Morphogenesis and Human Flourishing

Part of the series Social Morphogenesis pp 211-237


Networks and Commons: Bureaucracy, Collegiality and Organizational Morphogenesis in the Struggles to Shape Collective Responsibility in New Sharing Institutions

  • Emmanuel LazegaAffiliated withSciences Po, Centre de sociologie des organisations (CSO), CNRS. Sciences Po is a member of USPC Email author 

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This chapter identifies collegiality as the organizational form underlying commons in all their manifestations, especially by using personalized relationships as tools for self-management among peers. It then examines an empirical example of articulation of collegiality with the default organizational form characterizing contemporary societies, i.e. technocratic bureaucracy. The setting is a Catholic Diocese in which priests think of themselves as autonomous and professional peers able to self-manage and self-discipline, but in which the bishop is nevertheless the absolute master of his institution. This articulation reveals the forms taken by the political negotiation of a balance between ‘bottom up collegiality’ and ‘top down collegiality’, the latter being shaped by bureaucracy to co-opt collegial and participative forces. This negotiation shows how collegiality and bureaucracy drive each other’s evolution in morphogenetic dynamics that have long helped institutions such as the Catholic Church manage the diversity of its religious orientations, thus saving it from disintegration. In highly bureaucratized, unequal, threatened and digitalized societies, however, this morphogenesis of organizational forms and political negotiation can transform the self-discipline that peers recognize as legitimate into exogenous forms of collective responsibility, first through unobtrusive parametrization of new and emergent commons, and then –once the latter have become transparent for ruthless elites– as violent forms of social control.


Commons Bureaucracy Collegiality Digitalization Social networks Social network platforms Roman Catholic church Priests Organizational morphogenesis