An organizational treatise on the Golden Age of Piracy and its virtual implications.

Author:Cakar, Ulas

    In the field of organizational studies, seemingly business organizations are the main focus with a performative intent. Other than business organizations, there are many analyses of state and nongovernmental organizations with a similar perspective. Such analyses are conducted mostly with a functionalist paradigm (Burrell and Morgan, 1979). On the contrast, there are a few numbers of studies of marginal organizations such as mafia (Parker, 2008), pirate organizations (Land, 2007; Parker, 2009a), circuses (Parker, 2011a), cowboys (Parker, 2011b) and heavenly hierarchy (Parker, 2009b). Studies of marginal organizations are criticized as having problems in empirical methodology, or some even challenge them saying that they are esoteric studies (Alvesson, 2008). But it has to be seen that the analyses of marginal organizations provides an understanding of a different model of organizational efficacy. Especially the illegal organizations' efficacy is interesting because when they fail, the result is imminent death of the members (Wallek, 1995). Because of this, marginal organizations are ruled under the iron fist of power, but interestingly this iron fist rule have surprising autonomic touches and radical management approaches in it. Sadly, the managerial processes, rules and applications in these kinds of illegal organizations are not given enough importance in the literature (Leeson, 2007; Parker, 2008). But there is much to learn from the organizing principles of marginal organizations. Marginal organization examinations are not only limited to contemporary organizations. Also the organizations of the past can be examined, so that we can anticipate the future of organizations in order to think and change the open future (Parker, 2010). Furthermore, the analysis of marginal organizations is an enriching experience because they have distinctive structures and they existed at different times. Sometimes an insight gained from past can also give a new understanding of what is to be or what can it be. Studies on metaphors (Cornelissen et al, 2008; Morgan, 1980) and studies using historical perspective (Jacques, 2006; Puchala, 2005; Usdiken & Kieser, 2004) provided a special perspective on understanding of the organizational reality. This study aims to provide an alternative view by using the understanding that is gained from examining a marginal organization; pirate organizations in the Golden Age of Piracy. There have been studies on the subject (Ozmen and Cakar, 2006, Land, 2007, Leeson, 2007, Parker, 2009a, Puchala, 2005) but there is a tendency towards a popular understanding of their nature (Morgan, 2005; Snelders, 2005). In this study, the pirate organizations in the Golden Age of Piracy will be analyzed. Their marginal organization characteristics will be the main scope. We won't look at these organizations to see them as a metaphor of today's managerial approaches; we will look at the factors that made them unique. With this intent, we also aim to put contribution to the discussion that took place in this journal by Land (2007) and by Parker (2009a). Acknowledging their arguments, we want to set the direction towards today and future of the internet as a possible new golden age. That is one of the main contribution that article stands upon, which will be mentioned following the discussion regarding piracy.

    Before beginning the examination of the pirate organizations of the Golden Age of Piracy, we also need to explain the ethical positioning of this study. It is impossible to ignore that pirates are bandits that harmed other people intentionally and they did for their self-interests. No matter how romantic they may sound in stories and even in history (Parker, 2009a), pirates are a group of evil individuals forming evil organizations that harmed people. So, this study is different than former studies on the subject due to its ethical positioning as well as there won't be an idealization of their romantic pirate image. Pirates were not a bunch of freedom fighters; they were illegal people who faced a world where sky was the limit. Whatever we attribute to their possible romanticism is tied to conception of today's global but limited world that doesn't offer horizons of new lands to explore. Keeping a vigilant eye on the unethical nature of pirate organizations, this study aims to analyze organizing principles by focusing on the period of Golden Age of Piracy (1650-1730) (Land, 2007:171; Leeson, 2007: 1053). We believe this period is showing some similarities to current reality and provides alternative realities that can provide us insights for the future. During that period there was a significantly unsteady environment where the new frontiers were continuously being discovered. And pirates formed a very effective type of organizing and became an important factor in the entire oceans. They also benefited greatly from the power plays between the great powers of that time. Golden Age of Piracy deserves to be analyzed, due to the unique organizational achievements that were performed in a complex and interesting environment.

    Ever since the early periods of history, there had been piracy activities in the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean Sea (Federzoni, 1936, Puchala, 2005: 3-4) Due to their actions' local characteristics and limitedness of the activity space that piracy activities will not be analyzed in this study. Pirates during the period of golden age between the years 1650-1730 formed new organizing structures in an environment where the borders were expanding in every direction. Piracy activities which took place in other periods did not occur in such a chaotic environment. Golden Age piracy has spread from Caribbean, Latin America to Africa, oceans of the world became infested with the pirate activity (Smith, 1996: 30). It spread so far that some parts of the terra incognita was covered by pirates. This unique nature of the period makes the analysis of pirate organizations of the golden age invaluable for a fresh look at today's organizational reality in the world of internet. In order to avoid subjective evaluation, we will concentrate more on the events of the period and environmental conditions. For all these purposes, we shall begin this marginal organization study by defining the "pirate".


    Piracy is defined as "an act of robbery on the high seas", and pirate is defined as the "one who commits or practices piracy" (Merriam-Webster, 2011). The dictionary of the pirates (Rogozinski, 1997) defines the pirate as a seaman robbing the other seamen. The challenging part of pirate identity is their function in their ships and the pirate ships or even small armadas consisting of pirate ships. Because the organization skills needed for such an endeavor is beyond a definition of a simple robber. Pirate ships consisted of deviant members of the society that had a tendency of using criminal ways to acquire their needs and wants. And these organizations consisting of deviant individuals were aiming to survive and prosper by preying on the ships of anyone they can rob.

    In addition to this basic and functional definition of the pirate, there is also a popular image of pirates in the common psyche of the people. In this study, we tried to reach a clearer and more historically accurate pirate persona, by ignoring the popular cultural pirate image as much as possible. The pirate image in the western literature is created by romantic imaginations of the authors. At first they were a symbol of adventure, and people were so curious about them. Their stories got exaggerated by the attention of the people. But as time passed further into the industrial age, they began to be seen as part of romantic relic of the past, and people began to look at them with more sympathy (Parker, 2009a). Popular culture has created a pirate reality which was actually different than the reality.

    This can also be seen in the studies that are affected by the popular culture image of the pirates. These studies consider piracy out of its own context and the characteristics of the Golden Age of Piracy. In these studies, pirate is mentioned as an ideal figure or as a hero and the pirate reality is re-shaped for the sake of managerial approaches marketed by the authors (e.g. Morgan, 2005). There are also studies that are taking pirates as part of a critical approach to the present zeitgeist. These studies are conducted connecting the golden age to present and idealizing the organizing forms of the pirates whilst suggesting an alternative and radical organizing model (Land, 2007; Snelders, 2005). For instance, Rediker (2004) mentioned pirates as democrats of the open seas (McLynn, 2004). Pirates are represented as liberal minded, collective, anti-authoritarian, egalitarian public heroes (Pritchard, 2005). In such studies pirates are idealized. Such an approach has unrealistic characteristics as well as it is against the ethical positioning of this study. We have to emphasize the main characteristics of the pirates - they were a bunch of criminals who robbed people, and didn't hesitate to kill if they had to, or even in many cases because they liked to do so. In order to reach a less romantic but more realistic image of the pirates, we need to assess the environmental conditions of the period.

    2.1 Organizational Environment in The Golden Age Of Piracy

    Ever since the beginning of the marine activity, piracy activities have been seen. Mediterranean piracy of the ancient times, piracy activities in the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean, Mediterranean pirates of the Ottoman times are good examples of these. So, it will be better to mention the idiosyncratic characteristics of the organizational environment of the Golden Age of Piracy. When we look at the period called the golden age of the piracy (1650-1730), we see a new group of pirate organizations began to be form in the brave new world of exploration and...

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