To the Editor:
Robert Lekachman, in reviewing William H. Whyte’s Organization Man (March) asks himself if he is exaggerating in stating his case. Surely this must have been on his conscience. For every quotation, given out of context by Mr. Lekachman, one can find another which directly disproves his confused interpretation.
On the score of Mr. Whyte’s acceptance of and unconscious love for the large organization, did Mr. Lekachman skip over those passages which deplore the flocking of the young to the corporations, his statement that the adventurous and aggressive spirits alone are willing to risk the small organization? Does Mr. Lekachman remember that Mr. Whyte fears—quite different from stating positively—that the large organization, and its methods may be here to stay? And that the remedy for this is to fight, not accept?
Mr. Lekachman’s understandable prejudice against Fortune leads him astray. He would have done better to review this book honestly and fairly. He has twisted Mr. Whyte’s “practicality” into something entirely unrelated to Mr. Whyte’s intentions, conscious or unconscious.
On the score of personality tests, to fight lies with lies, fakery with fakery, is Mr. Whyte’s sound advice. Statistics show the possibility that this may be a universal and, I think, healthy immorality. Mr. Lekachman assumes a humorless and lofty moral tone.
Altogether I do not feel Mr. Lekachman is particularly moral himself in trying to prove that Mr. Whyte does not really mean what he says.
(Mrs.) Jean Campbell
South Monsey, New York
To the Editor:
Little unpleasantries I always try to ignore. . . . But now comes Mr. Lekachman whose errors of statement in [his] “Organization Men” bring him into view. He asserts that I have analyzed Fortune; that I have found it to have “a unity of outlook”; that I think it “a consistent and sure-footed organ” of one ideology; that it goes international in order to put down leftward tendencies at home; and he implies that I believe its editors omniscient conspirators.
1) I have not read Fortune with any regularity for many years—so superior on economic fact and business opinion do I find Business Week. I have never “analyzed” Fortune magazine, nor the strange varieties of ideology which at any time may have possessed its assorted editors, whoever they may be. I have never assumed that it is “a consistent, sure-footed organ” of any ideology. In fact, I should have characterized it as inconsistent and stumbling. With one exception: although seemingly informed by often radical backgrounds, whoever produced it appeared consistently to lack omniscience.
2) My major use of Fortune in the book cited by your writer is based upon explicit quotation, which appears in the following context:
Many sophisticated conservatives would make loans, which they say are huge, to foreign countries for political as well as economic purposes. They would ‘grant’ money to countries like England, and ‘loan’ money to countries like the Latin Americas; in their effort to stop the leftward drift of the world, whomever they could not control they would team up with. The amount of public money used, write Fortune editorialists, would depend on the willingness of U.S. private capital ‘to seize boldly upon the greatest chance, the greatest “venture” it has ever faced.’ This money would be spent ‘in return for a franchise to live and do business in peace at a profit.’ That is a straight-forward political statement of who would get What. And again: ‘We are asking the U. S. businessman,’ writes Fortune, ‘to think of Wendell Willkie’s “One World” not in fancy geopolitical terms, but merely in market terms.’ In describing the glories of capitalist expansion in terms of what father and son did, they ask: ‘Is this expansion from local ironmonger to “national distribution” ordained to stop there? The task of expanding trade in stove pipe from a national to an international range is a tricky and often exasperating business, but there is money in it.’ This is the image of the profitable world of U. S. power, with Britain waning and Russia waxing strong (The New Men of Power, pp. 241, 242). I have no desire to edit the ten-year-old proclamations of Fortune editors, although, edited or not, I do not wish them to be confused with my own assertions. I am also glad to say that I have no reason to modify the views which form the context in which these quotations are presented.
3) In this book I also cite Fortune as an example of “sophisticated conservatism.” This little phrase, so often kidnapped and abused, cannot be properly understood without its twin brother, “practical conservatism.” Among other terms of definition, “sophisticated conservatives” seem more aware of the political conditions of money-making and corporation-maintenance, which of course include the international. This I contrasted with an older vision of a more Utopian capitalism: the “practical conservative,” in his outlook and drive, is immediately economic and less aware of larger political realities.
When I wrote this book, a decade ago, Fortune had been for some time a vehicle of the sophisticated rather than the practical variety of business ideology. I do not see how this can reasonably be denied.
Mr. Lekachman fails to mention the contrast without which either term loses much of its meaning. He does not name the date of my publication, which, however convenient for him, is surely a disservice to your readers. What he has done, in brief, is mistake my explicit use of one ten-year-old article in Fortune for an “analysis” of the magazine’s “ideology”—which he presumably takes to be permanent. Having made this up, he then uses it in spurious and invidious contrast with what I suppose must be called his own analysis of “Fortune’s view of the world,” which turns out to be conveniently and ambiguously expressed by one writer, Mr. William H. Whyte, Jr. I cannot imagine what Mr. Lekachman takes all this to be in aid of.
4) As for the statement, alleged to be mine, that “Fortune’s stand in favor of international aid [is] motivated by a desire to stave off” leftward tendencies in America: I do not know the motives of the editors of Fortune as of ten years ago: and I think them of small importance. But as for the general idea, so crudely stated by Mr. Lekachman: certainly I have believed, and do now believe, that since World War II any sound business ideology is likely to be relevant to international expenses as well as to domestic politics. The motive indicated above, however, is nowadays not likely to be important, if only because in the United States there are no leftward tendencies to “stave off.”
I do not believe that U. S. foreign policy can be adequately explained, as in the current formula, by (a) the numerous and evil actions of the Soviet Union, plus (b) the numerous proclamations of ideals by America. (a) + (b) = the wearisome voice of America. There are perhaps other elements those who would understand the world must consider. The relations of domestic and international problems are most intricate; I do not know of an altogether adequate statement of them. But I have been and I am trying to confront such problems.
5) Rather than doing so himself, Mr. Lekachman adopts a tone and with it covers up the issues—a fashion often displayed in your magazine. It is a way to stop thinking by the use of such easy phrases as Mr. Lekachman’s “Marxist and Hobsonite echoes.” I am less interested in echoes, Marxist or otherwise, than in explicit statement. It is less important that your writer imputes to me opinions I do not hold than that he obscures serious problems by such fashionable superficiality. Let me say explicitly: I happen never to have been what is called “a Marxist,” but I believe Karl Marx one of the most astute students of society modern civilization has produced; his work is now essential equipment of any adequately trained social scientist as well as of any properly educated person. Those who say they hear Marxian echoes in my work are saying that I have trained myself well. That they do not intend this testifies to their own lack of proper education.
6) I need comment only briefly upon Mr. Lekachman’s rather ungenerous review of The Organization Man—my own view of which was printed in the New York Times of December 9, 1956. As readers of White Collar (1951) and The Power Elite (1956) will have immediately seen, both Mr. Lekachman and Mr. Whyte agree with much of what I have written about bureaucracy and the higher business life. About the general run of the facts and about many of the meanings, that is. The political judgments involved on all sides are divergent. For I have, of course, in my several discussions of these matters, taken a consistently critical and altogether in dependent view.
C. Wright Mills
Mr. Lekachman writes:
Mr. Mills’s amiable communication hinges on differences of interpretation of passages contained in his New Men of Power. Such textual questions are best settled by each reader for himself by consideration of the full evidence. That evidence includes pp. 25-27 of Mr. Mills’s book, evidently overlooked by him in his concise letter. On page 25, for example, there is this passage:
The sophisticated conservatives, represented by magazines like Fortune and Business Week, are similar to the far left in that their political demands are continuous and specifically focused. They leave the noise to the practical right; they work in and among other elite groups, primarily the high military, the chieftains of large corporations, and certain politicians. Knowing what they want, wanting it all the time, and believing the main drift is in their favor, these sophisticated conservatives try to realize their master aim quietly.
These remarks support my inference that Mr. Mills considers Fortune “consistent” and “sure-footed,” and even “conspiratorial.” “Omniscient” is his word, not mine. My article was on Whyte not Mills. Therefore, after summarizing Mills’s view of Fortune (fairly and accurately, I persist in believing), I proceeded to other matters.
Points 4 and 5 I take to be expressions of Mr. Mills’s global thoughts. I am pleased that we agree about the importance of Marxism to his work. As for point 6, I concede without demur Mr. Mills’s right to his opinion of my analysis. Opinions, as he points out, will diverge.