Chiefs and Big Men: The Utility of a Tribal Metaphor for Corporate Organizations
33 Pages Posted: 10 Nov 2009
Date Written: July 10, 2009
This study examines how tribes are invoked in organisational studies as the epitome of a ‘natural’ society. As Western society moved past kin-based systems, neither patrilineal nor matrilineal systems for kin organisation and wealth redistributions are functionally operational. The overarching question of this review is: “if modern corporates are viewed as tribes, concomitant with an understanding of the significance of the difference between Big Men and Chiefs in tribal organisations, does this better inform our understanding of the operations of the agency relationships and economic activities (wealth distributions) in corporates?” This research question is answered through a review of three areas: the utility of metaphor in research, and how the particular metaphor of tribalism has been invoked in organisational studies; a consideration of non-industrial tribes, and the five differences between non-industrial tribes and the modern corporate organisation; and a comparison of Big Man and Chiefly systems. This examination of descriptors of organizations as having tribal characteristics shows this invocation accommodates the BigMan/ Chief distinction, but also carries deeply entrenched gender constructions. Its utility is questioned.
Keywords: Big Men, metaphor, Chiefly systems, tribe
JEL Classification: L2, M14, D71
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation