Cover of Anonymous Agencies, Backstreet Businesses, and Covert Collectives by Craig Scott
Anonymous Agencies, Backstreet Businesses, and Covert Collectives
Rethinking Organizations in the 21st Century
Craig Scott


272 pages.

Hardcover ISBN: 9780804781381
Ebook ISBN: 9780804785631

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Winner of the 2013 Book Award, sponsored by the National Communication Association Organizational Communication Division.

Winner of the 2014 Sue DeWine Distinguished Scholarly Book Award, sponsored by the National Communication Association Applied Communication Division.

Winner of the 2014 Distinguished Publication in Business Communication Award, sponsored by the Association for Business Communication.

Many of today's organizations "live in public"; they devote extensive resources to branding, catching the public eye, and capitalizing on the age of transparency. But, at the same time, a growing number of companies and other collectives are flying under the radar, concealing their identities and activities.

This book offers a framework for thinking about how organizations and their members communicate identity to relevant audiences. Considering the degree to which organizations reveal themselves, the extent to which members express their identification with the organization, and whether the audience is public or local, author Craig R. Scott describes collectives as residing in "regions" that range from transparent to shaded, from shadowed to dark. Taking a closer look at groups like EarthFirst!, the Church of Scientology, Alcoholics Anonymous, the KKK, Skull and Bones, U.S. special mission units, men's bathhouses, and various terrorist organizations, this book draws attention to shaded, shadowed, and dark collectives as important organizations in the contemporary landscape.

About the author

Craig R. Scott is Professor of Organizational Communication in the School of Communication & Information at Rutgers University.

"As Scott's title suggests, in the twenty-first century, the action in organizational innovation and evolution seems unlikely to take place in an organizational form designed for a different time, technology, and public temperament. Anonymous Agencies opens a window to our collective understanding of one place where that action is likely to occur: within the set of organizations that, for whatever reason, choose to operate in the shadows of social life."

—Paul Godfrey, Administrative Science Quarterly

"Scott's analysis of organizational visibility, secrecy, and identity extends the horizons of our understanding about the types and behaviors of organizations in today's world. To play on the central theme of the work, I find the book illuminating."

—George Cheney, Kent State University

"Scott's engaging examination of hidden organizations makes a vivid argument that established ideas about organizations and their public communication do not apply uniformly. This is an important contribution demonstrating to organizational communication students and researchers that there's more to the organizational landscape than meets the eye."

—Tracy Russo, University of Kansas

"Drawing on his life-long interest in opaque organizations, Craig Scott combines the best of academic research and engaging writing to provide a rich, thoughtful, and thought-provoking examination of 'hidden' organizations. His topic is both timely and timeless, as backstreet businesses promise to become increasingly important in our world."

—Paul Godfrey, Brigham Young University

"Organizational identity is commonly seen by organizational communication scholars as offering distinct survival advantages. But is that really true? Nature offers alternative models such as the predatory wolf who survives by passing himself off as a harmless sheep—the proverbial 'wolf in sheep's clothing.' Scott calls on us to challenge the dominant assumption that a distinct identity is a key advantage, and takes us on an enlightening tour of a variety of organizations that benefit from being more or less hidden. As you immerse yourself in this must-read treatise, you will come away intrigued, challenged, and ultimately motivated to explore the controversial fringes where hidden organizations reside."

—Janet Fulk, University of Southern California