OT Paper: Fight Club

The final requirement in this course was to utilize the medium of film to provide concrete examples of the principles of Organizational Theory. Paper is attached here: OT-Fight-Club-Paper. The Executive Summary for the presentation is below…

Rules of Fight Club

  1. You do not talk about fight club.
  2. You do not talk about fight club.
  3. When someone says stop, or goes limp, the fight is over.
  4. Only two guys to a fight.
  5. One fight at a time.
  6. No shirts or shoes.
  7. There is no time limit on fights.
  8. If this is your first night, you have to fight.

Executive Summary

Fight Club, a 1996 book and 1999 movie, tell the story of an organization from birth. The Narrator, an unassuming everyman, specializes in recalls for a major car company. He frequently travels for business, is admittedly a conspicuous consumer, and suffers from insomnia. He meets Tyler Durden, an outspoken, outgoing leader who holds anti-consumerist ideals. The Narrator becomes animated and alive in Tyler’s presence and together the two begin Fight Club.

In the symbolic-interpretive approach, Karl Weick’s enactment theory states that humans create realities and treat them as if they are real. In essence, man is an animal trapped in webs of significance that he has spun himself. The Narrator and Tyler’s shared purpose is actually quite postmodern in that they are attempting to deconstruct social constructs. This is a step beyond the symbolic-interpretive approach. In the postmodernism theory, questions of right/wrong and good/bad are social constructions that are usefully deconstructed. The Narrator and Tyler are on a quest for objective truth and believe in a deep need to live viscerally, rejecting the life of corporate America.

What begins as a basement fighting club soon merges with the external environment via homework assignments. The original club creates spin-offs and franchises, evolving into a multi-city operation. Durden leads his followers in Project Mayhem, training the new recruits at his home and tackling ever more daring pranks and attacks on corporate America. Project Mayhem can best be seen through the lens of Morgan’s machine metaphor. The tasks are highly routinized, repetitive, reliable, and conducted in a predictable manner. Motions operate through patterns of authority. The vertical structure is designed for efficiency, constructed into specialized tasks, strict hierarchy, and vertical communication and reporting systems. There are many rules but few teams. Teams are divided into four groups: arson, assault, mischief, and misinformation. (See Exhibit A for a product of Team Mischief.)

The Narrator feels a loss of control over Fight Club and the subsequent Project Mayhem. Though the club began as a partnership between Tyler and the Narrator, Tyler emerges as the sole decision-maker in this centralized design. As the Narrator attempts to stop the imminent mayhem by exposing the group to the police, he realizes that several stop measures were instituted when police officers begin strapping him to the table in order to cut off his balls. The organization has essentially taken on a life of its own, bigger than any one person.

In the final act, the members of Project Mayhem intend to implode several skyscrapers. The Narrator realizes that Tyler is not a separate person, but a separate personality. He realizes he can regain control of his life, so he wills the gun out of Tyler’s hand and into his own and shoots himself in the face. He does not die, but instead has a gaping hole in his cheek. Tyler is effectively out of his life; however, it is too late to stop the events that have already been set in motion. The neighboring skyscrapers crumble.

But wait! There’s more… At the 2013 San Diego Comic-Con International, Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk announced he will release a sequel and likely an entire series of books. Hollywood hasn’t announced a second movie yet, but the next book begins ten years after the skyscraper explosion and the seeming end of Tyler Durden. Only now, Tyler is the narrator…

Exhibit A: Product of Team Mischief