 2012: 9:40 AM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Elizabeth GILL , Sociology, Randolph-Macon College, Richmond, VA
My intention within this essay is to articulate a theoretical framework for understanding the nature of human rights through the lens of social power as wielded through organizational structures. With the rise of large-scale multinational corporations whose structures transcend nation-state boundaries, there is an ever-increasing urgency to reconsider the moral accountability of organizational structures. My conceptual framework is designed to reorient sociological analysis of large-scale, bureaucratic organizations by melding a neo-Weberian framework regarding organizations with the pragmatist theorizing of Mead and Dewey.  Such a perspective seems essential to explore how human agents might be able to hold these organizations morally and socially accountable and, in the process, reshape them. 

In articulating my position I will first briefly outline the contributions sociologists can and should make to human rights discourse and practice.  Second, I will outline a general theoretical position regarding human rights that accounts for modern organizational life with respect to human dignity.  Finally, I will posit some possible strategies for holding powerful organizations accountable by subjecting these organizations to serious social scrutiny, by reflective human agents, that could result in the reconstitution, restructuring or abolition of existing organizations and the creation of new organizational forms as a means of addressing the human rights agenda.  In particular, I will focus on a theoretical strategy that seeks to enhance the ability of human beings, within the organizational context, to use and manipulate social structures in accordance with moral principles based on human rights.