The aim of this article is to apply literary theory and a work of literary fiction (Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell) to the task of offering points of departure for new thinking about organization theory. To this end, I locate this article at the seam between organization and the literary, where I employ two concepts proposed by Deleuze (the fold and the rhizome), apply the semiotic square and discuss the relationship between form and content. An examination of Cloud Atlas is positioned in the middle of the article to reflect the idea that the literary is at the heart of organization and vice versa. In keeping with the literary spirit of Cloud Atlas, this article mirrors the following narrative pattern of the novel: A | B | C | D | C | B | A. By working the seam, I find a way of developing alternative metaphors, challenging prevailing ideological assumptions and problematizing current paradigm assumptions.
The endangered loggerhead sea-turtle (Caretta caretta) nests on the shores of the Mediterranean, but faces threats to its existence from a variety of sources. Answering the question of how this species can survive is complex as it involves examining the relationships between the turtle, its natural environment, local tourists, property developers, conservation organisations, governments and law-makers. We argue that actor-network theory provides a powerful methodology for tracing these relations and identifying crucial actors which enable the survival of this animal. Using a rich ethnography and drawing on insights from 116 interviews, we trace three actor-networks that highlight factors important to the survival of the species. Yet, we also highlight the conceptual difficulties that result from using an actor-network theory ontology for understanding socio-ecological interactions and argue that these may be ameliorated by embedding the actor-network theory methodology within a critical realist ontology. We argue that this engagement between critical realism and actor-network theory offers researchers a powerful method for understanding relations between socio-ecological actors while overcoming some of the theoretical difficulties of actor-network theory.
Biopolitics, traditionally understood as management of the human population, has been extended to include nonhuman animal life and posthuman life. In this article, we turn to literatures that advance Foucauldian biopolitics to explore the mode of government enabled by the dog of the US presidential family – the First Dog called Bo Obama. With analytical focus on vitalisation efforts, we follow the construction of Bo in various outlets, such as the websites of the White House and an animal rights organisation. Bo’s microphysical escapades and the negotiation thereof show how contemporary biopolitics, which targets the vitality of the dog population, is linked to seductive neoliberal management techniques and subjectivities. We discuss ‘cuddly management’ in relation to Foucauldian scholarship within organisation and management studies and propose that the construction of Bo facilitates interspecies family norms and an empathic embrace of difference circumscribed by vitalisation efforts that we pinpoint as ‘doggy-biopolitics’.
Questions concerning animals’ role in society have received little attention from Organization Studies. This article develops and tests some theoretical and methodological propositions aimed at contributing to the elaboration of an analytical framework for interpreting our organized relations with animals and furthering our understanding of what makes human–animal relations ‘organizational’. First, examining the role of animals in the ‘non-human turn’ that has been emerging, especially with the Actor–Network Theory and the Symmetrical Anthropology project, it adresses the limits of the ‘non-human’ category to analyze situations of coordination of collective action involving animals. It then develops the concept of anthrozootechnical agencement to envisage the role of animals in the course of action through the lens of their relational properties and applies the notion of script to propose an operational formulation of the specifically organizational trials to which these particular agencements are subjected. Based on three case studies (the role of the leash in the organization of human–dog relations, the management of wolves’ return to France, and the production of milk on a dairy farm), this article shows that two main types of operation make human–animal relations ‘organizational’: first, the organization of anthrozootechnical relations is constituted by and constitutive of the combination of three types of specifically organizational test to which these particular agencements are subjected (the performance test, the coherence test, and the dimensioning test); second, the work of organizing anthrozootechnical relations then consists in elaborating, executing, and transforming heterogeneous scripts that are never strictly indexed on the nature (human, animal, technique) of the entities they concern.
Critical management studies have largely failed to offer a comprehensive understanding of the devising and implementation of workplace-safety policies and of the complex power arrangements these may imply. By primarily studying forms of control in relative isolation, these studies have instead produced various puzzles, namely, the persistence of a disciplinary treatment of workplace safety within the current neo-liberal era and the paucity of resistance to this. Drawing on the Foucauldian concept of apparatus and related analytical framework, we propose to remedy this through analysing the successive arrangements governing workplace accidents in the French construction industry during the 20th century. We evidence three successive regimes of control in which distinct apparatuses interact in various ways across different settings. Our study testifies to the composite nature of regimes of control governing workplace safety, and shows how it may impinge upon power relations, ultimately allowing more relevant struggles for a safer workplace to be envisaged. Additionally, by proposing an operationalization of the so-far-overlooked concept of apparatus, our study elaborates on the relevance of the governmentalist tradition for critical management studies.
Going beyond recent studies emphasizing the ‘successful’ nature of ethnic minorities’ agency, this qualitative study offers an in-depth analysis of the tensions and contradictions inherent to ethnic minority employees’ agency. To conceptualize agency, we draw on the resistance literature and adopt the notion of struggle, which stresses the dynamic and often contradictory interplay between power and resistance in everyday experiences and actions. Based on 26 in-depth interviews with ethnic minority professionals, our study highlights three main agentic strategies individuals use in relation to discourses of ethnicity: rejecting, redefining and adopting discursively available subject positions. Yet, these strategies are characterized by inherent tensions and contradictions, as all three involve both resistance and compliance, simultaneously challenging and reproducing discourses of ethnicity and relations of power. Our study further suggests that the tensions and contradictions inherent to ethnic minority employees’ agency can be linked to individuals’ involvement in struggles on three interconnected plateaux: the plateaux of identity, career and social change. Tensions arise as struggles on these plateaux come into conflict, forcing individuals to make important trade-offs. Finally, our study contributes to the resistance literature, reinterpreting the current debate on the prevalence of ‘banal’ forms of resistance as linked to its tendency to study (ethnic) majority individuals who have the privilege of focusing their agentic strategies on the plateau of identity.
Knowledge of how democracy and equality are practically achieved within member-based organisations such as co-operatives remains underdeveloped in the literature. In order to investigate this question, this study is based on a piece of ethnographic work, namely, 1 year of participant observation as a factory worker, which I conducted within a French co-operative sheet-metal factory. Pondering the presence within the co-operative of seemingly powerless chiefs, I draw on the works of French anthropologist Pierre Clastres (1934–1977) on stateless societies in order to study co-operators in their ‘continual effort to prevent chiefs from being chiefs’. Three types of day-to-day practices appear to be central for members of the co-operative in circumventing the coalescence of power in the hands of their chiefs: a relentlessly voiced refusal of the divide between chiefs and lay members; a permanent requirement for accountability and endless overt critique towards chiefs; and the use of schoolboy humour. The case, as analysed through a Clastrian lens, evidences a novel avenue that is conducive to avoiding the fate of oligarchisation within democratic organisations. Indeed, it shows how power can be kept at bay by being named and then embodied in a figure, who is eventually – through mostly informal practices – stripped of all authority. In addition, it suggests that our understanding of co-operation could be greatly improved if researchers’ dominant focus on governance was complemented by studies anchored in the everyday experience of co-operators.
Organisations with alternative structures have been forced to grow internationally in order to remain competitive in the current global context. Some of the industrial cooperatives that belong to the Mondragon Corporation have since the 1990s followed internationalisation strategies that have increased their competitiveness, the number of their employees and their ability to create wealth. However, these moves have also called into question the founding nature of these enterprises. Recently, the Corporation itself has adopted a discourse based on strengthening workers’ participation in capitalist subsidiaries, but to date, the initiatives taken by its multinational cooperatives have been few and the results not particularly impressive. This article investigates this disconnect, delving into the problems of replicating the cooperative model in these subsidiaries and seeking solutions. It focuses on the case of Fagor Ederlan (Mondragon Corporation), examining the efforts to transform capitalist subsidiaries, especially the ‘cooperativisation’ of the Fagor subsidiary in Tafalla (Spain), which is the biggest regeneration project in Mondragon’s Industrial Division. This work also contributes to the broader field of organisational theory by analysing the tensions and opportunities for regeneration in worker-owned organisations under the current globalised context.
We are currently witnessing two concurrent trajectories in the field of research ethics, namely the increasingly explicit and formalised requirements of research governance and the ongoing debate around the implicit nature of ethics, which cannot be assured by these methods, and related—for some—the role that reflexivity can play in research ethics. This article seeks to address two questions. First, given the focus of these discussions is often theoretical rather than on practice, how do our colleagues engage with research ethics and what is their ethical position? Second, given reflexivity is typically focused on knowledge construction, to what extent does it influence (if at all) their ethics throughout the research process? Interviews were undertaken with senior colleagues who have established modes of research practice and ethical approaches. Drawing on understandings of reflexivity and ethics, this article explores an ethical subjectivity that was typically reflective and sometimes reflexive and was usually related to personal rather than procedural ethics. It demonstrates contrasting ethical concerns of society, participant and researcher community, and how some researchers saw their ethical obligation as focused on producing meaningful research at the expense of more traditional concerns for the research participant.
This article sheds light on public performances as important yet neglected sites for social entrepreneurship’s discursive expansion as a fashionable model for social transformation. It approaches the strategic considerations behind presentations aimed at ‘enchanting’ social entrepreneurship through sophisticated investments in spiritual, aesthetic and bodily involvement, and the impressive staging of Muhammad Yunus as a global hero. On a first analytical layer, these ethnographic insights broaden the explanatory basis for social entrepreneurship’s rising popularity. In academic literature, its recent prominence is either accepted as a given fact or critically explored through the theoretical lens of language effects, while modes of conviction that invest in the ‘extra-textual’ are largely ignored. Addressing this gap, the article portrays how organisational actors charged presentations with aesthetic significance, emotional fervour, spiritual dynamism and sensual pleasure to produce holistic experiences that allow people to connect the concept of social entrepreneurship to a felt sense of being-in-the-world. On a second layer, the analysis problematises the enchantment debate’s tendency to construct a secular–spiritual binary, that is, to perceive enchantment as arising either from powerful acts of managerial manipulation or from a deeply human desire to fill a religious void. Complicating this distinction, the article frames enchantment work in the social entrepreneurship field as an ambiguous ‘dance’ between the secular and the sacred—a paradoxical activity of amalgamating neo-rational considerations with the spiritualised pursuit of a global vision.
Corporations play an increasingly significant role in public policy and democratic politics. This article seeks to understand how corporate political activities gain political influence through intertextual strategies. The analysis is conducted on the texts produced by the Australian government in proposing a new tax as well as the texts produced by the mining industry in campaigning against the tax. We show how the government texts represent the proposed tax as a fair opportunity, while the mining industry texts represent the tax as an unfair threat. The findings attend to the processes of how the mining industry ‘stitched’ together constituencies in support of their representation. This article contributes to the existing literature on corporate political activity by showing how overt and indirect corporate activities and communications influence public policy agendas. It also contributes to critical studies of corporate political activity by theorizing how textual strategies can be used to align corporate interests in hegemonic political struggles through the creation of a phantom community. Finally, the article contributes to theories of intertextuality by developing a typology to analyse textual representation.
Legitimacy and legitimation practices are key constructs in the neo-institutional literature. So far, much scholarship has drawn on ideational and discursive approaches of legitimation. Yet, the organizational world has become increasingly iconographical, and visuals seem to have been at the core of contemporary legitimacy claims. This research investigates the visual artifacts and practices embedded in the elaboration of legitimacy claims. Through an iconographic lens applied to practices unfolding in a meeting room, this research emphasizes the image-screen and image-object iconographies involved in the elaboration of legitimation claims. Visual practices elicit symbolic spaces that organizational actors may then mobilize as worlds of justification and legitimization.
This article uses an example of critically oriented Action Research to reflect on the pitfalls and tensions inherent in engaged scholarship. The tensions are analyzed within three types of research-related relationships involving power: (1) between the participatory inquiry and its cultural, institutional, and social environment; (2) within ‘the community’ being studied, which itself is not homogeneous in terms of interests, values, and ability of their realization; and (3) between the researcher and ‘the community’. These tensions connect to an attempt to use the three mutually exclusive approaches of pragmatism, critical theory, and constructivism. It is claimed that this meta-theoretical inconsistency, though not elegant, should be seen as a strength rather than a weakness. Following any approach in isolation would expose the researcher to the risk of opportunism (pragmatism), paternalism (critical theory), or relativism, and therefore paralysis (constructivism). Keeping a minimum level of variety enables the researcher to escape those pitfalls and to conduct ethical and emancipatory inquiry.
This essay presents an argument for critical organization studies scholars to more seriously address the phenomenon of corporate branding as a central, constitutive feature of organizing in contemporary capitalism. While brands and branding have historically been the domain of marketing and consumer studies researchers, I argue that a focus on the intersection of branding and organizing enables critical researchers to more effectively address the ways in which neoliberal capitalism and post-Fordist organizational forms mediate processes of meaning construction and human identity formation. Taking up Böhm and Land’s claim that neoliberal capitalism is characterized by a ‘new hidden abode of production’, I adopt Dean’s conception of ‘communicative capitalism’ to explore how branding processes are ‘hidden in plain sight’ as a key, constitutive element of this ‘new hidden abode’. As such, branding can be explored as a particular case of ‘organizing beyond organization’. The essay develops three elements of the branding and organizing relationship as medium and outcome of communicative capitalism: (1) floating signifiers and nodal points, (2) communicative labor, and (3) communication and affect.
In this article, we draw upon ‘After-ANT’ scholarship to generate openings for a shift from purely deconstructive studies of object organization to a more straightforward generation of concrete and specific alternative trajectories towards the future by way of ontological experimentation. Through careful empirical investigation of a mine and a landfill, and how these are enacted in practice in different topological registers, we show how mines and landfills are intertwined; enacted sometimes as similar and in other cases as different types of objects, thus shaping the paths of becoming for those bundles of relations that become enacted as either a ‘mine object’ or a ‘landfill object’. Mapping these practices generates openings for interventions suggesting how things could be made different in some specificity; in this case, for example, the appreciation of what constitutes ‘natural resources’. The overarching purpose of this article is to intervene in current debates regarding the potential merits of drawing upon Object-Oriented Philosophy as an inspiration in critical organizational studies. While we are highly sympathetic to calls for more experimental object studies, we are hesitant towards Object-Oriented Philosophy as a source of inspiration due to its specific metaphysical underpinnings. To clarify what we find to be at stake here, we conclude the article by situating After-ANT in a wider landscape of thought, discussing the contrast between broadly pragmatist research approaches, such as After-ANT, and Object-Oriented Philosophy. Finally, we try to spell out how we believe this contrast reverberates upon how we understand the purpose and potential of critical social science.
This article offers a reading of the work of Henri Bergson as it pertains to organizations through the lens of ideas drawn from critical realism. It suggests an alternative to interpretations based on a stark division between process and realist perspectives. Much of the existing literature presents a rather partial view of Bergson’s work. A review suggests some interesting parallels with themes in critical realism, notably the emergence of mind. Critical realism has a focus on process at its heart, but is also concerned with how the products of such processes become stabilized and form the conditions for action. This suggests that attention might usefully be paid to the relationship between organizational action and the sedimented practices grouped under the heading of ‘routines’. More attention to Bergson’s account of the relationship between instinct, intuition and intelligence provides a link to the social character of thought, something which can be mapped on to Archer’s work on reflexivity and the ‘internal conversation’. This suggests that our analyses need to pay attention to both memory and history, to building and dwelling, rather than the one-sided focus found in some process theory accounts.
Our study casts doubt on whether the managerial literature on corporate social responsibility is currently capable of developing a persuasive discourse to bring about change in corporate capitalism. By applying the framework and methodology of the spirit of capitalism, introduced by Boltanski and Chiapello, to a corpus of managerial books, we suggest that corporate social responsibility exhibits the core characteristics that together exemplify the ‘spirit of capitalism’. However, corporate social responsibility deals inadequately with the two key characteristics of the spirit of capitalism—security and fairness—by disregarding individual security and tangible rewards for workers who play decisive roles in enacting the spirit. The lack of consideration for workers could weaken the potential of corporate social responsibility to grow into a new spirit of capitalism and to bring about changes envisioned by critical management studies in corporate capitalism.
In the face of multiple ecological crises, critical management studies scholars have focused on exposing how mainstream organizational discourses refute the need for fundamental shifts in society to bring about a sustainable future, emphasizing instead incremental improvement underpinned by a business case approach based on eco-efficiency. While some critical management studies researchers go on to stress the necessity of fundamental paradigm shifts, even this more radical discourse by and large fails to provide an imaginative, hopeful vision for organizational practice and theorizing in the service of ecological sustainability. We propose that an ‘eschatological imagination’ would add a much-needed action- and future-oriented dimension to the critical management studies research agenda on sustainability. Eschatology focuses on the coming of a new era through a concern with the creative overcoming of hegemonic stories through the enactment of counter-stories. We present three framebreaking qualities of eschatology: first, a ‘rhetoric of hope’; second, the ‘aesthetic harmonization of contrasts’; and third, ‘possibilities for flexible imitation’. Drawing on the work of Gregory Bateson as an illustrative counter-story, we explain how an eschatological framework enables a critical yet imaginative and future-oriented engagement with ecological challenges. Finally, we offer a tentative example of such experimentation: the work of an activist eco-poet which begins to show how defamiliarizing narratives demonstrating these qualities can inform research practice.
An ongoing question for institutional theory is how organizing occurs transnationally, where institution building occurs in a highly ambiguous environment. This article suggests that at the core of transnational organizing is competition and coordination within professional and organizational networks over who controls issues. Transnational issues are commonly organized through professional battles over how issues are treated and what tasks are involved. These professional struggles are often more important than what organization has a formal mandate over an issue. We highlight how ‘issue professionals’ operate in two-level professional and organizational networks to control issues. This two-level network provides the context for action in which professionals do their institutional work. The two-level network carries information about professional incentives and also norms about how issues should be treated and governed by organizations. Using network and career sequences methods, we provide a case of transnational organizing through professionals who attempt issue control and network management on transnational environmental sustainability certification. The article questions how transnational organizing happens, and how we can best identify attempts at issue control.
In this article, we apply the conceptual framework of Pierre Bourdieu, in particular forms of capital, social fields, field of power and modes of domination, to demonstrate how the study of a symbolically powerful building can provide insights into what are often opaque elite interactions. In order to do this, we focus on the corporate campus headquarters of a powerful financial institution, the Royal Bank of Scotland in the context of Scotland in the period 2000–2009. We pose the following questions: What is the relationship between corporate space and the field of power? What role does a corporate building play in circuits of capital conversion? What does this case tell us about the role of architecture in elite mobilisations? In addressing these questions, we contribute to critical organisation studies by identifying and theorising the role of corporate space in inter-elite dynamics and circuits of capital conversion. This approach, we argue, provides a methodological lever which could be applied to other symbolically important buildings in order to understand the nature and role of inter-field interactions in the conception and realisation of such buildings.
The journal Organization was a precursor of the turn to practice with its 2000 Special Issue, and the burgeoning number of special issues between 2000 and 2011 testifies to the vitality of a field under construction. Nowadays, the consolidation of the field makes it possible to start to understand and spell out differences and, in so doing, to promote lines of practice theorizing with a greater internal consistency. This article contributes to the articulation of differences among various practice theories and within a practice-based theorizing inspired by the sociology of translation. It proposes two concepts—agencement and formativeness—that address two ‘blind spots’ in the conversation on the turn to practice. The first blind spot concerns how we can talk of practices as having agency and the second concerns how we can articulate knowing in practice as a ‘doing while inventing the way of doing’, that is, the creative entanglement of knowing and doing. I shall address these two ‘blind spots’ by saying that one difficulty in addressing them is created by language. Hence, if we want to turn to practice anew, we need to invent/discover/reconfigure a new vocabulary with which to shape new concepts or to circulate existing ones better.
This article provides insights into mobility in the context of geographical, economic, professional, temporal and imaginary movements of academics and theatrical artists. It explores how these dimensions of mobility intersect in the narratives of academics and theatrical artists, thereby producing a position ‘in between’ choice and necessity, and privilege and disadvantage with regard to movement. The analysis shows how both academics and theatrical artists engage in mobility to secure, maintain or improve their professional and economic position. On this basis, we suggest that they are part of an emerging category of professionals: the ‘mobile middle’, for whom mobility is a crucial part and principle of life. We argue that the phenomenon of the ‘mobile middle’ and mobility in general have wide-ranging implications for our understanding of contemporary careers, work and life organisation.
In this article, we review the workplace battleground and explore the potential of social media for mobilizing social movements in labour conflicts and beyond. By conducting a case study with empirical accounts obtained from the 2010–2011 British Airways cabin crew dispute in the United Kingdom, along with secondary sources, we discern social media in the workplace as a contested field. Inquiring into the unfolding dynamic of social media and workplace conflict, we investigate the mobilizing prospects of theoretical concepts like ‘distributed discourse’ and ‘accelerated pluralism’ through the analytical prism of our interviews. Our analysis of these empirical accounts will tease out certain empowering potentials in the use of social media to shape discourse and mobilise movement. However, we also note that these same communicative actions may challenge internal union authority, generate counter-mobilising efforts and constitute an integral part in exposing both our private and working lives to the processes of marketisation and commodification.
This article introduces contemporary discourses of ‘work–life balance’ as a cultural fantasy revolving self-hood around employment and organizations. To do so, it draws on the Lacanian interpretation of the Freudian ‘death drive’ to highlight the importance of ‘disequilibrium’ for the construction of the subject and individual identification therein. More precisely, it reflects on the ways this structuring of self-hood associated with the impossible pursuit of ‘equilibrium’ maps out onto present desires for ‘work–life balance’ and its subsequent production of a regulated ‘imbalanced’ subject. It argues that individuals are maintained as subjects through their identification with and paradoxical enjoyment, or jouissance, from being ‘imbalanced’. Consequently, capitalist work and organizations stand as the contemporary limit of ‘life’ through their fundamental role in producing and sustaining this ‘imbalanced’ subject in search of ‘balance’. It is ironically in this longing to overcome this ‘imbalance’, to ‘work to live’, that individuals remain even more strongly a capitalist and organizational ‘subject of desire’. They literally cannot go on subjectively ‘living’ without capitalist work.
This article explores the role of psychoanalysis in contemporary neoliberal management of higher education, as a critical resource and as an aspect of the problem it describes. The marketisation, privatisation and financialisation of the university sector is the context for a brief case example in which we see the logic of fantasy staged in a particular organisation, and this case example is followed by a review of the distinctive forms of management of subjectivity in higher education which sustain the context for such events. I bring aspects of Lacanian psychoanalysis to bear on the development of current neoliberal management strategies in universities and then methodological principles are extracted from Lacan’s 1953 foundational text ‘The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis’; the principles concern the application of psychoanalysis, the place of speech as site of truth, language conceptualised here as psychoanalytic discourse, the gap between speech and language manifested in alienation and symptoms, resistance expressed in jokes and the formation of specific domains in which psychoanalytic reasoning is operative today. I argue that neoliberal management realises the worst aspects of the problems Lacan identifies in his text; knowledge as grounding for education and interpretation, treatment underpinned by charitable concern and the performance of expertise tied to power. I focus on Lacan’s warnings about the popularisation of psychoanalytic discourse and conclude with comments on the way ‘analysis’ now takes place outside the clinic.
This article investigates the relations of power and resistance manifest by the WikiLeaks network. The primary research question of this inquiry is, ‘what power relations and possibilities for resistance are presented by WikiLeaks as a novel form of network organization?’ The article shows that WikiLeaks has been able to exert influence from the periphery of existing networks by exploiting vectors of ‘deterritorialization’ to destabilize existing power relations. The article contributes to the literature on the network organization by developing an account of resistance to State and corporate power in terms of an ‘absolute deterritorialization’. This idea has important implications for the tactics of resistance in network organizations, where vectors of deterritorialization have become a defining feature of resistance tactics of the WikiLeaks network.
This article explores how a strategy discourse in a UK bank reproduced a managerial preoccupation with costs, control and numbers that was grounded in the extant culture. Through engaging with this discourse, strategists displayed numerical ways of thinking, which suggested that they did not ‘see’ those on the receiving end of the strategy as human beings. The article contributes to the strategy literature first by exploring how ‘strategists’ are constituted and how they forge themselves as particular types of subject through participating in strategy discourses. Second, it examines the consequences of numericalization for those on the receiving end of strategic discourses. It is argued that the accountability that numbers seek to generate can undermine accountability, and so numbers are not entirely the servant of strategists or frontline staff but instead reflect and contribute to ongoing workplace struggles. Finally, it is argued that both strategists and academics need to reflect on the discourses that they (we) employ because otherwise we risk further numericalizing the other.
While research on strategy-making has begun to focus attention on identity construction, we nevertheless lack a critical understanding of the ways in which socio-historical understandings of strategy are (re)constructed at the level of identity. In this article, we draw on Judith Butler’s theorizing on performative subject formation—first to explore identity constructions grounded in the simultaneity of submitting to and mastering the socio-historical discourses of strategy and second to consider the subversion of discourses and identities enabled by this simultaneity. We distinguish between three performative identity constructions and demonstrate that by submitting to specific understandings of strategy discourses such as the illusion of control (the analytical strategist), omnipotence (the strategic leader), and personal glory (the state-of-the-art strategist), managers face the unattainability of these projects, which drives them to increase their mastery of the dominant discourses in order to win acceptance from others. Highlighting the dynamics of identity construction in strategy-making, we argue that subversion of the dominant discourses and identities is at best subtle. This enables us to better comprehend the persistence of dominant conceptions and related problems in strategy-making such as the overemphasis on technical rationality, anxiety in the face of uncertainty, heightened expectations of heroism, and the inability to engage in genuine dialogue with others and to consider broader social and societal issues as part of strategy-making.
Climate change poses a significant threat to future social and economic activities. This article seeks to understand how corporations respond to climate uncertainties and threats through the performance of different ‘risks’, including market, reputational, regulatory and physical risks. In doing this, we demonstrate how these risks are performative and political. Based on interviews and document analysis, we show how climate change risks are naturalized within market conventions through processes of reiterating climate change as risk, codifying the risk in monetary value, entangling the risk in market conventions and cementing the frame through political activities. We also show how these risk frames have political effects in that they fail to fully account for, or represent, the complexities of climate change. Indeed, the social and natural consequences of climate change undermine the risk models that seek to explain and predict these events. The consequences of these ‘misfires’ highlight the political nature of risk frames in that their effects are unequally distributed among less powerful actors. Importantly, however, these misfires also have the potential to provide space for new interventions in responding to climate change.
Using England as a paradigmatic case of the ‘enterprising up’ of the third sector through social enterprise policies and programs, this article sheds light on practitioners’ resistance as enacted through dramaturgical identification with government strategies. Drawing from a longitudinal qualitative research study, which is interpreted via Michel de Certeau’s theory of the prosaic of the everyday, we present the case study of Teak, a charitable regeneration company, to illustrate how its Chief Executive Liam ‘acted as’ a social entrepreneur in order to gain access to important resources. Specifically, we establish ‘tactical mimicry’ as a sensitizing concept to suggest that third sector practitioners’ public identification with the normative premises of ‘social enterprise’ is part of a parasitical engagement with governmental power geared toward appropriating public money. While tactical mimicry conforms to governmental strategies only in order to exploit them, its ultimate aim is to increase potential for collective agency outside the direct influence of power. The contribution we make is threefold: first, we extend the recent debate on ‘productive resistance’ by highlighting how ‘playing the game’ without changing existing relations of power can nevertheless produce largely favorable outcomes. Second, we suggest that recognition of the potentiality of tactical mimicry requires methodologies that pay attention to the spatial and temporal dynamics of resistance. Finally, we argue that explaining the normalizing power of ‘social enterprise’ without consideration of the non-discursive, mainly financial resources made available to those who identify with it, necessarily risks overlooking a crucial element of the dramaturgical dynamic of discourse.
In this article, we examine the theoretically constructed case of private equity in the UK anno 2007. The theory at play is the theoretical edifice Luc Boltanski has been developing for more than two decades and which concerns the underlying architectonics of how social reality is constituted, challenged and stabilized. We thus interweave the story of private equity with the evolution of Boltanski’s work: from the six-world model to the widening of the critical notion of ‘test’ and the outline of a new ‘connexionist’ capitalist logic, and finally to his most recent attempts at reconnecting his sociology of critical practices with a more traditional critical sociology. Now that Boltanski’s work from the 1990s is being increasingly used and critiqued in our field, we believe it is important to engage with his more recent writings which, while less easy to ‘apply’, have acquired more depth, complexity and a change in focus in response to some of the more pertinent critique. The case of private equity is of particular interest in that for a brief moment it became the ‘face’ of 21st century capitalism, something which is significant in the broadening of our discussion into the possibilities and the limits of critique under a financialized capitalism.
This article considers the role of humour as a disciplinary technology. Using the British military as an organizational context, and drawing on data from the published memoirs of recently serving military personnel, the article makes three arguments in this regard. First, it is argued that the disciplinary apparatus of the military, as an example of a rule-bound and hierarchical organizational structure, creates the conditions that allow for a controlled form of resistance (through humour) to be enacted by organizational subjects; but ultimately, such acts work to serve the requirements of the organization. Second, it is argued that humour contributes to the establishing of social cohesion through disciplinary practices of inclusion and exclusion and the drawing of lines of normalization, both at the local level and at a wider institutional level. Third, it is argued that humour permeates the power relations that structure organizational life: both those governed by rank and position and those that arise through the modes of self-regulation through which much organizational disciplining is enacted. This article concludes by drawing attention to the dialectic and dynamic nature of humour while also offering suggestions for the wider applicability of the disciplinary role of workplace humour.
Inquiring into how routines unfold increases our understanding of organization. This article critiques current positionings of organizational routines as practices and offers an alternative framing based on routines as communicatively constituted performatives. Two central arguments are advanced. First, present constructions of routines as comprising structurationist interpretations of Latour’s ostensive and performative are challenged and an alternative is advanced that draws from an Austinian understanding of performative as constitutive of organization. Second, bodies are brought into routines research as they are conceptualized as embodied accomplishments, extending existing research that typically neglects the body. An alternative definition of organizational routines is offered that constructs them as citational patterns of embodied conversation and textual dialectics that performatively co-orient toward an object.
Organizational scholars pay insufficient attention to noncapitalist enterprises, which limits management theorizing. This article is based on a participatory action research project conducted in the town of Asbury Park in New Jersey, where community researchers attempted to map the solidarity economy of the region in order to promote a different kind of economic development. It presents the findings of the project, which involved investigating the economy and surveying collective forms of organizing in sectors such as agriculture and finance. Examining the well-developed Brazilian solidarity economy movement as contextual background, the lessons from that movement could prove useful to incipient US efforts. Using the findings of the Asbury Park project, the significance and implications of supply chains in sustaining alternative economies will be explored.
Telephone-based customer service work is often conceptualized as disembodied. Automatic dialing systems direct callers through menu-driven options, and eventually to a distant customer service worker. Interactions are scripted, and workers have little job discretion to deal with out-of-the-box customer requests. Yet, although the bodies of call center workers and their customers do not come into contact, this article considers whether their interactions are in fact disembodied. Based on interviews with transnational customer service workers in India, I argue that bodies matter in remote customer service interactions. Part of the job of a customer service worker is the transmission of bodies through voice. This involves making sense of how ideal workers are embodied in callers’ eyes and using their voices to emulate these imagined ideal workers. I argue that exploring the embodiment of ‘voice workers’ extends analyses of embodiment to date, which have focused primarily on whole bodies in physical contact with others. The findings presented here highlight the importance of interpellation—specifically the work of ‘reading bodies’ which is a significant part of service work, especially work which crosses national borders. Bodies are ‘read’ based on social and historical contexts within which people are immersed and these contexts are influenced by social stratification, state policies, and colonial histories.
This article analyses the emotions of work in postcolonial spaces, where enduring racial tensions, arising from white privilege, continue to shape people’s experiences. Based on a close scrutiny of two interview extracts from field work in India, the article applies a postcolonial perspective to illustrate that colonial dynamics and attendant power relations are daily reproduced or subverted at work. Postcolonial arguments are extended to organizational emotions, by demonstrating how everyday narratives, including those told to researchers, uncover a wide range of experiences of race that may go unnoticed or may not surface through more structured methods. Ambivalence and subversion feature in these extracts as core experiences of emotionally charged postcolonial relations, which are often reproduced or experienced unconsciously. The enduring legacies of colonial history on organizational spaces are discussed, with implications for the emotions of working across racial and geographic boundaries. In a globalized work environment, such legacies may go unnoticed, but their effects are manifest in individual experiences.
This article analyses the complex work of human actors and technologies that goes into producing that which appears to us as ‘transparent’. Drawing on studies of governance and surveillance, affordance theory, actor-network theory and sociological work on numbers, we analyse the role played by mediating technologies in the production of transparency and relate it to the question of how knowledge is created, recycled and modified in organizational settings. This perspective is largely absent from existing research on transparency, which construes transparency as unmediated or fails to investigate the organizing properties of specific mediating technologies. We argue that mediating technologies, conceptualized here as disclosure devices, have distinctive organizing properties that are important to scrutinize. They play a central role in attempts to shed light on objects, subjects and practices, and to help build or break up relationships within and across sites and organizations. We focus on three disclosure devices and their respective knowledge creation processes: (a) due diligence, whose emphasis is on qualitative knowledge production; (b) rankings, which is about quantitative knowledge production; (c) big data analysis, which underscores algorithmic knowledge production. We conceptualize the distinct features of these disclosure devices, indicate ways in which they shape organizational processes and discuss some of the ethical and political challenges they pose.
This article examines a literary tradition that promotes clerkdom as a refuge for sensitive writers and intellectuals. Recent scholarly work on the role of the novel in organization studies often treats the novel as something that might be introduced to employees by well-meaning scholars as a means of generating insight into their circumstances. In contrast, this study positions workplace literature as spontaneously discovered by, and largely produced by, office workers themselves as part of a tradition of office intellectualism. Focusing on the rich interface between the office and literature, this creative process is understood to be ongoing and self-sustaining, morphing alongside technological change into forms such as the blog. The article argues that the intellectual lives of workers deserve greater attention, positing high literature on lowly clerks as a rich soil that nurtures today’s over-educated office denizens.
This article focuses on the process of workers’ self-management brought about by a wave of experimentation with alternative organizational forms taking place in Greece since the beginning of the current financial crisis. The discussion is supported by empirical evidence from qualitative fieldwork conducted in three workers’ collectives. Drawing on the findings of my research, I argue that the members’ values and everyday practices give shape and meaning to their aspirations of creating a space that not only critiques the existing forms of work but also puts into practice other possibilities that give emphasis to reciprocal relationships and prioritize collective working, egalitarianism and autonomy. I also argue that their established consensus-based decision-making models, far from representing a state of agreement, allows—within collectively determined boundaries—the creation of a space where diverse opinions flourish rather than being suppressed.This encourages the development of more inclusive models of participation and the construction of rule-creating rather than rule-following individuals.
Drawing from Agamben’s theorization of sovereign power and bare lives, we engage with the narratives of three sets of murders in the state of Gujarat. These murders in Gujarat followed a pattern—the victims were almost always Muslims and were labeled as terrorists who had come to assassinate important politicians in the state, and the police claimed that these terrorists were killed in cross-fire. We analyse the empirical material pertaining to these murders to understand the organizational and political processes that were mobilized to legitimize them. We also focus on possibilities of resistance and subversion on account of the contradictions that emerge in the mobilization of these organizational and political processes, and thereby hope to make a call for organizing social relations around anchors other than sovereignty.
In the article I argue that a study of high contact sports, such as rugby league, can illuminate a discursive space in which the production of organized, docile, masculine, bodies, engaged in emotional labour are crafted and mobilized through disciplinary practices. Participants from a rugby league football club and their trainers have been interviewed and observed as part of a larger ethnographic study. The analysis provides a contrast to and develops understanding from studies of the organized female body, which have long argued that they are subject to disciplinary forces in the workplace (e.g. Trethewey, 1999), by illustrating how masculine bodies may also be made docile in particular organizational contexts. The article explores the organization of masculine bodies in professional sport as an example of the production of masculinity in a work environment. I conclude by suggesting that these masculine bodies are worked upon to be fit for organizational purpose in a similar way to how women’s bodies are crafted to fit in male-dominated work environments. This is not simply through an imposition of more powerful ideologies but as simultaneous products and producers of the organized body. Furthermore, despite these efforts, the bodies become no longer fit for use with the passage of time. The erosion of ability due to injury and competition from younger, fitter, bodies ensure that their working lives are brought to an abrupt close.
This article explores the ways in which the aesthetics of employees’ bodies are used as a site of control and resistance, processes which are activated through ethnic and gendered practices. By exploring three resistance strategies used by Israeli combat soldiers, we demonstrate the construction of competing identities of military masculinity. We demonstrate how, by activating a process of self-ethnicization, Israeli soldiers use an ethnic identity that empowers them and challenges the ‘appropriate’ professionalism expected from them. This process illuminates the interrelations between ethnic and masculine identities, and emphasizes the dynamic and fluid nature of the constructing of identities within organizations.
Since the seminal essay of Friedland and Alford (1991), the institutional logics perspective has significantly influenced organizational research. Extant research understands logics as the assumptions, values, beliefs and rules that provide meaning for institutions and shape the action in organizational fields. However, by obliterating the role of values, organization scholars have confined variation and change to a schema of finite combinations, overshadowing the intrinsic and constitutive role of what Friedland has more recently called institutional substances. In this article, I present the philosophy of Cornelius Castoriadis with the aim of contributing to a deeper understanding of values in institutions. His dialectical phenomenology challenges the dominant view of logics among organization scholars because it underscores that meanings are not tantamount to logics, but rather the result of signifying acts around imaginary significations. That is, logics stem from imaginary institutions. The contribution of this article is two-fold. First, it presents a Castoridian framework for institutional analysis, whereby logics and the imaginary are interrelated though conceptually distinct. Second, it brings forth the concept of transubstantiation as a way of explicating how actors bring institutional substances into being within and through domains of practice while deferring such substances in discourse and potentially changing them.
In the United Kingdom the majority of those reporting being bullied at work claim their manager as ‘the bully’ (Hoel and Beale, 2006). A global phenomenon, workplace bullying is damaging to those involved and hence their organizations (Einarsen et al., 2003), justifying academic attention and a practical need to develop mechanisms that tackle the phenomenon. Bullying is typically a problem ‘owned’ by Human Resource (HR) departments, yet existing evidence suggests that targets perceive HR practitioners (HRPs) as inactive, hence ineffective, in response to claims (Lewis and Rayner, 2003). However, very little is known about how HRPs themselves interpret and respond to claims of bullying. We address this gap, drawing on Bourdieu’s concept of ‘symbolic violence’ to interpret experiential interview data. Our findings suggest HRPs enact symbolic violence on employees who raise claims of bullying against their managers by attributing managerial bullying behaviours to legitimate performance management practices. A critical discourse analysis identified four interpretive mechanisms used by HRPs that served to exonerate managers from bullying behaviours, thereby protecting the interests of the organization at the expense of an employee advocacy role. These data suggest that, rather than being solely a phenomenon perpetrated by individuals, workplace bullying is often a symptom of managerialist and capitalistic discourses of intensified performance management in organizations, reinforced by the embedding of existing professionalization discourses with the field of Human Resource Management in the UK.
Based on 43 interviews conducted with employees who spend around half of their working-hours on non-work related activities such as ‘cyberloafing’, a typology of empty labour is suggested according to sense of work obligation and potential output in order to set the phenomenon of workplace time-appropriation into a theoretical context in which wasteful aspects of organization and management are taken into account. Soldiering, which emanates from a weak sense of work obligation in the individual, may entail aspects of resistance, but there are also less voluntary forms of empty labour deriving from a lack of relevant work tasks. All types of empty labour are, however, bound up with the simulation of productivity. Therefore, they ironically serve to maintain the capitalist firm’s reputation for efficiency.
Although the use of History has become increasingly discussed and more widely applied within Organization Studies (OS), its relevance for OS still remains far from centrally accepted. This article historicizes the relationship between Sociology and History as a means of better understanding the tensions, perceived and real, that exist between History and Organization Studies. In particular we analyse three differences of epistemological standpoint (method, objectivity and usefulness) that are commonly seen as the foundation stones to incompatibility. Perhaps surprisingly for an analysis of apparent disciplinary differences, we find that these distinctions in terms of approach, once closely examined, are rarely clear-cut and historians and OS scholars are frequently closer in intention and method than they are distant. However, despite their large intersection of interests, we argue that important distinctions between the two fields should be acknowledged. Our contribution to the debates over the need for more historical approaches within OS therefore centrally rests on abandoning aspirations for fully integrative models of working together, in favour of cooperative modes that concede the fields’ differences. This subtle shift of emphasis will, we believe, greatly benefit OS scholars who hope to include historical perspectives in their work.
In what follows, we present a conversation with Professor Noam Chomsky on the topic of whether the business school might be a site for progressive political change. The conversation covers a number of key issues related to pedagogy, corporate social responsibility and working conditions in the contemporary business school. We hope the conversion will contribute to the ongoing discussion about the role of the business school in neoliberal societies.
Critical management scholars have emphasized that organizations’ attempts to regulate employees’ identities can prompt the reproduction or transformation of self-identity. The emotional consequences of identity regulation, however, remain largely unexamined. This article explores the experiences of eight management consultants in the British office of a global consulting firm over several months. Interviews and observations were analysed according to the principles of interpretative phenomenological analysis. The results of the study highlight consultants’ identification with an organizationally inspired elite discourse alongside high levels of commitment and the presence of a counter-intuitive yet significant status anxiety. Drawing on psychological and sociological theories that connect identity and anxiety, this article suggests that the continual promotion of an elite identity within the consulting firm leaves many of the consultants feeling acutely anxious about their status.
This article argues that older age inequality within and across working life is the result of vampiric forms and structures constitutive of contemporary organizing. Rather than assuming ageism occurs against a backdrop of neutral organizational processes and practices, the article denaturalizes (and in the process super-naturalizes) organizational orientations of ageing through three vampiric aspects: (un)dying, regeneration and neophilia. These dimensions are used to illustrate how workplace narratives and logics normalize and perpetuate the systematic denigration of the ageing organizational subject. Through our analysis it is argued that older workers are positioned as inevitable ‘sacrificial objects’ of the all-consuming immortal organization. To challenge this, the article explicitly draws on the vampire and the vampiric in literature and popular culture to consider the possibility of subverting existing notions of the ‘older worker’ in order to confront and challenge the subtle and persistent monstrous discourses that shape organizational life.
The emergence of journal quality lists such as that issued by the UK’s Association of Business Schools (ABS) has instigated a wave of ‘journal list fetishism’ throughout the business school sector. Business school deans and research managers have become fixated on whether the publication records of current staff and new applicants include the requisite number of ‘hits’ in the best ranked journals. Little attention is paid to additional measures of research quality, or to the broader context within which the research has been produced. This paper examines the current fetishizing of the ABS guide in general, and the magical ‘4’ rating in particular (the symbolic token for top journals). It begins by looking at how ‘trust in numbers’ may have assisted the uptake of the ABS guide through developing a perception of ‘trustworthiness’ and then raises questions regarding the current fetishizing of ‘4’ ratings using additional data within the ABS guide.
Through a study of small scale independent theatre companies, generally known as ‘fringe’, this article explores how passion is drawn on and activated as company founders seek an outlet for their work. Drawing on a social constructionist approach to emotions, we highlight the multiplicity of passion through its positive and negative dimensions as well as how these may intersect. Further, by positioning passion within a set of power relations we point to its performative role in reflecting and reinforcing contextually specific discursive regimes. We contribute to the literature on the social and emotional performance of entrepreneurialism and to understandings of passion that characterize the affective entrepreneurial condition.
Inspired by the insights of Franz Kafka, this article explores the problem of ‘distance’ in a UK bank, particularly by focusing on one of its back-office processing centres. Distance refers to a way of not seeing those below us in the hierarchy; this might mean that we act in ways that display little thought or concern for the experiences of others. It is argued that the ‘distance’ created between human beings through bureaucratic ways of organizing is potentially debilitating. Academic accounts often strive for objectivity and, in doing so, they tend to stand at a distance from the suffering of those they seek to represent. By contrast, fiction elucidates distance in a more emotional, passionate and, therefore, engaged and engaging way. This article draws on Kafka because his work is subversive and it highlights the need to create ways of organizing and being that promote empathy with ‘others’. Nevertheless, this is not to suggest that distance can be eliminated because it is fundamental to how we develop our sense of self and it is ingrained within processes of rationalization. The article is distinctive because although numerous accounts have used fiction to theoretically analyse organizations few have sought to use fiction to analyse empirical material.
This article draws upon a growing body of Foucauldian-inspired literature on business ethics. Looking at the media as a prime site of dynamic discursive production in contemporary times, it offers an analysis of the underlying moral sensitivities and ethical frameworks characteristic of reports about the two top managerial figures involved in the Enron scandal: Jeffrey Skilling and Kenneth L. Lay. Analysing Forbes and BusinessWeek articles, the article examines the sudden appearance of these managers as a heightened moral threat, asking what constellations of knowledge and meaning were expressed through the demonization of these once idealized managerial superstars. It shows that while speaking in the name of ethics, the examined discourse also undermines ethics in that it promulgates a largely paradoxical and ethically incapacitating concept of self and logic of action.
Drawing inspiration from the loosely coupled genre of studies of governmentality, this article explores the emergence in Britain during the early years of the millennium of a distinctive liberal conservative scheme for the government of civil servants. The term ‘boardization’ has been used to characterize the trend to reproduce the technology of the board of directors in central government. Conservatives currently assign a distinctive role to the work of departmental ‘boards’ in the effective management of the Civil Service. Intimating the costs and risks of the Conservatives’ programme, we explore the role of diverse governmental forces in the emergence of the boards of the Civil Service as an object for action and intervention during the early years of the new millennium. We explore a mutation in the application of practices and techniques drawn from the domain of the business enterprise to the organization of the Civil Service.
In this article, we adopt a critical perspective to study how executive search practices reproduce particular understandings of the ‘ideal’ executive body. We show how this disadvantages not only women but also men who are considered not to fit the ‘ideal’, and further demonstrate how search practices are embodied: how aesthetics, the senses and a sensorial way of knowing permeate the practices through which candidates are evaluated. We identify discourses on embodied co-presence, capabilities and voice in search consultants’ talk, and specify how notions of the ‘ideal’ executive body and embodied search practices become intertwined. We offer this contribution to the discussion on the body, gender and management and to research on executive search practice.
Institutional-based approaches to trust can explain how trust logics can exist in a societal context as compared to logics of distrust. Strong institutions in the form of regulative, normative and cognitive structures can enable and inspire trust-relations among people at the interpersonal and inter-organizational level. We suggest, however, that the actor-dimension of institutional-based trust is an underexplored issue in the literature. Quoting Fligstein, institutional theory needs to explain how ‘some social actors are better at producing desired social outcomes than are others’ (Fligstein, 1997: 398). While Fligstein refers to actors who engage in ‘robust or local action’ we argue that actors who engage in (robust, local) sensemaking activities are better at (re)producing institutional-based trust. Particularly in situations when institutions are relatively unstable, unfamiliar to the actors and ambiguous, sensemaking strategies directed towards exploring the institutional foundations of trust at a local level can be an important basis of interpersonal trust-relations. First, based on a summary of studies of institutional-based trust we argue that an unresolved issue is how institutions more precisely form the basis for trust-relations. Second, we explore how sensemaking may serve as a bridge between institutional contexts and interpersonal trust processes. Based on Weber and Glynn’s (2006) model of relations between institutions and sensemaking, we argue that institutions are ‘emerging’ rather than ‘impacting’. The relevance of this view of sensemaking for bridging institutional-based and interpersonal trust processes is illustrated by reviewing a case study on how trust is created in a politically turbulent and foreign environment.
Recently, market-based strategies for poverty alleviation have emerged central to discourses on global poverty. One of the main proponents of market oriented strategy for poverty eradication was C. K. Prahalad whose publication Fortunes at the Bottom of the Pyramid paved the way for future work on business and poverty. It is curious that despite widespread discussions on the validity and relevance of the Bottom of the Pyramid (BOP) proposition by supporters and critics, there has been little sustained analysis of the foundational ideas, concepts and themes as outlined in the original BOP proposal. While by no means representative of the entire BOP field, Prahalad’s ideas deserve close attention because they provides the enabling conditions for the emergence of what I identify as the BOP ‘metanarrative’. In this article, I engage critically with Prahalad’s BOP proposition to highlight some of the theoretical and conceptual issues at stake in the BOP arguments. Specifically, I look at how globalization, partnerships, informality and enterprise, among others, are mobilized to accommodate and legitimize market development at the bottom of the pyramid. I conclude the article by emphasizing that the BOP project would be well served if it engaged in critical self-reflection as it may help to orient future iterations of the BOP strategy in ways that are less celebratory and more circumspect about the possibilities and potentials of linking the pursuit of profit with the goals of poverty relief and empowerment.
While psychologists and economists have concerned themselves with employee happiness and well-being, critical organizational theorists have rarely examined employees’ positive responses at work. To explain why call-centre employees in our study responded positively to their organization we adopt a relational sociological approach to examine employee happiness and well-being. This approach emphasizes two main features: firstly, it is sensitive to the interaction of management practices and employee agency in how ‘happiness’ is constructed and interpreted in organizations, including an assessment of power relations; secondly, this approach acknowledges the importance of the wider external context in explanations of why organizations pursue happiness. This article applies these sociological insights to the organizational identifications literature to assess the mechanisms of employee identifications. In this case, there are three mechanisms of identification, a) the organizational value system; b) social relations at work including interactions between employees, the owners and their clients and c) the nature of work. Significantly, these three features converged to produce overlapping and mutually reinforcing identifications.
Several management scholars have recently discussed the consequences that emerge from the institutional pressures for research output. While an important debate for the field, thus far, it has wholly neglected to account for the voices of doctoral students—arguably, the most disempowered constituents within the academy. Working from a doctoral student’s perspective, the aim of this article is to integrate anecdotal evidence with Foucault’s idea of the panopticon gaze so as to illuminate how such institutional pressures become discursively codified. As argued, one especially poignant implication that materializes from the reification of these institutional pressures is intellectual inertia. This article concludes with some consideration of how our discipline can more fruitfully serve doctoral students by holistically embracing the concept of ‘ontological empathy’ and by redefining the meaning of ‘success’. Realization of ontological empathy and the redefinition of success will provide a constructive way to move beyond the orthodoxy of how research output is currently being defined and valued.
Through the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement, the idea of horizontal, leaderless organization has come to the attention of the mass media. In this article we explore radical, participative-democratic alternatives to leadership through an empirical study of four Social Movement Organizations (SMOs). Whilst there has been some writing on leadership within SMOs, it has mirrored the ‘mainstream’ assumption that leadership is the product of individual leaders possessing certain traits, styles and/or behaviours. In contrast, critical leadership studies (CLS) recognize that leadership is a relational, socially constructed phenomenon rather than the result of a stable set of leadership attributes that inhere in ‘the leaders’. We utilize this framing to analyse how leadership is understood and performed in anarchist SMOs by examining how actors manage meaning and define reality without compromising the ideological commitments of their organizations. Furthermore, we also pay attention to the organizational practices and processes developed to: (a) prohibit individuals from permanently assuming a leadership role; (b) distribute leadership skills and roles; and (c) encourage other actors to participate and take-up these roles in the future. We conclude by suggesting that just because an organization is leaderless, it does not necessarily mean that it is also leadershipless.
In this article, we investigate the charge that women leaders fall short when it comes to ‘vision’. We track the roots of this charge, and the effects this has on women in the workplace, back to the binary representationalist logic that underpin gender stereotypes. We challenge these representationalist stereotypes by offering a more material account of how identities come into being, drawing on the work of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. In the last part of the article we explore an alternative understanding of ‘visionary leadership’ by drawing on Henri Bergson’s philosophy and ethics and that of Deleuze, which allows for the development of an alternative understanding of both agency and epistemology. We also rely heavily on Elizabeth Grosz’ reading of Deleuze and Bergson, and her valuable perspectives on the implications of these authors’ work for gender discourses.
This article offers an understanding of organizational ethics as embodied and pre-reflective in origin and socio-political in practice. We explore ethics as being founded in openness and generosity towards the other, and consider the organizational implications of a ‘corporeal ethics’ grounded in the body before the mind. Shifting focus away from how managers might rationally pursue organizational ethics, we elaborate on how corporeal ethics can manifest in practical and political acts that seek to defy the negation of alterity within organizations. This leads us to consider how people’s conduct in organizations might be ethically informed in the context of, and in resistance to, the dominating organizational power relations in which they find themselves. Such an ethics manifests in resisting those forms of organizing that close down difference and enact oppression; a practice we refer to as an ethico-politics of resistance.
This article provides insights into the role of minority employees in reproducing and contesting the discourse of meritocracy in contemporary organizations. It also discusses the effects the contestation of meritocracy, or the lack thereof, has on organizational power relations and on the situation of individuals who are the target of meritocratic policies. Empirically, we address the experiences of a growing category of workers—women academics of non-UK origin—employed within UK business schools. Based on the analysis of narratives focusing on the career trajectories of our research participants, we show how the belief in, and paradoxically the questioning of, meritocratic principles contribute to the reproduction of inequalities. We conclude that, as a result of the overarching perpetuation, and only limited challenging of, extant power relations in organizations, both the current definitions of merit and the application of meritocratic principles remain unchanged.
In this article we pursue a dialogue between Callon’s (1998) ‘performativity thesis’ and Critical Management Studies (CMS). We make use of the performativity thesis to elaborate on the construction of a market and the generation of calculative and rational economic agency in a specific empirical setting: the markets for relationships offered by dating services. We find evidence for ‘effective’ performativity, where technical processes and outcomes are shaped by academic theory. We link the performativity analysis with three critical perspectives: a novel enclosure in the commodification and sale of relationships; the politics of standardization, classification, expertise and responsibility; and the enactment of instrumentally rational, self-interested social relations through the individualist assumptions of matching systems. We argue that a performativity analysis must begin with a critical politics: what kind of world would we like to see performed?
Trust is typically portrayed as beneficial to all concerned; something which is inherently good. In this article we focus on interpersonal trust and argue that, while there are undoubted benefits, trust can also be problematic; there are circumstances in which it can become a ‘poisoned chalice’ for one or other of the parties involved. We question whether the potential for negative experiences in relation to trust has been fully explored and argue that its true dark side lies within the dynamics of the trust relationship. From this stance we use the social exchange and gift giving literatures to re-appraise trust in a way that highlights the importance of expectation and intent and demonstrates the circumstances in which trust may not be beneficial for one of the parties involved. We conclude with a research agenda which we believe will further develop our understanding of this complex human interaction.
In this article I develop a reflexive conception of ideology that can be applied to the study of organizations. By drawing out and making explicit the researcher’s role in naming a social phenomenon as ideological, I argue that a more consistent, reflexive and critically attuned notion of the ideological can be developed. The neglect of the position of the researcher in critical conceptions of ideology stems largely from a problematic division in existing approaches between the researcher, as objective expert, and researched. As an alternative, I build on the idea of research reflexivity in organization studies to develop a notion of ideology in which the partial position of the researcher is rendered explicit. To illustrate this conception of naming the ideological, I characterize the norms and practices of Job Centres as reflecting an ideology of capitalist welfare regulation. The article presents a fresh way of conceptualizing ideology as a reflexive analytical concept which can fruitfully be brought to bear on different aspects of organizations.
The purpose of this article is to unravel the link between the past and history to reveal the importance and the problems of developing a historically informed critical management studies (Booth and Rowlinson, 2006; Kieser, 1994). Drawing on Munslow (2010), we focus on the relationship between ‘the past’ and ‘history’ as ‘ontologically dissonant’ (p. 3) to argue for an ‘epistemically skeptical,’ relational approach to critical organizational history. These arguments are explored through analysis of the ‘career’ of Max Weber in management and organization studies (MOS).
In response to the postmodern invasion of organization studies, some critics have issued increasingly loud cries that we should ‘get real’ about organizational discourse analysis. But what precisely do these proponents take to be the ‘real’? In this article we trace out some of the attempts of ‘getting real’, arguing that these approaches have some important limitations. We then explore the relevance of a post-foundational approach to discourse, which, we argue, have far reaching implications for the study of organizational discourse. We argue that such approach offers us a way of theoretically linking the ‘real’ with (1) the way discourses are structured around fundamental gaps, (2) how discourses are brought together through nodal points and (3) how discourses generate affective and emotional attachment. We then offer some suggestions of how these points can be used to study organizational processes. We conclude by reflecting on some of the limitations of this approach to studying discourse.
‘Organizational wellness’ has become a high profile issue for businesses. We argue that a ‘wellness movement’ has sprung up around a particular coalescence of economic, ideological and organizational interests. In this article we re-read the discourse of this ‘movement’ through the lens of ‘organized embodiment’. We argue that organizational wellness operates as a rhetorical device which masks contradictory power relations. It serves to hide differential occupational effects and opportunities for workers, and obscures the relationship between wellness and its necessary Other, unwellness. The article suggests that employee unwellness is often produced—and required—by the different forms of organized embodiment that arise directly from occupations and employment. It analyses this corporeal ‘occupation’ in terms of the extortion, exchange and embrace of our bodies to the coercive, calculative and normative power of the organization. Thus, our organizational experiences produce an embodied individual who is ‘fit’ for purpose in a rather more circumscribed fashion than prevailing discourses of wellness might suggest.
This article addresses the recent trend in critical organization theory and sociological literature to regard employees in creative and high-involvement work as precarious. It does so by tapping into the perennial debate about control and ambiguity in organization studies. Its main contribution is to expand the focus on workers as objects of control to exercisers of control. Drawing on ethnographic material from the creative knowledge work sector, the article argues that structural and discursive developments in late capitalism generate a specific form of ambiguity which is mobilized by both managers and employees in attempts to exploit and control the counterpart. Through careful analysis of hierarchical interactions, it shows how it is highly contextual whether managers or employees come out as ‘winners’ in the game of influence and domination. This means that the study of worker precariousness needs to be combined with the study of its flip side, namely worker opportunism.
Despite the international reach, and increasing global importance, of the free market provision of military and security services—which we label the Private Security Industry (PSI)—management and organization studies has yet to pay significant attention to this industry. Taking up Grey’s (2009) call for scholarship at the boundaries between security studies and organization studies and building on Banerjee’s (2008) treatment of the PSI as a key element in necrocapitalism, in this article we aim to trace the long history of the PSI and argue that it has re-emerged over the last two decades against, and as a result of, a very specific politico-economic backdrop. We then suggest that the PSI operates as a mechanism for neoliberal imperialism; demonstrate its substitution for and supplementing of the state; and count some of the costs of this privatization of war. Finally, we take seriously Hughes’s (2007) thesis of the growth of a new security-industrial complex, and of the intersecting elites who benefit from this phenomenon.
The study develops a psychoanalytic perspective on the stressed subject at work. Its focus is on how this subject is continually reconstructed at the interstice of a lack of having and a lack of being. Drawing on the analysis of empirical material consisting of 52 narratives of stress, it examines how individuals construct selves by drawing on stress discourse in both alienating and liberating ways. Specifically, it examines how stress is an imaginary construction of the self and how this subjugates individuals to the power of the imaginary. It also examines how such constructions are invariably disrupted by unconscious desire and how narrating one’s stress provides opportunities to experience empowerment and liberation. Implications of this perspective for our understanding of the stressed subject are discussed.
Constructs of leadership remain deeply contested despite the research effort expended in this area, suggesting that alternative approaches yielding different insights may prove useful to furthering understanding of this enigmatic concept. In this article I adopt a narrative approach to explore constructions of leadership in and through the TV Western drama series Rawhide, a cattle drive epic, in which leadership is a central theme. Here, I present two readings of leadership as portrayed by trail boss Gil Favor and I draw on this double movement and the possibilities for ironic epiphany opened up by it in analysing leadership. The first reading addresses the text through the lens(es) of leadership theory drawing on both contemporary theory (Rawhide was first broadcast between 1959–1965) and more recent constructs. This analysis of the text produces insights into the epistemic constraints, or social discourses, which surround its production; the second reading looks for ways to disrupt the narrative of leadership presented. This gives rise to paradox and produces leadership as irony. The article concludes by considering the implications of this for conceptualizing leadership.
Nonprofit organizations face an increasing expectation to be more business-like. Although scholars have theoretically explored this phenomenon and studied its influence in various contexts, there has been little empirical examination of the ways in which nonprofit practitioners themselves describe and make sense of their organizations and their work as business-like. Specifically, scholars have not explored the ways in which nonprofit practitioners communicatively reconcile the inherent tensions between being business-like and the pursuit of a social mission. Based on findings from an eight-month ethnographic field study of a US nonprofit organization, this article describes the sophisticated ways in which nonprofit practitioners understand, define and negotiate the need to be business-like within the nonprofit context and the central role of communication in that process. Additionally, critical assessment of these findings reveals the political qualities of talking about nonprofit organizing as being business-like, leading to potential transformative redefinitions of the business-like imperative that acknowledge rather than suppress conflicts inherent in the practice of nonprofit organizing.
Entrepreneurship is commonly talked about in the West as a freely chosen, optimistic occupational choice. Yet, as an ideological construct, entrepreneurship is ultimately shaped in ways that legitimize some entrepreneurs while marginalizing others. Taking cues from scholarship that has unpacked the gendered and raced dimensions of entrepreneurial discourse, this article examines the classed dimensions of such discourse. Illuminating the ideological contradiction between American dream promises of class mobility and enterprise initiatives, I argue that the hegemonic allure of entrepreneurial discourse stems in large part from the (re)production of class hierarchies around notions of exceptional capitalist ownership, action and innovation and opportunity recognition.
This article offers a narratological reading of two ‘ecopreneurial’ self-narratives to demonstrate how individuals achieve a relatively coherent sense of self-identity by connecting the discursively available world ‘out there’ with ‘inner selves’. The narratives of ecopreneurs, who claim to be motivated by the creation of social and environmental value over economic value, provide an appropriate empirical platform for this work because ecopreneurs have to negotiate between sets of discourses and social groups relating to the environment and to enterprise which are particularly conflicting. An analysis of the structure and shaping of these narratives demonstrates that narrators draw on a range of such discourses, each of which is felt as essential to a sense of self. These provide underlying scaffolding, within which narrators position characters of self and others. However, this identity positioning reveals existential dissonances resulting from combining conflicting environmental and business commitments. As they attempt to reconcile such conflicts, their appraisals of the same behaviours and values shifts at different points in the narratives, according to whether they attempt to identify themselves with, or against, the characterization of their others. Furthermore, they also employ strategies of distancing and deflection to negotiate a narrow, twisting path between binary oppositions into which they jettison what might disrupt the narration of a coherent identity.
This article explores what it is like to be a ‘working carer’—that increasingly common category of employee who combines paid work with unpaid care.1 We draw on phenomenology for our initial motivation, epistemological assumptions and method of data analysis, and on critical sensemaking as a template for interpretation and theorization. In line with critical sensemaking, we see identity as a central feature of personhood, and we examine our participants’ identity work through the specific refractions of plausibility, context and agency. These highlight the inconsistencies and oscillations of identity work, and the ways in which it is influenced by competing discourses of the right kind of employee and the right kind of woman. We foreground the existential aspects of sensemaking, as participants struggle to come to terms with the impact of care on their own life-projects and search for meaning. This reflects our belief that experiential approaches to work-related issues have a vital part to play in a ‘turn to meaning’ in critical organizational research. Key implications for practitioners and campaigners are discussed, and policy makers urged to address the issue of working carer identification, recognition and support with greater sensitivity to the label’s psychological and existential implications.
In this article, I examine self-formation through the activity of organic farming in a self-managing community. How do producing and consuming subjects organize their selves around the ‘false natural object’ (Veyne, 1997) that is organic? To inform this ethnographic account of self-formation, I draw on the work of Michel Foucault. A study is made of technologies of the self in the contemporary setting of a self-managing organic farming community without compromising the self-forming, self-regulating activity of the ethical subject presented by Foucault in his studies of Antiquity. I contend that the self is formed by the subject as a thinking and acting being through the modes of subjectivation and objectivation (Foucault, 2000a). The article contributes empirical support to theoretical studies that consider how Foucault’s texts account for the intervention of human subjects alongside sociological factors when exploring organizational issues (Bardon and Josserand, 2011; McKinlay and Pezet, 2010). It is recommended that a wider range of responses could be opened up in Foucault-inspired studies at other organizational sites, including the workplace, by exploring the self-formation of the subject as a starting point for understanding the importance of the individual alongside sociological factors.
Organizational life is replete with claims for emancipation. Existing approaches understand these claims either through theories of macro-emancipation (which focus on larger social structural challenges) or micro-emancipation (which focus on everyday challenges). However, these theories fundamentally misrecognize many emancipatory challenges in organizations. Drawing on the work of Jacques Rancière, we argue that this philosophy is fertile for shifting or unframing traditional approaches of emancipation in organization studies. Emancipation is triggered by the assertion of equality in the face of institutionalized patterns of inequality, it works through a process of articulating dissensus, and it creates a redistribution of what is considered to be sensible. By focusing on these three aspects, we argue that a whole range of emancipatory struggles which had previously been disregarded by studies of macro-emancipation and micro-emancipation come back into view. This significantly extends how we conceptualize emancipation in organizations and allows us to address some of the shortcomings of existing theories.
In this article a new role for managers is advocated to create conditions for genuine collaborative engagement in 21st Century organizations. The new role is as a facilitator of emancipatory dialogue, a discourse among parties that can lead to mutual learning, deep understanding and insight, and collaborative consciousness and action. The facilitator role is described and illustrated in the article as a means to encourage free expression and inquiry, but the article also warns about the imposition of coercive norms within the work group that might be externally imposed or even self-imposed. As managers promote an emancipatory form of dialogic engagement, conversations ensue that bring out people’s individual and collective wisdom, creativity, and dignity.
The Heideggerian strand of organization studies has highlighted important aspects of organizational practices. Because of the emphasis of the practice-oriented approach on routine practice, researchers have taken a special interest in how innovative, improvised action arises. One of the dominant views is that innovative action is the outcome of different variations in everyday practices. Insightful though these studies are, they do not recognize the role of the body in their conceptualization. This article seeks to redress this imbalance by drawing on Merleau-Ponty’s (1962) phenomenology, suggesting that the body, as a carrier of practices, is the locus of innovative action. The article proposes that innovative action emerges in our bodily expressive-responsive skilful coping mode. In illustrating this argument, we make use of case study material focusing on practices involving elderly care service provision. We show how the care workers under consideration cope with the demands of their unpredictable work by adapting their bodily expressive-responsive abilities innovatively to emerging situational calls. Practice innovation emerges as the outcome of a tension between what it makes sense for the care workers to do based on the practical intelligibility underlying their own practices, on the one hand, and bureaucratic rules and requirements inscribed in terms of economic rationality and cost-efficiency, on the other. Because bureaucratic rules are perceived as alienating and unethical, innovation would inevitably be a form of resistance. The article specifies this form of practical resistance, concluding with some implications of this approach for organization studies.
The study uses narrative analysis to understand the workers discursive constructions of their classed, gendered and racialized subjective identities and their investments into the collectivity of the union in the context of the lock-out. It goes beyond the Marxian analysis and uses poststructural feminist analysis to understand how the intersectional subjective identities are constituted and their interrelationship to the investments in and constitution of collectivities in the context of industrial action. The study is based on participant observation and interviews of hotel workers in the food and beverage section of a hotel in Toronto, who were locked-out in 2007, and of other workers on the picket line supporting the locked-out workers. These workers are members of UNITE HERE-Local 75 (Now HERE-Local 75), who had been in the process of renewal of their contracts at the time. I would argue that the intersectional subjectivities of the hotel workers and their investments in the collectivity of the union are fluid and relate to their pursuit of material and/or symbolic security through search for an identity as a unionized, active worker or an identity which is secure irrespective of the union.
This article presents a case study of corporate dialogue with vulnerable others. Dialogue with marginalized external groups is increasingly presented in the business literature as the key to making corporate social responsibility possible in particular through corporate learning. Corporate public communications at the same time promote community engagement as a core aspect of corporate social responsibility. This article examines the possibilities for and conditions underpinning corporate dialogue with marginalized stakeholders as occurred around the unexpected and sudden closure in January 2009 of the AU$2.2 billion BHP Billiton Ravensthorpe Nickel mine in rural Western Australia. In doing so we draw on John Roberts’ notion of dialogue with vulnerable others, and apply a discourse analysis approach to data spanning corporate public communications and interviews with residents affected by the decision to close the mine. In presenting this case study we contribute to the as yet limited organizational research concerned directly with marginalized stakeholders and argue that corporate social responsibility discourse and vulnerable other dialogue not only affirms the primacy of business interests but also co-opts vulnerable others in the pursuit of these interests. In conclusion we consider case study implications for critical understandings of corporate dialogue with vulnerable others.
The leadership literature is full of stories of heroic self-sacrifice. Sacrificial leadership behaviour, some scholars conclude, is to be recommended. In this article we follow Keith Grint’s conceptualization of leadership as necessarily pertaining to the sacred, but—drawing on Giorgio Agamben’s notion of profanation—we highlight the need for organization scholars to profane the sacralizations embedded in leadership thinking. One example of this, which guides us throughout the article, is the novel A Wild Sheep Chase, by the Japanese author Haruki Murakami. By means of a thematic reading of the novel, we discuss how it contributes to profaning particular notions of sacrifice and the sacred in leadership thinking. In the novel, self-sacrifice does not function as a way of establishing a leadership position, but as a way to avoid the dangers associated with leadership, and possibly redeem humans from their current collective urge to become leaders. Inspired by Murakami’s fictional example, we call organization scholars to engage in profanation of leadership studies and, in doing so, open new vistas for leadership theory and practice.
Tom Keenoy and Gustavo Seijo: Re-imagining E-mail: Academics in The Castle DOI: 10.1177/1350508409342610 On page 2 of this article, the sentence that reads: "Thus, while the primary analytic focus is on how academics discursively co-construct their engagement, opinions and experience of e-mail, we locate their views within a wider range of supplementary texts which, in turn, also translate e-mail through a variety of alternative, sometimes contradictory and occasionally disconcerting discourses which offer important clues on how to trace–if not e-mail." Should read: "Thus, while the primary analytic focus is on how academics discursively co-construct their engagement, opinions and experience of e-mail, we locate their views within a wider range of supplementary texts which, in turn, also translate e-mail through a variety of alternative, sometimes contradictory and occasionally disconcerting discourses which offer important clues on how to trace???if not entirely reassemble–'the social' through digital artefacts such as e-mail." The publishers apologise to the authors and readers for this error and any misunderstanding arising.