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In addition to their being mechanisms for accomplishing a great variety of objectives and, perhaps as a necessary consequence, the source of many of our current difficulties, organizations have yet another important effect on our collective lives. This effect is more subtle and less widely recognized, but it may be the most profound in its implications. It is perhaps best introduced by an analogy: ""The medium is the message."" This twentieth-century aphorism was coined by Marshall McLuhan to focus attention on the characteristics of the mass media themselves-print, radio, movies, television-in contrast to the content transmitted by these media. McLuhan defines media very broadly as ""any extension of ourselves""; elaborating his thesis, he notes, ""The message of any medium is the change in scale or pace or pattern that it introduces into human affairs"" (1964: 23, 24).

McLuhan's thesis appears to be more clearly applicable to our subject organizations-than to any specific media of communication. First, like media, organizations represent extensions of ourselves. Organizations can achieve goals that are quite beyond the reach of any individual-from building skyscrapers and dams to putting a person on the moon. But to focus on what organizations do may conceal from us the more basic and far-reaching effects that occur because organizations are the mechanisms-the media-by which those goals are pursued.

Organizations are not only contexts influencing the activities of individuals-they are actors in their own right. As collective actors, they can take actions, use resources, enter into contracts, and own property.

The social structure of the modern society can no longer be described accurately as consisting only of relations among natural persons; our understanding must be stretched to include as well those relations between natural and collective actors, and between two or more collective actors. In short, we must come to ""the recognition that the society has changed over the past few centuries in the very structural elements of which it is composed"" (Coleman, 1974: 13).

Source: Scott & Davis, 2007, p 5-7