"Have you heard the tramping of the New Crusade?" organizational survival and the Woman's Christian Temperance Union /
Abstract (Summary)For over 125 years the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) has been waging a crusade against alcohol and sin in the United States. As a wildly popular organization during the reformist reign of the late-1800s and early-1900s, the WCTU was instrumental in achieving alcohol criminalization with the 18th Amendment to the Constitution in 1919. Today, however, the WCTU is an organization struggling against failing membership numbers and financial insecurity. In this two-year qualitative study, I use means of participant observation, interviews, surveys, focus groups with members, and analysis of organizational literature to examine the WCTU of today. The contemporary WCTU, as a routinized social movement organization, displays qualities of persistence without performance, qualifying it for classification under Meyer and Zucker’s category of Permanently Failing Organizations (1989). While their theoretical model is helpful to a certain extent, this research shows it best explains organizations which persist without goal achievement where other organizations succeed, focusing on the organization’s failure to contend, but yet persist, in an otherwise rational arena. Some organizations, however, continue to persist without goal achievement because the goals themselves have been abandoned or adjusted by other rational organizations to fit within the appetites of the current culture. In these persistent organizations, rationale schemes rely on anachronistic belief systems that are not readily supported in the society in which they reside. The goals, along with the organization, seem to be dying out, and yet the organization stays afloat. This allows for a new analytical category, The Permanently Dying Organization. As a case study that illustrates this new organizational type, the WCTU relies on elements of member age, religiosity, an organizational focus on alcohol, and the cultural-historical elements of ritual to sustain the organization. Through this frame of the Permanently Dying Organization, I examine the contemporary WCTU and endeavor to address its viability for the future.
School:The University of Georgia
School Location:USA - Georgia
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Date of Publication: