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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Scarcity and organizational theory Moudgill, Pravin


There is reason to believe that the world is approaching its limits to growth. The level of natural resources is dwindling rapidly. This diminution is expected to have major consequences for all human activity. The possible effects of environmental scarcity on organizational behaviour were analyzed in this dissertation. The operational problem as defined was: to study at the macro level of analysis the organizational consequences of reduction of matter-energy inputs. It was pointed out that current organizational theory COT) is both consciously and unwittingly biased towards abundance and growth, and that there is little understanding of the imperatives of scarcity in O.T. Evidence to this effect was presented. The concept of scarcity was introduced and the centrality of survival as a determinant of behaviour was used to obtain a definition of scarcity. Two types of definitions were generated: (1) relative scarcity, i.e., scarcity as it relates to the focal organization, and (ii) absolute scarcity, i.e., scarcity in the context of the larger geopolitical system. These definitions were explicated with the help of some basic tools of microeconomic analysis. The definitions were relevant to both organizational as well as nonorganizational behaviour. The inter- and intra-organizational consequences of scarcity were studied separately. Interorganizational strategies which seek to reverse the antecedents of scarcity or to avoid experiencing its consequences were analyzed in detail. The various prescriptions were presented in the form of propositions, and contrasted to those characteristic of behaviour under abundance. A new definition of power was also developed. It was noted that scarcity may be expected to be (i) temporary, (ii) permanent, but not so severe as to cause failure in the long run, and (iii) gradually worsening scarcity such that the organisation expects to fail in the long run. Intraorganisational consequences of the three different modes of scarcity were discussed separately. The particular response strategies to be used under norms of rationality, i.e., to insure survival, were developed in the propositional form in each case. These strategies were compared and contrasted to those characteristic of abundance. Scarcity of availability of supplies is generally accompanied by uncertainty regarding their availability. Two "ideal types" of organisations were described; and it was suggested that, depending on the degree of scarcity, the two types are most likely to survive under conditions of permanent low level availability of matter-energy inputs.

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