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Cover-Up and Collective Integrity: On the Natural Antagonisms of Authority Internal and External to Organizations

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 1977
15 pages

This paper traces the roots of organizational cover up of wrong-doing to the sources of collective integrity.


The discussion focuses on tensions between the vitality of authority within organizations and the penetration into organizational behavior of the moral values and authority that is dominant in the external society. In the management ranks of formal organizations, authority is constructed to govern internal relations by shielding members from scrutiny under the criteria for moral behavior generally held by external society. Further, the organization does not force members to behave according to externally defined norms, which in many cases are deemed detrimental to organizational goals. When external authorities accept such organizational practices, they give legitimacy to the moral autonomy of an organization. This paper examines several forms of shielding and non-enforcement practices by organizations. For each of these practices, the author discusses how it builds authority to integrate the organization by weakening the penetration of external authority; uses of the method routinely accepted as legitimate by external authority; and how members may drift from legitimate uses to illegitimate "cover-ups." The author also discusses some implications of his analysis for the study of "white-collar" deviance and the experience of complicity in occupational life. 58 references

Date Published: October 1, 1977