26 Breathtaking Philip Selznick Quotes

Philip Selznick is a professor of sociology and law at the University of California in Berkeley. Having authored several groundbreaking books, Selznick is known for his theories of mass society. Here is a look at some of the most notable Philip Selznick quotes ever documented.

“A living association blends technical aims and procedures with personal desires and group interests. As a result, various elements in the association have a stake in its continued existence.”

“All this is conceived as an exercise in engineering; it is governed by the related ideals of rationality and discipline.”

“For example, the shifting of personnel is inhibited when business relations become personal ones and there is resistance to any change that threatens rewarding ties.”

“Formal relations co-ordinate roles or specialized activities, not persons.”

“Freedom is therefore not only man’s most satisfying experience, but his most reliable working tool.”

“He will find that therein lies the cause itself, the hidden source of all of our good fortune.”


“In actual practice, men tend to interact as many-faceted persons, adjusting to the daily round in ways that spill over the neat boundaries set by their assigned roles.”

“In the conflict between instinct and frustrating outer world, and motivated by the anxiety arising from this conflict, the organism erects a protection mechanism between itself and the outer world.”

“Institutionalization is a process. It is something that happens to an organization over time.”

“It has been well said that an effective leader must know the meaning and master the technique of the educator.”

“It is largely through the identification of these needs that diagnosis proceeds, as when the discovery of excessive dependency or aggressiveness suggests that the patient has a particular type of character-structure.”

“Leadership is a kind of work done to meet the needs of a social situation. Possibly there are some individuals more likely to be leaders than others, possessed of distinguishing personal traits or capacities.”

“Leadership is not equivalent to office-holding or high prestige or authority or decision-making. It is not helpful to identify leadership with whatever is done by people in high places.”

“Leadership, pure and simple, is the assumption of responsibility for the pursuit of excellence in group life.”

“Rules apply to foremen and machinists, to clerks, sergeants, and vice-presidents, yet no durable organization is able to hold human experience to these formally defined roles.”

“The degree of institutionalization depends on how much leeway there is for personal and group interaction.”

“The formal or official design for living never completely accounts for what the participants do.”

“The idea of “character” as used by personality analysts is not altogether clear, but its usefulness is scarcely in doubt.”

“The institutional leader is primarily an expert in the promotion and protection of values.”

“The most striking and obvious thing about an administrative organization is its formal system of rules and objectives.”

“The organization thus designed is a technical instrument for mobilizing human energies and directing them toward set aims.”

“The overvaluation of the apparatus of communication and administration is opposed to leadership and the development of leaders.”

“The prizing of social machinery beyond its technical role is largely a reflection of the unique way in which it fulfills personal or group needs.”

“There is a discoverable pattern in the way the ego is organized; and the existence of such a pattern is the basis of character analysis.”

“This is inescapable if we are to develop a theory that will be useful in diagnosing cases of inadequate leadership on the part of persons in authority.”

“This overvaluation also discourages the development of leaders by retarding the progress of the abler men and by putting an excessive premium on routine qualities.”

Here is a look at Philip Selznick as he discusses the meaning of the terms organization and institution and what the unique distinction is between them.

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