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Liars and Outliers Bruce Schneier: Enabling the Trust That Society Needs to Thrive by Bruce Schneier

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Chapter 12

Organizations

So far, we've been talking primarily about how societal pressures affect individuals. Organizations—groups as small as several people and as large as hundreds of millions of people—also behave as individual actors. These organizations can be part of larger groups, just as individuals can, and those groups have group interests and corresponding group norms that affect those organizations. And just as Alice has to decide whether or not to steal, break a contract, or cooperate with the police, so do organizations.

It can be hard to think about organizations as a collective object. We often use individual metaphors when we talk about groups, and that results in us trying to use our understanding of individuals when we try to understand groups. We say things like “al Qaeda hates America,” “Google is trying to control the Internet,” and “China wants a strong dollar” as if those groups could have psychological states. It's metonymy, and while there's value to these generalizations, they also have their hazards. We're going to try to navigate those hazards.

Organizations are of course made up of individuals, who bring with them the sorts of societal dilemmas we've already discussed: both the dilemmas between the organizational interest and the individual's own competing interests, and the societal dilemmas that come from the individual being a member of the organization and a member of society as a whole. But we often treat organizations as if they actually were ...

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