Instrumental and Expressive Elites in a Religious Organization. The United Synagogue in London / Elites expressives et instrumentales dans une organisation religieuse : la Synagogue Unie à Londres - article ; n°1 ; vol.43, pg 141-155


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Archives des sciences sociales des religions - Année 1977 - Volume 43 - Numéro 1 - Pages 141-155
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Stephen Sharot
Instrumental and Expressive Elites in a Religious Organization.
The United Synagogue in London / Elites expressives et
instrumentales dans une organisation religieuse : la Synagogue
Unie à Londres
In: Archives des sciences sociales des religions. N. 43/1, 1977. pp. 141-155.
Citer ce document / Cite this document :
Sharot Stephen. Instrumental and Expressive Elites in a Religious Organization. The United Synagogue in London / Elites
expressives et instrumentales dans une organisation religieuse : la Synagogue Unie à Londres. In: Archives des sciences
sociales des religions. N. 43/1, 1977. pp. 141-155.
doi : 10.3406/assr.1977.2116 Sc soc des Rel. 1977 43/1 janv.mars) 141-155
Stephen SHAROT
The united Synagogue London
Dans sa typologie des organisations Amitai Etzioni classe
les organisations religieuses sous le type normatif où amalgame
entre élites expressives er instrumentales serait la règle
En fait la typologie des religieuses est diversifiée
et la différenciation entre ces deux types élites demeure perti
nente celle-ci se renforce ailleurs une distinction supplé
mentaire entre professionnels et laïcs
La Synagogue Unie de Londres organisation religieuse dont
la composante instrumentale est relativement importante
fait une distinction très nette entre élite instrumentale-laïque
et expressive-rabbinique Ce que on peut observer renforce
hypothèse que plus les élites expressives et instrumentales sont
différenciées plus les risques de conflit propos des sphères
autorité sont grands
Reformulations and elaborations of the church-sect typology are
endless and it has been argued that the excessive concern with the typology
may have blocked development within the sociology of religion Some
recent analyses have moved away from the typology and have used concepts
and theories taken from the more general field of the sociology of orga
nizations One area of continued neglect however is the study of
would like to thank Dr Bry an Wilson All Collage Oxford and
Dr Peter Medding Melbourne University for their comments on draft of this paper
For review and synthesis James BECKFORD Religious Organization
Current Sociology 21 1973
relationships between elites within religious organizations The
intention of this paper is firstly to provide typologie of elite structures
which will be of use in an analysis of comparative authority and
patterns of conflict within religious organizations and secondly to
illustrate an unusual type of elite structure by an analysis of Jewish
religious organization the United Synagogue in London
Elite may be categorized according to the issues or tasks over
which they exercise power broad distinction which has been usefully
applied in the comparative study of organizations is that between instru
mental tasks the acquisition and allocation of material resources and
expressive tasks the formulation interpretation and expression of central
symbols and values Amitai Etzioni has made use of this distinction
in formulating types of elite structures in relation to his organizational
typology of coercive utilitarian and normative organizations He wrote
that the greatest separation of instrumental and expressive leadership was
found in organizations where the type of power to control
inmates is based on the application or threat of physical sanctions and
where the orientation of lower participants towards the organization is
one of alienation In utilitarian organizations where power is remune
rative based on control of material resources and rewards and where
the involvement of lower participants is calculative there tends to be
great variation in elite structures but general workers will accept at
most instrumental direction from the organization and will tend to develop
their own expressive elites The almost complete amalgamation of
expressive and instrumental elites is found in normative organizations
where power is normative based on the allocation and manipulation of
symbolic rewards and where the membership is positively and morally
involved The complete separation of control of instrumental and
expressive activities is impossible in normative organizations since instru
mental matters such as financing will affect expressive ones and vice versa
In religious organizations where the pattern is highly pro
nounced expressive and instrumental elites are most likely to be amalga
mated but where there is some distinction there is tendency to insist
on the superiority of the expressive over the instrumental leaders 5)
For some pertinent comments on this neglect see Alan BRYMAN Sociology of
Religion and Sociology of Elites Elite and Sous-Elite in the Church of England
Archives de Sciences Sociales de Religions 38 1974 109-21
We follow here Anthony Giddens definition of elite those who lead in any
social category of social activity An elite group is made up of those persons who
are at the head of specifiable social organization which has an internal authority
structure Elites in the British Class Structure in STANWORTH and GIDDENS eds)
Elites and Power in British Society Cambridge University Press 1974.
My definitions follow with some modification those of Etzioni see below) which
in turn are derived from the distinctions made by Bales and associates in their studies
of small groups and the dichotomising of Parsons four main functional problems of
social systems instrumental-adaptive and integrative-expressive Talcott PARSONS
Robert BALES and Edward SHILS Working Papers in the Theory of Action Free
Press of Glencoe 1953 pp 64 144-5 180-90
Amitai ETZIONI comparative Analysis of Complex Organizations Free Press
of Glencoe 1961 Revised enlarged edition 1975 Page references will be to the revised
edition Amitai Dual Leadership in complex organizations American Socio
logical Review 30 1965 688-98
portrayal religious organizations as relatively conflict-free
in which the moral involvement of the lower participants confers unequi
vocal legitimacy to the elite has been criticized It may be possible
to justify the omission of any discussion on the use of coercion in religious
organizations since focus is on organizations in modern demo
cratic societies 7) but there is little appreciation of the importance of
utilitarian considerations in the operations internal divisions and rela
tionships within religious organizations Of course typology may
be defended as one of ideal types and he acknowledged that empirical
organizations are likely to combine the characteristics of these types in
varying degrees but he wrote that non-normative patterns are relatively
minor in religious organizations and he gives the impression that norma
tive consensus is unproblematic for religious organizations 8)
One problem with analysis arises from his functionalist
endeavour to show that the effective elite hierarchy is one in which the
structure of the elites and hierarchy of goals or goals and means are
congruent With regard to the culture goals of normative organi
zations it is functional that expressive elites dominate since expressive
elites initiate and direct goal activities... 10 By functional Etzioni
means greater effectiveness in the achievement of the goals
and he notes that this requires fulfilling several or all of the
needs adaptation integration latency as well as goal attainment 11
Since for Etzioni is the central explanatory intervening
variable 12 between types of compliance and other variables such as
elite structures the problem of measurement of effectiveness would appear
to be central 13)
Kenneth THOMPSON The Religious Organization in MCKINLAY ed.)
Processing People Case Studies in Organizational Behaviour Holy Rinehart Winston
1973 See also C.C HARRIS Reform in Normative Organization The Sociological
Review 17 1969 167-85 DHOOGHE Problems with Regard to Different
Types of Membership in the Church Social Compass 15 1968 93-9
ETZIONI Comparative Analysis 41
In the revised version of his book Etzioni notes recent study of the Roman
Catholic Church by J.R Sprehe who characterises the Church as dual structure
normative-utilitarian) which in addition to theology and saving souls is also concerned
with the administration of vast ecclesiastical structure and auxiliary organizations
ibid. pp 222-6 Although on smaller scale large proportion of other religious
organizations may be characterized as dual structures
Ibid. 157
10 170
11 Ibid. pp 133-47 Etzioni emphasises that his analysis is not based on goal
model approach and he has elsewhere written critique of this approach ETZIONI
Two Approaches to Organizational Analysis Critique and Suggestion Administrative
Science Quarterly 1960 257-78 On the problems of the goal model approach for
religious organizations see BECKFORD op cit. pp 23-33
12 ErzioNi Comparative Analysis 112
13 In the revised edition Etzioni reviews study by Hall Haas and Johnson in
which were ranked in terms of the ease of determining or measuring goal
achievement and he notes that without the ability to measure the organizational
effectiveness is very difficult to assess .ibid. pp 150-1 However Etzioni makes no attempt
to revise his discussion of effectiveness in the light of this consideration
The problem of measuring the effectiveness of structures and operations
with reference to the supposed goals are particularly great
for religious organizations 14 Etzioni argues that in those religious
organizations where the expressive elite is subordinate to the instrumental
elite major dysfunction is the overemphasis on instrumental activities
such as building expansion to detriment of salvation and other religious
goals 15 But how is the attainment or otherwise of salvation to be
measured Members of religious organization may believe that they have
the means to evaluate the or otherwise of their religious goals
but with one or two exceptions such as the goal of terrestrial millennium
in specified and not too distant future these means are not ordinarily
perceivable by the observer If the achievement of goals cannot be assessed
it will not be possible to conclude whether the elite structures are
functional or dysfunctional This does not however invalidate the
usefulness of typology of elite structures in generating hypotheses
It is useful typology if it is directed away from functionist endeavours
to an analysis of power relationships and conflict between elite groups
The major proposition to be tested in this paper is as follows If as
Etzioni suggests expressive and instrumental tasks cannot easily be
separated in religious organizations then where there is distinction
between an instrumental and an expressive elite we should expect to
find conflicts over their respective spheres of authority and over substantive
Etzioni makes further distinction among members of elites according
to whether their source of power is derived from their organizational office
or from their personal characteristics He notes that expressive positions
such as those found in religious organizations are frequently in the hands
of formal leaders that is leaders who have both an office and personal
influence 16 However for an analysis of elite structures in religious
organizations it is useful to make further distinction between types of
members between the religious specialist or professional and the layman
The religious professional has undergone specialist training for which
he has received ordination or certification and he is appointed to or
employed in full time post to perform religious and other related roles
The layman is defined simply by the absence of these attributes although
we may distinguish between the lay member and the lay employee
14 The goals of religious organizations are often super-terrestrial or super-empirical
and are not generally measurable or quantifiable As Talcott Parsons has noted If the ends
are transcendental the effectiveness of the means cannot be determined by the gico-
experimental method The logical-experimental method can only be applied to the inter
mediate temporal goals of the organization below any point of transcendental reference
Talcott PARSONS The Structure of Social Action New York Free Press of Glencoe 1949
pp 256-8 See also the discussion in THOMPSON op cit
15 ETZIONI op cit. 172 In the revised edition Etzioni reviews study by James
Ashbrook on 120 Protestant churches in upstate New York pp 197-205 Etzioni claims
that the study shows that expressive leaders are more effective than instrumental leaders
However the criteria of effectiveness are somewhat vague and are of course below any
point of transcendental reference As such they may be questioned by some as appro
priate criteria for religious organization
16 Ibid. 167
Religious organizations vary greatly in the extent to which they make
distinction between laymen and religious specialists 17) but if diffe
rentiation is made the religious specialists are most likely to perform and
control the major expressive roles and activities Religious organizations
differ however in the extent to which laymen participate in and have
authority over and instrumental activities Four types may be
Where religious specialists control both expressive and instru
mental activities At the peak level of the Roman Catholic Church the
Holy See the Pope assisted by the College of Cardinals and his Secretariat
of State rules over both the spiritual and the temporal realms 18)
while at the diocese and parish levels the bishops and clergy may seek
advice of laity but they are under no obligation to follow it Among
Jewish religious organizations examples of this type are found among the
hassidic sects whose leaders the zaddikim righteous men) are seen as
spiritual intermediaries whose authority is final in all matters of their
respective movements and members 19)
Where religious specialists and laymen share in the control of both
expressive and instrumental activities Many Protestant sects and deno
minations may be placed in this type In British Methodism for example
there is considerable overlap of roles and although the representation
of laymen in the central Methodist governing agencies has varied in the
past to-day the Conference of the Methodist Church of Britain has an
equal number of ministers and laymen with minister as President and
layman as Vice-Président 20 In contemporary Judaism the closest
approximation to this type is found in Reform in United
17 According to Bryan Wilson the essential characteristic of the development from
sect to denomination is the emergence of trained professional ministry The existence
of an elite has no specific implications for the development of sect into denomination
but the crucial matter is whether the elite is specially trained and performs specialized
and institutionally differentiated roles Bryan WILSON An analysis of sect develop
ment American Sociological Review 24 1959 3-15 On the differentiation of roles In
Protestantism see Paul HARRISON Church and the Laity Among Protestants The
Annals 332 1960 37-49 For Catholicism see John KANE Church and the Laity Among
Catholics The Annals 332 1960 50-60 Bul MCSWEENEY The Priesthood in Sociological
Theory Social Compass 21 1974 5-23 For Judaism see Marshall SKL Church and
Laity Among Jews The Annals 332 1960 60-70 Jerome CARLIN and Saul MEND-
Lovrrz The American Rabbi Religious Specialist Responds to Loss of Authority in
Marshal SKL ed. The Jews Social Patterns of an American Group New York Free
Press 1958 pp 379-80
18 Corrado PALLENBERG The Vatican From Within London George Harrap 1961
Th IMSE Spiritual Leadership and Organizational Leadership The Dilemma of being
Pope SociaZ Compass 16 1969 275-80
19 The amalgamation in single leader of authority in expressive and instrumental
tasks is particularly evident in Chabad the only hassidic movement to organize wide scale
missionary activities among non-hassldic and non-religious Jews In common with the
zaddikim of other hassidic movements the charisma of the Chabad saadik is inherited
but an important criterion affecting the choice among the male descendents in line to
inherit the position is the capacity each has shown in administrative and organizational
20 Ruper DAVIS Methodism London Penguin 1963 211
States At the congregational level the rabbi may use his authority to
influence synagogue government but he seldom controls it and instru
mental matters are generally decided by laymen 21 Ritual change may
be suggested by either the rabbi or lay members and any major change
requires in most cases approval of the synagogue board or the whole
congregation The Reform rabbinate has more authority and power at
the national level than at the congregational but the most dominant of Reform peak organizations is the lay Union of American Hebrew
Congregations albeit with rabbi as President) and the Reform rabbinate
has not been recognised at the national level as the sole authority in
religious matters
Where religious specialists control expressive activities and share
with laymen the control of instrumental activities An example of this
type is found in limited way in the Church of England in which there
are two systems of representative government which operate from the
local to the national level the first concerned with the doctrines beliefs
and practices of the Church is composed exclusively of the clergy while
the second concerned primarily with financial and administrative matters
includes the clergymen and laymen 22 The third type is found also
at the national organizational level of modern Orthodox Judaism in the
United States although the congregational level does not generally
conform to this pattern The Orthodox lay organization the Union of
Orthodox Jewish Congregations is led and controlled by rabbis The
Union submits all halachic religious law enquiries including problems
concerning the programme and activities to the Orthodox rabbi
nical association which in addition is represented on commit
tees 23)
Where religious specialists control expressive activities while laymen
control instrumental activities An example of this type is the united
Synagogue London which will be analysed in detail below tendency
towards division between an instrumental and expressive elite is perhaps
more common to Jewish than to Christian religious organizations but in
the rigidness of this division the United Synagogue is exceptional even
among Jewish organizations and provides clear exception to
characterization of elites in religious organizations
One object of the above typology of elite structures is to direct
attention to possible lines of conflict in different religious organizations
Power structures and conflicts in religious organizations often cut across
the religious specialist and lay groups but where the distinction is made
it is clear line around which power relationships and conflicts may form
In some religious organizations conflicts between religious professionals
and layment will at the same time be conflicts between an elite and lower
21 Max FEDER Congregational Boards and Committees UA.H.C Synagogue
Research Survey 1957
22 Guy MAYFIELD The Church of England Its Members and Its Business London
Oxford University Press 1958 pp 121-6 K.A THOMPSON Bureaucracy and Church Reform The Clarendon Press 1970
23 Amitai ETZIONI The National Religious Institutions of American Jewry
Judaism 11 1962 pp 112-122
participants as in type one and over expressive matters in type three)
while in other organizations conflicts between religious specialists and
laymen may also occur at the elite level as in type two and over instru
mental matters in type three In type four we would expect conflict
to be absent as long as the two elites share common definitions of their
respective spheres of authority This however is most problematic and
will depend in part on the extent to which the roles and authority of
religious specialists and laymen are defined and legitimated by the religious
belief system Lack of theological precision and specificity of lay and
minister roles in Protestantism has permitted wide scope for conflicting
role definitions and conflicts over authority at both congregational and
national levels 24 The authority of the Jewish rabbinate was tradi
tionally legitimated not by theology but by respect for religious scholarship
This has meant that among the secularized Jewish communities where
religious scholarship is no longer considered of great worth there is also
wide scope for conflicts over roles definitions and authority
Conflicts may be less likely in those religious organizations whose
authority structure has been clearly formulated in their belief system
but when conflict does occur it is likely to be of serious nature since
it will involve fundamental issues of legitimacy This is the situation
in the Catholic Church to-day many laymen are no longer willing to
accept the authority and this involves rejection of the canon
law in which that was formulated 25 The conflicts to be
analysed below between laymen and rabbinate in the United Synagogue
did not involve basic cleavage in religious beliefs and were therefore
less disruptive to the organization in the long term than the conflicts in
the Catholic Church Before describing these conflicts it is important to
show the organizational context in which they occurred
The formation of the United Synagogue in 1870 was response of the
leaders of the Jewish community and synagogues to the growth and wider
distribution of London Jewry in the previous decades The migration of
the wealthier Jews from the City of London to the West End and suburbs
had become an increasing concern of the City synagogues among whom
competition for members and resources had for long been an issue The
London synagogues had signed number of treaties in which they agreed
to limit competition between themselves and try to prevent the formation
of new but these measures had had only limited success 26)
24 HARRISON op cit. Robert CURREE Methodism Divided London Faber Paber
1968 pp 38-43 142-3 256-8 278-81 295-6
25 HOVTART Conflicts of Authority in the Roman Catholic Church Social
Compass 16 1969 309-26 KOKOSALAKIS Aspects of Conflict between the Structure
of Authority and the Beliefs of the Laity in the Roman Catholic Church in Michael
HILL ed.) Sociological Yearbook of Religion in Britain London SCM Press) 1971
pp 21-35
26 Cecil ROTH Records of the Western Synagogue 1761-1932 London Edward
Goldston 1932 pp 61-5 Vivian LIPMAN Social History of the Jews in England
1850-1950 London Watts Co. 1954 59
The leaders of the synagogues recognised the dangers of their Institutions
becoming too poor to provide communal services and they saw that the
amalgamation of financial resources was likely to benefit the whole commu
nity It was during meetings held to discuss the problems of the transfer
of members from one synagogue to another that suggestions were put
forward for an amalgamation of the synagogues and finally five synagogues
agreed to amalgamate their finances and charities and become consti
tuent members of one centrally-governed organization 27 As set out
in its Act of Union the major object of the United Synagogue was the
maintaining erecting founding and carrying on in London and its neigh
bourhood places of worship for persons of the Jewish religion who conform
to the Polish or German ritual...
The United Synagogue was union of highly anglicized middle class
congregations which retained with some modifications the orthodox prayer
book Changes in the synagogue ritual chiefly introduced in the 1880s
and 1890s were minor in comparison with those made by Reform congre
gations but significant from the point of view of adjustment to the
English cultural and religious environment The synagogue services were
sedate and decorous and the congregations were served by ministers who
adopted the appearance and non-sacramental roles of Christian clergymen
The lay leaders of the organization came from an established and highly
anglicized Jewish upper class who although rarely rigorous in their
religious practice remained nominally orthodox and felt that it was
their duty and right to follow their parents in the governing of the major
communal institutions including the United Synagogue With their
commitment to rather amorphous Judaism the lay leaders placed little
emphasis on their ritual differences with Reform and Liberal Judaism
which were relatively small movements in England and were not perceived
as serious competition to the United Synagogue The majority of East
European immigrants rejected the United Synagogue as too anglicised
and they were more likely to join an independent chevra religious society
or the more traditionalistic Federation of Synagogues However by 1920
the children of the immigrants made up the majority of United Synagogue
members and in general they held to stricter and more strongly felt
orthodoxy than that of the native establishment The change in the
social composition of the leadership was gradual and the old established
upper class monopolised the top leadership positions long after the lower
positions of authority were taken by members from the second generation
of East European descent
The synagogues affiliated to the United Synagogue increased in number
with the growth and social mobility of the London Jewish population
in 1970 the organization had eighty one affiliated synagogues Prior to
World War II the United Synagogue did not initiate the demand for
synagogue or suggest that one should be created The initiative came
from local residents who wished to establish synagogue and would turn
to the United Synagogue to discuss the aid that it might give The leaders
or Honorary Officers of the United Synagogue would check the financial
aspects of the proposed synagogue and their decision to grant aid would
rest on whether they believed the new congregation would be surplus
congregation from the outset They would make sure that potential
27 J.C Jewish Chronicle) 24 April 1868
constituent synagogue would pay its own way as well as contribute to the
financial needs and community services of the peak organization
However the organization provided number of schemes for smaller less
wealthy synagogues which could not afford the taxes of full constituent
members 28)
The instrumental component which was an important element in the
formation of the organization has remained throughout
history The governing lay body has rarely touched upon
religious issue it has dealt almost exclusively with financial and admi
nistrative matters The leaders of the United Synagogue were wealthy
professionals and businessmen who sought to apply the rational economic
methods and procedures with which they were familiar in their occupations
to the religious organization Unlike business organizations the United
Synagogue was not formed to achieve long term profits but leaders
were concerned to provide religious facilities for growing and expanding
community and at the same time show credit balance on the annual
balance sheets Referring to the lay leaders character in novel by
Israel Zangwill remarked Their State Church is simply financial
system to which the doctrines of Judaism happen to be tacked on ...
Finance fascinates them Long after has ceased to exist excellent
gentlemen will be found regulating its finances 29)
Zangwill compared the United Synagogue to joint stock company
and its members to shareholders but within the organization itself there
was little criticism of its formal rational orientation This is in contrast
to m-any other religious organizations where the adoption of formally
rational structures has been criticized as symbolically inappropriate 30
Few radical sects adopt formal rational organization since they reject the
values and of the secular world but even among sects
adoption of formal rationality is not unknown James Beckford has
suggested the term rational sect for the Watch Tower society its
major goal of evangelism through the production and dissémination of
theological literature resulted in an emphasis on instrumental and commer
cial activities and the establishment of bureaucracy to ensure the efficient
pursuit of these activities was not perceived as symbolically inappropriate
to the original values 31 The formal rationality of the United
Synagogue was not the consequence of evangelical goals for it did not
set out to convert or actively to attract membership but to provide the
facilities for worship for market which was already largely defined
by an ethnic boundary
Within the ethnic framework particular form of religious practice
rather than religious ideology served to delineate the boundaries of the
28 For details see my unpublished Phil Oxford thesis The Social Determinants
in the Religious Practices and Organization of English Jewry with Special Reference
to United Synagogue 1968 pp 261-4 406-8
29 Israel ZANGWILL Children of the Ghetto Vol II Philadelphia The Jewish
Publication Society 1892 12
30 On the development of bureaucracy in religious organization which is theolo
gically opposed to formal authority see P.M HARRISON Authority and Power in the Free
Church Tradition Social Case Study of the American Baptist Convention Princeton
Princeton University Press 1959
31 James BECKFORD The Watch Tower Movement Rational Organization
paper presented to the University Association in the Sociology of Religion 1973)