Dialectics & the Theory of Group Organisation

by Andy Blunden

I would like to throw out a challenge.

The Marxist theory organisation, based on Lenin's dialectical materialist concept of democratic-centralism, has received a lot of abuse and little development over the past 70 years. At the same time, bourgeois management theorists and numerous social action group theorists have been developing a practical theory of group development. It seems that democratic-centralism has only ever been coherently developed in relation to a very limited range of organisation, and never seems to have considered organisations in their whole life-cycle; whereas, bourgeois theorists have routinely considered the objects of study as having a full life-cycle of coming-into-being and going-out-of-being.

Without elaborating any further, on the assumption that I am talking to Marxists, it seems to me that the democratic-centralist theory is well founded in terms of its basic elementary Notion, but entirely lacks any elaboration of the inner dynamics and life movement of organisations.

A few years ago I did some reading of non-Marxist writers in this area. I came across three different (though not dissimilar) analyses of the stages of group development, viz.,

PolitePurposePower - ConstructiveEspirit - - [Charles Keating]
BeginningNorm development Conflict TransitionProduction AffectionActualisation - [Stanford & Roak]
Beginning Group feeling & program - Bond - Goal attainmentDecline of interestWinding up[H B Trecker]

Hegel's comments about the non-dialectical structure of other treatments of Logic apply here:

"But as regards any inner, necessary connectedness, there is nothing more than the list of headings of the various parts and the transition is effected simply by saying 'Chapter II', or 'We come now to the judgements', and the like."

The challenge is this: what is the correct Marxist approach to analysis of group development? And what are the true stages of group development, whose inner contradictions can be comprehended in terms of the Notion of group development?

I would be very interested to know if Annette's work with self-organisation has anything to elucidate this question.