The perceived inequity of systems

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Scopus citations


It is argued that formal, man-made systems tend to be perceived as inequitable by individuals transacting with them. More specifically, (a) as special purpose tools, systems often deal poorly wit/i complexity and dynamism; (b) as interacting subsystems, systems frequently relegate clients' needs to poorly mapped interfaces between subsystems; (c) as arbiters of meaning, systems tend to stereotype quantities; (d) as regulators of behavior, systems often put internal needs above clients' needs; (e) as mass producers, systems tend to reify procedures; (n as symbols, systems frequently neglect substance; and (g) as amoral entities, systems often neglect common moral and ethical principles. Further, cognitive and motivational biases predispose system clients to view systems as much less equitable than do system administrators. Perceived inequities lead to unmet expectations, reduced system legitimacy, reactance, increased resentment and cynicism, and decreased initiative and trust. This analysis suggests that the very attempt to organize an activity may lead to structures and processes that undermine the activity. General means and a process for reducing perceived inequities are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)375-408
Number of pages34
JournalAdministration and Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1992
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Marketing
  • Public Administration

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