Chapter 17. Whistleblowing as Responsible Followership

C. Fred Alford

The fate of the whistleblower is not the worst problem our society faces, but it illuminates many others. With the whistleblower, one sees not just the fate of the individual in mass democracy, but the fate of the individual in the organization that is situated in mass democracy. For a long time, people have worried about whether the large organization in which most people live their lives contributes to teaching democratic values. Richard Sennett believes that the values of the contemporary workplace are undermining the values of the rest of our lives.[228] The fate of the whistleblower takes these issues and heightens them, showing that the modern organization not only does little to foster civic values but also is committed to the destruction of the individual who displays them.

If my argument about whistleblowers is correct, the proponents of civil society are grasping at straws. Large organizations are not just undemocratic; they are the enemy of individual morality. Individuals who depend on these organizations for their livelihoods may become democrats in their communities in their off-hours, but there will always be something false and partial about their civic life. Large organizations, private and public alike, don't just control the political agenda. They are the political world that matters most to people's lives, that aspect of politics that controls your career, your paycheck, your health insurance, ...

Get The Art of Followership: How Great Followers Create Great Leaders and Organizations now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience books, live events, courses curated by job role, and more from O’Reilly and nearly 200 top publishers.