The Routledge Companion to Philosophy in Organization Studies 9780415702867, 9780203795248

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The Routledge Companion to Philosophy in Organization Studies
 9780415702867, 9780203795248

Table of contents :
Notes on contributors
Introduction: philosophy in organization studies – life, knowledge and disruption
PART I Foundations
1 Ontology: philosophical discussions and implications for organization studies
2 Epistemology: philosophical foundations and organizational controversies
3 Ethical philosophy, organization studies and good suspicions
4 Methodology: philosophical underpinnings and their implications
PART II Theories
5 Discourse as organizational and practical philosophy
6 Feminist organization theories: islands of treasure
7 Hermeneutics in organization studies
8 Institutional theory: reflections on ontology
9 Marxism: a philosophical analysis of class conflict
10 Postcolonial theory: speaking back to empire
11 Poststructuralist theory: thinking organization otherwise
12 Practice theory: what it is, its philosophical base, and what it offers organization studies
13 Pragmatism and organization studies
14 Psychoanalysis and the study of organization
15 Queer theory
16 Structuration theory: philosophical stance and significance for organizational research
PART III Special Topics
17 Aesthetics and design: an epistemology of the unseen
18 Ageing: the lived experience of growing up and older in organizations
19 Agency at the intersection of philosophy and social theory
20 The Body: philosophical paradigms and organizational contributions
21 Brands: critical and managerial perspectives
22 Capital as a neglected, yet essential, topic for organization studies
23 Commodification and consumption
24 Commons and organization: potentiality and expropriation
25 Conflict theorizing in organization theory: a political philosophical reading
26 Control: philosophical reflections on the organizational limits to autonomy
27 Corporation: reification of the corporate form
28 Debt for all: towards a critical examination of organizational roles in debt practices and financialization
29 Decision-making: coping with madness beyond reason
30 Democracy: philosophical disputes and organizational governance
31 Diversity studies: the contribution of black philosophers
32 Environment, extractivism and the delusions of nature as capital
33 Finance: finding a philosophical fit?
34 Globalization and the rise of the multinational corporation
35 Governance: changing conceptions of the corporation
36 Historiography and the ‘historic turn’ in organization theory
37 Humour and Organization
38 Identity and philosophy in organizations: a femini[st]ne blind spot
39 Inequality and organizations
40 Justice: re-membering the Other in organizations
41 Leadership: philosophical contributions and critiques
42 Management and its others
43 Measurement and statistics in ‘organization science’: philosophical, sociological and historical perspectives
44 Needs and organizations: the case for the philosophical turn
45 Organization and philosophy: vision and division
46 Paradigms, the philosophy of science and organization studies
47 Performativity: towards a performative turn in organizational studies
48 Power and organizations: a brief but critical genealogy
49 Quantification as a philosophical act
50 Two tales about resistance: management vs. philosophy
51 Rituals in organizations: rupture, repetition and the institutional event
52 Spirituality, religion and organization
53 Strategy, power and practice
54 Trust: foundations and critical reflections
55 Value: an inquiry into relations, forms and struggles
56 Visual: looking at organization
57 Work: the philosophical limits of an idea in the neo-liberal age

Citation preview

‘This is an inspired collection that revitalizes and re-imagines philosophical engagement in organization studies. I would challenge anyone to come away from reading it without being surprised, challenged, and stimulated.’ Andrew Crane, George R. Gardiner Professor of Business Ethics, York University, Canada

‘Mir, Willmott and Greenwood have assembled leading scholars to provide a much needed in-depth exploration of the philosophical foundations of organization studies. It is an essential read for students and academics who want to understand how philosophy is elemental to the field.’ Stella Nkomo, University of Pretoria, South Africa

‘One might ask why philosophy should play any role in conducting research in organization studies. This new and beautifully orchestrated collection reflects most facets of organizational life, and includes topics ranging from the philosophical foundations of organizational studies to the reality of inequality in organizations. As one reads through the collection, however, one understands why the question could never be whether philosophy should play a role, but given the many roles it does play, covertly and overtly, whether those roles deserve examination. The talented and well-respected editors of this volume make clear that the answer is “yes.”’ Thomas Donaldson, University of Pennsylvania, USA

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The Routledge Companion to Philosophy in Organization Studies

The Routledge Companion to Philosophy in Organization Studies provides a wide-ranging overview of the significance of philosophy in organizations. The volume brings together a veritable ‘who’swho’ of scholars that are acclaimed international experts in their specialist subject within organizational studies and philosophy. The contributions to this collection are grouped into three distinct sections: • • •

Foundations – exploring philosophical building blocks with which organizational researchers need to become familiar. Theories – representing some of the dominant traditions in organizational studies, and how they are dealt with philosophically. Topics – examining the issues, themes and topics relevant to understanding how philosophy infuses organization studies.

Primarily aimed at students and academics associated with business schools and organizational research, The Routledge Companion to Philosophy in Organization Studies is a valuable reference source for anyone engaged in this field. Raza Mir is Professor of Management at William Paterson University, USA. He currently serves as the Chair of the Critical Management Studies Division of the Academy of Management. Hugh Willmott is Professor of Management at Cass Business School, City University London and Research Professor of Organization Studies at Cardiff Business School, UK. He is currently an Associate Editor of Academy of Management Review. Michelle Greenwood is Senior Lecturer in Business Ethics at Monash University, Australia. She currently serves as an Associate Editor at Business & Society and Journal of Business Ethics.

Routledge Companions in Business, Management and Accounting

Routledge Companions in Business, Management and Accounting are prestige reference works providing an overview of a whole subject area or sub-discipline. These books survey the state of the discipline including emerging and cutting edge areas. Providing a comprehensive, up to date, definitive work of reference, Routledge Companions can be cited as an authoritative source on the subject. A key aspect of these Routledge Companions is their international scope and relevance. Edited by an array of highly regarded scholars, these volumes also benefit from teams of contributors which reflect an international range of perspectives. Individually, Routledge Companions in Business, Management and Accounting provide an impactful one-stop-shop resource for each theme covered. Collectively, they represent a comprehensive learning and research resource for researchers, postgraduate students and practitioners. Published titles in this series include: The Routledge Companion to Fair Value and Financial Reporting Edited by Peter Walton

The Routledge Companion to International Business Coaching Edited by Michel Moral and Geoffrey Abbott

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The Routledge Companion to Accounting History Edited by John Richard Edwards and Stephen P. Walker

The Routledge Companion to Cost Management Edited by Falconer Mitchell, Hanne Nørreklit and Morten Jakobsen

The Routledge Companion to Creativity Edited by Tudor Rickards, Mark A. Runco and Susan Moger

The Routledge Companion to Digital Consumption Edited by Russell W. Belk and Rosa Llamas

The Routledge Companion to Strategic Human Resource Management Edited by John Storey, Patrick M. Wright and David Ulrich

The Routledge Companion to Identity and Consumption Edited by Ayalla A. Ruvio and Russell W. Belk

The Routledge Companion to Public–Private Partnerships Edited by Piet de Vries and Etienne B. Yehoue The Routledge Companion to Accounting, Reporting and Regulation Edited by Carien van Mourik and Peter Walton The Routledge Companion to International Management Education Edited by Denise Tsang, Hamid H. Kazeroony and Guy Ellis

The Routledge Companion to Human Resource Development Edited by Rob F. Poell, Tonette S. Rocco and Gene L. Roth The Routledge Companion to Auditing Edited by David Hay, W. Robert Knechel and Marleen Willekens The Routledge Companion to Entrepreneurship Edited by Ted Baker and Friederike Welter

The Routledge Companion to Accounting Communication Edited by Lisa Jack, Jane Davison and Russell Craig

The Routledge Companion to International Human Resource Management Edited by David G. Collings, Geoffrey T. Wood and Paula Caligiuri

The Routledge Companion to Visual Organization Edited by Emma Bell, Jonathan Schroeder and Samantha Warren

The Routledge Companion to Financial Services Marketing Edited by Tina Harrison and Hooman Estelami

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The Routledge Companion to International Entrepreneurship Edited by Stephanie A. Fernhaber and Shameen Prashantham

The Routledge Companion to Alternative Organization Edited by Martin Parker, George Cheney, Valerie Fournier and Chris Land

The Routledge Companion to Non-Market Strategy Edited by Thomas C. Lawton and Tazeeb S. Rajwani

The Routledge Companion to the Future of Marketing Edited by Luiz Moutinho, Enrique Bigne and Ajay K. Manrai

The Routledge Companion to Cross-Cultural Management Edited by Nigel Holden, Snejina Michailova and Susanne Tietze

The Routledge Companion to Accounting Education Edited by Richard M. S. Wilson

The Routledge Companion to Financial Accounting Theory Edited by Stewart Jones

The Routledge Companion to Business in Africa Edited by Sonny Nwankwo and Kevin Ibeh

The Routledge Companion to Ethics, Politics and Organizations Edited by Alison Pullen and Carl Rhodes

The Routledge Companion to Management and Organizational History Edited by Patricia Genoe McLaren, Albert J. Mills and Terrance G. Weatherbee

The Routledge Handbook of Responsible Investment Edited by Tessa Hebb, James P. Hawley, Andreas G. F. Hoepner, Agnes Neher and David Wood

The Routledge Companion to Mergers and Acquisitions Edited by Annette Risberg, David R. King and Olimpia Meglio

The Routledge Handbook to Critical Public Relations Edited by Jacquie L’Etang, David McKie, Nancy Snow and Jordi Xifra

The Routledge Companion to Ethnic Marketing Edited by Ahmad Jamal, Lisa Peñaloza and Michel Laroche

The Routledge Companion to Consumer Behaviour Analysis Edited by Gordon R. Foxall

The Routledge Companion to Critical Management Studies Edited by Anshuman Prasad, Pushkala Prasad, Albert J. Mills and Jean Helms Mills

The Routledge Companion to Philosophy in Organization Studies Edited by Raza Mir, Hugh Willmott and Michelle Greenwood

The Routledge Companion to Philosophy in Organization Studies

Edited by Raza Mir, Hugh Willmott and Michelle Greenwood

First published 2016 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN and by Routledge 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2016 selection and editorial material, Raza Mir, Hugh Willmott and Michelle Greenwood; individual chapters, the contributors The right of the editors to be identified as the authors of the editorial material, and of the authors for their individual chapters, has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data The Routledge companion to philosophy in organization studies/ edited by Raza Mir, Hugh Willmott and Michelle Greenwood. pages cm. — (Routledge companions in business, management and accounting) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-415-70286-7 (hardback) — ISBN 978-0-203-79524-8 (ebook) 1. Organization. I. Mir, Raza A., editor. II. Willmott, Hugh, editor. III. Greenwood, Michelle, editor. IV. Title: Companion to philosophy in organization studies. HM711.R68 2015 658.1—dc23 2015014486 ISBN: 978-0-415-70286-7 (hbk) ISBN: 978-0-203-79524-8 (ebk) Typeset in Bembo and Stone Sans by Florence Production Ltd, Stoodleigh, Devon, UK


Notes on contributors Acknowledgements Introduction: philosophy in organization studies – life, knowledge and disruption Raza Mir, Hugh Willmott and Michelle Greenwood

xiv xxxi





1 Ontology: philosophical discussions and implications for organization studies Ismaël Al-Amoudi and Joe O’Mahoney


2 Epistemology: philosophical foundations and organizational controversies Andreas Georg Scherer, Elisabeth Does and Emilio Marti


3 Ethical philosophy, organization studies and good suspicions Edward Wray-Bliss


4 Methodology: philosophical underpinnings and their implications Joanne Duberley and Phil Johnson



Theories 5 Discourse as organizational and practical philosophy Rick Iedema 6 Feminist organization theories: islands of treasure Yvonne Benschop and Mieke Verloo

85 87




7 Hermeneutics in organization studies Michael D. Myers


8 Institutional theory: reflections on ontology Tim Edwards


9 Marxism: a philosophical analysis of class conflict Richard Marens and Raza Mir


10 Postcolonial theory: speaking back to empire Gavin Jack


11 Poststructuralist theory: thinking organization otherwise Stephen Linstead


12 Practice theory: what it is, its philosophical base, and what it offers organization studies Jörgen Sandberg and Haridimos Tsoukas


13 Pragmatism and organization studies Bidhan L. Parmar, Robert Phillips and R. Edward Freeman


14 Psychoanalysis and the study of organization Yiannis Gabriel


15 Queer theory Nick Rumens and Melissa Tyler


16 Structuration theory: philosophical stance and significance for organizational research Matthew Jones



Special Topics 17 Aesthetics and design: an epistemology of the unseen Antonio Strati 18 Ageing: the lived experience of growing up and older in organizations Kathleen Riach 19 Agency at the intersection of philosophy and social theory Tracy Wilcox x

249 251




20 The Body: philosophical paradigms and organizational contributions Torkild Thanem


21 Brands: critical and managerial perspectives Adam Arvidsson


22 Capital as a neglected, yet essential, topic for organization studies Harry J. Van Buren III


23 Commodification and consumption Douglas Brownlie


24 Commons and organization: potentiality and expropriation Casper Hoedemaekers


25 Conflict theorizing in organization theory: a political philosophical reading Alessia Contu


26 Control: philosophical reflections on the organizational limits to autonomy Graham Sewell


27 Corporation: reification of the corporate form Jeroen Veldman 28 Debt for all: towards a critical examination of organizational roles in debt practices and financialization Suhaib Riaz



29 Decision-making: coping with madness beyond reason Peter Edward


30 Democracy: philosophical disputes and organizational governance Phil Johnson and Joanne Duberley


31 Diversity studies: the contribution of black philosophers Elaine Swan


32 Environment, extractivism and the delusions of nature as capital Steffen Böhm and Maria Ceci Misoczky


33 Finance: finding a philosophical fit? Geoff Lightfoot and David Harvie




34 Globalization and the rise of the multinational corporation Guido Palazzo


35 Governance: changing conceptions of the corporation André Spicer and Bobby Banerjee


36 Historiography and the ‘historic turn’ in organization theory Michael Rowlinson


37 Humour and Organization Nick Butler


38 Identity and philosophy in organizations: a femini[st]ne blind spot Kate Kenny and Nancy Harding


39 Inequality and organizations Hari Bapuji and Sandeep Mishra


40 Justice: re-membering the Other in organizations Carl Rhodes


41 Leadership: philosophical contributions and critiques Jonathan Gosling and Peter Case


42 Management and its others Campbell Jones


43 Measurement and statistics in ‘organization science’: philosophical, sociological and historical perspectives Michael J. Zyphur, Dean C. Pierides and Jon Roffe


44 Needs and organizations: the case for the philosophical turn Cristina Neesham


45 Organization and philosophy: vision and division Martin Parker


46 Paradigms, the philosophy of science and organization studies John Hassard


47 Performativity: towards a performative turn in organizational studies Jean-Pascal Gond and Laure Cabantous


48 Power and organizations: a brief but critical genealogy Stewart Clegg




49 Quantification as a philosophical act Amit Nigam and Diana Trujillo


50 Two tales about resistance: management vs. philosophy Carl Cederström


51 Rituals in organizations: rupture, repetition and the institutional event Gazi Islam


52 Spirituality, religion and organization Emma Bell and Scott Taylor


53 Strategy, power and practice David L. Levy


54 Trust: foundations and critical reflections Reinhard Bachmann


55 Value: an inquiry into relations, forms and struggles Craig Prichard


56 Visual: looking at organization Samantha Warren


57 Work: the philosophical limits of an idea in the neo-liberal age Peter Fleming






Adam Arvidsson teaches sociology at the University of Milan, Italy. He is the author of Brands: meaning and value in media culture (Routledge, 2006), and more recently The Ethical Economy: rebuilding value after the crisis (Columbia University Press, 2013, with Nicolai Peitersen). His research concerns economic change in the information economy, in particular the economy of immateriality and intangible assets and the intersection between the collaborative economy and the market economy. Adam has published widely on brands, creative industries, peer-production and the political economy of information. Alessia Contu is the Chair, Department of Management and Marketing and Associate Professor of Management at the University of Massachusetts at Boston, USA. Her research interests include corporate and organizational power; resistance and politics of organizing; whistle-blowing and ethical issues in management and organization. Her work has been published in several journals, including Human Relations, Organization Studies, Organization and Journal of Management Studies. Amit Nigam is a Senior Lecturer in Management at the Cass Business School. He received his PhD in a joint program in management and sociology at Northwestern University, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. His primary research interests include organizational change, institutional change, and the role of professions and occupations in change processes. His research has been published in a mix of management, medical sociology, and health services journals including Organization Science, Organization Studies, Academy of Management Review, Social Science & Medicine and Medical Care Research and Review. André Spicer is Professor of Organizational Behaviour at Cass Business School, City University London. He is author of five books including Contesting the Corporation (Cambridge University Press, 2007, with Peter Fleming) and The Wellness Syndrome (Polity Press, 2015, with Carl Cederström). He frequently comments on business issues for media outlets around the world. Currently he is working on a book about stupidity in organization. Andreas Georg Scherer is Professor of Business Administration and Theories of the Firm and

holds a Chair at the University of Zurich (Switzerland). He earned his doctorate in strategic management (1994) and his habilitation degree (2000) in business administration both at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg (Germany). From 2000 to 2002 he was Professor of Management and Public Administration at the University of Constance (Germany). His research interests are in business ethics, critical theory, international management, organization theory, and philosophy of science. He has published nine books including the Handbook of Research on


Global Corporate Citizenship (Edward Elgar, 2010, co-edited with G. Palazzo). His work has appeared in Academy of Management Review, Business Ethics Quarterly, Journal of Business Ethics, Journal of Management Studies, Organization, Organization Studies and in numerous volumes and other journals. He is Associate Editor of Business Ethics Quarterly and is a member of the editorial boards of Business & Society, Organization, and Organization Studies. Antonio Strati is Professor at the University of Trento, Italy, and chercheur associé PREG-CRG

(Ecole Polytechnique) of Paris, France, is both a sociologist and an art photographer. He is the author of Organization and Aesthetics (Sage, 1999) which also appeared in French (PUL, 2004), Portuguese (FGV, 2007) and Italian (Mondadori, 2008), and of Theory and Method in Organization Studies (Sage, 2000). He is co-author (with Silvia Gherardi) of Learning and Knowing in Practice-Based Studies (Edward Elgar, 2012). His artistic research in conceptual photography, Photopoesia, has been published in books and photographic journals, and collected at museums and international collections. Bidhan (‘Bobby’) L. Parmar’s research interests focus on how managers make decisions and collaborate in uncertain and changing environments to create value for stakeholders. His work helps executives better handle ambiguity in their decision-making. His recent research examines the impact of authority on moral decision-making in organizations. Parmar’s work has been published in Organization Science and the Journal of Business Ethics. Parmar is a fellow at the Business Roundtable Institute for Corporate Ethics and the Olsson Center for Applied Ethics at the Darden School of Business. Bobby Banerjee is Professor of Management at Cass Business School, City University London.

His research interests are in the areas of sustainability, critical management studies, corporate social responsibility, postcolonialism, and indigenous ecology. He has published widely and his work has appeared in international scholarly journals including Academy of Management Learning and Education, Journal of Management Studies, Organization, Human Relations, Journal of Marketing and Organization Studies. He is the author of two books: Corporate Social Responsibility: the good, the bad and the ugly (Edward Elgar, 2009) and the co-edited volume Organizations, Markets and Imperial Formations: towards an anthropology of globalization (Edward Elgar, 2009). Bobby is also a Senior Editor at Organization Studies. He spends much of his spare time bemoaning the deplorable state of higher education. Campbell Jones is a philosopher and sociologist specializing in the analysis and critique of capitalist ideology. His early work involved a number of critical studies of the reception of contemporary French philosophy in organization studies and critical management studies. He has edited several books that seek to expand and deepen the reading of philosophy in organizational life. These include [COT, PAO] and several special issues of journals. He also helped establish the journal ephemera: theory and politics in organization. His most recent book is Can the Market Speak? (Zero, 2013) and he is currently writing a book about work. He was previously Director of the Centre for Philosophy and Political Economy at the University of Leicester and Visiting Professor in the Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy at Copenhagen Business School, and currently teaches political economy, social change and thought at the University of Auckland. Carl Cederström is Assistant Professor at Stockholm Business School, Stockholm University. He has previously worked as a Lecturer at Cardiff Business School and been a visiting scholar xv


at The New School for Social Research. He is the co-author of The Wellness Syndrome (Polity Press, 2015, with André Spicer), Dead Man Working (Zero, 2012, with Peter Fleming) and How to Stop Living and Start Worrying (Polity Press, 2010, conversation book with Simon Critchley) as well as the co-editor of Impossible Objects: interviews with Simon Critchley (Polity Press, 2013, with Todd Kesselman) and Lacan and Organization (Mayfly, 2011, with Casper Hoedemaekers). His work has been published in The Guardian, Washington Post, Al Jazeera, New Scientist, Radical Philosophy, 3:AM Magazine and STRIKE! Magazine. He is a frequent contributor, in Swedish, to the magazines Axess and Arena. Carl Rhodes is Professor of Management and Organization Studies at Macquarie University.

His research focuses on critically interrogating the narration and representation of organizational experience in practice and popular culture, with a particular concern with the possibilities for organizational ethics and responsibility. This work endeavours to contribute to the rigorous and critical questioning of what we appreciate organizations to be about, as well as a reformulation, expansion and democratization for how we go about understanding them. While his work can be located in a ‘critical’ tradition, it tries to perform an affirmative critique that avoids ‘finger pointing’, ‘nay saying’ and ‘wowserism’ in favour of a kind of positive cynicism for the possibilities for more ethically alive ways of working in, and studying, organizations. The work he is doing at the moment concerns such things as the anxiety-ridden relationship between ethics and justice in organizations, organizational ethics as an embodied generosity, and the gendered critique of organizational life in popular music, film and television. Carl’s most recent books are The Routledge Companion to Ethics and Politics in Organizations (Routledge, 2015, with Alison Pullen), and Organizations and Popular Culture (Routledge, 2012, with Simon Lilley). Carl serves as Associate Editor of the journal Organization and Senior Editor of the journal Organization Studies. Casper Hoedemaekers is a Lecturer at Essex Business School, University of Essex. Craig Prichard milks sheep and lives with his family near Palmerston North, a small provincial

city, in the southern end of New Zealand’s North Island. He is currently involved in a performative research project that is developing a New Zealand sheep milk producers’ collective as part of a broader concern with creating more equitable and environmentally sensible forms of food production. He teaches change management courses for Massey University, the country’s distance and agriculture-focused university, and is currently co-editor of Organization, the Critical Journal of Organization, Theory and Society. Cristina Neesham is a social philosopher and business ethicist with a keen interest in developing conceptual and normative foundations for alternative organizing. Her research focuses on the critique of human needs theories and applications in organization research; the relationship between human, social and economic progress; social value creation; organizations as sources of social order and social change; and the role of moral identity versus moral codes in business and professional ethics. Cristina is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Business and Law at Swinburne University of Technology, Section Editor for the Journal of Business Ethics and Chair of the Australasian Business Ethics Network. A PhD graduate in philosophy from the University of Melbourne, Cristina has directed her academic career towards applications of philosophy to the practice of management and organizing. As a long-standing contributor to philosophy-oriented projects, Cristina is an Editorial Board member of Philosophy of Management and Advisory Board member of the Journal of Philosophical Economics. She is also a member of the Paris Research on Norms in Management and Law (PRIMAL) group at Université de Paris X. xvi


David Harvie is a member of the Centre for Philosophy and Political Economy at the

University of Leicester. Most of his publications can be found at DavidHarvie. David L. Levy is Professor and Director of Grants at the College of Management, University

of Massachusetts, Boston. David founded and is currently Director of the Center for Sustainable Enterprise and Regional Competitiveness, which engages in research, education and outreach to promote a transition to a sustainable and prosperous economy. David’s research examines corporate strategic responses to climate change and the growth of the clean energy business sector. More broadly, his work explores strategic contestation over the governance of controversial issues engaging business, states, and NGOs. David has published widely on these topics, including articles in the Academy of Management Review, Strategic Organization, Business and Society, Organization, Organization Studies, and the Journal of Management Studies. He co-edits the blog Organizations and Social Change. David holds a DBA from Harvard University, an MBA from Tel Aviv University, Recanati School of Management, and a M.Sc. from Manchester University. Dean C. Pierides is a Lecturer of Organisations and Society at Manchester Business School, University of Manchester. He was previously a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Organisations, Society and Markets at the University of Melbourne and Visiting Research Fellow in the Department of Organization at Copenhagen Business School. His research is about how organizations handle uncertainty and focuses on emergency management, risk, disasters, crises and markets. Most recently, he has researched emergency management in the Australian State of Victoria, government financial management in Australia, and power and politics in the music industry. He is a board member of the Research Committee on Sociology of Organization at the International Sociological Association. Diana Trujillo has been a Professor in the School of Management at the University of Los

Andes since 2001. She is a doctoral candidate at New York University Wagner School of Public Service. Her research areas include management of complex issues, cross-sector collaborations, collaborative governance arrangements, social innovation, and social entrepreneurship. Currently her work is focused on understanding the links between value creation and impact evaluation in cross-sector collaborations. She contributed to: Socially Inclusive Business in Latin America (Harvard University Press, 2010), Effective Management of Social Enterprises (Harvard University Press, 2006), and Social Partnering in Latin America: lessons drawn from collaborations of businesses and civil society organizations (2004). She has authored over a dozen case studies. Douglas Brownlie is a Professor of Marketing and Consumer Culture in the School of Business at the University of Dundee. Edward Wray-Bliss is an Associate Professor in the Department of Marketing and Management

at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. His research and teaching examines the ethics of organizational and academic life. Recent writings include a critical reconceptualization of organizational soul; a genealogy of leadership ethics; and an examination of the visual construction of CEO subjectivity. Edward lives in Sydney, with his family, dog and motorbike. Elaine Swan is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Communication at the University of Technology, Sydney where she teaches Global Work, Intercultural Communication and xvii


Organisational Change. She is author of Worked up Selves (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007) on the interface between therapeutic cultures and the workplace, Food Pedagogies (Ashgate, 2015, with Rick Flowers) and Gender and Diversity in Management (Sage, 2008, with Caroline Gatrell). Recent papers include ‘Cooking up a Storm: politics, labour and bodies’ in a special issue of Leisure/Loisir on food and leisure, ‘States of white ignorance, and audit masculinity in English higher education’ (Social Politics), ‘Commodity diversity and smiling faces’ (Organization). With Rick Flowers, she researches food pedagogies, race and gender, and multiculturalism at work resulting in papers such as ‘Eating the Asian Other? Pedagogies of food multiculturalism in Australia’, (Portal Journal of Multidisciplinary International Studies) and ‘Pedagogies of doing good: problematizations, authorities, technologies and teleologies in food activism’ (Australian Journal of Adult Learning), and a co-edited special issue of the Australian Journal of Adult Learning on food pedagogies. Her current research is on multiculturalism as work, examining ethnic food tours, food festivals and food social enterprises. Elisabeth Does is a PhD student and working as a research and teaching assistant at the

Department of Business Administration at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. In 2012 she graduated from the University of York, UK, where she obtained a Master of Arts in Philosophy and Economics. Before she studied Business Administration at the Catholic University EichstaettIngolstadt, Germany. One of her main research interests is philosophy of social science, in particular philosophy of economics. Emilio Marti is currently a visiting scholar at Cass Business School (City University London). He received his PhD from the University of Zurich, Switzerland. His research interests include corporate social responsibility, financial innovations, financial regulation, performativity, philosophy of science and socially responsible investing. One of his papers is forthcoming in the journal Academy of Management Review. Emma Bell is Professor of Management and Organisation Studies at Keele University. Her work focuses on organization studies and research methods and methodologies in the context of critical management studies, where she has investigated issues relating to organizational culture, belief, gender and power. A current project, with Nivedita Kothiyal, focuses on the politics and practices of knowledge production in the Indian context. In addition to publishing in scholarly journals, she is the author of Reading Management and Organization in Film (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), co-author of Business Research Methods (Oxford University Press, 4th edn 2015) and A Very Short, Fairly Interesting and Reasonably Cheap Book about Management Research (Sage, 2013); coeditor of Routledge Companion to Visual Organisation (Routledge, 2013), and Sage Major Works in Qualitative Research in Business and Management (Sage, 2015). Gavin Jack is Professor of Management in the Department of Management at Monash University, Australia. His research interests include: postcolonial theory and analysis of management, organization and marketing topics; cross-cultural management and multilingualism in organizations; gender and diversity in the workplace, including an ongoing team project on women’s experience of the menopause at work; the intersection of sexuality and social class in work and leisure contexts. He has published co-authored monographs, including International and Cross-Cultural Management Studies: a postcolonial reading (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009, with R. Westwood), an edited book Core–Periphery Relations and Organisation Studies (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, with R. Westwood, F. R. Khan and M. Frenkel) and essays/articles in journals such as the Academy of Management Review, Organization, Sociology, British Journal of Management, Journal of Business Ethics, Management International Review and Critical Perspectives on International Business. xviii


Gazi Islam is Associate Professor of People, Organizations and Society at Grenoble Ecole de Management. He has served as faculty at Insper, Tulane University, and the University of New Orleans. His current research interests include the organizational antecedents and consequences of identity, and the relations between identity, group dynamics and the production of group and organizational cultures. His work been published in journals such as Organization Studies, The Leadership Quarterly, Organization, Human Relations, American Journal of Public Health, Journal of Business Ethics, and American Psychologist. Geoff Lightfoot is a member of the Centre for Philosophy and Political Economy in the School

of Management at the University of Leicester. His current research centres on the history of financial thought. Graham Sewell is Professor of Organisation Studies and Human Resource Management in the

Department of Management and Marketing at the University of Melbourne. His interests focus on workplace surveillance, teamwork, business ethics, organization and management theory, qualitative research methods, evolutionary psychology, strategy development processes and business agility. Guido Palazzo is Professor of Business Ethics at HEC, University of Lausanne in Switzerland.

He earned his PhD in political philosophy at the University of Marburg in Germany. His research deals with corporate responsibility in global supply chains, the mechanisms of (un)ethical decision-making in organizations, social change processes and the fight against organized crime. His articles have been published in journals such as Academy of Management Review, Academy of Management Journal, Journal of Management Studies, Business Ethics Quarterly and Journal of Business Ethics. He sits on the editorial boards of the Business Ethics Quarterly, the Journal of Management Studies, the Academy of Management Review and Business & Society. Guido Palazzo has received the Max Weber Award for his research on multinational corporations. Hari Bapuji is an Associate Professor of Strategic Management and International Business at University of Manitoba. His research is focused on management of organizational problems that have an effect on society and vice versa. He has published two books and numerous scholarly articles in leading management journals, including Harvard Business Review, Journal of Business Ethics, Journal of Management Studies, Journal of Operations Management, Management and Organization Review, and Management Learning. Dr Bapuji’s research has been widely cited by hundreds of print and electronic media outlets, including New York Times, Huffington Post, Financial Times, Business Week, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, CNN, China Daily, USA Today and CBC. Haridimos Tsoukas is the Columbia Ship Management Professor of Strategic Management in the University of Cyprus, Cyprus and a Distinguished Research Environment Professor of Organization Studies at Warwick Business School, University of Warwick, UK. He obtained his PhD at the Manchester Business School (MBS), University of Manchester, and has worked at MBS, the University of Essex, the University of Strathclyde, and at the ALBA Graduate Business School (Greece). He has published widely in several leading academic journals. He was the Editor-in-Chief of Organization Studies (2003–2008) and has served on the Editorial Board of several journals. The University of Warwick awarded him the honorary degree Doctor of Science in 2014. With Ann Langley he is the co-founder and co-convener of the annual International Symposium on Process Organization and co-editor of the Perspectives on Process Organization Studies, published annually by Oxford University Press. He has co-edited several xix


books, including The Oxford Handbook of Organization Theory (Oxford University Press, 2003, with Christian Knudsen) and Philosophy and Organization Theory (Emerald, 2011, with Robert Chia). He is the author of Complex Knowledge (Oxford University Press, 2005) and If Aristotle were a CEO (in Greek, Kastaniotis, 2012, 4th edn). Harry J. Van Buren III is the Jack and Donna Rust Professor of Business Ethics at the University

of New Mexico’s Anderson School of Management. He has an MS in finance from the University of Illinois’ College of Business, an M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary, and a PhD in business environment, ethics, and public policy from the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz Graduate School of Business. His research has been published in various journals, including the Academy of Management Review, Business & Society, Business and Society Review, Business Ethics Quarterly, Futures, Human Resource Management, Human Resource Review, Journal of Business Ethics, and the Journal of Management, Spirituality, and Religion. His current research focuses on the ethical implications of contemporary employment practices, the human rights obligations of businesses, the intersection of religious and business ethics, organizational social capital, and stakeholder fairness. He is also an Associate Editor at Business & Society. Hugh Willmott is Professor of Management at Cass Business School and Research Professor

in Organization Studies, Cardiff Business School. He has previously held professorial appointments at the Universities of Cambridge and Manchester and visiting appointments at the Universities of Copenhagen, Lund and Cranfield. He has published over twenty books including Making Quality Critical, The Re-engineering Revolution, Managing Knowledge, Management Lives, Studying Management Critically, Fragmenting Work, The Oxford Handbook of Critical Management Studies and the textbooks Organizational Behaviour and Management, Organization Theory and Design and Understanding Identity and Organizations. He has a strong interest in the application of poststructuralist thinking, especially the work of Ernesto Laclau, to the field of management and business. He has published widely in social science and management journals, including Academy of Management Review, Administrative Science Quarterly, Journal of Management Studies, Organization, Organization Studies and Organization Science and is currently a member of the editorial boards of the Academy of Management Review, Administrative Science Quarterly, Organization Studies and Journal of Management Studies. He is presently an Associate Editor at Academy of Management Review. Ismaël Al-Amoudi is Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) in Organisational Studies at Cardiff

Business School and Deputy Director of the Centre for Social Ontology (University of Warwick). His work spans across anthropology, management studies, political philosophy, social theory and sociology. One recurring theme in his research concerns the nature of social norms and the basic processes through which they are legitimated or contested. Another recurring theme concerns the contribution of philosophical ontology to the human and social sciences. Recent publications include articles in the British Journal of Sociology, Business Ethics Quarterly, Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, Organization and Organization Studies. Jean-Pascal Gond is Professor of Corporate Social Responsibility at Cass Business School, City

University London, UK. His research mobilizes organization theory and economic sociology to investigate corporate social responsibility (CSR). Key research programmes currently in progress on CSR include the roles of standards and metrics in the institutionalization of CSR in the financial marketplace and in corporations, the influence of CSR on employees and the variations of CSR across varieties of capitalism. His research in economic sociology is concerned with xx


the influence of theory on managerial practice (performativity) and the governance of selfregulation. He has published in the fields of CSR, perfomativity and organization theory in leading academic journals such as Business Ethics Quarterly, Business & Society, Economy and Society, Journal of Business Ethics, Journal of Management, Journal of Management Studies, Organization Science, Organization Studies and French journals such as Finance Contrôle Stratégie and Revue Française de Gestion. Jeroen Veldman is a Senior Research Fellow at Cass Business School, City University London. His interests revolve around the corporate form in relation to organization studies. An interest in the historical development of the corporate form developed into a research interest in the way the corporate form functions in discourses of organization studies, management, company law, economics, finance, accounting, politics and corporate governance. With Hugh Willmott, Research Professor at Cass, he is currently engaged in a research project on corporate governance Jeroen has published on these topics in the British Journal of Management, Critical Perspectives on Accounting, Business Ethics: European Review, Business and Society Review, ephemera and M@n@gement. Joanne Duberley is a Professor of Organisation Studies and Director of Research and Knowledge Transfer at Birmingham Business School, University of Birmingham. Her research interests focus on the study of career. She is particularly interested in the careers of women scientists and engineers and has recently developed a stream of research examining extended working lives and changing configurations of activity in later life. Joe O’Mahoney is a Reader in Organisational Studies at Cardiff University Business School,

Wales. Joe researches critical realism and management knowledge, and has an interest in the ontology of self. Prior to joining academia, Joe was a management consultant specializing in organization start-ups and change management; he also ran a small manufacturing company. John Hassard is Professor of Organisational Analysis at Manchester Business School, UK. Previously he taught at Cardiff University, London Business School and Keele University. From 2000 to 2010 he held a visiting position as the Fellow in Management Learning at the Judge Business School, Cambridge University. His main research interests lie in the areas of organizational analysis and corporate change. For the former, he is interested in critical, historical and philosophical approaches to organization theory; for the latter, his research relates to managerial, operational and structural developments in the modern corporation, as in studies of enterprise restructuring in the Chinese steel industry and company reform in Japan, UK and USA. Professor Hassard has received funding in connection with these studies from the British Council, Economic and Social Research Council, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Department of Health, Department of Trade and Industry, and the United Nations. His research has resulted in the publication of 16 books, 70 chapters in edited collections, and 90 articles in journals such as the Academy of Management Review, British Journal of Industrial Relations, Human Relations, Industrial Relations, Journal of Management Studies and Organisation Studies. He recently received an honorary doctorate for his research in organization theory. Jon Roffe is a Vice-Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of New South Wales, Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of Management and Marketing at the University of Melbourne, and a Founding Editor of Parrhesia: A Journal of Critical Philosophy. The co-editor of a number of books on twentieth-century French philosophy, he is also the author of Badiou’s xxi


Deleuze (Acumen, 2012), Muttering for the Sake of Stars (Surpllus, 2012), Abstract Market Theory (Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming 2015), Gilles Deleuze’s Empiricism and Subjectivity (EUP, forthcoming 2016), The Works of Gilles Deleuze (forthcoming 2016, re-press) and the co-author with A. J. Bartlett and Justin Clemens of Lacan Deleuze Badiou (EUP, 2014). Jonathan Gosling is an independent academic with a number of roles, including Professor of Leadership Development at IEDC Bled School of Management, Slovenia. Jonathan brings a philosophical turn of mind to a range of topics. At the time of writing his chapter he was researching the leadership of malaria elimination programmes, of sustainable supply chains in China, and of professional organizations (universities, health care, etc.). He and Peter Case, coauthor of the chapter in this volume, have written a series of papers on the relevance of philosophy to leading and managing. His work is published in journals such as Leadership, Harvard Business Review, Organization, AMLE and Social Epistemology. His most recent book is Napoleonic Leadership: a study in power (Sage, 2015), examining various modes of ‘doing power’. He was an early instigator of the Critical Management Studies movement, and now plays a significant role in the ‘greening’ of management education worldwide, including co-founding the One Planet MBA. He worked many years as a mediator and on other interventions inspired by psychodynamic perspectives on power and organizing. He has served as Visiting Professor at INSEAD, McGill, Bled, Copenhagen Business School and Renmin University of China (lecturing on the Philosophy of Leadership to the School of Philosophy). He is co-founder of and is a keen sailor. Jörgen Sandberg is Professor in the School of Business at the University of Queensland,

Australia. His research interests include competence and learning in organizations, leadership, practice-based research, qualitative research methods and philosophy of science. His work has appeared in several journals, including Academy of Management Review, Academy of Management Journal, Journal of Management Studies, Journal of Organization Behavior, Harvard Business Review, and Review of Educational Research. He has published several books, including Invisible Management: the social construction of leadership (Thomson, 2001, with Sjostrand and Tyrstrup), Managing Understanding in Organization (Sage, 2007, with Axel Targama), Constructing Research Questions: doing interesting research (Sage, 2013, with Mats Alvesson) and Leadership and Understanding: an understanding based perspective on humans and organizations (Studentlitteratur, 2014, in Swedish with Axel Targama). He serves on the editorial boards of Academy of Management Review, Journal of Organizational Behavior and Organization Studies. He is currently carrying out research on professional practice and its development, frameworks and methodologies for developing more influential and relevant theories and sensemaking in organizations. Kate Kenny She researches whistleblowing in organizations and is interested in theories of affect, power and psychoanalysis. She holds a research fellowship at Cambridge University’s Judge Business School, and is an Edmond J. Safra Lab Fellow at Harvard University, 2013–2015. Dr Kenny’s work has been published in Organization Studies and Human Relations among other journals. She is an editorial board member of Organization, the Journal of Organizational Ethnography and ephemera: theory and politics of organization. Her books include Understanding Identity and Organizations (Sage, 2011, with A. Whittle and H. Willmott), and Affect at Work: The Psychosocial and Organization Studies (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, with M. Fotaki). Kathleen Riach is Associate Professor in Management at Monash University, Australia. Her research interests centre on exploring everyday experiences of work that are rarely formally xxii


acknowledged involving ageing, bodies, smell, sexuality, the menopause and uncanny encounters. She has published in a range of international journals including Organization Studies, Human Relations, British Journal of Management, Sociology and Urban Studies and she sits on the editorial board of Organization and Gender, Work & Organization. Her work has also been presented and informed discussion in arenas such as the United Nations and UK government and appeared in national media outlets in Australia and the UK. Laure Cabantous is a Senior Lecturer at Cass Business School, City University London, UK.

Her research interests include the performative power of theories, as well as risk management and calculative practices, in particular in the (re)insurance industry. She has also a long-lasting interest in the study of decision-making under uncertainty. Laure’s research has been published in journals such as Organization Science, Organization Studies, Journal of Management, International Journal of Management Reviews, Human Relations as well as in decision-making journals such as the Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, the Journal of Behavioral Decision-Making, and Theory and Decision. Maria Ceci Misoczky works as a Professor and Researcher in the area of Organization Studies of the Postgraduate Administration Programme at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (Porto Alegre, Brazil). She is also a Visiting Professor at the National University of the South (Bahia Blanca – Argentina) and EAFIT (Medellin – Colombia). She has an interdisciplinary trajectory: being a medical doctor specializing in Public Health; her MSc was in urban and regional planning and her PhD in administration. She is the coordinator of two research groups: Organization and Liberating Praxis and Health Management. Her research interests include organizational practices of social movements and popular struggles, the proposition of a critique of the political economy of organization, social production of public policies, Latin American and Brazilian social thought, organization of health services and systems. Martin Parker works at the University of Leicester School of Management, UK. His recent writing has been about ‘alternative’ organization in two senses. One is work on co-operatives, worker self-management and so on. The other is on different ways of thinking about what ‘organization’ means, so he has written about angels, shipping containers, art galleries, as well as a book on outlaws. His plans for the next few years include work on secret societies, James Bond, comic book villains and tower cranes. Matthew Jones is a Lecturer in Information Management at the Judge Business School and the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge. He previously held postdoctoral positions at the University of Reading and the University of Cambridge where he was involved in the development of computer-based models for public policy decision-making. His research addresses the relationship between information systems and social and organizational change with a particular focus on practice-based approaches and the health care sector. Melissa Tyler is a Professor of Work and Organization Studies at the University of Essex. Her

work on feminist theory, gender and sexuality, and on emotional, aesthetic and sexualized forms of labour has been published in a range of academic journal articles, authored books and edited collections. She is currently working on collaborative projects on LGBT people’s experience of ageing at work; gender and organizational commemoration; managing, organizing and marketing the past; and workplace discrimination and the desire for recognition. xxiii


Michael D. Myers is Professor of Information Systems and Head of the Department of Information Systems and Operations Management at the University of Auckland Business School, New Zealand. His research interests are in the areas of qualitative research methods in information systems, and the social, organizational and cultural aspects of information systems. Michael wrote a book entitled Qualitative Research in Business and Management (Sage, 2013, second edn). He has also published research articles in many journals including Communications of the ACM, Communications of the AIS, European Journal of Information Systems, Information and Organization, Information Systems Journal, Information Systems Research, Information Technology & People, Journal of Management Information Systems, Journal of Strategic Information Systems, Journal of Information Technology, MIS Quarterly and Pacific Asia Journal of AIS. Michael won the Best Paper award (with Heinz Klein) for the most outstanding paper published in MIS Quarterly in 1999. He served as a Senior Editor of MIS Quarterly from 2001 to 2005 and as a Senior Editor of Information Systems Research from 2008 to 2010. He also served as President of the Association for Information Systems (AIS) in 2006–2007 and is now a Fellow of AIS. Michael J. Zyphur received his PhD in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Tulane University in 2006. Since then, he has published and delivered multiple week-long workshops on statistical modelling topics such as structural equation modelling, multilevel modelling and multilevel structural equation modelling. His current interests include statistical modelling, the history and sociology of probability and statistics, science studies more generally and classic American pragmatism. Michael Rowlinson is Professor of Management and Organizational History in the School of Business and Management, Queen Mary University of London. He has published widely on the relationship between history and organization theory in journals such as Academy of Management Review, Business History, Human Relations, Organization, and Organization Studies. His research on corporate history concerns the representation of history by organizations, especially the dark side of their involvement in war, slavery, and racism. This has been published in journals such as Critical Perspectives on Accounting, Journal of Organizational Change Management and Labour History Review. His current interests include the methodology of interpretive historical research in organization studies. He edited the journal Management & Organizational History from 2008 to 2013 and he is now a Senior Editor for Organization Studies and a co-editor for the Special Topic Forum of the Academy of Management Review on ‘History and Organization Studies: toward a creative synthesis’. Michelle Greenwood works at the Department of Management at Monash University.

Michelle’s scholarship is dedicated to bringing critical approaches to business ethics. In this regard, her research has focused on ethics and HRM (critiquing ideology in HRM); stakeholder theory (developing political and relational understandings of stakeholder theory); CSR (developing political CSR approaches to HRM); and CSR reporting (analysing visual rhetoric and the constitutive role of communication of corporate reports). This commitment has also driven her involvement as Section Editor (HRM) for Journal of Business Ethics, Associate Editor for Business & Society, and editorial board member for Business Ethics Quarterly and Business and Professional Ethics Journal. Michelle’s participation as co-editor (with Raza Mir and Hugh Willmott) of the Routledge Companion to Philosophy in Organisation Studies has been a highpoint in this endeavour. Mieke Verloo is Professor of Comparative Politics and Inequality Issues at Radboud University

Nijmegen and Non-Residential Permanent Fellow at the IWM, Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna. She has extensive consultancy and training experience on gender mainstreaming and xxiv


intersectionality for several European governments and institutions. At the IWM, she was the Scientific Director of the MAGEEQ project, see, and of the QUING project, see Her latest research focuses on opposition to gender equality. Recent publications have appeared in Signs, Politics, Groups and Identities and the Oxford Handbook of Gender and Politics (Oxford University Press, 2013). Nancy Harding is Professor of Organization Theory at Bradford University School of Management. She completed her Ph.D at the University of Wales (Cardiff) in 1987, and worked at the universities of Leeds and Swansea before moving to Bradford in 2006. Her research and teaching focus on critical approaches to understanding organizations, and her particular interest is working lives. She has published papers in many of the expected academic journals, including Human Relations, Organization Studies, Jo. Management Studies, Organization, etc. Her books include a trilogy that explore the manager (Routledge, 2003), the employee (Routledge, 2013) and, eventually, the organization (Routledge, 2017/8). She is co-author of books on the social construction of dementia (Harding and Palfrey, 1997), leadership as identity (Ford, Harding and Learmonth, 2008) and, with Marianna Fotaki, on bringing feminism into 21st century organization studies (Routledge forthcoming). Nick Butler is a postdoctoral researcher at Lund University, Sweden. He works in the area of

organization studies, focusing primarily on the sociology of work and critical perspectives on management. His research interests include the politics of excellence and relevance in the business school, the discourse of science in leadership studies, the working lives of stand-up comedians and the philosophy of humour. He is a member of the editorial collective of ephemera. Nick Rumens is Professor of Organization Behaviour at Middlesex University, London, UK.

His research uses queer theory to examine lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans employment issues, workplace friendships, intimacies and identities in organization. He has published on these topics in journals including Human Relations, Organization Studies, British Journal of Management, Organization, Human Resource Management Journal and Gender, Work & Organization. He has also published a number of books: Sexual Orientation at Work: international issues and perspectives (Routledge, 2014, co-edited with Fiona Colgan); American Pragmatism and Organization (Gower, 2013, co-edited with Mihaela Kelemen); Queer Company: friendship in the work lives of gay men (Ashgate, 2011); and An Introduction to Critical Management Research (Sage, 2008, co-authored with Mihaela Kelemen). He is currently writing: Queer Business: queering organisation sexualities, to be published by Routledge. Peter Case is Professor of Organization Studies at the University of the West of England. He

also holds a part-time position as Professor of Management and Organization Studies at James Cook University, Australia. His research interests encompass leadership studies, organization theory and philosophy, organizational ethics and international development. Peter’s books include Worldly Leadership (Palgrave, 2012, with S. Turnbull, G. Edwards, D. Schedlizki and P. Simpson), and Belief and Organizations (Palgrave, 2012, with H. Höpfl and H. Letiche). He is a fellow of the Leadership Trust Foundation and holds editorial board positions on several journals, including Leadership, Leadership and the Humanities and the Leadership & Organizational Development Journal. Peter Edward is a Lecturer in International Business Management at Newcastle University Business School, UK. Before entering academia he had over twenty years’ experience as a xxv


chartered engineer and as a management consultant, the latter predominantly in programme management of business transformations and business start-ups and mergers. His research interests are in using poststructural and critical theory to investigate the role of business in society with particular focus on ethics and CSR, sustainability and global growth, and the role of business in ‘Third World’ development. His work on global inequality and the ethics of poverty has been used by the United Nations Development Programme and various charities including the New Economics Foundation. Peter Fleming is Professor of Business and Society at Cass Business School, City University London. His research interests cover a number of areas in critical management studies, including power, neo-liberal capitalism, corporate corruption and class. He is the author and co-author of a number of books including, The End of Corporate Social Responsibility (Sage, 2013), Resisting Work: the corporatization of life and its discontents (Temple University Press, 2014) and The Mythology of Work (Pluto Books, 2015). Phil Johnson is currently Professor of Organization Studies and Head of the OB/HRM Division at the Management School, Sheffield University. His research interests include methodologies and epistemologies in organization studies as well as current developments in HRM praxis in supply chains and changes to organizational forms. R. Edward Freeman is University Professor and Olsson Professor at the Darden School, University of Virginia. He has a PhD in philosophy from Washington University, and is best known for his work on stakeholder theory. Raza Mir is a Professor of Management at William Paterson University. His research mainly

concerns multinational corporations and issues relating to power and resistance in organizations, and he is working on a forthcoming book titled Multinational Corporations: a critical essay. He is also interested in Urdu literature, and is the author of The Taste of Words: an introduction to Urdu poetry (Penguin, 2014). He recently served as the Chair of the Critical Management Studies Division of the Academy of Management. Reinhard Bachmann is Professor of International Management and Director of the Centre for Trust Research (CTR) at SOAS, University of London. He has published in leading journals, such as Organization Studies, British Journal of Sociology, Cambridge Journal of Economics and Journal of Trust Research. He is co-editor of various books, including the Handbook of Trust Research and the Handbook of Advances in Trust Research (Edward Elgar, 2006 and 2013, both with Akbar Zaheer), and two Special Issues of Organization Studies on trust (2001 and 2015). Richard Marens is a Professor of Management at the California State University, Sacramento. He earned both a JD and a PhD from the University of Washington and has published in a number of management and ethics journals as well as chapters in books. His research interests include the emergence of labour unions as financial activists, employee ownership, the evolution of the construct of corporate social responsibility within the context of American social and economic history, governmental subsidies of business, the role of class in globalization, and the rise and decline of middle management. Rick Iedema manages the research portfolio at the New South Wales Ministry of Health –

Agency of Clinical Innovation in Sydney, Australia. He is also Professor of Healthcare Innovation xxvi


at the University of Tasmania’s Faculty of Health. In 2010 he was made Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences of Australia in recognition of his international contribution to social science theory and research. His scholarly focus has been on the organizational and improvement dimensions of health care practice. His main research interests are enabling frontline practitioners’ learning in order to enhance their capability for dealing with in situ complexity, and bringing about large systems change oriented towards implementing broad-ranging practice principles and general care models. He has been awarded AU$15 million for this work from mostly competitive government funding schemes. He has published across a wide range of organizational studies, health sociology, and communication theory journals about the organizational, pedagogic and communication dimensions of health care reform and improvement. His most recent book (Radcliffe Medical Press, 2013, with Jessica Mesman and Katherine Carroll) titled Visualising Healthcare Improvement: innovation from within summarises these findings and arguments. He is currently editing an overview compendium for Cambridge University Press, titled Communicating Safety and Quality in Health Care. Robert Phillips is Professor of Management at the University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business and has a joint appointment with the program in Philosophy, Politics, Economics, and Law (PPEL). His work has appeared in Business Ethics Quarterly, Strategic Management Journal, and Academy of Management Review among others. He is author of Stakeholder Theory and Organizational Ethics (Berrett-Koehler, 2003). His other research interests include American pragmatism, stakeholder theory and ethics in network organizations. He is a Senior Fellow at the Olsson Center for Applied Ethics at the Darden School and is past president of the Society for Business Ethics. Samantha Warren is a Professor at Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University. She is a critical

management scholar, a keen photographer and ardent traveller. Prior to becoming an academic, she spent ten years in the sales and marketing industry while bringing up her two sons, which fuelled her interest in the ‘sharp end’ of organizational life: the impact of management practices on everyday employees at work and the deeply emotional and sensory experience of working life. She joined Cardiff Business School in August 2015, having previously taught at the University of Essex, Surrey and Portsmouth. She has held visiting posts at KTH, Stockholm in Sweden, the Universities of Adelaide and UniSA, Australia and University of Tennessee, USA and was a Visiting Professor at IAE, Lille, France from 2009 to 2013. She is a co-founder of the ESRC funded International Network of Visual Studies in Organizations ( a longstanding executive board member of the Standing Conference on Organizational Symbolism ( and is a member of the Association of Business Schools (ABS) Research Committee. Sandeep Mishra is Assistant Professor of Business Administration at the University of Regina. He received his PhD and MSc degrees in psychology from the University of Lethbridge, and his BSc in psychology from McMaster University. Sandeep’s research is broadly in the areas of judgement and decision-making, personality, and individual differences. Particular research interests include risk-taking, gambling, antisocial conduct and inequality. Scott Taylor is Reader in Leadership and Organization Studies at Birmingham Business School,

University of Birmingham, UK. He previously taught at Manchester Metropolitan, Essex, Exeter and Loughborough Universities, and has visited University of Auckland, University of Delhi, and University of Business Administration Jeddah. Most of Scott’s research takes the meaning xxvii


of work in contemporary organizations as its subject, through critical interpretive analysis of qualitative data. He is currently working with Emma Bell on analyses of responses to Steve Jobs’ death to better understand the social construction of charisma post-mortem, and has recently published a co-edited textbook with Brigid Carroll and Jackie Ford on leadership studies (Sage, 2015). He is the co-Chair with Emma Bell of the Critical Management Studies Division of the Academy of Management. Steffen Böhm is Director of the Essex Sustainability Institute and Professor in Management and Sustainability at the University of Essex. He is also an Honorary Professor at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, and a Visiting Professor at Uppsala University, Sweden. He holds a PhD from the University of Warwick, UK. His research focuses on political economies and ecologies of the food-energy-water-carbon-environment nexus. He was a co-founder of the open-access journal ephemera: theory and politics in organization, and is co-founder and co-editor of the open-access publishing press Mayfly Books. He has published five books: Repositioning Organization Theory (Palgrave, 2006), Against Automobility (Blackwell, 2006), Upsetting the Offset: the political economy of carbon markets (Mayfly, 2009), The Atmosphere Business (Mayfly, 2012), and Ecocultures: blueprints for sustainable communities (Routledge, 2014). Stephen Linstead is Professor of Critical Management and Director of Postgraduate Research at The York Management School, University of York. A graduate of the Universities of Keele, Leeds, Sheffield Hallam and Durham, he is a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences, although his work vigorously promotes the ‘humanitization’ of the field of organization studies. His research encompasses organization theory and philosophy; aesthetic approaches to organization; language-based approaches to organization; gender and sexuality in organizations and qualitative methods, ethnography and culture. His research outputs have included articles in journals including Organization Studies, Organization and Human Relations; several books and special issues, the most recent being The Dark Side of Organization (Organization Studies, 2014, with Garance Marechal and Ricky Griffin); and a handful of musical performances, poems and photographs. He is currently working to integrate ethnographic film into his research practice. Stewart Clegg has had a career that started in Yorkshire but, apart from a short sojourn in Scotland in the early 1990s, that has been spent mostly in Australia from where he now travels frequently to Europe, where he is a Visiting Professor at EM-Lyon, France, Nova School of Business and Economics in Lisbon, Portugal, and Strategic Research Advisor, Newcastle University Business School, in the UK. Widely acknowledged as one of the most significant contemporary theorists of power relations he is also one of the most influential contributors to organization studies. In his career he has produced about 50 books, several hundred journal articles, with his most cited work being the classic Frameworks of Power (Sage, 1989). He is Professor of Management and Organization Studies and Executive Director of the Centre for Management and Organisation Studies at the University of Technology Sydney. He is a Distinguished Fellow of ANZAM; a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Social Sciences; a Fellow of Sidney Sussex College, University of Cambridge; a Fellow of the British Academy of the Social Sciences, and an Aston Fellow as well as, most recently, a Fellow of the Academy of Management. Suhaib Riaz is an Assistant Professor of Strategic Management at University of Massachusetts,

Boston. His research interests are in exploring various facets of contestation around strategic, long-term and multiple-stakeholder orientation in organizations. These include issues related to financialization, debt practices and socio-economic inequality. He also has an interest in xxviii


innovation around new and alternative organizing forms under institutional complexity and constraints. His work has been published or is forthcoming in Human Relations, Organization, Critical Perspectives on International Business, Journal of World Business and The Leadership Quarterly. Tim Edwards is a Reader in Organizational Analysis at Cardiff Business School. His most recent

work has been focused on institutional theory, critical realism and reflexivity. He has published in a number of top-ranked journals including, Organization Studies, Human Relations, Journal of Business Venturing and the Journal of Management Inquiry. He is currently conducting research in the area of innovation and institutional change with work focused on the Japanese craft industries in Kyoto. His responsibilities include heading up the Cardiff Organizational Research Group (CORGies) and co-organizing the Cardiff Business School’s Innovation Group (I@C). He also has associate editorial responsibilities for Organization, and the International Journal of Management Reviews and he is on the editorial board for Organization Studies. Torkild Thanem is Professor of Management and Organization Studies, Stockholm Business School, Stockholm University, Sweden. Torkild has a longstanding interest in the philosophy of organization, and the politics, ethics and ontology of embodiment. A central concern throughout has been the Spinozian question of what bodies can do, within and beyond organizations. Over the years, this has also involved empirical research into the lives and work of homeless people, transvestites, public officials, and management consultants, and Torkild is currently conducting research on the management of wellness in organizational performance cultures. Torkild’s research has been published in various journals, including Leadership, Organization, and Organization Studies. Torkild is an Associate Editor of Gender, Work & Organization, and he serves on the editorial boards of the British Journal of Management and the journal Organization. Torkild has been a visiting scholar at the University of Oregon, Stanford University and University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and he is currently a visiting professor at Newcastle University Business School, UK. He is an out-of-breath cross-country skier, a parttime cross-dresser, and a mediocre crossword solver. Tracy Wilcox is a Lecturer at the Business School, UNSW Australia where she teaches leadership, sustainability and business ethics. Her research interest is in responsible management practice; understanding and enabling this involves bringing together virtue ethics and a sociological understanding of how business contexts enable or constrain management action. Tracy has published work on human resource management ethics, moral agency and business ethics education in edited collections and international journals including the Journal of Business Ethics. Prior to her academic appointment she worked as a chemist in the manufacturing industry. Yiannis Gabriel is Professor of Organizational Theory at Bath University. Yiannis has a degree

in mechanical engineering from Imperial College London, where he also carried out post-graduate studies in industrial sociology. He has a PhD in sociology from the University of California, Berkeley. Yiannis is well known for his work into organizational storytelling and narratives, leadership, management learning and the culture and politics of contemporary consumption. He has used stories as a way of studying numerous social and organizational phenomena including leader–follower relations, group dynamics and fantasies, nostalgia, insults and apologies. Another area of his work has been dedicated to developing a psychoanalytic approach to the study of organizations. Yiannis is founder and coordinator of the Organizational Storytelling Seminar series, now in its twelfth year (see, the author of nine books and numerous articles. He is Senior Editor of Organization Studies and has been Editor xxix


of Management Learning and Associate Editor of Human Relations. His enduring fascination as a researcher lies in what he describes as the unmanageable qualities of life in and out of organizations. Yvonne Benschop is Professor of Organizational Behavior at Institute for Management Research at Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands. She is affiliated with the Institute for Gender Studies at Radboud University. Her main sources of inspiration are feminist organization studies and critical management studies. She is interested in informal organization processes that produce inequalities and in the ways to change these processes and inequalities. Current research projects include the intertwinement of gender practices and networking practices; gender and inclusion in leadership; a European comparative study on gender in precarious academic careers (GARCIA, and the development of interventions and instruments for organizational change towards gender equality, diversity and inclusion. She is currently Editor-in-Chief of the journal Organization and Associate Editor of Gender, Work & Organization, and serves on the editorial boards of several other journals. Publications in English include articles in Journal of Management Studies, Organization Studies, Human Relations, Organization, Accounting, Organization and Society, International Journal of Human Resource Management, Journal of Organizational Change Management, and Sex Roles and Gender, Work & Organization.



At the 2004 meetings of the Academy of Management (AOM) in New Orleans, Raza co-organized a workshop titled ‘The Philosophical Foundations of Organizational Research’. Due to a quirk of AOM scheduling, the session was allotted to a cavernous ballroom instead of an intimate setting. Much to Raza’s astonishment, the hall quickly filled up with enthusiastic participants. It was clear that the workshop had tapped into an enormous thirst among the AOM members for a discussion on the philosophical underpinnings of the field. The workshop became a staple of the AOM, a tradition that continues till today. Hugh had been working on philosophical issues since the 1970s. His work had peeled many layers of assumptions from organizational studies over the years, particularly as they related to power. Hugh was also one of the early participants in the ‘philosophies’ workshop, and a conversation between him and Raza began to gather steam about formalizing the insights gleaned from the workshop over the years into a coherent and exhaustive book. Michelle had entered the field of philosophy through the entry point of business ethics, and was enthused to bring more critical and political and inquiry to this domain. She and Hugh had met and worked together in that context, and she had been collaborating with several organizational philosophers over the years. The stage was therefore set for the three of us to get together and share ideas on how we wanted to develop and curate this book. The process of producing this book has been a fulfilling journey, and we hope the book will make a contribution to the field, in terms of offering a comprehensive entry point to the intersection between philosophy and organization studies. Much of the credit for birthing this book should go to our editors at Routledge. In particular, David Varley was an enthusiastic champion at the start, and Nicola Cupit and Natalie Tomlinson have been exemplary editors, weathering our last-minute requests for changes to the structure of the manuscript and helping us stick to our deadlines. We also thank Tamsyn Hopkins of Florence Production Ltd for her support in the editing process. We would like to thank all of our contributors for bringing their expertise to bear in producing some remarkable chapters, and doing so within the draconian word-limits we set for them. We would also like to thank the participants of the ‘philosophies’ workshops over the years, for having given us a lot to digest about organizational philosophy, and the critical management studies (CMS) division for having hosted the philosophies workshop. Special thanks are due to David Weir, who has been one of our strongest well-wishers in the audience. We also have a few personal dedications. Raza would like to acknowledge the tremendous generosity of those who contributed their labour to this project, and also to those activists whose work has inspired him. On the home front, Farah has been an intellectual companion in every sense of the word. Safdar’s questions are imbued with philosophical insights, even though he is only twelve years old. And Sahir, who is ten, is a philosophy unto himself! xxxi


For Hugh, this project offered the possibility of drawing together the work of so many colleagues whose work he has admired over the years; to collect together in one volume a consolidation of philosophically engaged work across a range of themes and topics; and to build a collection that provides some pointers for the future development of our field. It has been a most enjoyable and fulfilling collaboration. This space also gives him an opportunity to acknowledge the support, inspiration and tolerance provided by Irena, Sasha, Anna and Chloe when developing this volume and its preceding projects. For Michelle, this project meant the creation of an incredible resource and an opportunity to make a modest contribution. She worked on it with pleasure, the pleasure of working with wonderful collaborators, the pleasure of seeing beautiful words and ideas come to action, and the pleasure of providing a morsel to Nicola, Grant and Maxine (for which she thanks Brendan). A final heartaching pleasure was the presence of Jan. And lastly, a message to you, the reader. We hope that this book enables meanings and actions for your own research, editing, reviewing and teaching. We hope you extend and dispute its many ideas, and take the time to tell us so.


Introduction: philosophy in organization studies Life, knowledge and disruption Raza Mir, Hugh Willmott and Michelle Greenwood

The fate of an epoch that has eaten of the tree of knowledge is that it must know that we cannot learn the meaning of the world from the results of its analysis, be it ever so perfect; it must rather be in a position to create this meaning itself. It must recognize that general views of life and the universe can never be the products of increasing empirical knowledge, and that the highest ideals, which move us most forcefully, are always formed only in the struggle with other ideals, which are just as sacred to others as ours are to us. Max Weber (1912[1949]: 12)

It could be argued that when the philosophical foundations of organizational research get debated, the community of organizational scholars divides into two broad camps. First there are those who would rather not engage with what they regard as irrelevant or tiresome abstractions. For them, the only priority is that of ‘application’, of consensus building, of paradigmatic unity and incremental advancement. A comparatively thoughtful articulation of this view was advanced in the 1990s by Jeffrey Pfeffer who implicitly critiqued ‘values that emphasize representativeness, inclusiveness, and theoretical and methodological diversity’ in organization science because, he declared, they produce negative ‘consequences for the field’s ability to make scientific progress, which almost requires some level of consensus, as well as for its likely ability to compete successfully with adjacent social sciences such as economics in the contest for resources’ (Pfeffer, 1993: 599). Likewise, Lex Donaldson has declared that paradigm profusion in the field has left it ‘fragmented’ and littered with approaches that ‘share an anti-management quality, painting managers in an increasingly negative light’ (Donaldson, 1995: 1). Such vigorous and explicit defences of paradigmatic unity may have abated somewhat, in part because of the rise of a countervailing advocacy of paradigmatic plurality (Willmott, 1993), yet the mainstreams of 1

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management theory continue to dismiss, or exhibit impatience with, philosophical inquiry. This thinly veiled hostility is evidenced by calls within strategic management to retain ‘firm performance’ as a dependent variable in all research (see Bowen and Wiersema, 1999 for an analysis), or the exhortations towards implicitly positivist ‘evidence-based research’ in management inquiry (Kepes et al., 2014). Turning to the second camp, their number includes those who see the foundations of organizational theory as yet to be charted terrain, worthy of philosophical examination. This philosophical examination has often been variously undertaken from a philosophy of science orientation (examining the ontological, epistemological and methodological orientation of various organizational theories and practices), a sociopolitical standpoint (evaluating the ideological underpinnings of the field with respect to a variety of subjectivities), or some combination of these orientations. Interest in philosophy has been a feature of contemporary organizational research and pedagogy. Books that have served as a bridge between the two camps, such as Gareth Morgan’s Images of Organization (1997), have been influential in demonstrating the relevance of philosophy for studying organization. And several of the comparatively few papers published in the most prestigious peer-reviewed journals that engage directly with philosophical issues attract a substantial audience and are well cited. It is safe to say that philosophical inquiry now occupies an important, yet often under-represented, position in organizational theory and research. In the field of organization studies, a philosophical sensibility is often entwined with an interest in social (including organization) theory. To deny their current entanglement by insisting upon their separation is an act of social construction that is neither credible nor productive. We have viewed Marx and Weber, Durkheim and Freud, Foucault and Spivak, or Gandhi and DuBois as philosophers; and to that extent this book exhibits a somewhat eclectic approach to philosophy. At the same time, we have sought to respect the difference; this is not a book about social theories masquerading as philosophies. Our collective approach to philosophy in this volume (speaking for ourselves as editors but also, we believe, for many of the contributors) is contemplative but also critical. We subscribe to Marx’s invocation in the eleventh thesis on Feuerbach, ‘philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it’ (Marx, 1888: 423). Accordingly, our approach tilts toward praxis, at least with regard to changing and acknowledging the heterogeneous and chaotic character of organization theory.

Philosophy and organization studies It is instructive to recall that the first journal of the then newly created discipline of management, titled The Journal of the Academy of Management, which emerged in the late 1950s, featured in each of its first three volumes at least one article that overtly dealt with philosophy (Davis, 1958; Rich, 1959; Jones, 1960). At that time, an explicit appreciation of philosophy informed the development of management and organizational theory. Since economics has become installed as the dominant discipline of management, one could surmise that the field inherited a philosophical approach from aspects of economic theory (e.g. Nourse, 1922). This inheritance has coloured and restricted discussions of philosophical issues within many areas of business and management. For example, finance researchers writing in the 1940s tried to develop the philosophical components of their discipline (Carson, 1949) and accountants writing in the 1950s (Fagerberg, 1956) were concerned about the philosophy of accounting practice. Both fields continue to discuss issues of philosophical import, so much so that the ascendancy of one style 2


of financial accounting research over another is sometimes seen as a manifestation of its ‘epistemological superiority’ (Rutherford, 2010: 149). Discussion of their philosophical foundations, which are increasingly unmoored from the confines of economics, can be found in all fields of organizational inquiry, such as strategic management (Mir and Watson, 2000), organizational behaviour (Graham, 2000), human resource management (Greenwood, 2013), marketing (Michel, 2009), operations management (Soni and Morris, 1999), and information systems (Adam and Richardson, 2001), to name a few. Gibson Burrell and Gareth Morgan’s Sociological Paradigms and Organizational Analysis (1979) made a substantial impact by offering a two by two matrix on which researchers could map the assumptions underlying diverse streams of research. Cited almost 10,000 times in the Google Scholar database to date, it drew together currents of debate that had been surfacing during the 1970s as the determinism of contingency theory was challenged by the voluntarism of the action frame of reference (Silverman, 1970; Child, 1972), and efforts were made to develop ‘new rules’ of sociological analysis (Giddens, 1976; 1979; see also Jones M., Chapter 16 in this volume) that sought to move analysis beyond the dualism of agency and structure. The Burrell and Morgan book disclosed and generated a thirst for more explicit philosophizing or ‘meta-theorizing’ within organization and management theory. The ABI-Inform database that tracks scholarship in organization studies and related disciplines reveals over 5,000 scholarly papers published over the last five years with ‘philosophy’ or related words in their title/abstract. These numbers are merely indicative that a philosophical interest and approach has gained some traction in the field. What is equally evident upon a more qualitative examination is the growing convergence between critical traditions of social and organization theory and philosophical inquiry. This is perhaps to be expected, as critical scholarship is more likely to challenge and de-naturalize the sedimented axioms of ‘mainstream’ organizational theory. The act of uncovering and interrogating the assumptions underlying research is what moves the production of knowledge from the realm of the unremarkable to the domain of the contestable. This reflexive turn in organization studies has produced a rich trove of edited books that bring philosophical issues to the forefront (e.g. Hassard and Pym, 1990; Jones and ten Bos, 2007; Lounsbury et al., 2011; Helin et al., 2014). Related endeavours have sought to connect organizational studies with social theory, often with philosophical undercurrents (see Adler et al., 2014, for a recent example). Specific orientations within management and organization studies – notably critical accounting (Cooper and Hopper, 1990) and critical management studies (Alvesson et al., 2009), have exhibited a strong philosophical orientation. The books cited in the previous paragraph collectively have decentred the dominant paradigm by laying the groundwork for inquiry that offers an alternative to the values and tautologies that support research in our field that self-referentially masquerades as objective. Contributors to these books also historicize the arguments in our field, and connect them to broader debates in other social sciences. Thus, this book adds to a diverse and growing ecosystem of research and inquiry into the philosophical dimensions of the study of the world of organization(s).

Life, knowledge and disruption As the three editors of the book began to discuss the structure of the book, our organizing ideas appeared to follow two interwoven trajectories, the first being the 1909 painting by Gustav Klimt titled The Tree of Life that constitutes the cover image of this book, and the second the quotation by Max Weber that forms the epigraph of this introduction. 3

Raza Mir, Hugh Willmott and Michelle Greenwood

Klimt’s masterpiece offers us an especially serendipitous segue into the theme of our book. The cover design offers only a section of the painting whereas the original (sometimes called Stoclet Frieze) comprises three huge panels with over 20 square feet of design. The symbology of the tree of life cuts across cultures, myths, geographies and theologies. The tree, rooted in the ground and stretching out to the skies, symbolizes a connection between earth and heaven, between the rooted questions of ontology and the febrile queries of epistemology. The curvy twists of the branches of the tree in the painting represent the multiple ways in which the space of knowledge is negotiated across multiple realities. Klimt’s use of artistic conventions from many cultures (the birds and fishes in the branches are drawn from Asian and Islamic art) present to us the heterogeneity of knowledge forms. A solitary figure on the left side of the painting could represent the researcher’s quest for philosophical answers, while the embracing couple at its right could represent the implicit emergence of a community. Finally, a dark raven in the branches, a foreboding figure, represents the pitfalls associated with this process of inquiry. We are intrigued by the idea that, metaphorically, Stoclet Frieze links knowledge to life, and represents multiplicity and heterogeneity as harmony. In the end, the purpose of philosophical inquiry is not to achieve uniformity, but perhaps to attain the mutual amity that we see in the branches of Klimt’s tree. Klimt’s painting emerged a mere five years after the publication of Max Weber’s essay Objectivity in Social Science, from which our opening epigraph is drawn. Here, Weber emphasizes that ideas arising from different political and epistemic contexts can only move ahead if they engage with each other in a spirit of mutual respect. The obverse of this statement was perhaps best articulated by Mr Kurtz, the infamous character in Joseph Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness: The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. What redeems it is the idea only. An idea at the back of it; not a sentimental pretence but an idea; and an unselfish belief in the idea – something you can set up, and bow down before, and offer a sacrifice to. Ideas ultimately have consequences, which are articulated as policy and have material impact on people. Philosophical inquiry that is respectful as well as questioning of multiplicity and heterogeneity is therefore not only an act of academic honesty; it is an ethical imperative. It is our willingness to recognize, challenge and reflect on our ideals and the ideals of others, rather than simply investigate what we assume to be real or true, which opens us up to life. Our quest for knowledge is our potential undoing; it bounds our approach to the tree of life. In the words of the poet T.S. Eliot: The endless cycle of idea and action, Endless invention, endless experiment, Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness; Knowledge of speech, but not of silence; Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word. All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance, All our ignorance brings us nearer to death, But nearness to death no nearer to GOD. Where is the Life we have lost in living? Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information? The cycles of Heaven in twenty centuries Bring us farther from GOD and nearer to the Dust. (Eliot, 1934: 7) 4


Weber is clear in his claim that knowledge, and the pursuit thereof, no matter how ‘perfect’, cannot provide the meaning of life. In The Rock Eliot asks: ‘Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?’ Philosophy, from the Greek philosophia, translates as love of wisdom. An invitation to philosophy is a call to move beyond, to start before, to take to task, to undermine, that which is our knowledge. An invitation to philosophy of organization is a call to challenge and disrupt the received wisdom concerning ontology, epistemology and/or ethics in organizational studies. We use the word disruption here somewhat ironically. Disruption (and its variations disrupt and disruptors) became a managerial buzzword to hate in 2014 (Luce, 2013). Whereas historically disrupters were seen as deviants bent on subverting the system, the birth of the construct ‘disruptive innovation’, the term Harvard Professor Clayton Christensen used to describe bringing to markets new ‘game-changing’ technologies, placed the term among the prime movers of capitalism. Consider for example Rupert Murdoch’s headline use of the term when advocating Australia as a ‘disruptive economy’ (Murdoch, 2013). However, the reality of disruption is considerably more savage. One recalls the telling words of Marx and Engels in The Communist Manifesto to recall the disruptions produced by capitalism: The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all, even the most barbarian nations into civilisation. The cheap prices of commodities are the heavy artillery with which it batters down all Chinese walls, with which it forces the barbarians’ intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate. It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilisation into their midst, i.e. to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image. (Marx and Engels, 1848[2002]: 4) The booms and busts of life in the age of capitalism, to say nothing of its recurrent military adventures, produce disruptions in the life of the working people of the world that the likes of Christensen and Murdoch seek to paper-over with their benign and ideological terminology. In this book, we seek to disrupt disruption, and re-appropriate this idea for critical use. By being disruptive of received wisdoms, ‘philosophical analysis helps keep meaning open in a scientific field’ (Tsoukas and Chia 2011: 15). Related ideas of discontinuity, impasse and resistance, with regard to time, space or persons have a long and proud history in philosophy. Philosophy and philosophers have since ancient times been disruptive through their demands that we question our beliefs and values, reject conventions in society, resist shared myths and think for ourselves. Consider, for example, that Socrates paid with his life for his attempts to transform Athenian society. In turn, later philosophers sought to disrupt philosophy from the past. Without overlooking his political naivety and complicity, Heidegger’s strategy ‘to disrupt philosophy and the university by exposing it to philosophy’s other . . . to let philosophy be conceptually disrupted by the concrete experience of life’ was aimed at the renewal of philosophy rather than its demise (Caputo, 1993: 57). The influence of great thought and thinkers from the past may be experienced at once as a blessing and a curse, creating the necessity for ‘strong poets to wrestle with their precursors, even to the death’ (Bloom, 1973: 5). Philosophical puzzlement, a state of apoira or seemingly insoluble impasse in inquiry, is the starting point to the opening of disagreement and debate. Recognition that uncontrollability, undecidability and disorganization ‘are not mere supplements to proper organization, but are the property of organization’ is at the heart of a philosophy of organization (Jones and ten Bos, 5

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2007: 4). Rather than respond to disorganization with rules derived from history or convention, we believe that it is incumbent on us all to resist continuity and to enact other forms of organizing and organization. Philosophy then becomes a dual act of disruption and creation, leading us back to life itself. It is telling that without any hint that we planned to foreground the idea of disruption as part of our positioning of philosophy in organization studies, many contributors to this volume have used the term. We now turn to consider the chapters that comprise this volume, sketching how they relate to the structure of the book, and how they connect to the themes of life, knowledge and disruption.

Foundations, theories and special topics We must not imagine that the world turns towards us a legible face, which we would have only to decipher; the world is not the accomplice of our knowledge; there is no prediscursive providence that disposes the world in our favor. We must conceive analysis as a violence we do to things, or in any case as a practice that we impose upon them. Michel Foucault (1983: 127)

In his celebrated lecture The Order of Discourse, Michel Foucault had suggested that for a text to achieve the status of discourse, it must carry the imprimatur of institutional consent. It is obvious that this book, like all other texts, will become part of a certain discourse. But what kind of a discourse should it be? What kind of disciplining devices should it subject itself to, and what kinds of subjectivities will it ultimately find itself line alongside and against? Many of the chapters pose important ethical and methodological questions for organizational researchers. As intellectual collaborators in this enterprise, the co-editors of the book also participate in this process, thus declaring a shared preparedness to question the premises of capitalism and the ways in which management and organizational theory has been shaped by that very system. In that sense, we are in agreement with Foucault when he theorizes discourse as a dialectical relationship between desire (which wants discourse to be unrestricted) and institutions (which seek to rein it in, and align it with their interests). Institutions exert their power in multiple ways. For instance, they operate through exclusion, or the forbidding of various aspects of speech, behaviour, etc. In the context of research, exclusion would be the act of rendering certain forms of representation, or the representation of certain subjectivities as irrelevant, as non-research, as anecdote, as unimportant. Also, institutions may exhibit rarefaction, or the constricting of the terms involved in the discourse in such a way that the multiplicities of their meanings are corralled. For example, one of the criticisms posed against certain forms of research is that it is ‘all over the map’, that it attempts to make far too many connections instead of restricting itself to an institutionally prescribed set of questions. Finally, institutions operate through application, or the imposition of roles on speaking subjects. In other words, the legitimacy of the researcher is directly linked to his or her position in the institutional process. Our collective motivation as intellectual collaborators in this enterprise is to interrupt the disciplining power of dominant discourses, and introduce a resistive polyphony into the mainstreams of organizational theorizing. Hence, a key feature of this volume that sets it aside from any predecessors is the breadth of its coverage, and the insistence that each foundation, theory and topic is examined within a philosophical frame of the author’s choosing. With more than 50 chapters, its contents shine a philosophical light on a variety of assumptions, approaches and topics that constitute both 6


traditional and cutting-edge aspects of organizational studies. Its structure facilitates an interweaving of philosophy and organizational studies in multiple ways. In the first, Foundations section, our contributors address central themes of philosophy and bring them toward organizational studies. In the second, Theories section, in contrast, each chapter takes an approach that is central and/or relevant to organizational theory and interrogates it by drawing upon one of more philosophical traditions. Finally, the Topics section allows our contributors some latitude to explore the philosophical indebtedness and philosophical significance of a wide range of topics, and to review and problematize their invariably contested meaning and multiple paths of development. Our aim has been to assemble in a single volume the many different ways in which philosophy infuses the analysis of organization and can serve to illuminate and advance its study. We believe organizational researchers will especially welcome contributions in which scholars knowledgeable about specific fields and topics of inquiry demonstrate the relevance of philosophy to these areas of interest. The Foundations section ‘involve[s] identifying the assumptions that underpin any truth claim and then are disrupted through their denial and the identification of the absent alternatives whose articulation produces an alternative rendition of reality’ (Duberley and Johnson, Chapter 4 this volume). It comprises chapters on four topics that we feel are essential to any volume on philosophy: ontology, epistemology, ethics and methodology. The authors of these chapters have attempted to accomplish three interrelated tasks. They offer a foundational discussion on how these concepts have been dealt with in the broader philosophical arena. They then focus on how these concepts have been applied by organizational researchers. Finally, they make suggestions for a way forward, discussing how these concepts can be deployed in the future by theorists of organizations. The issues addressed in these chapters are not only fundamental to our knowledge but to our (organized) life. We start with a discussion of ontology. While discussing the nature of reality as represented in organizational studies, Ismaël Al-Amoudi and Joe O’Mahoney (Chapter 1, this volume) unpack the implicit ontology of positivism, and recommend that researchers in our field develop multiple and novel methods of inquiry that are rooted in alternative ethical and political traditions. Likewise, the nature of knowledge remains a contested term for researchers; to that end, Andreas Scherer and colleagues (Chapter 2, this volume) examine the vexing issue of epistemology, offering constructive philosophy as a way to build bridges across apparently incommensurable epistemic systems. We then move on to ethics where the deployment of ‘business ethics’ as a legitimizer of business practices makes this branch of philosophy a particularly fraught terrain in our field, an issue that Edward Wray-Bliss (Chapter 3, this volume) examines with great clarity. Finally, in their discussion of methodology, Joanne Duberley and Phil Johnson (Chapter 4, this volume) examine the intricate assumptions, values and rules that researchers bring to bear in their work. They argue that any process of methodological engagement is intrinsically a philosophical act, and outline a range of philosophical perspectives that underpin different methodologies in management research. Philosophy is the source of the deep assumptions upon which we base our knowledge, including our capacity to question these assumptions. As with the roots of the tree, the foundations of our knowledge are not fixed and inert, rather they grow, shift, perhaps die, but always strive to move deeper and seek out the dark. The Theories section comprises chapters that analyse the philosophical underpinnings of many of the theories that constitute our knowledge of organization(s) as they guide analysis and empirical study. Instead of summarizing each chapter, we offer some broad and integrative statements about the theoretical traditions of organizational research and philosophy. Every theory and knowledge claim is infused by value-laden political positions. A scholar engaged with queer theory will be critical of heteronormativity. A feminist is most likely to be opposed to patriarchy, 7

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a Marxist scholar will almost certainly be anti-capitalist in her approach, and a postcolonialist will see the shadow of colonial relations even in present socio-economic relations, despite the putative departure of formal colonialism from the geopolitical space. To that end, most chapters in this section are transparent in analysing both the political as well as the philosophical assumptions that underlie the theories that they examine. We developed this section by identifying theories that were broadly critical of mainstream theorizing, and then selected scholars whose work we associated with that particular theoretical tradition. We invited our contributors to engage in explicit philosophical contemplation of their theory of choice. The resulting chapters provide original and fascinating analyses of discourse analysis, feminist organizational theories, organizational hermeneutics, institutional theory, Marxist approaches, poststructuralist approaches, postcolonialism, theories of practice, pragmatism, psychoanalytical approaches, queer theory and structuration. Readers may wonder why there is no chapter on resource dependency or network theories. The twin forces of space constraints, and editorial choices must account for our sins of omission as well as commission. The in-depth consideration of these theories by knowledgeable authors delivers original and engaging accounts of the intersection between theories of organization and philosophical approaches. In common with the Topics section, the contributions are extensive but not exhaustive. Exemplifying a poststructural approach, theory can be understood as ‘a process or activity of theorizing that spans disciplines, questioning both its own representations and the way it is itself represented’ (Linstead, Chapter 11 this volume). Seen in this way, theories can be inventive and disruptive as they ‘not only suggest that things could be otherwise than they are, but that things are already otherwise than the ways in which they are represented’. Of all the theories represented in this volume, queer theory probably provokes the greatest disruption to our knowledge and our ways of knowing through ‘its refusal to be reduced to or casually explained away by other philosophies’ due to its very nature of being at odds with the normal (Rumens and Tyler, Chapter 15 this volume). Hence, queer theory becomes ‘an unstable and itinerant philosophical resource for unsettling ontological assumptions’ about social phenomena rather than a statement about those phenomena per se. Put succinctly, queer theory is ‘an attitude of unceasing disruptiveness’ (Parker, 2002: 158). Likewise, Marxism brings a historical and dialectical approach to organizational studies that we ignore at our own peril, and feminist approaches decentre the patriarchal assumptions that threaten to become a common sense within our field. On the other hand, practice theory and pragmatism provide a much-needed philosophical critique of the logic of scientific rationality that hegemonically pervades organizational research, while discursive and hermeneutical approaches incorporate a sense of dynamism into its mainstreams. Structuration theory moves organizational discussions past structure–action dichotomies, while institutional theories equip us with the wherewithal to analyse the shifting relationships between multiple analytic units and categories. Finally, at the heart of any collectivity lies an individual, and psychoanalytic theories help us determine the reflexive relationships between the self and society that renders the political personal and vice versa. The theories presented and philosophically analysed in this volume constitute veritable building blocks of our research as organizational scholars. In the Topics section of the book, we have sought to induce philosophical concerns into a variety of topics addressed by organizational theorists. We did so by generating a wish-list of topics, both new and old, that related to organized life, identifying influential organizational scholars who had done significant and original work on a particular topic, and asking them to prepare comparatively short, imaginative pieces on topics for which they have passion. The result is over 40 chapters that educe some crucial philosophical questions (adapted from Blackburn, 2009) in relation to the selected topics. 8


Questions about ‘who are we?’ – the self and the self in relations with others – drive inquiries in the topics around how we enact ourselves such as ageing, body, commodification, diversity, humour, identity, rituals, spirituality and work. Such topics naturally emanate from feminist, psychoanalytic and queer theories to consider how we make ourselves/are made in the process of organizing. Drawing from psychoanalytic theories, we are reminded that identity is influenced by repressed feelings, fantasies and desires, that these ‘unconscious influences act to disrupt a stable sense of self, although people continue to strive for such coherence’ (Kenny and Harding, Chapter 38 this volume). Indeed, it is in response to the transformative possibilities of social change inherent in events that we engage in rituals, whereby invocation of symbolic practices becomes a means of limiting the radical potential of moments of disruption (Islam, Chapter 51 this volume). Following questions around who we are, are questions that broach ‘are we free?’ – freedom, constraint and responsibility – as examined in this volume in chapters on agency, control, governance, leadership, strategy, finance, management, organization power, resistance and trust. Links emerge in discussion of these topics with institutional theory, practice theory, pragmatism, structuration theories and poststructuralism. We live in a society where the institutional norms of research are strongly influenced by external forces. In his critique of the indoctrination of professionals in the modern world of universities and funding agencies, Jeff Schmidt had referred to the concept of ‘assignable curiosity’, which he defines as a subtle narrowing of the possible fields of inquiry by the institutional forces that constrain research parameters and force professionals into realms of inquiry that further the dominant paradigm (Schmidt, 2000). As professionals engaged in research, we constantly are seduced into and resist the siren all of assignable curiosity, and these topics may prove helpful in examining our role, both as agents and interlocutors of the system. To that end, theories that examine resistance to the dominant order such as Marxism and postcolonial theory also address these questions. Questions of ‘how do we know?’ and ‘how can we understand each other?’ within the context of organization arise in debates about aesthetics, decision-making, historiography, performativity, paradigms, quantification, measurement and the visual, which draw from theories such as hermeneutics, discourse and others. Indeed, while the language of organizational research is suffused with words like ‘validity’ and ‘reliability’, we also need to engage with other more fundamental words, such as ‘knowledge’, ‘belief’, and even ‘truth’. Much has been said about the performative role of language. The concern within organization studies with the way that narratives legitimate themselves may indeed by connected to Weber’s central concern with legitimation of domination (Jones, 2003). Performativity in its many guises (see Gond and Cabantos, Chapter 47 this volume) holds that knowledge and discourse, rather than represent reality, are collective and transformative processes. However, social reality can be transformed not only through the performance of narrative, but also through the active mobilization of bodies (Riach, Chapter 18 this volume), images (Warren, Chapter 56 this volume), scientific representations (Nigam and Trujillo, Chapter 49 this volume, Zyphur, Pierides and Roffe, Chapter 43 this volume), and material artefacts (Strati, Chapter 17 this volume). In taking up concrete topics, our contributors have excavated and explicated their significance philosophically. Their willingness to ask the tougher, more profound questions befitting a philosophical approach has enabled them to subject the assumptions that populate the facile metanarratives, and upon which analysis of these topics is routinely restricted, to critical scrutiny. ‘What is society?’ and ‘what are our rights?’ are questions to which our thoughts turn when considering topics such as capital, commons, corporation, debt, democracy, globalization, justice, inequality, conflict, environment, needs and value. It is in these discussions where overlaps between philosophy and social theory are very apparent. The modern world is bedeviled by a plethora of contradictions and escalating crises as well as momentous achievements. The chapters 9

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problematize the foundations, theories and topics of this without being nihilistic. In considering their social relevance, disruptions are understood as birth pangs of an emergent order, where subjectivities that were hitherto oppressed beyond self-expression may begin to assert themselves, with a growing self-confidence, without being defined by marginality within the mainstream, and so strengthened in resolve to deal with their histories, their multiple identities, labours, loves, and lives.

There is nothing more practical than a good philosophy In ‘The Prison Notebooks’ Antonio Gramsci (1971) referred to Marxism as the ‘philosophy of praxis’, presumably to elude his censors. As a consequence of its association with the term, Marxism became the tradition most closely identified with a concern for praxis. But the reality is that many philosophies have, or are attributed, practical intent and application, both in the realm of politics and in the space of inquiry. Likewise, strong philosophical approaches are dialectical, in that they absorb and transform those ideas to which they are opposed. Philosophical approaches work best when they disrupt sectarianism as they respect and incorporate the contributions of idealism and materialism, the scientific and the aesthetic, the harmonious and the contradictory elements of the world. Taken together, the chapters in this book advance an approach to organizational studies and research that decentres the taken-for-granted assumptions populating the ‘common sense’ of our field. Positively, the chapters invite a more reflective, inclusive and politically sensitive understanding of working life and its challenges. The world of work and organizations is characterized by tremendous heterogeneity and upheaval, and the philosophically inspired insights found in the contributions to this Companion display and encourage sensitivity to, and incorporation of, this heterogeneity within the diverse roots and branches of organizational research.

References Adam, A. and Richardson, H. (2001). Feminist philosophy and information systems. Information Systems Frontiers, 3(2): 143. Adler, P.S., du Gay, P., Morgan, G. and Reed, M. (eds) (2014). Oxford Handbook of Sociology, Social Theory and Organization Studies: contemporary currents. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Alvesson, M., Bridgman, T. and Willmott, H. (eds) (2009). The Oxford Handbook of Critical Management Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Blackburn, S. (2009). The Big Questions: philosophy. London: Quercus Publishing. Bloom, H. (1973). The Anxiety of Influence: a theory of poetry. New York: Oxford University Press. Bowen, H.P. and Wiersema, M.F. (1999). Matching method to paradigm in strategy research: limitations of cross-sectional analysis and some methodological alternatives. Strategic Management Journal, 20(7): 625–36. Burrell, G. and Morgan, G. (1979). Sociological Paradigms and Organisational Analysis. London: Heinemann. Caputo, J.D. (1993). Demythologizing Heidegger. Indiana: Indiana University Press. Carson, A.B. (1949). A ‘source and application of funds’ philosophy of financial accounting. Accounting Review, 24: 159–70. Child, J. (1972). Organizational structure, environment and performance: the role of strategic choice. Sociology, 6: 1–22. Conrad, J. (1971). Heart of Darkness. London: Macmillan, p. 69. Cooper, D. and Hopper, T. (1990). Stimulating research in critical accounts, in Cooper, D. and Hopper, T. (eds), Critical Accounts. London: Macmillan, pp. 1–14. Davis, R.C. (1958). A philosophy of management. The Journal of the Academy of Management, 1(3): 37–45. Donaldson, L. (1995). American Anti-management Theories of Organization: a critique of paradigm proliferation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 10


Eliot, T.S. (1934). The Rock: a pageant play. New York: Harcourt Brace. Fagerberg, D. (1956). A philosophy of accounting practice. Journal of Accountancy, 84: 14–21. Foucault, M. (1983) The order of discourse. In Language and Politics, Shapiro, M.J. (ed). New York: New York University Press: 112–127. Giddens, A. (1976). New Rules of Sociological Method. London: Heinemann. Giddens, A. (1979). Central problems in social theory: Action, structure, and contradiction in social analysis. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Graham, J.W. (2000). Promoting civic virtue organizational citizenship behavior: contemporary questions rooted in classical quandaries from political philosophy. Human Resource Management Review, 10(1): 61–80. Gramsci, A. (1971). Selections from the Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci. Ed. and Transl. by Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith. New York: International Publishers. Greenwood, M. (2013). Ethical analyses of HRM: a review and research agenda. Journal of Business Ethics, 114(2): 355–66. Hassard, J. and Pym, D. (1990). The Theory and Philosophy of Organizations: critical issues and new perspectives. London: Routledge. Helin, J., Hernes, T., Hjorth, D. and Holt, R. (2014). The Oxford Handbook of Process Philosophy and Organization Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Jones, C. (2003). Theory after the postmodern condition. Organization, 10(3): 503–25. Jones, C. and ten Bos, R. (2007). Philosophy and Organization. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. Jones, M.H. (1960). Evolving a business philosophy. The Journal of the Academy of Management, 3(2): 93–103. Kepes, S., Bennett, A.A. and McDaniel, M.A. (2014). Evidence-based management and the trustworthiness of our cumulative scientific knowledge: implications for teaching, research, and practice. Academy of Management Learning and Education, 13(3): 446–66. Lounsbury, M. Tsoukas, H. and Chia, R. (eds) (2011). Philosophy and Organization Theory Research in the Sociology of Organizations (Vol. 32). New York: Emerald. Luce, E. (2013). America must dump its disrupters in 2014, Financial Times, 22 December. Retrieved on 11 June 2015 from wWZNJ. Marx, K. and Engels, F. (1848[2002]). The Communist Manifesto. London: Penguin. Marx, K. (1888[1976]). The German Ideology: including theses on Feuerbach. London: Pyr Books. Michel, R. (2009). Marketing: philosophy of science and ‘epistobabble warfare’. Qualitative Market Research, 12(2): 120–9. Mir, R. and Watson, A. (2000). Strategic management and the philosophy of science: the case for a constructivist methodology. Strategic Management Journal, 21(9): 941–53. Morgan, G. (1997). Images of Organization. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Murdoch, R. (2013). Let’s learn to thrive on disruption. The Australian. Retrieved on 11 June 2015 from Nourse, E.G. (1922). The economic philosophy of co-operation. The American Economic Review, 12(4): 577. Parker, M. (2002). Queering management and organization. Gender, Work & Organization, 9(2): 146–66. Pfeffer, J. (1993). Barriers to the advance of organizational science: Paradigm development as a dependent variable. Academy of Management Review, 18(4): 599–620. Rich, F.M. (1959). A businessman’s management philosophy. The Journal of the Academy of Management, 2(2): 89–100. Rutherford, B. (2010). The social scientific turn in UK financial accounting research: a philosophical and sociological analysis. Accounting and Business Research, 40(2): 149–71. Schmidt, J. (2000). Disciplined Minds: a critical look at salaried professionals and the soul-battering system that shapes their lives. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. Silverman, D. (1970). The Theory of Organizations. London: Heineman. Soni, R. and Morris, S. (1999). Japanese operations philosophies: their cultural foundations. International Journal of Management, 16 (4): 521–8. Tsoukas, H. and Chia, R. (2011). Philosophy and Organization Theory. Bingley: Emerald. Weber, M. (1912[1949]). Objectivity in social science and social policy. The Methodology of the Social Sciences, 78: 1–15. Willmott, H. (1993). Breaking the paradigm mentality. Organization Studies, 14(5): 681–719.


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Part I


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1 Ontology Philosophical discussions and implications for organization studies Ismaël Al-Amoudi and Joe O’Mahoney

Introduction: what is ontology and why does it matter for organization studies? The word ‘ontology’ refers to the study of being. It is derived from the Greek words ‘onto’ (being) and ‘logos’ (science, discourse). This literal definition is, however, too wide to be of use to substantive enquiries. Indeed, philosophers realized over two thousand years ago that ‘being’ is at once the most universal and the emptiest of concepts. Everything one can think of can also be said to ‘be’ something in some way, be they material objects, animals, people, feelings, ideas, activities, social roles or mathematical objects. All of these have in common that they are, they have some, or participate in, being. Moreover, it is difficult, many would argue impossible, to think of an entity1 that has no being whatsoever. Even atheists recognize that God is real as an idea and absences can be argued to be real. Think, for instance, of the effects that the absence of water or air have for fellow human beings. Even absurd or inexistent entities such as four-sided triangles and unicorns can be said to be real qua absurdities or fictional objects. In the twentieth century, however, philosophers have proposed more restrictive definitions of ontology, often leading to fruitful developments in philosophy. Thus, while all the examples cited above can be said to be, their modes of being are arguably distinguishable. Stars, ducks, people, fear, liberty, writing, lecturers, triangles, draughts and unicorns can usefully be differentiated from one another and it can be said of them that ‘they are different kinds of things’. Moreover, the (discursive) operations through which these objects are distinguished are also worthy of attention, especially for those (epistemologically relativist) commentators who argue that the categories we use to make sense of the world are artificial social constructs that are formulated in the context of social relations of power. It is also interesting to ask therefore: through what processes, and through what power relations, are we allowed – and even obliged – to recognize, and sometimes create, differences between entities? Discussions on ontology among philosophers2 led in turn to novel ways of approaching the human and social sciences, including organizational studies. As we shall argue below, ontological clarification is not a sterile academic exercise as it has profound implications on how researchers approach the phenomena they purport to study. Ontology also tends to structure which 15

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research questions are worth asking; which methods of investigation can be trusted; and what the practical implications of the activity of researchers are likely to be. The present entry on ontology has no pretension to exhaustivity or even sophistication. Its principle purpose is rather to introduce some of the philosophical approaches that have been particularly influential on the study of organizations, and to take stock of their influence. The first section introduces some of the philosophical contributions that have influenced ontological thinking in organization studies. Particular attention is drawn to how each contribution differs from the positivist vision of the world which still permeates much of sociology and most of management and organization studies. The second section examines how the debates identified in the field of philosophy are reflected and extended in the field of organization studies. It studies the usage, usefulness and inherent limitations of ontological thinking for organization studies. The concluding section examines a few possible developments for ontology in organization studies which hint at promising avenues opened by ontological reflection.

Key philosophical contributions The systematic questioning of being’s differentiation, im/permanence, in/coherence and in/finitude can be traced, in the West, back to pre-Socratic philosophy over 2,400 years ago. The term ‘ontology’ presents us with a fundamental ambiguity as it refers both to the study of the nature of reality and to the study of an author’s or a community’s specific conception of reality. This ambiguity has led to a distinction within the literature, to which we refer throughout this piece, between committed ontology (aka philosophic ontology) and uncommitted ontology (aka scientific ontology). Committed ontology seeks to articulate a general conception of ontology in which to anchor current or future theoretical and empirical research programmes. Uncommitted ontology focuses instead on the elucidation of the ontological presuppositions or assumptions of a particular author, theory or community. While committed ontology is concerned with the existence of those entities it discerns, uncommitted ontology remains agnostic about their existence. Rather than attempting an exhaustive summary of ontological writings over the past couple of millennia, we begin by detailing the positivist ontology which has historically dominated natural and social science, and subsequently attend to a number of alternative philosophical positions which still inform contemporary approaches to organization studies.

Positivism’s implicit ontology In the philosophy of the social sciences, the expression ‘positivism’ is associated with Auguste Comte whose vision of nature, knowledge and history was informed by two principle ideas. First, that the human mind is destined to progress and improve through successive historical stages. Second, that the process of scientific development is linear, from mathematics, to astronomy, to physics, to chemistry, to biology and, finally, to the social sciences. In this chronological, systematic and hierarchical organization, the social sciences occupy a place characterized both by their greater complexity and by their meta-theoretical continuity with the natural sciences. One same ontology is assumed to hold for the natural and for the social sciences alike. Moreover, this ontology is not theorized as one plausible construct among others. Rather, positivism (in the Comtean guise) assumes that alternative ontologies are the mark of, at best, unscientific thinking and, at worst, culturally retarded visions of the world. What are the ontological features characteristic of, or implicit in, positivism? First, positivism assumes that reality is made of physical things that are discrete and additive. Think, for instance, 16


of Newtonian physics in which the gravitational force exerted by/on a group of objects can be strictly decomposed in terms of the force exerted by/on each of the objects. Second, for positivism’s ontology, the emergence of novel properties in virtue of the interrelation of elements is bound to either remain a mystery or be explained in terms of interactions (rather than internal relations) between discrete elements. One noteworthy consequence of the ontological principles of discreteness and additivity is that the identity of any entity is independent of the relations in which it stands. For positivism, an object does not become something else by virtue of being related to another object. Third, the objects of positivism are assumed to exist independently of people’s perception. The proverbial Newtonian apple is subject to the same laws independently of how people look at it. Fourth, being is characterized by permanence rather than by impermanence, and stillness is assumed to be primary to movement. The proverbial apple may fall from the tree, but this fall must itself be explained by an assumedly external factor such as the breaking of a branch. Moreover, a satisfactory explanation/description of the fall must invoke a universal and eternal law that applies to all physical bodies alike. This leads us to our fifth characterization of positivism’s ontology: entities are assumed to be governed by universal laws that are expressed in terms of event regularities. For instance: ‘whenever an apple falls at t0, its velocity in t1 is g.(t1–t0)’. The five ontological characteristics of positivism above imply that proper science is about uncovering event regularities through observation and verification or, in the case of Popperianism, through observation, hypothesis formation and falsification. Proper knowledge of the world is best expressed through strict, unambiguous, definitions that allow for mathematical computation and prediction. Whether positivism’s ontology is best qualified as committed or uncommitted ontology depends on the author. While Comte was certainly committed to the truth of positivism’s ontological presuppositions, others such as Quine were arguably agnostic about them.

Interpretation and the specificity of the human sciences An alternative approach to knowledge, however, developed in parallel to the positivist approach to the human and social sciences. This broad approach, commonly termed interpretivist or hermeneutic, can be traced from Schleiermacher in the early nineteenth century to Dilthey and Weber in the early twentieth century to Heidegger and Gadamer in the mid-twentieth century. At root in this hermeneutic tradition is the idea that the social and human world is meaningful. Yet, the meaning of what people say and of what they do is not immediately accessible to an external observer and requires an effort of interpretation. What is the ontological import of hermeneutics for the human and social sciences? The first implication is that positivism is fundamentally insufficient for a systematic study of people and societies. Practices of external observation, discovery of general laws and predictionmaking must be complemented or even replaced by interpretations of what people say and do. While the necessity of interpretation is primarily an epistemological implication, it also bears significant ontological implications. Indeed, it implies that the world is also made of meanings, of values (moral or aesthetic), of emotions and of representations that escape the positivist apprehension. How does the subjection of the social sciences to a hermeneutic moment destabilize the ontological features that we attributed above to positivism? First, the world comprises not only discrete and additive physical things but also symbols and human artefacts (think of works of art) that can’t be reduced to their physical thingness without losing their characteristic nature. Indeed, something significant is lost whenever a painting is treated as just a big rectangular chunk of wood and cloth covered with oil and various chemical components. 17

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Second, the texts, practices and institutions produced by people possess a meaning that is usually irreducible to their constitutive elements. An example is provided by Weber’s reflection on the two meanings of ‘understanding’ as observational meaning (aktuelles Verstehen) as opposed to explanatory understanding (erklarendes Verstehen). The action of a wo/man cutting a tree can be interpreted (observational understanding) as ‘cutting a tree’ by simply looking at the immediate context of the action. However, an explanatory understanding of the wo/man’s action as building a house for herself (as opposed to working for a wage or engaging in a recreational activity) must articulate the specific act of chopping into a wider practice (e.g. housebuilding; wage-earning; leisure, etc.). Third, positivism’s assumption that the objects to which it refers exist independently of people’s perception is either defeated or problematized. It is defeated if the expression ‘people’s perceptions’ is understood to mean ‘some person’s perceptions’. Indeed, interpreting a person’s actions supposes that said person’s perceptions bear significantly on the actions s/he performs. A more sophisticated defence of the perception–independency characteristic would interpret ‘people’s perceptions’ in terms of the observer’s perceptions at the time of observing. But even if we maintain that ‘the meanings held by participants exist independently of the meanings held by social scientists at any given time’, we do not escape a necessary problematization of the researcher/researched relationship. First, because research happens in the context of a relation between researcher and researched. Second, as Gadamer would argue, the researcher brings her own prejudices to research. These prejudices are not biases that could be removed through refined analysis but are, rather, constitutive conditions of the research activity.3 For instance, praiseworthy research on gender inequalities presupposes an assumption by the researcher that there is a distinction between men and women and that this distinction is potentially relevant for understanding inequalities and inequities. More could be said, however, about the ontological problems prompted by the relation between researcher and researched. In particular, the implied division of the world into ‘subjects’ and ‘objects’ of enquiry indicates that positivism and hermeneutics suffer from the ambiguous ontological status of wo/man as both the (transcendental) subject of knowledge and as the empirical object of study. Positivism either denies subjectivity or attributes subjectivity of a certain kind exclusively to the researcher. Either way, it denies the researched’s subjectivity. Interpretivism is more subtle as it recognizes the subjectivity of both researcher and researched. Yet, two ontological problems arise. The first issue is addressed by Giddens’s discussion of social science’s ‘double hermeneutics’. In Giddens’s view, natural scientists perform a simple hermeneutics4 on natural objects that hold no reflexive powers. The situation is different, however, in the social sciences whose objects of enquiry are also subjects. The latter are therefore capable of acquiring and employing those very concepts and ways of looking used by social researchers. Thus, they perform a ‘double hermeneutic’ consisting in re-interpreting the researcher’s initial interpretations. The unfortunate consequence, for those attached to a detached (i.e. positivist) conception of knowledge, is that those theories used to describe and explain the practices of agents are in turn (and we may add in time) adopted by agents for their subsequent practices. It may be argued, however, that interpretivism can adapt to the problems raised by the double hermeneutics by recognizing the temporality separating the researcher’s initial interpretation from the subsequent interpretations performed by the researched. Interpretivism stumbles, however, on the ontological question of whether the researcher’s initial interpretation can be said to be causally effective on the researched. This leads us to the second ontological problem arising from wo/man’s ambiguous status as both object and subject: does the category of causality apply to thoughts and knowledge? 18


Indeed, both positivism and interpretivism assume a Humean conception of causality as event regularities, which creates a dilemma. On one hand, if Humean causality applies to thoughts, then each of our own thoughts would have already been determined by some separate anterior event. Wo/man’s freedom and creativity is thus negated. On the other hand, if thoughts occur in a realm independent of causality, a number of difficulties arise. For instance, it becomes difficult to explain how a person’s thoughts can influence, and be influenced by, other people’s thoughts or by the material relations in which they engage.5 In the remainder of this section, we examine three philosophical traditions, Heideggerian ontology, poststructuralism and critical realism, that have sought in different ways to dis/solve the problems raised by the dual ontological status of wo/man as both object and subject of knowledge.

Heidegger’s return to committed ontology Heidegger’s ontological project is based on a radical redefinition of ontology (Heidegger, 2005[1927]). This project is still viewed by many as the most important contribution to twentiethcentury continental philosophy (see Critchley, 2001; Wheeler, 2013). Its central claim is that the problems of metaphysics (including the divided conception of wo/man as both object and subject inherited from Kant) are traceable to philosophy’s inability to reflect on the meaning of the verb ‘to be’. Thus, before asking ‘what are the different kinds of things that can be said to be?’ Heidegger asks the primordial question: ‘what does being mean?’ By reorienting ontological questioning around the question of the meaning of being, Heidegger opens up a number of new philosophical questions: is being (as a verb) uniform or are there different modes of being? Is our finite existence any different from the presence of those things that surround us? What are the existential conditions of possibility of being’s authentic disclosure as existence rather than as mere presence? And how does a renewed, presumably more authentic, understanding of being allow us to criticize aspects of the epoch in which we live? While Heidegger’s thought is too subtle and complex to be captured satisfactorily in a few lines, we can, however, provide cursory answers to the questions raised above by Heidegger and indicate how his ontology differs from positivism’s. Heidegger’s prose is replete with neologisms and juxtaposes remarks on everyday life with erudite commentary of past philosophers; but most notably, it avoids the expressions ‘man’ and ‘subject’ which were central and constitutive of post-Cartesian philosophy. Heidegger refers instead to ‘those entities which are ourselves’ through the expression Dasein, which literally means ‘being there’ or ‘being here’. This conceptual shift is performed as an attempt to escape from the objectivist limitations of anthropology, psychology and biology (Heidegger, 2005(1927): 45–50). Contrary to positivism, Heidegger proposes that being can take a variety of modalities and that these can be understood pre-scientifically (i.e. more authentically) by attending to our relationship with our familiar environment. Many of the entities that populate our familiar world are related to as equipment. Dasein finds them ready-to-hand and can use them without having to think too much about them. Think for instance of a skilled carpenter manipulating a hammer. In a now-famous paradox, Heidegger proposes that the presence of ready-to-hand entities is revealed precisely when they are damaged or missing! A damaged hammer reveals itself simultaneously as partly ready-tohand and partly present-at-hand. Our carpenter can still use it but she now has to think about it when using it in her familiar activities. The case of the missing hammer is even more telling as the carpenter’s concern reveals fully the previously opaque present-at-hand nature of the hammer. As Heidegger has it ‘when something ready-to-hand is found missing, though its 19

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everyday presence [Zugegensein] has been so obvious that we have never taken any notice of it, this makes a break in those referential contexts which circumspection discovers. Our circumspection comes up against emptiness, and now sees for the first time what the missing article was ready-to-hand with and what it was ready to hand for’ (Heidegger, Being and Time, 75). The above passage hints at a conception of the world as constituted by the totality of ‘referential contexts’ of those entities ready-to-hand. Thus, the world is not known through the positive knowledge of independent things in themselves but rather through our circumspection which discloses the totality of involvements through which we relate to ready-to-hand entities. Two characteristics of Dasein follow. First, Dasein is characterized by its fundamental openness as it is continuously interpreting the world in terms of possibilities. Second, not all possibilities are simultaneously disclosed to Dasein. Heidegger refers to the region of Being in which things are revealed as mattering in a certain way (rather than another) by introducing the notion of clearing. Dasein’s mood and its historical heritage (what most social theorists would call its social context) determine which modes of being are more readily disclosed and which tend to remain concealed. In Heidegger’s terminology, mood and heritage determine the clearing that is accessible to Dasein. How does Heidegger’s philosophy allow a critique of positivism’s ontological presuppositions? First, Heidegger argues that the mathematization of science is a symptom rather than a cause of the technological mode of revealing. It is because scientists, like most of their contemporaries (though unlike traditional artisans or romantic poets), are so immersed into the technological mode of being that they are fascinated by mathematical formalisation. Second, Heidegger can say of science’s mode of disclosure that it demands that ‘nature be orderable as standing-reserve’ by requiring that ‘nature report itself in some way or other that is identifiable through calculation and that it remains orderable as a system of information’ (Heidegger, Question Concerning Technology, 328). It is characteristic of technology’s mode of disclosure that it ‘drives out every possibility of revealing’ and thus enframes and conceals the essentially dynamic unfolding of being. Technological (i.e. objectivist and positivist) thinking involves the view that reality is only susceptible to a single mode of disclosure, thus blinding Dasein to the fundamental structure of being in which any particular clearing is ontologically co-present with an unintelligible plenitude of alternative clearings. In sum, our (social and cultural) heritage conditions the modes of being that may be disclosed to us or that tend to remain mysteriously concealed; and positivism secretes an ontology that is at once particularly reifying and totalizing. It reduces ontological openness to ontic closure and it totalizes its worldview by concealing the concealments that it operates. Heidegger’s ontology discerns the possibility of a dereified conception of being but nonetheless stumbles to describe it accurately in philosophy’s systematic language where, he admits, poets and mystics can venture an extra step.

Post-foundational perspectives: historical and negative ontologies Heidegger’s ontological critique of positivist thinking had a resounding impact on social theory. In particular, it influenced a broad tradition of critical social theory which we refer to as ‘postfoundational perspectives’. This label includes such thinkers as Foucault, Deleuze, Derrida and Lacan and, more recently, Agamben, Butler, Laclau and Žižek. It could very broadly be characterised by a general distrust of grand-narratives such as Comte’s positivist triumphalism (cf. supra) but also historically deterministic interpretations of Hegel or Marx. More specifically, this tradition is united by its scepticism towards the assumption of objectivist forms of knowledge that would (1) presume the existence of epistemological and ontological foundations that are universal or even trans-historical; (2) ignore the historical conditions of possibility of the 20


constitution of knowledge, including basic ontologies; and (3) ignore the political effects of knowledge. For simplicity’s sake, we restrict our exposition to the works of Foucault and Laclau. However, many of our arguments remain valid (with occasional tweaks) for the other thinkers cited above. Our discussion of Foucault and Laclau is further channelled by our attentiveness to how they engage, directly or indirectly, with positivism’s ontological presuppositions. Foucault’s historical and critical ontologies of ourselves Foucault’s project of a critical ontology calls for an ongoing critique (i.e. an interrogation of the limits and conditions of possibility) of what we are capable of saying, thinking and doing. Foucault does this by interrogating, through detailed historical studies, the various ways in which we have problematized the practices in which we engage presently (Foucault, 1977, 2005[1966]). This intellectual project has an ethical and practical purpose as it seeks to distinguish possible, and desirable, transgressions to the arbitrary limits constitutive of how we constitute ourselves as subjects of knowledge, of power relations and of ethical practices. What makes this project of an ontology of ourselves historical? First, Foucault’s studies are more historically specific than those of Kant who studied the assumedly universal contours of the transcendental subject of (objective) knowledge, (moral) action and (founded) judgement. Rather than asking how objective knowledge is possible, Foucault asks under which conditions is a claim to knowledge considered as objective today and, more specifically, how the modern human sciences emerged. Instead of asking how political subjects should organize the polis, he asks under which conditions is an act deemed punishable today and, furthermore, how did our contemporary relations of power emerge from dubious objectifying human sciences and from a typically modern concern with conducting people’s conduct? Note how, whereas Heidegger’s ontological critique of our contemporary epoch stumbled in front of the mystery of presumably possible, though irredeemably enclosed, alternative modes of being (cf. supra), Foucault’s project of a historical ontology interrogates the historical emergence of various horizons of being so as to inspire alternative ways of understanding, of interacting and of cultivating ourselves. In sum, Foucault’s is a philosophical project of uncommitted ontology6 with ethical and political stakes. Laclau’s negative ontology Laclau (Laclau and Mouffe, 2001) extends Foucault’s interrogation of the basic positivities (established and apparently unambiguous concepts) that constitute our knowledge, and of their effects on power relations. Both authors are sceptical towards naively realist conceptions of knowledge that assume a one-to-one correspondence between our representations and the reality they are meant to represent. Both also share the fundamental intuition that systems of knowledge are both a medium and an effect of social relations of power. Laclau, however, clarifies and perhaps radicalizes Foucault’s approach in a number of ways. First, whereas Foucault employed the expression ‘discourse’ in ways covering widely what is said and written, Laclau employs discourse more restrictively. For him, discourse is the basic system of differences through which categories become positive, knowledge becomes objective and statements become meaningful. Discourse, for Laclau, extends beyond recognisably linguistic acts and encompasses non-linguistic practices, as long as the latter are meaningful. Of key significance for Laclau’s thought, discourse is fundamentally incomplete. The fixation of positive identities is ever precarious and contested. First, because the identity of any object is inseparable from what it is not, and second, because what said object is not depends on the discourse in which its identity is inscribed. The resulting picture is that of a negative ontology in which social identities are only artificially fixated by an implicit reference to what they are not. 21

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Reintroducing and deconstructing materiality The status of materiality in post-foundational ontology has raised significant philosophical and sociological discussions. Deconstructing the common realist distinction between the material and the social, Barad, for example, has used quantum physics to argue that neither material nor human properties precede their interaction, the observation of which (by the researcher) is a ‘cut’ which temporarily instantiates the distinction between the two. Thus the material and the individual are assumed to not exist prior to their interaction, hence the focus on ‘sociomaterial’. In a similar vein, Latour’s Actor–Network Theory presupposes a relational, and antiessentialist ontology that is proudly actualist, rejecting social structures in favour of empirical networks between actors, and arguing that the properties of any actor or entity cannot be ascribed prior to their engagement in an empirical network. Both material objects and actors, therefore, come into being, primarily through their observation in science. For both Barad and Latour, such an approach problematizes not only traditional distinctions between ontology and epistemology, but in doing so, those traditionally made between observers (the individual or ‘science’), the observed (materiality or ‘society’) and the apparatus by which observations are made (technology or experiments).

The critical realist committed ontology Post-foundational thinking provides a powerful deterrent against unqualified metaphysical claims. Does this mean that ontological projects should be restricted to uncommitted ontology and that the prospects of a committed ontology were but an objectivist chimera of the nineteenth century? In this last subsection, we explore an influential – and in our view, promising – attempt proposed by the critical realist movement to argue otherwise. Bhaskar and other authors identifying with ‘critical realism’ (e.g. Archer, Collier, Jessop, Lawson, Norrie, Reed, Sayer, see Archer et al., 2013) defend a humanist realism constitutive of a committed ontology. What are the ontological claims of critical realists (CR) and how are these claims justified? CR’s ontological arguments are structured according to a logics of abduction, that is, of inference to the most plausible hypothesis. Thus CR thinkers start from a description of a practice that both author and reader acknowledge as adequate. Then, they ask what the world must be like for the described practice to hold the characteristics author and reader have agreed on? This interrogation results in a number of competing claims that may further be discussed and refined. Bhaskar (1979) develops transcendental realist arguments for the social sciences, broadly defined as the study of those entities that depend on human activity. His argument begins with everyday social practices. From these he infers that social ontology is necessarily ‘relational’ in the sense that all social entities are defined by and exist in virtue of their relations to other entities. Think for instance of the role of ‘teachers’ who presuppose ‘students’ or ‘parents’ who presuppose ‘children’. Another characteristic of everyday life is that it features agents who hold powers of intentionality and reflexivity. And indeed, we have good reasons to interact with people differently than we do with aubergines. A third characteristic of everyday life is that reasons (whether explicitly formulated or not) are also causes of human action, thus dissolving the hermeneutic dichotomy between reasons and causes. Note that this ontological claim can only be formulated if we replace the Humean conception of causality as event regularity with a realist (Aristotelian) conception of causality as the generation of a difference. Fourth, individuals are not isolated atoms, but evolve within an institutional environment characterized by emergent social structures (systems of positions, relations and conventions) that are inherited from prior generations. Thus, CR defends a dualistic conception of structure and agency that presents similarities and 22


sympathies with non-deterministic interpretations of Marx (see for instance Brown et al., 2003). Fifth, the temporal and processual nature of social life is recognized in this social ontology as each new generation of actors continuously adopts, rejects or transforms inherited structures from its predecessors. CR regards social activity as production, that is, as the transformation of pre-existing material causes (Al-Amoudi and Latsis, 2014: 371; Bhaskar, 1979: 34). Finally, CR ontology proposes a neat theorization of absence and need, thus recasting ethical concerns at the heart of sociological enquiry. The resulting picture of Bhaskar’s ontological investigations is one in which social identities are emergent from, though irreducible to, the interactions of humans, who have powers of memory, imagination, reflexivity. The latter are again dependent on, but irreducible to the interaction of a complexity of physiological, psychological and neurological structures, and so on. But emergence does not only occur ‘down’ – if we look ‘up’ from humans, we can see a number of emergent social entities which are dependent upon humans for their production and reproduction, but are not reducible to individuals. Thus, social structures, such as class, gender and organizations, are certainly dependent upon humans for their existence, but cannot be understood at the level of the individual, and have their own properties and (potential) powers, one of which is the ability to socialize humans that inhabit these social structures. At this point, it might be possible to highlight how CR’s ontology stands in diametrical opposition to that of positivism. Let us reconsider the five ontological features of positivism in reverse order. First, reality is not only made of discrete or additive physical things but also encompasses entities that are not necessarily concrete, discrete or additive. Real entities include, for instance, ideas, relations, mechanisms, powers. Second, CR holds that relations are real and that the activities of complex emergent entities can’t be explained solely in terms of the activities of simpler entities that compose them. Emergence is not a mere epistemological artefact but is, rather, a central ontological category. Third, while CR recognizes that the objects of natural science can and should be assumed to exist independently of our perception, this conceptindependence does not hold in the case of the social and human sciences whose objects may temporarily exist independently of the researcher’s perception but never independently of anyone’s perception. Fourth, while impermanence and stillness are deeply problematic for positivism, CR assumes that entities are continuously engaged in activity and that they are subject to continuously changing tendencies. Fifth, CR does not assume that entities are governed by universal laws expressed by event regularities. Entities are assumed, instead, to be subject to powers and tendencies that may or may not be actualized depending on their specific context. Scientific knowledge does not consist in being able to make accurate predictions as much as it consists in being able to provide explanations that are plausible, coherent and helpful.

Ontology in organization studies It should be stated clearly that ontological studies offer no substitute for substantive enquiries of organizing and organization. Thus, scholars interested in ontology and the social sciences sometimes find it useful to establish some distinction between, on the one hand, ontological discussions aiming at disambiguating basic concepts and entities so as to facilitate future substantive research and, on the other, substantive enquiries aiming at studying specific organizational configurations, usually with the help of previous ontological ground clearing. The distinctiveness, and insufficiency, of ontology is recognized both by critical realists and by post-foundational scholars alike. Thus, in the critical realist tradition, Fleetwood and Ackroyd (2004) distinguish between (1) meta-theoretical studies which address questions of ontology, epistemology and ethics; (2) methodological studies which develop methods of analysis compatible with a given ontological 23

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framework; and (3) substantive studies that study specific institutions or organizations. The difference between meta-theory and substantive enquiry is mirrored, in the post-foundational tradition, by Ezzamel and Willmott (2014: 1015–16) who discern ‘two paths of theory development’. While the first path corresponds roughly to what we are designating here as substantive enquiry, the second corresponds to (a post-positivist variant of) meta-theory. We understand that most researchers in organization studies are more interested in substantive studies than in ontology per se. Yet, while it can be argued that ontology is vacuous in the absence of substantive enquiry, it is equally the case that substantive enquiry is blind in the absence of ontological reflection. Moreover, while ontology is conventionally presented as logically and chronologically anterior to substantive enquiry, the relationship between both practices is iterative rather than linear. On one hand, ontological reflection develops by interrogating factual premises (Descartes’s cogito; Heidegger’s missing hammer; Foucault’s late appearance of ‘sexuality’; Bhaskar’s possibility of experiments). On the other, philosophy is never applied; it is always interpreted. Thus, it is not a matter of getting the ontology ‘right’ before getting the substantive enquiry ‘right’. There is, instead, an ongoing iteration between ontological reflexion based on the finding of previous substantive enquiries and refined substantive enquiries informed by renewed ontological reflection. In defining what exists, what can exist, and the relationality of what exists, ontology acts as an ‘underlabourer’ for understanding not only what organizations are, how they come into being and how they are related to other entities, but also, for those for whom ontology contains a critical or ethical aspect, what they should be. The potential of any study’s theorizing and methodology is, therefore, enabled and constrained by its implied or espoused ontology, as the principles of what exists determine what theories can realistically achieve. Yet, there is no oneto-one match between ontologies and approaches to organizational theorizing: as we see below, different perspectives on organizations can hold radically different descriptive, predictive and prescriptive orientations but still share an ontological underpinning.

Positivist approaches to organization studies Burrell and Morgan’s Sociological Paradigms and Organisational Analysis provided, as early as 1979, an early attempt to break-out of the hegemony7 of positivist assumptions in organization studies. Their purpose was to identify internally consistent alternatives to the dominant positivist and regulationist paradigm (think Talcott Parsons) in organization studies. Yet, thirty-five years on, positivism still holds the dominant position in studies of management and organizations and, especially in the organizational psychology literature. Within positivist approaches, it may be possible to distinguish between those that treat individuals as their basic unit of analysis and those that focus instead on organizational features. Individualistic approaches. This form of theorizing frequently assumes that the quantification of empirical events, combined with correlation analyses, uncovers generalizable laws that can predict future events. For such approaches, organizations are closed systems, similar to laboratories, in which policy decisions concerning, say, piece-rate systems, will effect predictable outcomes, such as increased output per worker, and thus provide a clear prescription for management. Historically, although the relations between positivism and organization emerged with industrialisation and the scientific management approach of Taylor, Fayol and others, it has proved remarkably resilient, emerging in different guises in human relations and bureaucratic forms of organizing. Today, while the proliferation of ‘enterprise’ IT systems and ‘big data’ offers researchers and managers fertile ground for positivist research, there are scant indications that these approaches are likely to be perturbed by the philosophical interrogation of their 24


ontological assumptions. With its one-dimensional approach to conceptualizing the agent, positivist individualism also underpins many ‘rationalist’ approaches to organizations, such as transaction cost economics, agency theory, population ecology, and institutional economics. These approaches borrow the anti-relational and atomistic assumptions that positivism makes of objects (cf. section on positivism above) and apply it to the individual, not only denying the part sociality and subjectivity play in organizational life, but also undermining attempts to study the latter by exploring people’s identities, relations, and groupings. Structural–functionalist accounts. Yet, positivist rationality is not confined to accounts of individuals. It is also combined with, and developed by, an acceptance of social structures in structural–functionalist accounts of organizations. Thus the functionalist accounts of organizations promoted by say Mayo and Parsons emphasize not only the role of organizations as part of systems of society, but also the role of these social structures in reproducing the forms of rationality that allowed systemic or organizational efficiency. Thus, for organization theorists this invited explorations of how best to structure companies, by arranging labour, standardizing tasks and implementing technology to maximize productivity and efficiency. Again, such approaches have hardly fallen out of fashion and still provide the mainstay of many management consulting products and services that currently shape organizational practice. The dominance of positivism in corporations, business schools and publishing however, is not complete and there are a few notable and promising exceptions, to which we now turn.

Orthodox Marxist approaches The ontological acceptance of social structures does not mandate a prescription or description of functionalist harmony. A dissenting voice is provided by Marxist thought which, while realist and structuralist, is, in its theory and ethical implications, distinct from functional modes of thought which prioritize stability and cohesion. The implied ontology of Marx’s work, while still very much under debate, focuses on material dialectics which takes the mode of production as the engine for structural conflict and change. This focus provided organizational theorists, such as Braverman, with a framework to retrace the effects of wider social (class) conflict on capitalist organizations. The subsequent rise of the Labour Process school used Marxist thinking to underpin a diverse flourishing of studies of unions, resistance and workplace conflict which only lost its dominant critical position with the rise of avowedly anti-leftist governments (and the subsequent demise of leftist academic funding policies) in the 1980s. While it would be stretching the truth to posit Marxist organizational analysis as a dominant strand in extant critical organizational analysis, it has recently gained a resurgence as critical realist authors (many ex-Marxists themselves) have argued not only that Marx was a proto-critical realist, but that critical realism develops, and can be developed by, a coupling with Marxism (see Brown et al., 2001).

Critical realism Although there exist non-deterministic interpretations of Marxist thought that display an implicit ontology very close to critical realism’s, the former has declined in popularity in organization studies while the latter has grown. While early sociological interest in critical realism focused on those areas traditionally associated with Marxist organization studies (e.g. trade unions; power and resistance) the prolific output of Margaret Archer on questions of agency and reflexivity has prompted a diversification of studies of society, people and organization inspired by critical realism. Indeed, much of critical realism’s progress in organization studies has come from attempts 25

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to provide clear and coherent ontological foundations for topics that have traditionally been addressed by ontologically uncommitted post-foundational writers. In recent years there has been a significant growth in management and organization studies using critical realism to provide alternatives to the ‘flat’ approaches of social constructionism and practice ontologies. The result has been a reintroduction of both structure and agency to discussions of discourse (Fairclough, 2013), identity (Marks and O’Mahoney, 2014), and information technology (Mutch, 2013), as well as the more traditional concerns of economics (Fleetwood, 1999), Marxism (Adler, 2011) and class (Sayer, 2005) – although the latter tend to be much more prevalent in sociological journals than those of organization studies. This diversification of critical realism is reflected in a recent edited collection by Edward et al. (2014) which considers the consequences of relying on critical realism in a variety of methodological positions as varied as grounded theory, ethnography and probability modelling, as well as more traditional approaches.

Post-foundational approaches The philosophical contributions identified earlier as ‘post-foundational’ provided a fertile theoretical ground for OS scholars who felt sceptical of the claims of positivism and functionalism to objective, apolitical, knowledge. However, rather than seeking – as CR does – to correct the ontological flaws of positivism, these approaches are marked by their uncommitted stance to ontology. The latter is, in their view, most interesting when it helps unearthing and deconstructing the ontological, theoretical and ethical presuppositions of organizational participants. From these post-foundational perspectives, the practice of ontological questioning is driven less by an interest in metaphysical knowledge than by an interest in understanding the political implications of participants’ ontological assumptions. In other words, participants’ ontologies are of interest because of their performative and political effects on organizations. Foucauldian approaches Foucault has been one of the most influential sources of ontological underlabouring in organization studies and inspired a profusion of identity and discourse studies from the nineties onwards. Early studies (e.g. by David Knights, Peter Miller and Barbara Townley) responded to changing organizational forms by emphasizing both the constructive effects of the new management discourses found in HRM, Total Quality Management and Business Process Re-engineering, and the self-disciplinary effects of the ‘electronic panopticon’ that was enabled by new technologies. In recent years scholars such as Thomas and Hardy (2011) have problematized and extended studies of organizational change by relying on Foucault’s conception of power as a cluster of relations rather than as a substance possessed by some (privileged) agents. Contemporary Foucauldian studies of interest also include critical interrogations of organizational truth-telling (Weiskopf, 2014) and decision-making (Weiskopf and Willmott 2013). Central to these approaches is the idea that ‘truth-telling’ (parhesia) and ethics should be viewed as practices of questioning, rather than merely following, moral orders and moral rules-in-use. In general, the works cited above inherited from Foucault an uncommitted interest in ontology that is more concerned with the ethical and political possibilities opened by (constantly) interrogating organizational orders than with the (self-deceptive) quest for social reality’s ultimate ontological foundations. Negative ontology In recent years, the influence of Butler, Lacan, Laclau and Žižek has grown in organization studies. As we pointed out above, these authors share a scepticism towards narratives claiming 26


universality and towards identities claiming unquestionable stability. Their ontology is marked by attentiveness both to hegemony (when discursive stability becomes all but unquestionable) and to negativity (at the root, they contend, of all forms of positivity). Remarkable contributions to organization studies include debates on the labour process with critical realist scholars. Thus, Contu and Willmott (2005) engaged with Reed’s (2005) critical realist agenda. More recently, O’Doherty and Willmott (2009) provided a detailed illustration on how negative ontology can deepen the analysis of the labour process in creative industries. For instance, by attending to participants’ (unpaid) efforts to preserve their precarious sense of identity or by tracing the dislocation of the workplace’s traditional spatial and temporal boundaries into networks of workers–entrepreneurs in which participants commit 18+ hours of their lives every day. Other notable approaches inspired by Žižek and Lacan include Fleming and Sturdy’s (2009) study of neo-normative control, that is, forms of control based on the ontologically absurd and politically self-defeating injunction to ‘just be oneself’. Actor–Network Theory A number of organization studies theorists have drawn on Latour’s (1987) Actor–Network Theory to explain the settlement of controversies and the establishment of actor–networks composed of an ontologically undifferentiated arrangement of people, facts and machines. Key contributions include Bajde (2013) as well as substantive studies that combine ANT with other approaches such as historical ontology (Valentine, 2007) or Science and Technology Studies (Quattrone and Hopper, 2006). In a similar vein, researchers have espoused sociomaterial ontologies (e.g. from Haraway and Barad) which, like Latour, do not distinguish between the social and the material, to address the perceived neglect of the material in organization studies, or at least as a counter to the ostensible determinism of materiality found in Marxism or traditional studies of technology. Process perspectives Process ontologies have inspired studies of organization that emphasize the temporal and ‘becoming’ aspects of organizing. These, drawing on the work of Bergson and Whitehead propose that ‘individuals and organizations are construed as temporarily stabilized event clusters abstracted from a sea of constant flux and change’ (Nayak and Chia, 2011: 281). Process ontologies have influenced a number of organizational writers, including Weick’s studies of social constructionism and Mary-Jo Hatch’s work on organizational culture and Tsoukas and Chia’s (2002) influential reflections on organizational change. McMurray (2010), for example, uses Chia’s approach to better understand change in the NHS, while making an argument for its use of ‘standard research methods for novel processual ends’; while Zhang et al. (2011) present the case for a process ontology underlying the leadership assumptions in Chinese Confucianism. Postcolonial critiques of Western ontologies These approaches are broadly inspired by postcolonial studies initiated by Bhabha, Said and Spivak. One root argument is that academic institutions are ‘workplaces engaged in the ideological production of neo-colonialism’ (Spivak, 1988: 210). Ontological discourse is no exception. The latter’s claims to universality can be problematized, reversed and interrogated as indications of ontology’s imperialistic tendencies. Though relatively small and marginal, there exists a healthy and growing literature in organization studies that problematizes and politicizes the West’s knowledge claims. This literature draws on diverse sources of inspiration fragmented across political studies, literature, geographic studies, history and anthropology. Notable contributions to management and 27

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organization studies include Banerjee and Linstead (2004), Dar and Cooke (2008), Henry and Pene (2001) and Prasad (2003).

Philosophical though not ontological: ethnomethodology and symbolic interactionism Ethnomethodology and symbolic interactionism have both been influential approaches in studies of society and organization. The absence of explicit mentions of ‘ontology’ in works identified by their authors as contributions to ethnomethodology or symbolic interactionism (in organization studies) is slightly surprising. Indeed, both approaches display a relatively high degree of reflexivity and (non-positivist) methodological awareness. Two compatible and mutually reinforcing explanations may be ventured. First, a historical/ genealogical explanation would consider the intellectual ancestry of both approaches. Ethnomethodology is most commonly traced to Garfinkel and symbolic interactionism to Goffman. Both authors acknowledge the key influence of sociologist of everyday life Alfred Schütz while Garfinkel refers in his Studies in Ethnomethodology to sceptics of ontology such as Husserl, Merleau-Ponty and Wittgenstein. A second, complementary, explanation would venture that both ethnomethodology and symbolic interactionism have diffused and developed (sometimes beyond recognition) precisely because they harboured a ‘tool box’ ethos that favoured numerous though loosely related guidelines and successful exemplars over systematic methodologies or ontological reflection. Whether this lack of ontological reflection is problematic is best left, in the context of the present entry, as an open question for future investigation.

Conclusion: future developments Our principle argument is that ontological theorizing has the power to emancipate organization studies from conventional restrictions relative to the research questions; the scope of analysis; the methods of study; the objects of study; the ethical injunctions and the doubts thus raised. Our discussion of ontology in philosophy and in organization studies is meant as an introduction or a refresher rather than an exhaustive exposition or, worse, a toolkit. If anything, the idea that philosophical ideas may be ‘applied’ is fraught with dangers for researchers in organization studies. Philosophy has to be carefully interpreted and can never be automatically translated. No methodological toolkit can ever dispense researchers from engaging in continuous philosophical reflection on the questions they ask, on the way they define their objects of analysis, on the practices in which they engage and on the occasional inconsistencies between theory and practice. That ontology is always to be interpreted and never to be automatically translated brings implications. First, it follows that debate in organizational theory should be understood as a sign of healthy growth rather than a symptom of pre-scientific instability. And indeed, the refinement and clarification of philosophical ideas usually takes the form of (oft lively) debate. Thus, we can witness debates in OS as to whether Foucault’s implicit ontology is best interpreted as (critically) realist (Al-Amoudi, 2007) or as Nietzschean (Bardon and Josserand, 2011). Similarly, Actor–Network Theory has also been the topic of multiple ontological debates. In particular, critical realist organizational theorists such as Mutch (2013) have criticized ANT’s ontological flatness while arguing that without an acceptance of structure or agency as distinct from discourse, explanations tend towards the tautological. However, the critique of post-foundational theorising 28


is not an exclusively realist warhorse: for example, Whittle and Spicer (2008) question, from a negative ontology perspective, whether ANT provides the resources for thoroughly critical research. The second implication of the impossibility of translating ontology automatically into useful and rigorous research is that it is quite perilous to predict the future of ontological theorizing in organization studies. We nonetheless close this entry by sketching, very briefly, six developments in ontology which may bear significantly on the future of organization studies. We do so while acknowledging that the specific formulation of these future developments and our interest in them are influenced by our identification with the critical realist programme and our sympathetic curiosity towards Foucauldian scholarship. 1 Encouraging multiple and novel methods of enquiry. In economics (Lawson, 1997), ontological reflection on the nature of social reality attempted to break with the fetishistic treatment of quantitative data and mathematical modelling as signs of intellectual rigour. Rigour, it was instead argued, stems from the adequacy of the tool with the object of analysis. While the situation is not as dire in organization studies as in economics, a glance at the table of contents of the leading North American journals indicates a dominance of quantitative, positivistic, studies (cf. supra). Perhaps ontological reflection could continue the project initiated in the 1970s by Burrell and Morgan of legitimizing different approaches to studying organizations. In particular, while qualitative approaches are increasingly accepted, they are still subject to positivist ontological assumptions and related injunctions (i.e. ‘let the data speak’) that are ill suited to studying such entities as: becoming, meaning, subjectivity or social relations (as opposed to frequencies or social transactions). 2 Asking and reflecting on ‘what is?’ questions. The ontological question par excellence, ‘what is X?’ could perhaps be fruitfully asked for the entities that populate the discourse of organization studies. There exist already a number of works of ontology that interrogate the nature of basic social entities such as conventions (Al-Amoudi and Latsis, 2014); rules (Al-Amoudi, 2010); institutions (Lawson, 2003); technology (Faulkner et al., 2010) and values (Sayer, 2011). However, these works are still restricted to sociology, economics and social theory and have not, to our knowledge, been widely discussed and incorporated into research on organizational phenomena. 3 Completing ‘what is?’ questions with ‘how did?’ and ‘what does it do?’ questions. Our review of the literature has revealed the centrality of processuality and of interrelationality in nonpositivist approaches to ontology. These meta-theoretical ideas have concrete relevance for substantive research in organizations. Indeed, authors who recognize the processuality of being will want to ask the historical question: ‘how did X come to being?’ where X is a social entity of interest. For them, organization studies should bear a fundamentally historical dimension exemplified by Roy Jacques’s fine study of the birth of the employee (Jacques, 1995). Similarly, authors writing from an ontological stance that recognizes the internal-relationality of social entities should be open and interested in interrogations of the conditions of possibility and the effects of those social entities they study. Foucauldian studies of power/knowledge are one example. More generally, attentiveness to the social construction of knowledge prompts interrogating the effects of the ontological categories employed by participants in organizations (see for instance Al-Amoudi and Willmott, 2011). 4 Ethical and political implications of post-positivist ontologies. The break with positivist ontology and epistemology encourages forms of research that recognize and even vindicate their ethical or political dimension. Recent examples basing ethical interrogation on a negative ontology include Ezzamel and Willmott’s (2014) interrogation of an ethical register of theory formation 29

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or Weiskopf and Willmott’s (2013) re-assessment of the case of the Pentagon Papers. Among critical realists, Collier (1999) and Sayer (2011) have built on Bhaskar’s sophisticated ontological theorizing to interrogate the nature of worth and its relation to the social sciences. While these developments mixing ethics, politics, social theory and organization studies are promising, they are still marginal and embryonic in management studies. 5 Enriching our craft as organizational theorists through critical discussions of the ontology of established authors. Philosophy and ontology should not be seen as ‘banks of knowledge’ featuring methods, concepts and data to be used by scientists. Rather, familiarity with philosophy and social theory sharpens one’s ability to do good research. Through continuous reading in philosophy, we develop an eye for complex systems of dependencies, unavowable conflicts of interests, mystifications of (power) relations and sado-masochistic identifications. The beneficial effects on our craft may include drawing links across the humanities and the social sciences or building more coherent arguments. Most importantly, it involves developing a sense of the societal, political and intellectual stakes inherent to those situations we study. Thus, we suggest that familiarity with philosophical and ontological work has the potential to emancipate our research from the narrow perspectives imposed by hegemonic actors (including management as a social group) on the rest of society. 6 Keeping up with ongoing ontological debates within philosophy. As a final remark: discussions on topics related to ontology are lively in the realm of philosophy and social theory. One can think, within the post-foundational tradition, of Agamben’s discussion of the state of exception as the (negative) foundation of the modern state. And, within the realist tradition, one can start to imagine the import for organization studies of the current discussions on emergence and status functions between the Berkley Social Ontology Group (founded by John Searle) and the Cambridge Social Ontology Group (founded by Tony Lawson). These ontological elaborations are in the making and it would be presumptuous to guess their points of stabilization. It can reasonably be expected, however, that these discussions and others yet to follow, will continue to inspire, challenge, infuriate and exasperate organization studies for quite some time.

Notes 1 2

3 4 5 6 7

The word ‘entity’ (derived from the Latin ens, to be) refers to anything that is. Contrary to a common misconception, entities can be relational, concept-dependent and processual. The approaches presented in this entry are exclusively inherited from Western philosophies. This partiality reflects both the poverty of our knowledge of non-Western philosophies and the dominance of Western conceptions in organization studies. For discussions of the impossibility of objectivism, see the entries on Epistemology (Scherer et al., Chapter 2 this volume) and Decision-making (Edward, Chapter 29 this volume). We leave with Giddens the responsibility of describing the activities of natural scientists as hermeneutics. Even approaches that privilege ‘conversations’ and ‘narratives’ assume that participants will hear, and be influenced by one another. To say that Foucault’s project consisted in an explicitly uncommitted ontology does not mean that he was not himself implicitly committed to ontological assumptions. See for instance Al-Amoudi (2007). Recall that hegemony consists in presenting a discourse as the only possible system of categories.

References (key texts in bold) Adler, P.S. (2011). Marxist philosophy and organization studies: Marxist contributions to the understanding of some important organizational forms. Research in the Sociology of Organizations, 32: 123–53. Al-Amoudi, I. (2007). Redrawing Foucault’s social ontology. Organization, 14(4): 543–64. Al-Amoudi, I. (2010). Immanent non-algorithmic rules: an ontological study of social rules. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 40(3): 289–313. 30


Al-Amoudi, I. and Latsis, J. (2014). The arbitrariness and normativity of social conventions. The British Journal of Sociology, 65(2): 358–78. Al-Amoudi, I. and Willmott, H. (2011). Where constructionism and realism converge: interrogating the domain of epistemological relativism. Organization Studies, 32(1): 27–46. Archer, M.S. et al. (eds) (2013). Critical Realism: essential readings. London: Routledge. Bajde, D. (2013). Consumer culture theory (re)visits actor–network theory: flattening consumption studies. Marketing Theory, 13(2): 227–42. Banerjee, S.B. and Linstead, S. (2004). Masking subversion: neocolonial embeddedness in anthropological accounts of indigenous management. Human Relations, 57(2): 221–47. Bardon, T. and Josserand, E. (2011). A Nietzschean reading of Foucauldian thinking: constructing a project of the self within an ontology of becoming. Organization, 18(4): 497–515. Bhaskar, R. (1979). The Possibility of Naturalism: a philosophical critique of the contemporary human sciences. Hassocks: Harvester Press. Brown, A., Fleetwood, S. and Roberts, J. (2001). Critical Realism and Marxism. London: Routledge. Burrell, G. and Morgan, G. (1979). Sociological Paradigms and Organisational Analysis. London: Heinemann Educational. Collier, A. (1999). Being and Worth. London: Routledge. Contu, A. and Willmott, H. (2005). You spin me round: the realist turn in organization and management studies. Journal of Management Studies, 42(8): 1645–62. Critchley, S. (2001). Continental Philosophy. a very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Dar, S. and Cooke, B. (2008). The New Development Management: critiquing the dual modernization. London: Zed Books. Edward, P., O’Mahoney, J. and Vincent, S. (2014). Putting Critical Realism into Practice: a guide to research methods in organization studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Ezzamel, M. and Willmott, H. (2014). Registering ‘the ethical’ in organization theory formation: towards the disclosure of an ‘invisible force’. Organization Studies, 35(7): 1013–39. Fairclough, N. (2013). Critical Discourse Analysis: the critical study of language. London and New York: Routledge. Faulkner, P., Lawson, C. and Runde, J. (2010). Theorising technology. Cambridge Journal of Economics, 34(1): 1–16. Fleetwood, S. (ed.) (1999). Critical Realism in Economics: development and debate. London: Routledge. Fleetwood, S. and Ackroyd, S. (eds) (2004). Critical Realist Applications in Organisation and Management Studies. London: Routledge. Fleming, P. and Sturdy, A. (2009). Just be yourself! Employee Relations, 31(6): 569–83. Foucault, M. (1977). Discipline and Punish: the birth of the prison. London: Vintage Books. Foucault, M. (2005[1966]) The Order of Things. London: Taylor & Francis e-library. Heidegger, M. (1993[1953]). The Question Concerning Technology. Translated by Lovitt, W. with revisions by Krell, D.F., in Krell, D.F. (ed.), Martin Heidegger: basic writings. London: Routledge, pp. 311–41. Heidegger, M. (2005[1927]). Being and Time. Oxford: Blackwell. Henry, E. and Pene, H. (2001). Kaupapa Maori: Locating indigenous ontology, epistemology and methodology in the Academy. Organization, 2001(8): 234–42. Jacques, R. (1995). Manufacturing the Employee: management knowledge from the 19th to 21st centuries. London: Sage. Laclau, E. and Mouffe, C. (2001). Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: towards a radical democratic politics. London: Verso. Latour, B. (1987). Science in Action: how to follow scientists and engineers through society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Lawson, T. (1997). Economics and Reality. London: Routledge. Lawson, T. (2003). Institutionalism: on the need to firm up notions of social structure and the human subject. Journal of Economic Issues, 37(1): 175–207. McMurray, R. (2010). Tracing experiences of NHS change in England: a process philosophy perspective. Public Administration, 88(3): 724–40. Marks, A. and O’Mahoney, J. (2014). Researching identity: a critical realist approach, in Edward, P., O’Mahoney, J. and Vincent, S. (eds), Putting Critical Realism into Practice: a guide to research methods in organization studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Mutch, A. (2013). Sociomateriality – taking the wrong turning? Information and Organization, 23(1): 28–40. 31

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Nayak, A. and Chia, R. (2011). Thinking becoming and emergence: process philosophy and organization studies. Research in the Sociology of Organizations, 32: 281–309. O’Doherty, D. and Willmott, H. (2009). The decline of labour process analysis and the future sociology of work. Sociology, 43(5): 931–51. Prasad, A. (ed.) (2003). Postcolonial Theory and Organizational Analysis: a critical engagement. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Quattrone, P. and Hopper, T. (2006). What is IT?: SAP, accounting, and visibility in a multinational organisation. Information and Organization, 16(3): 212–50. Reed, M. (2005). Reflections on the ‘realist turn’ in organization and management studies. Journal of Management Studies, 42(8): 1621–44. Sayer, A. (2005). The Moral Significance of Class. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Sayer, A. (2011). Why Things Matter to People: social science, values and ethical life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Spivak, G.C. (1988). In Other Worlds: essays in cultural politics. New York: Routledge. Thomas, R. and Hardy, C. (2011). Reframing resistance to organizational change. Scandinavian Journal of Management. 27(3): 322–31. Tsoukas, H. and Chia, R. (2002). On organizational becoming: rethinking organizational change. Organization Science, 13(5): 567–82. Valentine, K. (2007). Methadone maintenance treatment and making up people. Sociology, 41(3): 497–514. Weiskopf, R. (2014). Ethical–aesthetic critique of moral organization: inspirations from Michael Haneke’s cinematic work. Culture and Organization, 20(2): 152–74. Weiskopf, R. and Willmott, M. (2013). Ethics as critical practice: the ‘Pentagon Papers’, deciding responsibly, truth-telling, and the unsettling of organizational morality. Organization Studies (01708406), 34(4): 469–93. Wheeler, M. (2013). Martin Heidegger, in Zalta, E.N. (ed.), The Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, E.N. Zalta (ed.), retrieved on 28 June 2015 from heidegger/. Whittle, A. and Spicer, A. (2008). Is actor network theory critique? Organization Studies, 29(4): 611–29. Zhang, H., Cone, M., Everett, A. and Elkin, G. (2011). Aesthetic leadership in Chinese business: a philosophical perspective. Journal of Business Ethics, 101(3): 475–91.


2 Epistemology Philosophical foundations and organizational controversies Andreas Georg Scherer, Elisabeth Does and Emilio Marti

Epistemology is the branch of philosophy that studies the possibility of knowledge. In this chapter we show how understanding epistemology is essential for understanding the different ways in which knowledge is developed in organization studies. For that purpose, we begin by introducing philosophical foundations of epistemology and explain why and how knowledge is defined as ‘justified true belief’. We then go on to analyse the assumptions on which different epistemic systems within organization studies are based. Following this analysis, we build on constructivist philosophy to address the incommensurability of different epistemic systems.

Philosophical foundations Following Plato’s writings in the Theaetetus, philosophers traditionally defined knowledge as ‘justified true belief’ (Plato, 369 BC/2014). Beliefs we have may concern phenomena that are commonly encountered in everyday life. To demonstrate the difference between mere beliefs and ‘knowledge’ about something, it is necessary to define how a belief is transformed into knowledge. As we will see, different philosophical positions provide different answers to why and how beliefs need to be true and justified in order to be called knowledge (Moser, 2005).

Truth and justification Truth is the property a belief needs to fulfil in order to be called a true belief. For defining when a belief can be called a true belief we need to know what truth is – which is answered differently depending on one’s philosophical position. Justification, as an additional property a belief needs to fulfil in order to be called knowledge, becomes relevant in different ways, also 33

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depending on one’s philosophical position. The key distinction is that some philosophers see justification as a property of a belief that exists independently of truth; that is, justification transforms beliefs, which are true already, into knowledge. Other philosophers see justification as constitutive for both truth and knowledge; that is, justification transforms a belief into both true belief and knowledge. To explain those differences in more detail we now introduce three common theories of truth and their relation to justification in epistemological inquiry: correspondence theory, coherence theory, and consensus theory (for a more details overview on different relations between truth, justification, and knowledge see Audi 2010). We first turn to a case where truth and justification of a belief jointly but independently of each other form knowledge. Correspondence theory of truth (e.g. Moore, 1953; Russell,1912) defines a belief as being true when it corresponds to the phenomenon to which it pertains. Correspondence theory relies on a realist ontological assumption – the phenomenon that a belief mirrors exists as a separate entity in an external world, which is independent of its observer (for a more detailed explanation of ontology see the preceding chapter). It follows that, by comparing a belief with the objectively and independently existing phenomenon to which it corresponds, it is possible to define whether that belief is true or not. From an epistemological perspective, in this context it is possible that one accidentally holds a true belief, for example out of a lucky guess (e.g. Steup, 2014). This suggests that it is not sufficient for a true belief to mirror a phenomenon correctly in order to be defined as knowledge. In order to be recognized as knowledge, a true belief has to fulfil a second condition – it needs to be justified. Justification describes what legitimate ways are available to generate knowledge. When guessing becomes eliminated as a legitimate way, a lucky guess remains a belief that is indeed true but cannot be called knowledge. Consequently, when following a correspondence theory of truth, justification becomes constitutive for knowledge, but not for the truth of a belief. There are also cases in which truth and justification of a belief can be seen as interdependent and justification as constitutive both for truth of a belief and knowledge. For example, coherence theory of truth (e.g. Blanshard, 1939; Young, 2001) does not define correspondence of a belief to an objectively given and independently existing phenomenon as constitutive for truth. Instead, a belief about a phenomenon can be called a true belief when it is part of a system of true beliefs that is in itself coherent from a logical perspective. This definition of ‘true belief’ does not require the comparison of a belief with a phenomenon as an objectively and independently existing entity in an external world but rests on how beliefs interrelate. From an epistemological perspective, defining appropriate relationships between beliefs (in the case of coherence theory it is coherence) can be seen as a part of the context in which a belief is generated, and therefore as a form of justification. This means that, if one seeks to define what knowledge is out of a coherence theorist’s view, a fully justified belief is always true and a true belief is automatically justified. Justification appears not only to be constitutive for knowledge, but on a more fundamental level constitutive for truth as well. Consensus theorists (e.g. Habermas, 1984) also view justification as constitutive for both knowledge and truth. Like coherence theorists, they do not espouse the ontological idea of truth as a matter of correspondence with objectively and independently existing phenomena. Instead they define a belief as being true when all people that are affected by it agree that this belief is true. But, as Habermas (1989) puts it, consensus that accidentally exists between people without them having engaged in a discourse before cannot be called truth. Only following predefined rules of a discourse as the appropriate process for generating belief to reach or discover consensus is constitutive for calling the agreed upon belief a true belief. The discourse can be seen as the context in which a belief is generated and therefore as a source of justification that turns accidental 34


agreement into truth or creates agreement and therefore truth where disagreement had existed before. And precisely because this true belief is justified through the discourse it can not only be called true but at the same time knowledge. Consequently, here as well justification is constitutive for knowledge and truth alike (for Habermas’ most recent ideas on the relation between truth and justification, see Habermas, 2003). The difference between coherence theorists and consensus theorists of truth lies in the form of justification they emphasize – while coherence theorists draw upon the logical relationship between beliefs, consensus theorists define a procedure, namely social interaction in a discourse, as a source of justification. In the following we will elaborate in more detail on various forms of justification. We discuss different sources of justification and different relationships that can arise between beliefs to put the findings from above into a broader epistemological perspective.

Sources of justification Evidentialists (e.g. Conee and Feldman, 1985) state that any form of perceptual, introspective, memorial, or intuitional experience that is in support of a person’s belief counts as evidence for this belief being true and therefore as a source of justification. All this evidence stems from cognitive processes internal to a person and, according to evidentialists, does not require any additional source of validation. Note that ‘evidence’ here is not to be confused with what is generally understood by ‘external evidence’; that is, the sort of evidence or data that is collected for the purpose of assessing whether a belief is or is not true. For the evidentialist, such data is an external source of information that triggers an internal cognitive process in the person who holds a belief, while evidence is the result or experience that is produced by this internal process. Reliabilists (e.g. Goldman, 1967) would not necessarily oppose evidentialism, but consider it incomplete. In their view, experiences that are internal to a person can only be seen as valid justifications for true beliefs if this internal source of justification is a reliable source. One must be sure that the cognitive processes that make those experiences salient work reliably and therefore do not deceive a person in her perception. Since the internal cognitive processes of a person are the ones that need to be evaluated as reliable, the evaluating authority cannot be the person herself. To justify a true belief, an external source of justification needs to ensure that a person’s cognitive processes are applied correctly and work reliably so that the observer holds a true belief for the right reasons, not just as a result of good luck. Note that, when two individuals independently from each other form identical beliefs about the same phenomenon, in a reliabilist’s understanding neither observer can be treated as the external source of justification for the other observer’s belief. They are indeed two observers externally to each other, but they both form a belief with reference to the phenomenon they form beliefs about. What is needed according to epistemological reliabilists is an external source of justification that would assure the reliability of the cognitive processes of both observers, independent of any findings regarding the phenomenon under observation. What both evidentialists and reliabilists have in common is that justification of a belief is established with reference to the individual holding that belief and the internal cognitive processes of this individual. Social epistemology (e.g. Goldman, 1999; Kitcher,1993) takes an alternative approach. Whether somebody’s internal cognitive processes work reliably or not becomes a minor question when social interaction is the main device to transcend subjectivity in beliefs. As mentioned before, consensus theorists define conditions under which a discourse can produce agreement between numerous individuals that can legitimately represent truth, for example the conditions of Habermas’ ideal speech situation (Habermas, 1984, 2003). Those conditions focus on regulating the interaction between all who participate in a discourse about 35

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truth. It follows that not only the construction of a belief over reality and the construction of reality itself become closely intertwined if not the same (Habermas and Luhmann, 1971), but also the source of justification. When following the rules that define and guide participation in social interaction, any belief that is established as a true belief in this social interaction is justified by adherence to those rules. Since truth is constructed in social interaction and agreement defines that truth, everybody who holds the same true belief and has participated in its construction process can be considered to hold this true belief with justified reason. It follows that justification no longer exists with reference to an isolated individual holding that belief (as it is the case for evidentialists and reliabilists), but is established with reference to the social, meaning the interaction between several individuals during the process of belief formation and defence.

Relationships between beliefs Regardless of whether justification refers to the individual that holds a belief or to the interaction between several individuals that hold the same belief, justifying a belief requires that one examines how perception forms this belief and how various interrelated beliefs are connected in a logical way. Foundationalists (e.g. Descartes, 1637[2004]) claim that, since a belief might be justified by another belief which, in turn, is justified by another belief as well, one needs to have a set of ‘basic beliefs’ that are considered as being true without the requirement of any additional justification. Basic beliefs therefore do not need to refer to another belief to be justified. Without such basic beliefs, epistemology would be trapped in infinite regress. Coherentists (e.g. BonJour, 1985, Lewis, 1946), on the other hand, avoid the problem of infinite regress by stating that beliefs do not need to form a chain of hierarchical reference points, but that all beliefs regarding a phenomenon qualify as justified as long as they collectively represent a coherent picture of this phenomenon and do not contain any contradictions. This view enables them to not only escape the problem of infinite regress, but also the tricky question of what exactly is it that defines a basic belief as basic and in itself justified.

Knowledge and values The emergence of social epistemology as a relatively new branch of philosophy has broadened the range of answers to various epistemological questions and, on a more fundamental level, the range of questions one needs to ask. Especially in the context of the social sciences, social epistemology provides grounds for asking whether knowledge has to be value-free, meaning that one should only develop descriptive knowledge about the state of the world, or whether knowledge is value-laden, meaning that one can also develop normative knowledge in order to critique and change the world. This question illustrates a dispute between two positions that fundamentally differ in their view about the validity of value judgements in scientific inquiry (Adorno et al., 1976). The positivist view (Albert, 1988; Popper, 1959) endorses a value free thesis for science and argues that claims on how the world should be are based on subjective values that cannot be generalized nor justified. Therefore, science should stick to descriptive truth claims about what the world is and refrain from making value judgements. The critical view (Habermas, 1971; Horkheimer and Adorno, 1972), on the other hand, states that for social scientists, knowledge is always value laden and interest prone. Adherents of the critical view argue that knowledge formation needs to aim at improving the social world for its inhabitants. Therefore social scientists must not refrain from ethical considerations and value judgements in their inquiry. 36


Three epistemological questions for organization studies In the following sections, we will apply the epistemological views we have introduced above to the field of organization studies. In this context we define an epistemic system as a system that combines different elements of epistemological enquiry – sources of justifications, relationships between beliefs, and the relationships between knowledge and values – in a specific way in order to describe how knowledge can be generated. We will distinguish six epistemic systems that lead to different ways of explaining organizational phenomena (Scherer, 2003) and explore the assumptions on which they are based. Following the discussion of epistemological inquiry above, the analysis is structured along the following three questions: 1



What is the source of justification? Relating to the discussion above, sources of justification can be established with reference to the individual or with reference to the social. ‘Individual’ means that individual experience (following either evidentialism or reliabilism) is a sufficient source of justification. ‘Social’ means that any source of justification with reference to the individual is not sufficient and that social epistemology instead defines social interaction as the source of justification. What is the relationship between different beliefs? Epistemic Systems in organization studies are mapped according to the two options discussed above: coherentism and foundationalism. Is knowledge value-free or value-laden? It is discussed whether an epistemic system in organization studies endorses a positivist or a critical view.

Epistemological controversies in organization studies Organization studies comprise competing epistemic systems, each of which seeks to explain differently how knowledge can be developed. Based on Scherer’s analysis (2003) of different ‘modes of explanation’ in organization studies, we distinguish between six epistemic systems (for related systematizations, see Astley and Van de Ven, 1983; Burrell and Morgan, 1979). We discuss each in turn. The so-called subject–object model was the dominant epistemic system in organization studies up to the 1980s and remains popular to this day (Donaldson 1996a, 1996b). This epistemic system assumes that ‘objects’ such as corporate behaviour or organizational structures exist independently of the ‘subjects’ who do the research. This means that the structures of reality – such as the relation between a multinational corporation and its stakeholders – exist independently of researchers and that researchers can uncover these structures through systematic observation (Scherer, 2003). Approaches such as contingency theory (Donaldson, 1996b) or population ecology (Hannan and Freeman, 1977) rely on this epistemic system. Interpretivism has become popular since the 1980s. This system departs from the subject–object model in that it assumes that social phenomena cannot be investigated from outside through the methods that are usually applied in the natural sciences and that the observation of phenomena cannot be detached from the cognizing subject (Scherer, 2003). Interpretivism tries to understand how individuals make sense of the world (Evered and Louis, 1981), for example, by studying how managers or other stakeholders interpret their organizations or the environment (Isabella, 1990). In this system, a phenomenon does not exist independently of the cognizing mind that observes it, but is socially constructed through processes of interpretation. Critical theory builds on interpretivism, but takes into account that knowledge is not objective and value-free and that it always serves the interests of particular individuals or groups (Scherer, 37

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2009). Critical theory questions the status quo of the social world and the prevalent distribution of power as well as conditions of domination and suppression (Habermas, 1971; Steffy and Grimes, 1986). Critical theory does not limit its scope to describing the world but aims to reform and change social conditions. Critical management scholars have drawn on insights gained from critical theory to scrutinize topics such as leadership (Alvesson and Spicer, 2011) or corporate social responsibility (Scherer and Palazzo, 2007). Postmodernism, in line with interpretivism and critical theory, argues that knowledge is historically and culturally contingent because it always depends on paradigmatic assumptions (Calás and Smircich, 1999). However, while interpretivism and critical theory assume that one could (at least in principle) come to a shared understanding with others, postmodernism regards consensus as a sign that some societal groups have imposed their interpretations on other societal groups (Scherer, 2003). Furthermore, postmodernism suggests that the dominance of any view cannot be justified and argues that the pluralism of values, interpretations, and lifestyles must be protected rather than overcome. This epistemic system has also influenced many critical management scholars (Jones, 2009). Functionalism assumes that individual behaviour cannot fully explain ‘social facts’, such as institutions or social or institutional change (Luhmann, 1995). Instead, functionalism conceives of social phenomena as preconditions of social systems and investigates how these phenomena contribute to social order (Scherer, 2003). Functionalism can be applied both on the organizational and on the societal level and played a major role as an epistemic system in organization studies (Ashby, 1956) and social theory (Parsons, 1977) in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. It continues to play a role in some debates, such as that on equifinality in organizational or institutional design (Gresov and Drazin, 1997). Finally, rational choice theory tries to explain macro-level outcomes, such as organizational or societal structures, through micro-level causes – that is, through the preferences and behaviour of individuals (Barney and Hesterley, 1996). With transaction cost economics (Williamson, 1981) and related theories, this epistemic system has also gained some influence in organization studies over the last decades (Scherer, 2003).

What is the source of justification? Some epistemic systems assume that justification depends primarily on the observation of phenomena and on logical thinking. The subject–object-model, interpretivism, functionalism, and rational choice theory all subscribe to this idea. According to these systems, the cognitive processes of individuals constitute the source of justification. While social interaction helps sort out errors made by individual researchers, such interaction is not the primary source of justification (on why interpretivist approaches are ultimately monologic, see Steffy and Grimes, 1986). Other epistemic systems – namely, critical theory and postmodernism – see justification as an inherently social activity and assume that social interaction is the primary source of justification. In the context of organization theory, assuming that social interaction is the source of justification raises the question of whose interests are served through scientific inquiry (Habermas, 1971) – for example, one may ask whether research primarily serves managers or non-managerial employees (Willmott, 2003). While postmodernism argues that research will always serve powerful actors, critical theory upholds the possibility of a rational discourse about how research may serve the different groups that constitute society (Scherer, 2009). Table 2.1 summarizes the epistemological assumptions of the epistemic systems we have examined so far. 38

What is the source of justification?

The subject–object . . . the observations of individual model assumes researchers are the primary source of that . . . justification for beliefs about causeand-effect relationships (individualistic approach to justification) Interpretivism . . . the interpretations of individual assumes that . . . researchers are the primary source of justification for beliefs about social phenomena (individualistic approach to justification) Critical theory . . . social interaction is the primary assumes that . . . source of justification and that researchers should critically reflect on these interactions (social approach to justification) Postmodernism . . . social interaction is the primary assumes that . . . source of justification, and that research will serve the most powerful social groups (social approach to justification) Functionalism . . . the observations of individual assumes that . . . researchers are the primary source of justification for beliefs about systemic relationships (individualistic approach to justification) Rational choice . . . the logical thinking of individual theory assumes researchers is the primary source of that . . . justification for beliefs about the rational behaviour of actors (individualistic approach to justification)

Epistemic system

. . . all knowledge production is part of broader societal processes and thus always shaped by values and interests (value-laden knowledge) . . . powerful social groups tend to influence the production of knowledge and thus shape knowledge through their values and interests (value-laden knowledge) . . . organizational researchers can describe the fundamental laws that govern social systems independently of values and interests (value-free knowledge) . . . organizational researchers can develop general principles of human behaviour (e.g. utility maximization) that do not depend on specific values and interests (value-free knowledge)

. . . beliefs become justified through coherence, but complete coherence between all beliefs is neither possible nor desirable (coherentism) . . . there are certain fundamental laws about social systems that should serve as the foundation of organizational research (foundationalism) . . . there are certain fundamental insights about rational human behaviour that should serve as the foundation of organization studies (foundationalism)

. . . organizational researchers can describe people’s subjective sensemaking processes independently of values and interests (value-free knowledge)

. . . organizational researchers can identify cause-and-effect relationships that do not depend on values and interests (value-free knowledge)

Is knowledge value-free or value-laden?

. . . beliefs become justified insofar as they are coherent with other descriptive and normative beliefs (coherentism)

. . . organization theorists should build on fundamental empirical insights (foundationalism); however, other theorists dismiss the idea of ‘basic beliefs’ as epistemologically flawed (coherentism) . . . beliefs about social reality become justified insofar as they are coherent with other beliefs (coherentism)

What is the relationship between different beliefs?

Table 2.1 Epistemological positions that underlie different epistemic systems

Andreas Georg Scherer, Elisabeth Does and Emilio Marti

Epistemological assumptions about the source of justification are closely connected to some heated controversies in organization studies. For instance, the degree of reflexivity that organizational scholars should develop with regard to their research has often been the subject of vigorous debate (Alvesson et al. 2008; Chia 1996). Reflexivity explores ‘the situated nature of knowledge; the institutional, social and political processes whereby research is conducted and knowledge is produced; the dubious position of the researcher; and the constructive effects of language’ (Alvesson et al. 2008: 480). Reflexivity thus focuses primarily on the social dimension of research: how definitions, methods, and other conventions emerge, whom they serve, and what alternatives might exist. Epistemic systems such as the subject–object model or rational choice theory, which assume that social interaction plays a marginal role in research, see little need for reflexivity. According to these systems, researchers should spend little time on reflecting on social interaction and focus instead on extending their observations and improving the logical stringency of their theories. By contrast, reflexivity is crucial for epistemic systems that see social interaction as the primary source of justification, such as critical theory or postmodernism. Indeed, Fournier and Grey (2000) see reflexivity as a defining characteristic of critical management studies (see also Alvesson et al., 2009). Epistemological assumptions thus shape how different epistemic systems engage in research.

What is the relationship between different beliefs? The epistemological question of how different beliefs interrelate is also pertinent in the context of organization studies. Functionalism and rational choice theory take a foundationalist perspective and presuppose the existence of ‘basic beliefs’ that are true without additional justification. For functionalism, the fundamental laws of social systems are ‘basic beliefs’; for rational choice theory, aspects of rational human behaviour, such as rationality, self-interest, and opportunism, are the starting point of research (Abell, 2000). Some of the proponents of the subject–object model also subscribe to this two-tiered system of beliefs (Donaldson, 1996a, 1996b). By contrast, interpretivism, critical theory, and postmodernism tend to subscribe to coherentism rather than foundationalism. These epistemic systems do not privilege some beliefs over others as ‘basic’ but tend to see coherence as the only option left to justify beliefs. Some of the advocates of the subject–object model (Popper, 1959) also dismiss the idea of ‘basic beliefs’ as epistemologically flawed. The epistemological question of how different beliefs interrelate has implications for the controversy about whether organization studies should build on a limited set of core propositions or not. Pfeffer (1993) has argued that focusing on a limited number of core ideas would allow organization studies to imitate the success model of economics and the natural sciences (see also McKinley, 2007). Pfeffer’s ideas (1993) are likely to appeal particularly to researchers who take a foundationalist epistemological stance and support the idea of ‘basic beliefs’. For example, Donaldson (1996a: 12) has argued that the fundamental principle of contingency theory – namely, that organizational performance requires a fit between contingency factors and structure – should be seen as the ‘hard core’ of organization theory and that all scholarly investigations should be based on this principle. Donaldson (1988) has claimed that the empirical evidence for the validity of this principle is stronger than for any other comparable idea within organization studies (see Scherer and Dowling, 1995). Epistemic systems that side with coherentism reject such claims as dogmatic. They point out that empirical testing can never prove that some beliefs are more basic than others, because 40


empirical testing always depends on assumptions that serve specific interests (Scherer and Dowling, 1995). Furthermore, critical researchers warn that reducing organization studies to a limited set of core propositions would ‘naturalize’ (Alvesson et al., 2009: 9) these propositions, while rendering invisible other aspects of social reality. Postmodernism goes furthest in its critique of foundationalism in that it views core propositions as a sign of domination, which is contrary to the pluralism that this perspective espouses (Calás and Smircich, 1999).

Is knowledge value-free or value-laden? With regard to the question of whether values shape knowledge, some epistemic systems – namely, the subject–object model, interpretivism, functionalism, and rational choice theory – assume that research is, at its core, value-free. The proponents of value-free research, however, acknowledge two intersections between research and values. More specifically, they accept that values and interests influence the topics that researchers investigate (Bacharach, 1989) and that third parties will use the knowledge that researchers produce as an instrument in order to advance their values and interests (Weber, 1949). The idea of value-free research can therefore only mean that research has a value-free core, which is situated after researchers have chosen research topics and before they produced results. Accordingly, when researchers try to explain or understand phenomena, such as the relation between corporate social performance and financial performance (Orlitzky et al., 2003) or sensemaking in groups (Maitlis, 2005), the proponents of value-free research assume that these investigations are not shaped by values and interests. Other epistemic systems – namely, critical theory and postmodernism – deconstruct the idea of a value-free core in two respects. First, critics posit that values and interests do not merely shape the ‘topics’ of research but every aspect of research, including how to select cases, collect and analyse data, or determine significance levels (Connell and Nord, 1996; Ezzamel and Willmott, 2014). The entanglement with values therefore does not end once researchers have selected a topic, but continues throughout the research process. Second, critics point out that research does not merely describe phenomena (Cabantous and Gond, 2011), but may shape phenomena by influencing institutional designs, social norms, and language (Ferraro et al., 2005). The performative entanglement of research with its ‘objects’ confronts researchers with the ‘ethical consequences of theory’ (Ferraro et al., 2009: 673) and undermines the idea that research has a value-free core. However, whereas critical theory posits that discarding value-free research makes possible a rational discourse about values and interests (Habermas, 2003), postmodernism assumes that powerful groups will always distort research in self-interested ways. The epistemological stance of researchers on whether beliefs are value-free or value-laden has important implications for the controversy about how organization theory can best serve the various social groups that constitute society (Tsui, 2013; Walsh et al., 2003). If research has a value-free core, serving society should not affect core research activities, which in that case would remain focused on cause-and-effect relationships (subject–object model), subjective viewpoints (interpretivism), social laws (functionalism), or individual behaviour (rational choice theory). Instead, from the ‘value-free’ viewpoint, serving society implies that researchers must pick research questions that are of high societal importance; doing otherwise would ‘suggest a lack of concern by management scholars for the relevance of our work for the larger society’ (Tsui, 2013: 167). In terms of output, organization scholars would have to think about whether the knowledge they produce is useful for resolving societal problems, and ‘do a better job of connecting our research to the world around us’ (DeNisi, 2010: 196). Assuming that research has no value-free core makes serving society a more intricate endeavour. Researchers would then have to reflect on what values they adopt and whom 41

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(i.e. which societal groups) these values serve throughout the research process, not merely at its beginning and end (Ezzamel and Willmott, 2014). In this view, reflecting on values is as important for researchers as mastering research methods and acquiring knowledge of existing theories, if their aim is to serve society with its different societal groups (Connell and Nord, 1996).

Epistemic pluralism and incommensurability As we have seen, there are several epistemic systems that shape the views of researchers on how knowledge about organizational phenomena can be developed. If there are no criteria for comparing and assessing the different epistemic systems, then these systems will be regarded as incommensurable and the epistemic pluralism will become problematic (Kuhn, 1962; Rorty, 1979; Scherer, 1998). Incommensurability means that (1) epistemic systems are radically different with respect to how they guide researchers, (2) epistemic systems conflict with each other, which makes it necessary to decide which is superior, and (3) there is no objective criterion by which to decide which of the alternatives to choose (Lueken, 1992; Scherer, 1998; Scherer and Steinmann, 1999). The epistemic systems described in the preceding section are often considered to be isolated from each other (e.g. Burrell and Morgan, 1979). For example, proponents of the interpretive approach see their epistemic system as fundamentally incommensurable with the epistemic system that underlies the subject–object model (Evered and Louis, 1981). Indeed, instead of seeking commonalities between various epistemic systems, many organization scholars focus on the differences. This allows them to distance themselves more easily from alternative ways of doing research and developing knowledge (Jackson and Carter, 1991). As a consequence, epistemological and ideological categories can become performative as researchers take up such categories to create labels for schools, form their identities as researchers, establish research programs, journals, and divisions at academic conferences. This has given rise to pluralism and fragmentation in organization studies. Here, we wish to put into perspective the trenches that exist between different systems and that many organization theorists seem to defend (see, e.g. Burrell and Morgan, 1979; Jackson and Carter, 1991; Van Maanen, 1995). There are several potential answers to the question of whether organization studies can develop and defend knowledge as ‘justified true belief’ and, if so, in what way. Much controversy surrounds the implications of this pluralism (Scherer, 1998; Scherer and Steinmann 1999). Some scholars argue in favour of pluralism with the aim of protecting intellectual freedom (Burrell and Morgan, 1979; Van Maanen, 1995); others, however, view pluralism as fragmentation and advocate unity and the integration of different positions within the subject–object model (Pfeffer, 1993). A further group of scholars wish to combine alternative epistemic views in order to develop ‘more comprehensive’ explanations (Gioia and Pitre, 1990); finally, some scholars think that ‘anything goes’ (Feyerabend, 1975). While proponents of these perspectives argue that a comparison or justification across epistemic systems is not possible, they often maintain that theories need to stick to the rules within their epistemic perspective (Burrell and Morgan, 1979). This view implies that researchers should stay within the silos of their epistemic systems, which in turn allows isolation and fragmentation to prevail (see Shepherd and Challenger, 2013). If we conceive of knowledge as justified true belief but we maintain that it is not possible to agree on a universally accepted justification, then the whole endeavour of knowledge creation seems to be at stake. We therefore build upon the social epistemology mentioned in the first section and consider an epistemological perspective that could provide a possible way out of the problem of incommensurability: constructive philosophy (Butts and Brown, 1989; Kamlah 42


and Lorenzen, 1984; Lorenzen, 1987; Mittelstrass, 1985; Scherer and Dowling, 1995; Scherer and Steinmann, 1999). We will show that incommensurability is far from inevitable. Furthermore, we will explain that the deconstruction of the boundaries that are often assumed to exist between different epistemic systems is not merely a theoretical endeavour but can help establish common ground among these systems.

Constructive philosophy Constructive philosophy, which contributes to social epistemology, builds upon the linguistic and the pragmatic turn in modern philosophy. The linguistic turn in philosophy (Rorty, 1992) yielded the insight that philosophical analysis has to be framed in terms of the analysis of language use. The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein has argued that any reference to the world has to be made with the help of language and that nothing can be conceived outside language. This is expressed in Wittgenstein’s famous quote: ‘The limits of my language mean the limits of my world’ (Wittgenstein, 1922: 5.6). The pragmatic turn in philosophy (Bernstein, 2010), by contrast, emphasizes the role of ‘praxis’ and maintains that actions are embedded in natural or social contexts, in which an actor’s experiences are controlled by actual deeds and their accomplishments. The pragmatic turn can be seen as a complement to the linguistic turn insofar that language use is not entirely detached from the world but can be controlled by practical action when individuals ‘cope’ with the world. According to the pragmatic turn, whether a proposition is true is not defined solely in the realm of language and discourse, but verified or disconfirmed when subjects cope with each other in the social world or with objects in the natural world (Habermas, 2003). These ideas will help us demonstrate how the problem of incommensurability can be avoided. Constructive philosophy questions the established wisdom about the relationship between theory and practice. Normally, practice is conceived of as the application of implicit or explicit theories. Consequently, when asked to justify a theory, one has to refer to other theories, which again need to be justified with the help of other theories and so on. The impending infinite regress can only be avoided if the attempt to justify a theory is given up at some point in a dogmatic way or if one refers to theories whose justifications have already been questioned, which, however, would result in a vicious circle. As a result of this trilemma (infinite regress, dogmatism, vicious circle), critical rationalists suggest that, instead of attempting to justify knowledge claims, one should try to test and possibly falsify theories (Albert, 1988; Popper, 1959). Theories that pass the empirical test are not justified as such but at least corroborated, which can be considered a reduced form of justification (see critically Mittelstrass, 1985). However, if we maintain the scientific claim to provide knowledge as justified true belief, we must not abandon the quest for justification. And if we want to avoid the problem of incommensurability, we cannot build on theory as the starting point for justification but have to develop an alternative. In order to address the epistemological question of how knowledge is possible, constructive philosophy develops a distinct understanding of the relationship between theory and practice (Butts and Brown, 1989; Kamlah and Lorenzen 1984; Lorenzen 1987) that rests on the distinction between poiesis, praxis, and theoria, which was originally proposed by Aristotle (350 BC[2010]). Practice is conceived of as the way in which people engage with the natural world (poiesis) and the social world (praxis) when they cope with the world without conscious reflection (theoria). Consequently, practice is considered the starting point of theory building and serves as both the reason and the methodological underpinning of theory (Lueken, 1992; Scherer and Dowling, 1995). In order to find a ‘methodical beginning of thought’ (Lorenzen, 1987: 6), the proponents of constructive philosophy 43

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are concerned to show how the concepts of science result initially from activity involved in daily practical behaviour. All theoretical concepts are grounded in distinctions made, practical orientations taken, in what Husserl in his later writings called the Lebenswelt, the pre-reflexive, pre-scientific, pre-philosophical world that nevertheless guides scientific and philosophical reflection. It is the familiar world in which we all live, a world taken for granted . . . a world that is pragmatically a priori. The model of creation of theoretical concepts is thus human purposive action. (Butts and Brown, 1989: xvi) Constructive philosophy distinguishes three realms of practice to explore the relationship between theory and practice: pre-theoretical practice, theoretical practice and theory-supported practice (Lueken, 1992; Scherer and Dowling, 1995). We will discuss each in turn. People engage in pre-theoretical practice in the course of their everyday life, when they act without consciously applying theories. They simply have the know-how that enables them to cope with immediate technical or political problems by using practices, recipes or rules of thumb, all of which are acquired through processes of socialization. People know how something works and know that it works, but they do not know why it works. This means that they have beliefs about how to act successfully in the world, but they cannot immediately justify why they are likely to be successful. Consequently, they do not have knowledge but merely know-how. For most activities, this is sufficient. However, in general, practice is a sequence of success and failure, so people tend to partly succeed and partly fail in their lives. In that respect, practice can serve as the starting point of theory building: it motivates individuals to engage in theoretical reflection (in cases when people do not succeed with their practices), and serves as the methodical beginning of theory building (in cases when people can build on practices that routinely work). By contrast, people engage in theoretical practice when they consider validity claims and develop knowledge, i.e. justified true belief. Usually, they do so because they see their actions fail or foresee that they are likely to fail and thus realize that their know-how is not sufficient. While at the stage of pre-theoretical practice people are completely embedded in a situation and simply act without further reflection, at the stage of theoretical practice they reflect upon their actions and action plans and assess validity claims in order to understand a situation better, to consider what they should do, and to increase the likelihood of success. To engage in theoretical practice, people seek to distance themselves from what was self-evident at the stage of pre-theoretical practice, in order to reflect on a situation, ‘objectively’ determine what is the case, and consciously decide what should be done and why. To do so, they have to form justified true beliefs – in other words, to acquire ‘knowledge’ about a problem, their own plans, the contingencies of a situation, and possibly about the plans of anyone else who may influence the success or failure of their actions. The transfer from pre-theoretical to theoretical practice takes place when people try to improve their actions by considering validity claims: in everyday life, in business, in science, and everywhere else. Whenever people consciously apply knowledge developed through theoretical practice in order to solve particular problems, they engage in theory-supported practice. As long as people consciously apply knowledge, they remain in theory-supported practice. However, if the actions they perform to solve particular problems become routinized and are performed without special attention or reflection, then the previously theory-supported actions will become part of pre-theoretical practice, until new problems emerge and the process of reflection starts again. In this way the loop can be closed. Thus, the dynamics of the advancement of knowledge can be understood as a spiral that reaches ever higher levels of insight over time (for a critical discussion on the evolution of knowledge, see Kuhn, 1962). 44


Based on this understanding of how theory and practice are related, constructivist philosophy suggests a way of justifying theories without becoming entangled with the trilemma of infinite regress, dogmatism or vicious circle. In our context, this means that science can be founded in the pre-theoretical skills that are necessary for successful human action (Mittelstrass, 1985). While according to constructive philosophy the justification of a theory cannot be derived from other theories, theories can become justified through their embeddedness in action; i.e. in practice.

Addressing incommensurability As mentioned above, incommensurability can be understood as a conflict between the proponents of different perspectives that arises when an objective criterion for assessing these perspectives and deciding which one is valid is not available (Lueken, 1992; Scherer and Dowling, 1995). Such conflicts may also result from radical differences between epistemic systems that make it impossible to agree on how beliefs can be justified and how their truth can be checked. For scholars who represent incommensurable epistemic systems and engage in dialogue it is not just a matter of disagreeing on various propositions, it may even prove difficult to understand one another. In other words it is hard for them to agree not only on basic concepts, methods and research goals, but also on how truth is defined, on what can be regarded as justification, and on what kind of arguments are allowed in the exchange of views. However, the conflict that is inherent in incommensurable epistemic systems requires that their representatives make certain decisions somehow. This is because they all need to be able to defend their positions not only within their epistemic system but also when confronted with adherents of other epistemic systems. Otherwise, their knowledge claims cannot count as (universally) justified true beliefs. In cases of incommensurability this is difficult, if not impossible, as the proponents of different systems have different ideas on what constitutes a convincing argument. With that in mind, we will now explore the arguments that the proponents of incommensurable positions put forward in an ‘argumentation situation’ (for the following, see Scherer and Dowling, 1995). An argumentation situation between incommensurable epistemic positions starts with a controversy: a knowledge claim that a proponent of one system makes is questioned, either because an opponent does not understand or does not accept the claim. In the following, we will refer to these interlocutors as ‘proponent’ and ‘opponent’. If the interlocutors attempt to explore together whether the claim is justified or not, they engage in a game of reasoning (Toulmin, 1958): the proponent puts forward a claim, to which the opponent forwards an objection, to which the proponent responds by defending the claim on the basis of reasons that support it. In order to do so, the proponent must present assertions that are eventually accepted or further questioned, and so on. Further down, we will argue that besides logical reasoning there is also practical reasoning and that the game of reasoning can develop in two different directions. Both points are important in the context of discussing ways of resolving the incommensurability problem. When the opponent accepts reason B for a claim A that the proponent has made, this means that the opponent has accepted proposition A, as well as proposition B and thus also (implicitly or explicitly) accepted B → A, i.e. that A follows from B, which is a proposition concerning the relationship between B and A. The proposition B → A can be but is not necessarily a logical rule: it can also be a practical rule for a pragmatic relationship between actions B and A (Lueken, 1992). A ‘pragmatic relationship’ describes a systematic connection between distinct actions and implies that this connection is guided by the results that the actors want to achieve. This alludes to the ideas that derive from the pragmatic turn in philosophy that we discussed earlier. For 45

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example, to create a painted wooden sculpture, one has to carve the figure first and paint the sculpture later. There is no rule of logic that prescribes this particular order of carving and painting; rather, the rule that needs to be followed so that the result is a painted sculpture is practical. Going back to our argumentation situation, if the opponent accepts reason B for claim A, the controversy is resolved (at least for the time being). If reason B is not accepted, however, then the opponent objects either to proposition B or to the relationship between B and A and the game of reasoning continues. This is likely in the case of incommensurable positions. The reasoning game can take different directions (Gethmann, 1979; Lueken, 1992). A game of reasoning is reductive when the interlocutors engage in a sequence of reasons, objections to those reasons, reasons for the objections, and so on, until the interlocutors reach common ground and thus consensus. A game of reasoning is productive when each proposition builds on what has already been accepted by both interlocutors. In the latter case, the dynamic of the reasoning game is directed towards the proposition that was originally questioned. In the case of reductive reasoning, however, the interlocutors may actually move farther away from the original proposition. Thus, the advantage of productive reasoning is that the participants in a discussion take steps in a common direction, starting from a commonly accepted point. The adherents of incommensurable positions normally do not know in advance that their positions are incommensurable. They only realize that when they actually engage in dialogue that progresses in a reductive direction and they discover that they cannot find any points, or reasons, that they commonly agree upon (Lueken, 1991). In that case, a productive direction of the reasoning game seems also impossible in the absence of a common starting point – that is, a commonly accepted proposition. The constructivist approach has developed a remedy for such situations: the interlocutors can create a common starting point through joint effort (for the following, see Lueken, 1992; Scherer and Dowling, 1995). When the game of reasoning does not lead to mutually accepted justifications, the interlocutors must postpone demanding justifications from each other; ‘they must act, without raising demands of legitimacy for these actions’ (Lueken, 1992: 282–3; translation by the authors). Instead, they must ‘enter a kind of mutual field research, an open exchange released from the pressure of reasoning, rules, validity questions and performed to understand the alien [epistemic system] by participation or to create a new one commonly’ (Lueken, 1991: 249). This means that the interlocutors must postpone reflecting on the validity of the claims that are made, in contrast to the course that theoretical practice demands, and enter together the arena of pre-theoretical practice in order to mutually learn and understand the know-how that derives from the epistemic system that each represents. This can be accomplished by engaging jointly in a practice that is unfamiliar to them and learning how it works through participation in routines, rituals, and recipes. The participants in pre-theoretical practice become (at least) partly socialized and learn, both consciously and unconsciously, how the concrete practice that they engage in works. As mentioned earlier, pre-theoretical practice is characterized by actions that do not lead to theoretical reflection. Such reflection is not necessary as long as the actions that are carried out in the context of pre-theoretical practice achieve their pragmatic goals by actualizing the available know-how. What is required of the interlocutors is the willingness to enter each other’s world without asking ‘why’ at each step, but instead by learning what works and realizing that it works without knowing why. How far opposed interlocutors can engage in pre-theoretical practice in this manner is not foreseeable in advance (Scherer and Dowling, 1995). Through practice and joint action, a mutual understanding among the interlocutors can be created: they mutually learn to understand each other’s epistemic system and how each works in practice (Hartman, 1988: 165ff.). When the interlocutors embrace and thus learn to understand, at least in part, each other’s epistemic system, they may be led to reflect on their 46


own epistemic system in a new way so that their perception of the differences between them may change. These learning processes may produce a new, shared epistemic system that may serve as the basis for further games of reasoning in theoretical practice. This may ultimately lead not only to understanding of but also to agreement on concepts, theories and justifications. In the context of organization studies, recent mixed-methods research can represent an example of this approach (Tashakkori and Teddlie, 2010). The proposed approach does not represent a formal or theoretical solution to the problem of incommensurable epistemic systems. Although success is not guaranteed, there is potential for pragmatically resolving the problem of incommensurability. It represents a remedy that the proponents of incommensurable epistemic systems can make use of when a controversy arises. Several works on theory pluralism in the social sciences have sought the common ground but could not resolve the problem of incommensurability (for an overview, see Scherer and Dowling 1995; Shepherd and Challenger 2013). In contrast, constructive philosophy argues that the search for communalities is in vain since, as a matter of principle, a common ground does not exist in situations of incommensurable positions. However, the proponents of incommensurable positions can create a common ground jointly through their actions by engaging in pre-theoretical practice and establishing common understandings, routines, and measures of conflict resolution. Generally speaking, this approach can help moderate and may even reverse the performative effects that the strong emphasis on differences in epistemic systems has had on the fragmentation of the field. In organization studies, reversing the effects of fragmentation and establishing common ground between epistemologically different streams of thought could help reconcile apparently incompatible ideas and thus yield new theoretical and empirical insights. It is important to stress, however, that it is not possible to impose a solution to the problem of incommensurability from outside; only the participants in the epistemological debate can determine whether to tackle the problem and, if so, how to tackle it. The proponents of incommensurable positions must be willing to open their own epistemic systems to change and to learn from each other if they wish to resolve the controversies that spring from incommensurability.

Summary In this chapter we have introduced the foundations of epistemology in order to analyse how different epistemic systems in organization studies relate to each other. In our application of epistemological distinctions to those different systems we have shown that they sometimes have more in common than proponents of incommensurability may claim in order to deliberately distinguish their own system from other ways of doing research. Taking this as a starting point, we suggest constructive philosophy as a way to construct common grounds in those aspects where different epistemic systems still appear to be incommensurable. In our pragmatic approach towards finding common grounds the responsibility for succeeding in this endeavour does not lie with the philosopher who seeks to logically dissolve incommensurability, but with organization scholars in their everyday research practice. If they succeed in the establishment of common grounds beyond currently perpetuated trenches, organization studies may flourish in the future not only because new answers can be found to already existing questions, but the range of questions we can ask may broaden as well.

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3 Ethical philosophy, organization studies and good suspicions Edward Wray-Bliss

Introduction I have argued previously that ethics is an ambivalent subject for the more critically minded scholars of organization (Wray-Bliss, 2009). We have something of a suspicious attitude towards ethics and ethical discourses. Where politics seems to be an appropriate thing to discuss and examine for those interested in organizations – concerned as it is with the public life, with institutions, laws, rules, forces, power – ethics seems somehow too private, too individual, subjective, relative or weak. We can see something of this suspicion of ethics in, for example, Thompson, Smith and Ackroyd’s (2000) response to Parker’s (1999) attempts to use ethics to broach a rapprochement between Marxist and broadly Poststructuralist UK Labour Process Theorists in the late 1990s. Ontology and epistemology for Smith and Ackroyd are the issues that matter for social scientists engaging with the political life of organizations, whereas ethics ‘means finishing with nothing to argue about other than each other’s value preferences’ (ibid.: 1156). Such a view is not limited to Smith and Ackroyd. As Ezzamel and Willmott (2014) have recently argued, organizational scholars have long given attention to the ways that ontology and epistemology condition knowledge construction. However, the ethical is seldom given comparable attention. A suspicion of ethics is carried into organizational studies’ engagement with allied fields which make ethics their central focus. Academic Business Ethics, for example, has been subject to a number of strong and strident critiques: as toothless; as apologist for managerialism and managerial control; and as intellectually and politically impoverished by failing to engage in any sustained way with twentieth-century continental ethical philosophy and social theory (for example Banerjee, 2007; Jones et al., 2005; Parker, 2002; Sorrell, 1998). There is a longer history to this suspicion of ethics in critical social science. As Garber, Hanssen and Walkowitz (2000) observe, ‘To critics working in the domains of feminism, deconstruction, psychoanalysis, semiotics, and Marxism, this discourse became a target of critique: the critique of humanism was the exposé of ethics’ (Garber et al., 2000: viii). Modifying if not totally mollifying this suspicion of ethics, there has been something of a ‘turn to ethics’ in the social sciences over the last few decades. Things have changed. Ethics is back in literary studies, as it is in philosophy and political theory, and indeed the very critiques of universal man and the autonomous human subject that had initially produced a resistance to ethics have now generated a crossover among 51

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these various disciplines that sees and does ethics “otherwise”. The decentering of the subject has brought about a recentering of the ethical. (ibid.: viii–ix) And ethics is back in – if it ever actually left – organization studies. However, the ethics that we see in organization studies is itself a suspicious one. It is an ethics that draws largely – overwhelmingly – upon modern continental philosophical traditions that are themselves highly suspicious of enlightenment concepts such as reason, science, truth, autonomy, sovereignty, even goodness and, of course, organization. In this chapter I attempt to provide an overview and orientation to the main philosophical understandings that have defined the discussion of ethics and the ethical in the organization studies field. My original conception for this chapter was to map out the ideas and contributions of an extensive list of philosophies and philosophers drawn upon by organizational scholars – I wanted to do justice to each and every one, to read them deeply and present them respectfully in their richness (the grand concept of ‘philosophy’ seemed to demand nothing less) – only to realise that such a task was well beyond the limits of word count of this chapter and most probably my own capabilities. Rethinking, I realized that I would have to be painfully partial and selective – and that is what you have here. What I am presenting then in this chapter – with apologies to all that I miss out – are what I think can be characterized as the major currents, the main thematics, of past and present organizational scholars’ engagement with ethical philosophy. What I suggest is that ethical philosophy and allied writings have been drawn upon by organizational scholars to articulate three partly commensurable and partly divergent suspicions: (1) the suspicion that ethics is other to organization; (2) the suspicion that ethics is other to autonomy; and (3) the suspicion that ethics is other to goodness. After outlining each of these, their philosophical roots and their articulations in organization studies, I conclude with a discussion of a small number of the neglected philosophers and philosophies of ethics that organizational scholars could usefully explore. Before I commence, I need to mention an issue of terminology. The terms ethics and morals are used by different philosophers, at different times, to refer to different things. For some authors ‘ethics’ is reserved for the realm of philosophy and ‘morals’ equates to the realm of the everyday enactment of behaviour. For others ‘morals’ and ‘morality’ are terms used to signal the macro-societal level of values and ‘ethics’ is concerned with the micro practices of lived experience. I do not try to disentangle these multiple, different, usages of the terms here. Instead I try, where possible, to stick to using the terms ethics and the ethical throughout – and signal where necessary any slippage in meaning or levels of analysis – and only use morals and morality where these terms stand out in the writings of the philosophers I cite.

Review of organization studies’ engagement with ethical philosophy The ethical as other to organization The first of the philosophically informed tropes regarding the relationship of the ethical with the organizational which I wish to explore centres on the argument that organization is antithetical to its members’ ethical autonomy. Organization here is seen as displacing or marginalising ethics – replacing individual ethical choice and agency with the instrumental rationality of bureaucratic or managerialist processes and ends. Such arguments are most commonly traced to the writings of Weber; however, as we will see this understanding of instrumental rationality as antithetical to ethics may be traced rather further back – to Kant’s 52


distinction between ‘practical’ and other forms of reason – and forward to writers that range across the last 80 years of writing about organization, including Arendt (1963), Bauman (1989), Jackall (1988), Marcuse (1941[2005]; 1964), Ritzer (1993), Watson (2003) and Wright Mills (1951). And while not all organizational scholars who engage with ‘Weberian’ arguments see modern organization as necessarily rationalising away the ethical (see Boltanski and Chiapello 1999[2005] and du Gay 2000) this conceptualization is a major thread in organizational scholars’ engagement with ethics. I will start by outlining how these ideas figure in Weber’s writing. In The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Weber (1930 [2001]) traced the ‘correlations’ (ibid.: 49) between historical forms of religious belief and the practical ethics required for valorising the accumulation and reinvestment of capital and for disciplined labour in the service of capital. For Weber, religion bestowed and cultivated the ideals and practices of the self – the ethics – necessary for the development of capitalism in America. Puritanical worldly asceticism, particularly that of Calvinism, prepared individuals for the self-denying ascetic trait required to enable the accumulation and reinvestment of capital and the preparation for service to a duty or calling. This, he argues, was translated under capitalist relations to self-disciplined action directed toward the ‘irrational’ pursuit of sums of wealth which do not enhance human happiness and to the businessman’s existence ‘for the sake of his business, rather than the reverse’ (ibid.: 32). Religious ethics bestowed and cultivated the ethical ideals and practices of the self necessary for the development of capitalism in America. Once it had reached maturity, however, capitalism was ‘emancipated from its old supports’ (ibid.: 34), no longer needing a religiously cultivated ethics of self-discipline and restraint. Instead it confronted humankind as an ‘irresistible force’ (ibid.: 123), imposing the necessary behaviour traits by virtue of the mechanistic discipline of machine production, the seduction of commodity consumption, or the pursuit of wealth almost as a character of sport (Ibid.: 124). The capitalistic economy of the present day is an immense cosmos into which the individual is born, and which presents itself to him, at least as an individual, as an unalterable order of things in which he must live. It forces the individual, in so far as he is involved in the system of market relationships, to conform to capitalist rules of action. (Ibid.: 19)1 Compounding the power of capitalism writ large to reify submission to it as primary ethical duty, Weber presented a corollary analysis of the ways that the internal structuring of organizations inculcated subjects’ diligent procedural service to organizational ends; ends which the subject need not have personal ethical attachment to. The discipline of machine production and socialisation into bureaucratic processes (Weber [in Gerth and Wright Mills, 1946: 262]; see McKinlay, 2002 for a wonderful examination of the latter) resulted in individuals’ organizational behaviour being discharged according to calculable rules, ‘without regards for persons’, such that dehumanized organizations were created that eliminated from ‘official business love, hatred, and all purely personal, irrational, and emotional elements’ (ibid.: 215–16). Through such bureaucratic and disciplinary mechanisms, modern society and its organizations restricted the importance of ‘individually differentiated conduct’ (ibid.: 262) and created a ‘whole process of rationalization’ (ibid.: 262). This concept of rationalization – and rationality more generally – are important in Weber’s work and are used to signify a variety of ideas (Brubaker, 1984). Chief for our purposes here is the distinction made between formal and substantive rationality. Formal rationality is ‘goal oriented rational calculation with the technically most adequate available methods’ (Weber, 1978: 85) and it is the form of behaviour and rationality that would come to dominate organizational life. Substantive rationality, in contrast, reflected 53

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upon the ultimate aims, goals or values of behaviour. As Clegg (2005: 533) argues, ‘Weber foresaw that ultimate values would be in inexorable decline as modernity, defined in terms of an increasing rationalisation of the world through new institutions and a concomitant decline in beliefs in enchantment, magic and fatalism, developed’. The performance of roles in accordance with given goals (principally numerically calculable goals) and the marginalization of possibilities for exercising substantive rationality was understood to increasingly come to dominate the social world. This differentiation of rationalities sounds a strong echo of enlightenment philosopher, Immanuel Kant’s, distinction between different forms of reason. For Kant, practical reason sets our ends and aims, it prescribes the ‘imperatives to experience’ (Neiman, 1994). ‘The fact that reason is the sole autonomous faculty, independent of the confines of experience, enables it to be the faculty whose sphere is the order of ends. Only reason is directed by ends it sets for itself’ (Neiman, 1994: 62). Practical reason asks questions of experience, but is not limited to the answers it finds – rather it sets the aims and pursues the means to make experience approach the ideals that it has set. Speculative, theoretical, and other forms of reason are useful in their particular spheres – those of science, contemplation, etc. – however they are, like Weber’s formal rationality, not concerned with the ethical. Following Weber (and, wittingly or otherwise, Kant) both classic and modern scholars of organization and organized society have advanced a critique of the rationalizing-away of individual ethical judgement and agency. In White Collar (1951) Wright Mills, for example, argued that ‘rationality seems to have taken on a new form, to have its seat not in individual men, but in social institutions which by their bureaucratic planning and mathematical foresight usurp both freedom and rationality from the little individual men caught in them’ (ibid.: xvii). Marcuse (1941[2005]) a critical theorist of the Frankfurt School, influential in the development of critical organizational scholarship (Alvesson and Willmott, 1992), references both Weber’s ideas and Mumford’s (1934) analysis of the effects of the machine on modern consciousness. Marcuse counterpoised individual rationality – that ‘critical and oppositional attitude that derived freedom of action from the unrestricted liberty of thought and conscience’ (ibid.: 157) – with a machine-like technical rationality, in which ‘liberty is confined to the selection of the most adequate means for reaching a goal which he did not set’ (ibid.: 142). Such technical rationality resulted in individuals being ‘stripped of their individuality, not by external compulsion, but by the very rationality under which they live’ (ibid.: 145), such that they are ‘no longer capable of seizing the fateful moment which constitutes his [sic] freedom’ (ibid.: 152). Such a mechanics of conformity governed behaviour ‘not only in the factories and shops, but also in the offices, schools, assemblies and, finally, the realm of relaxation and entertainment’ (ibid.: 145, also Marcuse, 1964). This extension of the critique of the effects of instrumental or machine rationality from the realm of work to include areas such leisure has been carried forward in a number of subsequent works, including critiques of advertising and consumption (Packard, 1957), fast-food production and its legacies (Ritzer, 1993), and mass/popular culture (Horkheimer and Adorno, 1944[1972]). Writing at a time still under the shadow of European fascism, Marcuse also related technical mechanistic rationality to the organizations of that social system. ‘National Socialism is a striking example of the ways in which a highly rationalized and mechanized economy with the utmost efficiency in production can operate in the interests of totalitarian oppression and continued scarcity’ (ibid.: 139). The rise and organization of fascism in Europe – particularly its hold over Germany, a civilized, modern and organized society, steeped in the cultural history of Enlightenment thought and ethics – has made this a crucial site for examining the intersection of ethics and organization. Neiman (2002) maintains that the radical and organized evil of the 54


Nazi Holocaust represented the same kind of existential challenge to certain ethical philosophers that the 1755 earthquake at Lisbon represented to thinkers of the Enlightenment. How could such an event, so radically contra to the certainties and conceits of philosophers of the day, have possibly occurred?. A concern with the organization of the Holocaust and its lessons for ethics has been carried into other works that have been influential in organization studies. Bauman (1989), for example, argues that cherished elements of organizational modernity – efficient, large-scale organization, organized along instrumental-rational lines, incorporating modern bureaucratic and hierarchical processes and operating according to clear relations of authority and command – provided some of the necessary structural and interpersonal conditions for the perpetration of the Holocaust. For Bauman, a wider implication of his analysis of the organization of the Holocaust is that individual ethical agency is too unpredictable and autonomous for bureaucratic organization to accommodate. Organization requires predictability and regularity in its members’ conduct. As a consequence we have – both necessarily and disastrously – evolved organizations in ways that divert or silence the unpredictable conscience. Arendt’s (1963) study of the trial of a senior figure of the Nazi administration, Adolf Eichmann, had earlier offered a similar conclusion, along with the haunting concept of the ‘banality of evil’. Evil in modernity is banal, she argued, in that it need not require ‘diabolic or demonic profundity’ (ibid.: 288) on the part of the perpetrator. Rather, acts as atrocious even as mass ‘administrative massacre’ (ibid.) may result from the bureaucrat’s conscientiousness with regard to the technical procedures and organizationally sanctioned duties of their position when mixed with ‘thoughtlessness’ (ibid.) regarding the ends of the actions that the administration has set.2 Highlighting thoughtlessness as a contributor to administrative evil, Arendt posits thinking – reason – as central to the possibility of realising the ethical in our (organized) lives. In her (1971) work, The Life of the Mind, Arendt asks ‘Could the activity of thinking as such, the habit of examining whatever happens to come to pass or to attract attention, regardless of results and specific content, could this activity be amongst the conditions that make men abstain from evil-doing or even actually “condition” them against it?’ (ibid.: 5). Bringing the discussion of rationality and ethics back to more contemporary times, Robert Jackall’s (1988) heavily cited analysis of American corporate managerial life represented corporate managers as entrapped and seduced within ‘patrimonial’ bureaucracies – organizational milieux which combined Weber’s modernist bureau with the political intrigues of a royal court. These organizational spaces take the form of moral mazes in which individual conscience is lost. It is replaced with an anxious striving to decipher the ambiguous ‘rules in use’ that would allow one to appear successful to one’s superiors and so progress in one’s career. For Jackall only exit from these organizations – through, for example becoming a corporate whistle-blower – offers the managerial subject the chance of redemption. Others, such as Watson (2003), while agreeing with the proposition that ethics is rationalised-away for many – possibly most – managerial subjects, argue that those few who are particularly ‘ethically assertive’ and who occupy positions of strategic influence may still be able to exercise agency to shape organizational behaviour in accordance with their personal ethical positions. To draw this first section to a close, I have identified the rationalizing-away of individual ethical choice, and the supplanting of the individual’s ability to conceive and follow their own (substantive) ethical ends with the (instrumental) performance of procedures and roles, as a significant philosophical trope in the writings of organizational and allied scholars. In such works, the ethical itself is treated as – or seems to default to – an individual’s autonomy, specifically their ability to reason. From Kant, through Weber, to Marcuse and Arendt ethics is couched in terms of individual capacity for thought and (substantive) reason; for Watson – despite 55

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referencing Weber’s thesis of the ethical irrationality of the world – the ethical manager is a thinking, strategic subject; and for Jackall it is only by separating self from the irrationalities of the organization that the whistle-blowing (ex)manager can exercise ethics. The next two philosophically informed orientations to the ethical in organization studies both carry through the deep suspicion of organization’s relationship to the ethical. They also, however, articulate quite different understandings of the relationship between reason, ethics and the individual.

The ethical as other to autonomy The second of the three major philosophically informed conceptualizations of ethics and organization that I wish to consider, like the Weberian approach discussed above, understands ethics to be quite other to the instrumental and procedural rationality of organization. It also, however, understands ethics as other to a counterpoising ideal of the rational, ethically autonomous individual that I suggested was the Kantian legacy of these critiques. The philosophical conceptualization of ethics that I look at in this section is not an ethics of reason, autonomy and the distance from others that this implies. Rather it is one of proximity, vulnerability and sensibility. The philosopher Emmanuel Levinas is central to this articulation of ethics, though it has been carried forward too in the writings of figures such as Derrida (1999), Critchley (2007) and Bauman (1993). Within organization studies, this ethics has been drawn upon by a number of authors to mount a strenuous critique of organizational and managerial attempts to codify, regulate and seek mastery over the ethical. I reference Jones, Parker and ten Bos (2005), Roberts (2001), McMurray, Pullen and Rhodes (2011), Weiskopf and Willmott (2013) in this regard. I start by fleshing-out some of the central elements of this Levinasian conceptualization of ethics. Levinas’ philosophy is driven by the need to understand what is left of ethics given the context of the Nazi Holocaust and those other horrors of modernity: imperialism, enslavement, industrial-scale wars and colonialism. Acutely aware that the great European philosophical history – the Enlightenment and its legacies – and the institutions and subjectivities built around the same, did not protect us from barely imaginable atrocity, Levinas considers it ‘of the highest importance to know whether we are not duped by morality’ (Levinas, 1961[1969]: 21). As we saw in the previous section, these same concerns have been threaded through the work of other mid to late twentieth-century philosophers and writers important to organization studies. Hannah Arendt, as a notable example, wrote in regard to the rise of fascism, it was as though morality suddenly stood revealed in the original meaning of the word, as a set of mores, customs and manners, which could be exchanged for another set with hardly more trouble than it would take to change the table manners of an individual or a people. (Arendt, 1965[1994]: 740) However, whereas Arendt turned to Kantian reason to rehabilitate ethics, Levinas turns the other way. For Levinas, the scale of the evils that we have witnessed necessitated a fundamental reconceptualization of the nature of ethics (Bernstein, 2002). Western philosophy had put the autonomy of the rational individual’s reason first. (Witness Kant’s privileging of reason and autonomy: the infinite freedom of acting in accordance only with the moral law that you have rationally arrived at, free because it is chosen by you on the basis of reason, not by compulsion, desire or affect). Conceptualising ethics as reason, understanding or cognition is for Levinas to place a buffer between the individual and the rightful object of their concern: the other person. ‘Western 56


philosophy has most often been an ontology: a reduction of the other to the same by interposition of a middle and neutral term that ensures the comprehension of being’ (Levinas, 1961[1969]: 43). The other person is reduced to the knowable and understandable, they are categorised and conceptualised, limited and contained. Far from the ethical infinity that Kant imagined, ethics conceptualised as autonomy and reason represents the privileging of the self and the ‘neutralization of the other who becomes a theme or an object’ (Levinas, 1961[1969]: 43), it is a step along the road to their totalization. In contrast to this, Levinas argues that ethics does not start with us and our autonomous reason, but rather with the breaking apart of our autonomy and sovereignty. ‘We name this calling into question of my spontaneity by the presence of the Other ethics’ (Levinas, 1961[1969]: 43). A breaking apart that comes from the realisation that the other person – to whom we owe responsibility by virtue of their very existence – is not just another ‘us’. They are radically not us, they are ‘alterity’: Otherness with a capital O. Conscience welcomes the Other. It is the revelation of a resistance to my powers that does not counter them as a greater force, but calls in question the naive right of my powers, my glorious spontaneity as a living being. Morality begins when freedom, instead of being justified by itself, feels itself to be arbitrary and violent. (Levinas, 1961[1969]: 84) Such realisation of the separateness of the Other does not, for Levinas, arrive in the form of thinking – it is ‘not a cognition which a subject has of an object’ (Levinas, 1974[1998]: 76) – rather it takes the form of a sensory or sensual experience, like taste, touch, even pain which is experienced before it is rationalized. Responsibility is experienced because of the proximity of an Other: that is the sensuality and vulnerability of their ‘face’ (a loaded term which Levinas uses to signify the irredeemable particularity of the humanity of the other person). Proximity here is much more than mere physical closeness. It is a sensorial, precognitive experience of another person that rips from us a response and, indeed, responsibility. ‘Proximity is quite distinct from every other relationship, and has to be conceived as a responsibility for the other; it might be called humanity, or subjectivity, or self’ (Levinas 1974[1998]: 46). And, just as the other person is not the same as us, is radically not us, our responsibility to them is radically unlimited. It is not reducible to laws or rules or other rational constructs which set limits on what responsibility is – based upon prior assumptions about who the Other is and what they have a right to ask from us – it is not about the autonomy, sovereignty or even survival of the self, and it is not therefore reducible to the procedures or processes of organization. Ethics, rather, is understood as radical exposure to an infinite responsibility to the Other. For Levinas, only such a re-conceptualization of ethics as infinite responsibility can hope to be substantial enough to mount a defence against the kind of organized industrial-scale destruction of others that the twentieth century has shown us capable of. A Levinasian-informed ethical philosophy has been drawn upon by organizational scholars to critique organizational attempts to codify and contain infinite ethical responsibility within manageable limits: for example, the ethics policy, the discharging of minimal legal responsibilities or the delineation of carefully contained rights and duties owed to various parties. A number of works have powerfully critiqued organizational practices in such terms (Roberts, 2001; Jones, 2003). Valuable as these works have been, it is a tall ask to wish organizations to ever embody a Levinasian ethics. As Bauman (1993) observes, instrumental–rational organization simply cannot embody this kind of ethics. Indeed, neither can anyone else meet these demands in full. As Critchley (2007) has argued, Levinas’ ethics is infinitely demanding, it may even run the risk 57

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of ‘chronically overloading – indeed masochistically persecuting – the self with responsibility’ (ibid.: 11). To criticise organizations, managers, or anyone else, for not embodying this infinite ethical responsibility might, perhaps, be to risk somewhat missing the wider organizational implications of a Levinasian ethics. These become apparent when we consider the nature of responsibility when we move from the party of two (‘I’ and one other) to consider ‘the third’ – that is when we have to consider responsibility not just to the one person in front of us but to other people beyond them. Once we move into considering the responsibility that we have to more than one other person – once we move from philosophical discussions of ethics’ origins to the realm of the real, where we always face potentially competing calls to respond – then we necessarily and unavoidably enter into the world of compromises, of choices, of knowledge about others, and of decisions regarding how best to embody ethical obligations to multiple conflicting subjects. That is, we shift from a philosophical ethics to enter the realm of politics, where we engage with questions of justice – of how to distribute responsibilities owed within the realities of limited resources and competing demands. Carl Rhodes’ contribution to this volume speaks to a Levinasian conceptualization of justice, so I will not labour it too much here, suffice to say that ‘for Levinas justice is always that through which ethics is imperfectly operationalized in the social world. What arises practically is the need to negotiate the contradictions between ethical relations with the other and rational distribution. It is this that drives the relentless dilemmas that characterize the pursuit of justice’ (Rhodes, 2012: 1322). Recognizing that the organized and interpersonal space of public life necessarily and unavoidably enters us into the realms of politics and its questions of justice does not, however, mean that a Levinasian ethics is therefore a privatized concern – something to worry about in the privacy of the family or the sanctity of the soul – while more important public affairs are carried out with hard-headed political rationality (Rhodes, 2012). Rather, the implication is for the need to conceptualize political, public, organized action as founded upon and continually questioned by the infinite ethical demand: an ethico-politics that originates in a ‘metapolitical’ moment of ethical experience. Where politics is conceived of as ‘an ethical practice that arises in a situation of injustice which exerts a demand for responsibility’ (Critchley, 2007: 92). Drawing upon this conceptualization of political or organized agency informed by an ethics of infinite proximal responsibility, some organizational scholars have begun to use a Levinasian ethical philosophy not merely to critique the limitations of instrumentally rational managerial acts but to also explore the possibilities of a positive enactment of ethical responsibility in organizations. Weiskopf and Willmott (2013) for example have drawn upon this philosophical approach to ethics – read through the writings of Derrida – to examine Daniel Ellsberg’s leaking of the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times in 1971: papers which revealed the serious obfuscations, omissions and falsehoods that successive US governments had communicated to Congress and the American public concerning US military actions in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. In a compelling discussion of this event, Weiskopf and Willmott read Ellsberg’s actions as an ethico-political act performed through the countering of the existing rationalizations and reductions of the Vietnamese Other. By leaking these papers, Ellsberg questioned ‘the very system of ordering and categorizing which underlines and produces specific normative evaluations and judgements’ (ibid.: 477). Ethics is here enacted through an undoing of knowledge and certainties – rationalities and rationalizations – about the I and the Other. We can see a similar process and analysis at work in McMurray, Pullen and Rhodes (2011) Levinasian-informed examination of a senior clinician’s extended formal letter of complaint, sent to their employer during a protracted and politically tense bid to take-over the running of the regional health care service. This letter, understood by McMurray, Pullen and Rhodes as an ethically informed act of resistance, 58


contests the Primary Care Trust’s self-authorizing certainty in its own goodness and care of patients. Like Weiskopf and Wilmott’s analysis of Ellsberg’s whistle-blowing, the clinician’s letter is seen as an ethical act which is vested in the challenging of the sovereignty and autonomy, the certainty and self-knowledge, of the organization. Drawing further on Levinasian ideas, McMurray, Pullen and Rhodes demonstrate how such ethico-political acts of resistance, while contesting the problematic autonomy of the organization also, perhaps inevitably, totalize and reify the recipient as the embodiment of problematic organization. The infinite responsibility to respect the alterity of others is both embodied and denied in the very act of an ethically informed resistance. Such an understanding is not, McMurray, Pullen and Rhodes argue, a cause for pessimism or inaction. Rather, the implication is that the ethical subject is always as well the political subject; the one who takes action in response to the call of the ethical demand. It is the call to action of these political subjects, prepared to act in the experience of injustice, while not resting easy on their own ethical righteousness that provide an affirmative possibility for research and theorizing ethics within a critical framework. (Ibid.: 557) In this section I have presented an overview of philosophically informed work within organization studies which represents ethics as other to the autonomy and rationality of individuals and which understands ethics to be diminished or to disappear when it is reduced to the sovereignty or rationality of the self. Such work provides a basis for significant challenge not only to the ethics of rational and instrumental organization, but a challenge also to attempts to posit the autonomous ethical individual as the counterpoint to this. The third and final philosophically informed conceptualization of ethics and organization that I wish to consider is perhaps, however, the most ontologically challenging of all. For while the previous two thematics present powerful and demanding critiques – of the instrumental rationality of organization and of the sovereignty or autonomy of the subject – both may be regarded as still holding on to a strong idea of, if I can put it this way, the ‘goodness’ of ethics. Ethics is the assumed good of the individual’s reason – a goodness that instrumental rationality obscures. Or ethics is the goodness of the pre-discursive pull towards the vulnerability of the other – a pull that we all feel and one that founds and defines the uniqueness of self. In the section below I explore philosophically informed understandings of ethics that see the ethical as not other to or prior to but rather as a product of organization: as an outcome and mechanism of dominant power and knowledge regimes.

The ethical as other to the good The various philosophies that I include within this theme cast the ethical, broadly speaking, as a power-laden societal or psychological discourse which assigns subject positions and ascribes attendant obligations, responsibilities, rights and duties. Our ideas of the good, and our sense of an ethical self built upon these ideas, have no authority in some transcendent notion of reason or of pre-discursive humanity. Ethics is power-laden, always authorizing and othering, often taken-for-granted and is foundational to the organization and constitution of subjectivities and identities. This philosophical orientation to ethics can be found in a number of different critical traditions throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and may be understood as the implicit, sometimes explicit, backdrop to each of those writings which sought to contest the idea of the sovereign, whole, integrated modern subject. We can therefore see such an ethical move in, among others, Marxism’s fracturing of the subject – the individual – into different 59

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classes and different consciousness; in psychoanalysis’ undercutting of the public subject with unconscious drives and desires; in feminism’s contestation of man and the masculine as the privileged marker of the normal and good; in postcolonialism’s critique of whiteness and European identity and culture in similar terms; and in poststructuralism’s more general move to contest ideas of wholeness, autonomy, rationality and sovereignty as the natural and desirable state of the subject. In each of the above philosophically informed traditions or movements, the (classbased, self-mastering, masculine, racist, or modernist) positions bequeathed and authorized for us as modern subjects, and the attendant ethical value systems and conceptualizations of the good which they entail, are rendered deeply problematic. Given the variety and richness of the traditions that articulate this broad critique of the goodness of valorized subjectivities in contemporary society I have to be selective regarding which to discuss in detail in this short section. I have chosen, therefore, to focus upon the philosophical contribution of poststructuralism and in particular the ideas of Michel Foucault since these inform the most extensive body of material in organization studies which articulates a philosophical critique of the goodness of ethics. I reference the work of Rose (1989) and the body of work driven by the contributions of David Knights and Hugh Willmott in this regard, as well contributions by Bardon and Josserand (2011), Barratt (2008) and Wray-Bliss (2002) which have sought to explore what has been argued to be a neglected productive potential of a Foucauldian ethics. Before we get to Foucault’s writings and the organization studies works that have drawn upon these I start with a discussion of another philosopher’s work that is foundational to Foucault’s later engagement: Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche argued that ‘we need a critique of moral values’ that ‘the value of these values should itself, for once, be examined – and so we need to know the conditions and circumstances under which the values grew up, developed and changed (morality as result, as symptom, as mask, as tartuffery, as sickness, as misunderstanding; but also morality as cause, remedy, stimulant, inhibition, poison), since we have neither had this knowledge up till now nor even desired it. People have taken the value of these “values” as given, as factual, as beyond all questioning’ but ‘What’, Nietzsche asked, ‘if the opposite were true?’ What if ‘morality itself was the danger of dangers?’ (Nietzsche, 1887 [1994]: 7–8). Nietzsche’s argument, in his self-proclaimed polemical text On the Genealogy of Morality, was that civilization, particularly the significant hand played in this by Judeo-Christian ethical teachings, was a fetter upon human kind’s ‘instinct for freedom’ (ibid.: 59) – a concept Nietzsche would call the ‘will to power’ (ibid.). Values of meekness, mildness and compassion (the latter privileged by his ‘great teacher’ Schopenhauer, ibid.: 6), raised servitude and subservience to a high ethical plane. Rather than being an example of laudable self-restraint, this subservience represented self-lacerating cruelty (those familiar with Levinas’ penchant for depicting ethics through metaphors of self-violence will see threads here). This self-violence arises as the force of the individual’s instinct for freedom, denied expression in constraining civilized society, is ‘forced back, repressed, incarcerated within itself and finally able to discharge and unleash itself only against itself’ (ibid.: 59). Unable to revolt against the forces of society, the individual revolts against herself and her drives, resenting that which cannot be expressed she dedicates herself to seeking out and destroying these drives and desires in her own soul. There is nothing good for Nietzsche about this morality or these ethics, it is rather the means by which the individual is transformed from a being full of potentiality and power into ‘tame and civilised animal, a household pet’ (ibid.: 24). Foucault’s writings – his own genealogical examination of the constitutions of the soul of modern subjects – drew directly upon these Nietzschean ideas and terminology. Foucault would argue that avowed ethical goods of modernity – for instance the ‘compassionate’ treatment of 60


the mentally ill (Foucault, 1965), modern approaches to criminality and rehabilitation (Foucault, 1979), the valorisation of the expressive sexual self (Foucault, 1978) – and the ethical subject positions that they entailed and constructed were not self-evidently ethical. Rather, they could be traced back to extensive and intensive forms of psychic – and physical – violence, legitimized and conducted under the auspices of medical, legal, educational and psychological expert knowledge. The particular construction of the sane, healthy, sexual, productive subject of modernity was thus a product of historically traceable, organized, disciplinary practices. Such practices were subsequently folded back from the outside into the interior of the subject. From being a manifestation of power they become a product and goal of ethics. The individual comes to internalise the ideal of self and the concomitant ethical values, engaging in a multitude of self-disciplining practices so as to fashion and affix themselves in the light of this ideal. While history showed the human subject to have always engaged in ethical self-fashioning and disciplining practices of one form or another (Foucault, 1982[2001]) – thus making aspirations of a soul or subject position free of all such operation of power and ethics redundant – for Foucault we might yet seek to turn the ‘artists’ cruelty’ (Nietzsche, 1887[1994]: 59) of a subject imprinting this ethics on the self into a more consciously cultivated practice, where the self becomes a work of art of one’s own creation (Foucault in Rabinow, 1994). Within the organizational studies field, a major contribution to a Foucauldian(/Nietzschean) critique of the goodness of society’s ethically valorised subject positions was the publication of Rose (1989) Governing the Soul: the shaping of the private self. Rose’s work extended the empirical scope of Foucault’s genealogical analysis of the modern subject by providing a meticulous historical examination of the technologies, knowledges and practices across the realms of war, work, education and the family that have constructed the subjectivity and procured the productivity of the citizens of the United Kingdom. Subsequently, a substantial and important body of work has been added to the organization studies cannon utilizing Foucauldian ideas, though largely substituting the more prosaic term ‘subjectivity’ for the original overtly ethico/religio term ‘soul’, to consider the constitution of individual subjects through their relationships with organization. Owing much to the contributions of David Knights, Hugh Willmott and colleagues (Knights and Collinson, 1987; Knights and McCabe, 1999; Knights and Vurdubakis, 1994; Knights and Willmott, 1989) this rich body of work has examined how unacknowledged conceptualizations of self – which may originate as either a product of organizational and managerial practices (a ‘healthy worker’ for instance), in opposition to such practices (‘a resistant subject’) and/or from wider cultural norms and identities (a ‘masculine man’) – recruit individuals into patterns of behaviour that are consistent with affirming their valued self-identity even when this may be understood to be detrimental to the individual’s status or political agency within organizations. Notwithstanding the important contribution of this work, some organizational scholars have argued that the productive political potential of Foucault’s engagement with ethics has been underexplored or obscured (e.g. Barratt, 2008; Newton, 1998) with undesirable unintended consequences for the ethical warrant of such organizational scholarship (Wray-Bliss, 2002). Subsequently, a small number of works have sought to draw upon Foucauldean ideas not merely to problematize the ‘goodness’ of organizationally, culturally or societally sanctioned subject positions but also to consider the possibility that organizational scholarship on ethics might be conducted in a way that valorizes and examines individuals’ attempts to become ‘moral subjects of [their] own actions’ (Bardon and Josserand, 2011: 507). That such work is rather embryonic still, however, further attests to organizational scholars’ enduring tendency towards a suspicious treatment of the ethical in organizations. I have in this section presented an overview of a train of philosophy, and its legacies in organization studies work, which may be regarded as articulating a suspicion that ethics is other 61

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to goodness: that it is, rather, a mechanism and means by which power-laden subject positions in contemporary organized life are reinforced by being made the responsibility of individual subjects. Such an orientation to ethics is extremely challenging – challenging even (if we are not most careful in reading also the productive potentialities and generative possibilities of ethics in the originating philosophical works) of the very idea, the very possibility, of ethics being anything other than a cipher for power. I return to this need for organization studies to read ethics, philosophy and organization in productive/generative ways in my discussion, next.

Discussion, conclusion and notes towards future directions I have suggested in this chapter that organizational scholars have long been drawing upon philosophically informed conceptualizations of the ethical. Weberian-influenced critiques of organizational instrumental rationality, for example, were shown to be a located in a rich seam of philosophical discussions of the relationship between reason and ethics – stretching back at least to the writings of Kant and forward through the works of figures such as Arendt, Marcuse, Bauman, Ritzer, Wright Mills and Watson. Notwithstanding such history, it is fair to say that only relatively recently have organizational scholars demonstrated a more general preparedness to explicitly identify their work as concerned with and conceptualized through the ethical. Thus, for example, most of that substantial body of work in organization studies which draws upon Foucauldian ideas – ideas that are deeply indebted to Nietzsche’s genealogy of morality – eschew explicit mention of ethics in favour of terms such as subjectivity and power. By not more deliberately and explicitly engaging with ethics and ethical philosophy, organization studies seems to me to be a little like a people separated from a crucial part of their heritage. As with people, sometimes such separation can be devastating, a profound loss and lack that never lets the subject in question develop as it could. For others, a productive and broadly satisfying present is possible. However, there may always be a nagging suspicion that something is missing, some piece of the puzzle of who the subject is and what they are for that is out of reach. This nagging suspicion, in even the otherwise well-adjusted, can be corrosive – a shadow cast on the subject’s views of the world and others, a tendency toward a certain negativity. Something similar may have happened, I suggest, with the subject of organization studies. By exploring ethical philosophy and ethics far less than it might, organization studies seems not to have developed the language or capabilities to talk about and valorize the good. So now, even when ethics becomes the explicit empirical focus and philosophical resource of organizational studies writing, the tendency is to approach it in what I have termed a suspicious way: ethics as a means by which to problematize organizational, managerial and individual efforts and endeavours further. While ethics, in definitional terms, may be concerned broadly with ‘the good’, organizational scholars have drawn upon it largely to consider ‘the bad’. This is not to suggest that the subject of organization studies needs the uncritical ministrations of positive psychology or the kind of enforced hysterical happiness mandated by consumer society (Wilson, 2008). Nor is it to suggest that organizational scholars should adopt what might be criticized as the cheerleading and overly optimistic orientation of much of the Business Ethics field. Rather, it is to say that the ability to notice empirically, to conceptualize, to speak to and to develop ideas and practices of a substantive ethical nature will require a better grounding in and valorization of the ethical – and this must necessarily include those ethical philosophies, past and present, that have shaped and continue to shape the subject of organization studies and the subjects of organization. Both then in terms of broadening the conceptual and empirical focus on ethics and in terms of exploring the wealth of philosophical ethical traditions – the surface of which 62


have only been scratched by our field – we could usefully still do much more. To the considerable omissions and partial commissions of ethics in our field, I would like to signal a small number of philosophies and philosophers that organizational scholars might usefully take some time to explore. First, to develop further critical reflexivity on the historical construction of the Western (confessing) ethical subject and on concepts of soul, guilt, conscience and self-critique – so powerful in tying us to our responsibilities as well as giving us reasons for refusing irresponsible commands – further examination of the writings of formative early Christian ethicists is warranted. Augustine’s writings from the fourth and fifth century CE, such as Confessions (Augustine, 1961) and City of God (Augustine, 1972), for example, have been engaged with by theorists from Foucault, to Bataille, to Arendt and can be regarded as central to the decisive departure of Western ethical identity and responsibility from Greco/Roman ethics and the subsequent development of a modern Western subjectivity. But they have largely been neglected by organization studies. Consideration of such works might also enable us to reflect upon whether the subject of organization studies itself has come to be defined and constituted through an unacknowledged Christian/confessing ethics – an organization studies which ever seeks to interrogate self, other and organization for guilty secrets and trespasses and which finds it difficult to articulate and valorize any of its own expressions of the good. Second, to interrogate the mobilizing ideology of individual freedom and the ethical legitimations underpinning the commoditization of labour, the negative ethics of Liberalism articulated in the writings of figures such as John Locke (1690[1980], J.S. Mill (1859[1974], and then rearticulated and refashioned in the neo-liberalism of von Hayek (1960) and Friedman (1962), would benefit from being critically reviewed and re-examined within the organization studies field. Greater understanding of these formative ethical foundations of Western liberal and neo-liberal society opens up further opportunities for conceptually challenging oft takenfor-granted appeals to self-interest and individual freedom legitimizing organizational and managerial demands, as well as increasing the possibility that we may recognize when the practices of other organizational members articulate a different ethics. Finally, while his works inform the discussions and ideas of figures as central to organization studies as Weber, Kant’s phenomenally influential philosophical contribution has received very little sustained examination by scholars studying organization. As a major – for many the major – philosophical writer of modernity, his work would seem to warrant far more consideration both in its own right but also because Kant, as Critchley (2001: iii) observes, represented the ‘final great figure common to both Continental and analytic traditions’. Kant’s writings on ethics and reason, as such, offer potentialities for rapprochement between the critical/continental traditions of organization studies scholarship most familiar to Europeans and the more analytically minded scholarship practised in the American tradition. To bring this chapter to a close, I would like to end by exhorting organizational scholars to engage much further with ethical philosophy – both the large body of work as yet neglected by our field and those works and ideas that have already received some attention. Greater appreciation of the philosophical ethical foundations of contemporary discourses – and the subject positions that they constitute and validate – not only enables us to understand the dominantpresent of organization, it also helps us to note and valorize individual and group behaviours within organization that seek to embodying different ethical relationships and ideals. This may yet help us shift organizational studies research from a critical-suspicious towards a criticalproductive engagement with ethics.


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Notes 1


Boltanski and Chiapello (1999[2005]) have argued that, contra to the characterization of large-scale capitalist organizations as disenchanted and reified spaces, we are witnessing new attempts by organizations to articulate an inspirational organizational ethic – a new spirit of capitalism as it were – so as to attract higher-calibre, socially aware graduates into managerial roles. du Gay (2000), has taken a different approach, stressing that suspension of personal ethical judgements under an ethos of impartial administration is – at least among members of the civil service – a necessary precondition for liberal democracy to function properly (a point previously stressed by both Weber and Marcuse, but probably given less attention than it should have had in organizational scholarship until du Gay’s efforts).

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Knights, D. and Willmott, H. (1989). Power and subjectivity at work: from degradation to subjugation in social relations. Sociology, 23(4): 535–58. Levinas, E. (1961[1969]). Totality and Infinity. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press. Levinas, E. (1974[1998]). Otherwise than Being: or beyond essence. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press. Locke, J. (1690[1980]). Second Treatise on Government (ed. C.B. McPherson). Cambridge: Hackett. McKinlay, A. (2002). ‘Dead selves’: the birth of the modern career. Organization, 9(4): 595–614. McMurray, R., Pullen, A. and Rhodes, C. (2011). Ethical subjectivity and politics in organizations: a case of health care tendering. Organization, 18(4): 541–61. Marcuse, H. (1941[2005]). Some social implications of modern technology, in Arato, A. and Gebhardt, E. (eds), The Essential Frankfurt School Reader. London: Continuum, pp. 138–62. Marcuse, H. (1964). One Dimensional Man. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Mill, J.S. (1859[1974]). On Liberty. London: Penguin. Mumford, L. (1934). Technics and Civilization. New York: Harcourt. Neiman, S. (1994). The Unity of Reason. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Neiman, S. (2002). Evil in Modern Thought. Melbourne: Scribe. Newton, T.J. (1998). Theorizing subjectivity in organizations: the failure of Foucauldian studies. Organization Studies, 19: 415–47. Nietszche, F. (1887[1994]). On the Genealogy of Morality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Packard, V. (1957). The Hidden Persuaders. Ig Publishing. Parker, M. (1999). Capitalism, subjectivity and ethics: debating labour process analysis. Organization Studies, 20(1): 25–45. Parker, M. (2002). Against Management. Cambridge: Polity Press. Rabinow, P. (ed.) (1994). Michel Foucault, Ethics: essential works of Foucault 1954–1984. London: Penguin. Rhodes, C. (2012). Ethics, alterity and the rationality of leadership justice. Human Relations, 65(10): 1311–31. Ritzer, G. (1993). The McDonaldization of Society. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Roberts, J. (2001). Corporate governance and the ethics of narcissus. Business Ethics Quarterly, 11(1): 109–27. Rose, N. (1989). Governing the Soul: the shaping of the private self. London: Routledge. Sorrell, T. (1998). Beyond the fringe? The strange state of business ethics, in Parker, M. (ed.), Ethics and Organizations. London: Sage, pp. 15–29. Thompson, P., Smith, C. and Ackroyd, S. (2000). If ethics is the answer, you are asking the wrong questions. Organization Studies, 21: 1149–58. von Hayek, F. (1960). The Constitution of Liberty. London: Routledge. Watson, T. (2003). Ethical choice in managerial work: the scope for moral choices in an ethically irrational world. Human Relations, 56: 167–85. Weber, M. (1930[2001]). The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Oxon: Routledge. Weber, M. (1978). Economy and Society. Berkeley: University of California Press. Weiskopf, R. and Willmott, H. (2013). Ethics as critical practice: the ‘Pentagon Papers’, deciding responsibility, truth-telling, and the unsettling of organizational morality. Organization Studies, 34(4): 469–93. Wilson, E. (2008). Against Happiness. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Wray-Bliss, E. (2002). Abstract ethics, embodied ethics: the strange marriage of Foucault and Positivism in LPT. Organisation, 9(1): 5–39. Wray-Bliss, E. (2009). Ethics: critique, ambivalence and infinite responsibilities (unmet), in Alvesson, M., Bridgman, T. and Willmott, H. (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Critical Management Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 267–85. Wright Mills, C. (1951). White Collar. New York: Oxford University Press.


4 Methodology Philosophical underpinnings and their implications Joanne Duberley and Phil Johnson

Introduction Methodology has been defined as both ‘the collection of methods or rules by which a particular piece of research is undertaken’ and the ‘principles, theories and values that underpin a particular approach to research’ (Somekh and Lewin, 2005: 346) while Walter (2006: 35) argues that methodology is the frame of reference for the research which is influenced by the ‘paradigm in which our theoretical perspective is placed or developed’. In this chapter, we are defining methodology in a way similar to the way in which Lincoln and Guba (1985: 15) define paradigm. They argue that paradigms consist of ‘a systematic set of beliefs together with their accompanying methods’. Paradigms epitomize our particular view of the world and as such are the embodiment of our view of ‘reality’. They also provide us as researchers with the guiding principles on which our practices are founded, forming part of our taken for granted assumptions (Lincoln and Guba, 1985: 15). Methodology from this perspective is the overall approach to research linked to the theoretical framework in use. This can be distinguished from method, which refers to systematic modes, procedures or tools used for collection and analysis of data. Clearly however our methods cannot be divorced from their over-arching paradigm or methodology. As we have discussed in detail elsewhere (Johnson and Duberley, 2000), any process of methodological engagement inevitably articulates, and is constituted by, an attachment to particular philosophical commitments. However this aspect of methodology is often given limited attention by researchers, especially if they view the methods they use as merely tools for enabling the collection of particular types and sources of ‘data’ in order to deal with specific research questions. For new researchers, engaging in philosophical debates for the first time can be somewhat bewildering. Indeed, the requirement to account for and deliver upon our philosophical assumptions when discussing methodology can seem rather daunting. We concur with Caelli, Ray and Mill (2003) that researchers should address the following four areas:



1 2

3 4

the theoretical positioning of the researcher, including their motives, presuppositions and personal history that leads them toward and shapes a particular inquiry; the congruence between methodology, reflecting the beliefs about knowledge that arise from the philosophical framework being employed and methods or tools of data collection and analysis; strategies to establish rigour – in other words they must evaluate their research in a way that is philosophically and methodologically congruent with their enquiry; the analytical lens through which data are examined, in terms of the epistemological and ontological assumptions the researcher makes in engaging with their data.

We would argue that this applies equally whether research is quantitative or qualitative in nature as it seems a useful starting point to ensure that researchers at least consider the philosophical assumptions underpinning their studies. Our intention in this chapter is to provide the reader with an overview of the methodological implications of the various philosophical stances within which research sits. Before presenting an overview of some of the different methodological approaches in management research informed by particular philosophical stances, it is useful to briefly return to the key terms discussed in the previous two chapters which will be encountered in these philosophical discussions, notably epistemology and ontology. As discussed earlier, epistemology is usually understood as being concerned with knowledge about knowledge. In other words, epistemology is the study of the criteria by which we can know what does and does not constitute warranted, or scientific, knowledge. That is, what do we mean by the concept ‘truth’ and how do we know whether or not some claim, including our own, is true or false? Usually people think that such processes of justifying knowledge claims are in principle straightforward: in judging the truth or falsity of any such claim surely ‘the facts speak for themselves’? All we need to do is look for the relevant evidence whose content will either support or refute any claim. Thus it is often thought that what is true is something that corresponds with the given facts: empirical evidence is the ultimate arbiter. Perhaps this view of warranted knowledge initially seems harmless and unproblematic. However, it has been subject to much dispute in both the natural and social sciences: a dispute which has had a direct influence on the evolution of research methodology. Central to this debate is the issue that if we reject the possibility of neutral observation, we have to admit to dealing with a socially constructed reality which may entail a questioning of whether or not what we take to be reality actually exists ‘out there’ at all. This leads us to the philosophical issue that revolves around our ontological assumptions. Ontological questions concern whether or not the phenomenon that we are interested in actually exists independently of our knowing and perceiving it or whether what we see and take to be real is, instead, an outcome of these acts of knowing and perceiving. By combining the ontological assumptions with the competing assumptions regarding epistemology discussed in Chapter 2, this volume, we can see some of the different philosophical positions which impact upon methodology. These philosophical assumptions about ontology and epistemology are always contentious and debatable, because that is all they are – philosophical assumptions. Therefore it is important that we are aware of them; prepared to defend them; and consider their implications. It is the variation in these assumptions that leads to some of the different methodological approaches we can identify with regard to organizational research. It is to these different approaches we now turn.


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Positivist methodology As many authors have highlighted, the development of management and organizational research has been characterised by the domination of positivism as an underlying philosophy. As has been discussed elsewhere (Johnson and Duberley, 2000), there are a variety of different approaches towards positivism, for example Halfpenny (1982) identified twelve varieties. According to some (e.g. Keat and Urry, 1975) two of the most significant characteristics of positivist methodology concern first the claim that science should focus on only directly observable phenomena, with any reference to the intangible or subjective being excluded as being meaningless; and second that theories should be tested, in a hypothetico-deductive fashion, by their confrontation with the facts neutrally gathered from a readily observable external world. Table 4.1 outlines the major preoccupations of positivist methodology. The aim of research from a positivist perspective is to generate and test laws which govern the ways in which organizations operate. This concern to develop causal propositions supported by data and logic underpins an emphasis on experimental and cross sectional survey research designs. The desire to replicate the methods of the natural sciences in the social sciences leads to a focus on the observable. Objectivity is equated with quantification thus the focus of research is upon that which can easily be measured and subjective elements of phenomena are often ignored. Although positivism can be differentiated from empiricism due to its concern with theory, empirical research remains of utmost importance from this perspective as theories are accepted or rejected on the basis of their correspondence with the facts seen in the objective world. Positivist methodology maintains a preoccupation with internal validity or proof of causality. This preoccupation would generally lead to more emphasis on the experimental method and suggests the need for an increasingly controlled environment. However, much management research adopts instead the use of survey methodologies which have been critiqued in relation to their ability to imply causation. A further preoccupation, stemming from the idealization of the scientific method relates to reliability. Here researchers from a positivist tradition attempt to ensure the consistency of measurement in research. According to Kirk and Miller reliability can be judged in three ways: Quixotic reliability, the circumstances in which a single method of observation will always yield an unvarying measurement; diachronic reliability, the stability of an observation through time and synchronic reliability, the similarity of observation in the same time period (Kirk and Miller, 1986: 41–2). Much positivist methodology is concerned with overcoming threats to reliability through subject error, subject bias, observer error and observer bias and focus is placed on replication as a means of eliminating bias and ensuring reliability (Johnson and Duberley, 2000: 51). A third preoccupation of positivist approaches is an emphasis on generalizability. This is often dealt with through the use of probability sampling, although this is not a perfect solution and generalizability remains a concern. Finally, given the importance of empirical observation to the traditional scientific method, and the fact that many constructs are not easily observable, operationalism is another preoccupation for positivist methodology. The process of operationalization ideally involves gaining access to what Moser and Kalton (Marsh, 1979) call the ‘individual true value’ of concepts which methods measure with a greater or lesser degree of precision. In practice, operationalization involves the reduction of concepts into a scale of observable indicators. A further important element of positivist methodology relates to the role of the researcher and their relationship to ‘the subject’. Here the researcher remains a detached observer and as discussed, attempts are made to remove any potential sources of bias through the use of standardised tools and the replication of research. This detachment and lack of bias is assumed at conception of the research project as well as throughout its lifetime. The researcher is assumed to adopt a value-free position and little consideration is given to political or emotional issues. 68

Methodology Table 4.1 Positivist methodology Aims of research Generation of causal laws

The aim of the research should be to identify causal explanations and fundamental laws that explain regularities in human social behaviour

Research approach Unity of natural and social science method

The method of the natural sciences is the only rational source of knowledge and should therefore be adopted in the social sciences. This implies preoccupations with: • Internal validity • External validity • Reliability • Operationalization

Relationship between research and researched Independence theory and neutral observational language

The observer is independent of what is being observed. Therefore the observer can stand back and observe the world objectively

Value freedom

The choice of what to be studied and how to study it can be determined by objective criteria rather than human beliefs and interests

Correspondence theory of truth

Theory can be tested against irreducible statements of observationthe facts of the situation. Research is concerned with producing accounts that correspond to an independent reality

Source: Johnson and Duberley (2000: 39).

Positivist studies have a tendency to reduce human behaviour to the status of automatic responses excited by external stimuli wherein the subjective dimension to that behaviour is lost: intentionally or otherwise. Instead, human behaviour is conceptualized and explained deterministically: as necessary responses to empirically observable, measurable causal variables and antecedent conditions. The resultant approach, often called erklaren (see Outhwaite, 1975), usually investigates human behaviour through the use of Popper’s (1959) hypothetico-deductive method. Here the aim is to produce generalizable knowledge through testing of hypothetical predictions deduced from a priori theory. As such it entails the researcher’s a priori conceptualization, operationalization, and statistical measurement of dimensions of actors’ behaviour rather than beginning with their socially derived (inter)subjective perspectives. This is based on an allegiance to methodological monism: the notion that only natural science methodology can provide certain knowledge and enable prediction and control; it follows that it must be emulated by social scientists (Ross, 1991: 350). To assume that all qualitative research is necessarily anti-positivistic is mistaken. There are examples of qualitative research carried out in this tradition, though the focus is always upon seeking to tightly control the variables and conduct some form of quantification of the qualitative data obtained. Content analysis as originally specified for example (see Lacity and Jansen, 1994 for further discussion) strives to meet the philosophical commitments of positivism. However, concerns regarding the lack of consideration of the subjective nature of social life have led to the promotion of a variety of different philosophical stances aimed to redress the dominance of positivism within the organizational and management field. 69

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Neo-positivist methodology Even those who reject key aspects of positivism regarding the use of hypothetico-deductive methodology, and the exclusion of the subjective as meaningless, will sometimes retain a commitment to being able to objectively investigate human intersubjective cultural processes by gathering the facts from a readily observable external world. The result is a kind of ‘qualitative positivism’ (see Knights, 1992; Van Maanen, 1995; Schwandt, 1996; Prasad and Prasad, 2002), or ‘neo-empiricism’ (Alvesson and Skolberg, 2009) which although different from mainstream positivism shares its commitment to a theory-neutral observational language: that it is possible to neutrally apprehend the facts ‘out-there’. The belief that science can produce objective knowledge rests on two assumptions: first the assumption of ontological realism – that there is a reality ‘out there’ to be known and second that it is possible to remove subjective bias in the assessment of that reality. These assumptions can be seen to have underpinned certain approaches towards ethnography in the past. For example Hammersley and Atkinson (2007) discuss how early ethnography was often wedded to the notion of realism, which means that while ethnographers may discuss how the subjects of their study socially construct their realities they do not apply this constructivism to the ethnographic process. Indeed it was a classic ethnographer Malinowski who argued that ‘ethnography’s peculiar character is the production of ostensibly ‘scientific’ and ‘objective’ knowledge based on personal interaction and subjective experience’ (cited in Yanow and Schwartz-Sheare, 2006: 261). Thus what is ‘out there’ is presumed to be independent of the knower and is accessible to the trained observer or ethnographer following the correct procedures. This leads to a situation where tension exists between a subjectivist attention to actors’ meanings and an objectivist treatment of them as phenomena that exist ‘out there’ independently of the observer’s identification of them (Weiskopf and Willmott, 1996). Alvesson (2003) further discusses the ways in which the research interview is used by neopositivists in order to attempt to access a context free truth about reality by rigidly following a research protocol and minimising researcher influence and other potential sources of bias. He sees the ideal for neo-positivist qualitative research interviewers being ‘a maximum, transparent research process, characterised by objectivity and neutrality’ (Alvesson, 2003: 16) with the interview conversation being seen as ‘a pipeline for transmitting knowledge’ (Holstein and Gubrium, 1997: 113, cited in Alvesson, 2003: 15) where researchers attempt to remove themselves from the process, presenting instead an objective picture, free from the potential distortion of their assumptions and values. Thus although qualitative researchers may seek to distance themselves from positivism, the reliance on tools and techniques; the assumption that bias can be removed; and that with the right tools and techniques peoples’ subjective realities can be accessed; shows some blurring of the boundaries between approaches in the minds of certain researchers.

Interpretivist methodology A variety of different philosophical approaches are covered by the loose term interpretivism. Prasad (2005: 13) suggests that ‘all interpretive traditions emerge from a scholarly position that takes human interpretation as the starting point for developing knowledge about the social world. Particularly important in this tradition is a commitment to verstehen (Outhwaite, 1975) which entails accessing and understanding the actual meanings and interpretations actors subjectively ascribe to phenomena in order to describe and explain their behaviour through investigating how they experience, sustain, articulate and share with others these socially constructed everyday realities. On the philosophical domains of ontology and epistemology, it is more complicated 70


to locate this whole body of work. Some of these traditions can be seen as similar to that of neo-positivism, in that a realist ontology is utilised – that is there is a real world with real phenomena to explore – and a subjectivist or constructionist epistemology in that our understanding of that reality is socially constructed. However, some interpretivist traditions are more subjectivist in their ontological stance. One point of connection however, is that interpretivists are less likely to be concerned with mirroring the tenets of positivism and that their search for the understanding of interpretation requires different research designs and a changed role for the researcher. Indeed the researcher themselves may become a focal point of interest in some interpretivist traditions. Prasad (2005: 16) suggests that ‘although a variety of perspectives come under the banner of interpretivism, ideas of social construction, verstehen, intersubjectivity and reification are all integral to the different interpretive traditions. . . . Yet each tradition appropriates and extends these central tenets quite uniquely’. It is impossible to provide a review of all interpretive work, instead a brief exploration of phenomenology, ethnomethodology and hermeneutics below highlights some of the underlying principles. Phenomenology in its broadest terms is concerned with the implicit structure and meaning of human experience (Atkinson, 1972). According to Sanders (1982: 354) it ‘concentrates neither on the subject nor on the object of experience but on the point of contact at which being and consciousness meet’. On the basis of an initial divide between descriptive and interpretive approaches, Gill (2014) classifies and contrasts five phenomenological methodologies. Of central importance in this typology is the distinction between Husserlian descriptive phenomenology and Heiderggerian interpretive phenomenology. The former is concerned with gaining an understanding of what an experience essentially is (Sanders, 1982: 354), a search for ‘essences’ (Gill, 2014). The latter focuses more on the human experience of being and informed the development of hermeneutical approaches which will be discussed next. While there are a variety

Table 4.2 Phenomenological methodology 1. Apprehension of the world

2. Phenomena investigated

3. Problem formulations

4. Research methodology

5. Research aim and inferences

6. Generalization of results

Researcher sees the world largely as indeterminate and problematic. Phenomena under investigation are viewed more directly as functions of perceptions, intuitions and personal meanings (Willis, 1978) Considers lived experiences of subjects. Considers both observed characteristics and specific qualities perceived as personal forms of meaning Begins with attitude of epoché. All personal biases, beliefs or assumptions about causal relationships or suppositions are suspended or bracketed. Questions are formulated and responses analysed Emphasis is placed on describing the world from the point of view of the persons who live in and experience it. All concepts or theories emerge from the data of consciousness of consciousness, requiring an inductive approach that cannot be replicated exactly To arrive at universal pure essences. The logic of inference is one of direct comparison, resulting in new insight or reclassification (Willis, 1978) Generalizations concern only the specific subject(s) under investigation. No generalizations are made beyond this group. Findings serve as a data base for further investigation

Source: Modified from Sanders (1982: 358).


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of potential approaches to descriptive phenomenological methodology (see for example Giorgi, 2006), Sanders (1982) gives very clear guidelines as to the research design involved in phenomenological research. She suggests data collection should be undertaken through oral history interviews, documentary study and participant observation and stresses the importance of recording any interviews. With regard to data analysis, Sanders highlights four questions the researcher must consider: (1) How may the phenomenon or experience under investigation be described? (2) What are the invariants or themes emergent in those descriptions? (3) What are the subjective reflections of those themes? And (4) What are the essences present in those themes and subjective reflections? Table 4.2 outlines the core elements of phenomenological methodology. Hermeneutics is an interpretive phenomenological approach informed by the European social science traditions of Dilthey, Heidegger and others. As with most perspectives, there are alternative positions within the field of hermeneutics (see for discussion Alvesson and Skoldberg, 2000) so the brevity of this section may suggest a more unified approach than is actually the case. Howell (2013) argues that the main purpose of hermeneutics is to understand communities/individuals better than the agents themselves and that this requires the use of intuition and empathy, both of which require self-consciousness. Hermeneutical phenomenology sees meaning as being linked directly to context. Heidegger argues that there is no differentiation between subject and object. As human beings ‘the world and the individual are continually at one with on another; we are in the world before we think and reflect so we are both subject and object and at one with the world’ (Howell, 2013: 65). Thus Alvesson and Skoldberg (2000: 53) suggest that the key principle underlying hermeneutics is that the meaning of a part can only be understood if it is related to the whole. Hermeneutics involves a process of ‘continuous dialectical tacking between the most local of local detail and the most global of global structure in such a way as to bring both into view simultaneously’ (Geertz, 1973: 239). Hence the meaning of a text is continually interpreted with reference to its context (Howell, 2013: 157). The key heuristic device for understanding and interpretation is the hermeneutic circle. Within the hermeneutic circle the link between pre-understanding and understanding is made. Noone comes to interpretation of any given situation or action with an open mind, rather there is the pre-understanding of the phenomenon that we already have. Hence the hermeneutic circle focuses upon the iteration of interpretation where pre-understanding informs understanding and so on, leading to a greater understanding of both. A decision to engage in research from a phenomenological or hermeneutic perspective would involve the researcher beginning a process of self-reflection. For the phenomenologist the purpose of such reflection is to consider their potential biases or presuppositions with the aim of setting them aside or ‘bracketing’ them (Laverty, 2003). From a hermeneutical perspective rather than setting aside any biases or assumptions, the researcher embeds these into the research process by engaging in a continual process of reflection and consideration of how their views or experience relates to the issues under study (Laverty, 2003). The development of hermeneutic interpretation then forms the basis of approaches to qualitative data analysis, for example where patterns of interpretation of themes from interview transcripts start to shape our understanding of interviewee accounts (McAuley, 2004). Understanding is developed through interaction and participative dialogue so that interpretation is mutually negotiated. Finally, ethnomethodology builds on the philosophy of phenomenology to seek to understand and interpret how individuals make sense of their lifeworlds. The key principles are informed by American sociological traditions and particularly the work of Garfinkel (1967) who was interested in the everyday ways in which individuals construct and make sense of complex social situations. Ethnomethodology is thus more interested in the ways in which interpretive schemas 72


are put into practice and accepted, altered or rejected (Prasad, 2005). The methods that tend to be associated with this tradition focus upon examining the social minutiae of happenings in acute detail in order to ‘explore how the lifeworld emerges as a result of microprocesses in the form of social interactions’ (Alvesson and Skoldberg, 2000: 38). For example various linguistic approaches to qualitative data analysis such as conversational analysis can be located within this approach. Within the business and management field a key use of ethnomethodology is the concept of sensemaking (Weick, 1995). Research in this tradition has focused upon paying attention to how individuals or groups retrospectively make sense of events such as disasters or crises (Brown, 2006). Throughout, these accounts draw upon the documentary method highlighted by Garfinkel (Fox, 2008) with a view that reality is an ongoing and skilful social accomplishment. Within the management field there has also been a growing recognition of the ways in which language shapes how social phenomena are understood (Llewellyn, 2004). Conversation analysis and membership categorization analysis which both have their roots in ethnomethodology have both been used. In the former, emphasis lies with examining narrative and linguistic practices often through analysis of real time interaction (see for example Llewellyn, 2008, 2011; Llewelyn and Hindmarsh, 2011) while the latter examines in depth the formation of social categories – a process which may help link narrative and linguistic practices to the social structure, thus revealing how such practices are socially constrained (Llewellyn, 2004: 963). While there are clear differences between these approaches towards methodology, and it has been argued that ethnomethodology in particular often ‘seeks to imitate the technical approach, rigour and codification of quantitative methodology’ (Alvesson and Skoldberg, 2000: 48), Gill (2014) outlines a number of similarities. First, they reject the Cartesian subject–object relationship that is central to the natural sciences. The researcher is encouraged to reflect upon their role in the research process and consider their potential assumptions and biases. Second, the emphasis is upon understanding experiences from the point of those having the experiences. There is an assumption that individuals seek meaning in their experiences and that they are able to convey these through the accounts they give. Generally, though not always, small samples and purposive sampling is utilised in research from this perspective, in order to access those who have shared experiences and something to say about the matter at hand and there is an emphasis on ‘thick description’, gaining extensive qualitative accounts rather than reducing people’s experiences through quantitative methods. Finally, Gill suggests that interpretive approaches apply thematic types of analysis to elucidate and unpick the experiences under study.

Critical theory and methodology Critical theory focuses on the inherent connection between power, politics, values and knowledge and thereby provokes a deeper consideration of the politics and values which underpin and legitimize the authority of scientific knowledge (Alvesson et al., 2009). The aim of such approaches towards management research is to examine how the practices and institutions of management are developed and legitimized within particular relations of power and domination such as capitalism. Hegemony and the ways in which elites perpetuate their rule by getting people to consent to their own domination through accepting the legitimacy of existing norms, values and rituals is an important focus for critical theory, highlighting the complex nature of power and domination. Yet critical theory is also concerned with the role of agency and asserts that systems can and should be changed, thus research from this perspective tends to have an orientation towards investigating issues such as exploitation, asymmetrical power relations, distorted communication, and false consciousness. A fundamental tenet is the belief that these 73

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systems can be transformed to enable emancipation which involves a continuing process of critical self-reflection and associated self-transformation. Prasad and Caproni (1997: 3) identify four broad themes which are integral to research methodology from the perspective of critical theory: an emphasis on the social construction of reality; a focus on issues of power and ideology whereby there is an awareness that social constructions are influenced by power relations and a consideration of the role of ideology in preventing individuals from living fulfilling lives by masking social contradictions and creating false expectations; the need to understand any social or organizational phenomenon with respect to its multiple interconnections and its location within holistic historical contexts; and the importance of praxis, the ongoing construction of social arrangements that are conducive to the flourishing of the human condition. The presupposition of a theory-neutral observational language is rejected by critical theorists who see knowledge as contaminated at source by the influence of sociocultural factors upon sensory experience (see Habermas, 1974). The researcher is no longer the neutral observer. Instead, for emancipation to take place, there is a need to counter the influence of ‘scientism’ which occurs when scientific or ‘objective’ knowledge can lead to domination and dehumanization. Examples from the management and organization arena are highlighted by Willmott (2008: 67) who points out that ‘a positivist conception of objective knowledge has filtered into the field of management through the processes of quantification and the development of seemingly impartial means of legitimising instrumental rationalizations – from scientific management through human relations to BPR’. The role of the critical theorist is to critique these forms of scientism and create opportunities for change. The outcomes of research are influenced by the subjectivity of the social scientist and his or her mode of engagement, which leads to the production of different versions of an independently existing reality which we can never fully know. For Habermas (1974), it is only through reference to human interests that it becomes possible to understand first the criteria which are applied in identifying what are taken to be ‘real’ and second, the criteria by which the validity of such propositions may be evaluated. Given the various commitments of critical theory, a range of different traditions have developed that seek to apply these principles, so research within these traditions uses a range of different methods. For example, participant observation and ethnographies are used to highlight the subjective experiences of how dominance and control are exercised in the workplace. Howell (2013: 124) identifies a number of ethical issues which the critical ethnographer must consider when interpreting and representing the lives of others: First there should be reflection upon the purpose and intent of the research and the identification of consequences and potential harm; continual dialogue between researcher and researched should be maintained throughout the process; the researcher should specify relationships between localism and generality in relation to the human condition and finally there should be consideration of how the research may ensure equity and make a difference in terms of liberty and justice. He further argues that the critical ethnographer should concentrate on close interpretation and critical analysis when dealing with empirical data, arguing that negation should be continually employed in order to overcome the problem of authority that a positivistic position encounters. Famous examples of critical ethnographies in management include Rosen’s (1985) study of an advertising agency; and Jackall’s (1998) tales of managerial ethics. More recently Jakob KrauseJensen’s (2010) ethnography of the ‘cultural projects’ promoted and undertaken by top executives in the globalizing Danish firm Bang & Olufsen and Bone’s (2006) analysis of life in the direct selling industry provide fascinating insights into organizational life. A commitment to emancipation can also be seen in various forms of participatory action research (e.g. Power and Laughlin, 1992; Reason and Bradbury, 2001) where through dialogue participants democratically 74


co-determine and co-develop substantive knowledge so that their own interests can be encoded within it.

Critical realism and methodology In recent years increased attention has been given to potential applications of critical realism in organization and management research. From this perspective social research aims to explain social processes and events in terms of the causal powers of both structures and human agency. While positing that there is a reality independent of the researchers’ knowledge of it, critical realists differ from positivists as they suggest a ‘fallibilist epistemology in which researcher’s knowledge of the work is socially produced’ (Miller and Tsang, 2010: 144). Thus critical realists reject ‘judgemental relativism’ where it is impossible to judge the merits of alternative explanations as there is no objective reality to measure them against and argue that theories can be evaluated according to their ability to provide explanation of events based on causal mechanisms. The idea of stratification is of key importance. Critical realists adhere to a ‘depth ontology’ where distinction is drawn between the empirical (what we perceive to be the case), the actual (the events that occur) and the real (the mechanisms and structures which generate the actual). While recognizing that it may not be possible to directly access the real, critical realists attempt through their research to identify and understand these causal mechanisms. O’Mahoney and Vincent (2014) provide a useful overview of the distinctive features of research methodology from a critical realist perspective. They argue initially that critical realism acts as a ‘general orientation to research practice which help create more accurate explanations of (social) phenomena than those which currently exist’ (O’Mahoney and Vincent, 2014: 13). Essentially therefore critical realist researchers aim to provide theoretical explanations for what we observe in the social world and, importantly, they recognise that some explanations will be more accurate than others. Critical realism is of growing influence in management and organizational studies. It is very inclusive in terms of the research designs that can be adopted as this perspective recognises that different methods focus on different aspects of reality and therefore multiple and mixed methods are supported (Edward et al., 2014; Hurrell, 2014). For example Dannermark et al. (2002) distinguish between intensive and extensive methods research designs and argue that these can be used in a complementary way. Table 4.3 highlights the different research strategies that are argued to be relevant to critical realist research. In their typology Ackroyd and Karlsson (2014: 27) consider the following dimensions of research: first, the scope and purpose of the research – varying between intensive and extensive where intensive is oriented towards the discovery of generative methods while extensive research is concerned with the context in which such mechanisms operate. Second, they distinguish between levels of involvement on the part of the researcher, considering the extent to which the research is engaged in diagnosis (detached) or trying to influence the situation they are studying (engaged). This enables them to articulate eight different research designs which they argue are compatible with critical realist approaches. The dominant logic underpinning critical realist methodology appears to be either abduction and/or retroduction. At its most basic abduction is the process through which researchers ‘redescribe the observable everyday objects of social science . . . in an abstracted and more general sense in order to describe the sequence of causation that gives rise to observed regularities in the pattern of events’ (O’Mahoney and Vincent, 2014: 17). Here observations are combined with theory with the aim of producing the most plausible explanation of events. On the other hand, retroduction entails the idea of going back from, below, or behind observed patterns or 75

Joanne Duberley and Phil Johnson Table 4.3 Eight designs relevant to realist informed research and some of their characteristics Distinctive research strategies Intensive  Extensive What is the mechanism?

How do context and mechanism:

What is the context?

(context as given)

typically interact?

historically intersect?

(Mechanism inferred)

Detached study

Case studies

Comparative Case Analysis

Generative institutional analysis

Research surveys and census data

Engaged study

Action research

Intensive realist evaluation

Barefoot historical research

Extensive realist evaluation

Dominant logic of discovery:



Abduction/ retroduction

Abduction/ retroduction

Research procedures:

Source: Ackroyd and Karlsson (2014: 27).

regularities to discover what produces them (Blaikie, 2004). Thus it is argued that ‘critical realism confronts the complexity of social phenomena by espousing explanations stated in terms of mechanisms that generalize with empirical effects that are contingent’ (Miller and Tsang, 2010: 153). In this way retroduction enables the identification of generative mechanisms that apply beyond the immediate example of the phenomena under study and are critical to its occurrence. While the retroductive approach appears to embrace a wide variety of methods, Zacharidis, Scott and Barrett (2013: 858) point out, regardless of whichever methods are used the common principle remains that the foundation for knowledge is in the empirical domain. It is argued that when used successfully abduction and retroduction offer new and unanticipated views of social reality. According to O’Mahoney and Vincent (2014: 19) ‘the commitment of CR to both truth (in contrast to constructivism) and “thick” explanation (in contrast to positivism) means that it offers researchers a more powerful critical approach which not only accepts that beliefs can be false but also that the identification and retardation of those mechanisms that can create false beliefs can contribute to emancipation’. Thus it has been suggested that critical realism opens up a particular methodological space that lies between empiricism and interpretivism (Mingers, 2004).

Postmodernism and methodology There is considerable debate within the literature about whether postmodernism and poststructuralism can be seen as having unique identities, or whether poststructuralism is another variant of postmodernism. Given that they share similar concepts such as a focus upon language, discourse and deconstruction, we will treat them together here. Researchers from these traditions favour of a position where subjectivist ontology is combined with a subjectivist epistemology. This involves abandoning ‘the rational and unified subject in favour of a socially and linguistically decentred and fragmented subject’ (Best and Kellner, 1991: 4). Postmodernist epistemology dismisses the positivist rational certainty in the attainability of epistemic privilege and replaces it with a relativist view of science and knowledge. From a postmodern perspective any attempt to develop a rational and generalizable basis to scientific enquiry which explains the world from 76


an objective standpoint is futile. Lyotard suggests for example that postmodernists should maintain ‘an incredulity towards metanarratives’ (Lyotard, 1984: xxiv). Instead a perspective is advanced where all knowledge is indeterminate; what we take to be reality is itself created and determined by those acts of cognition. The social world is not seen as external to us waiting to be discovered, everything is relative to the eye of the beholder. A key element of postmodern research has been a renewed focus on language. The ‘linguistic turn’ suggests that language is never innocent; that no meaning exists beyond language; that knowledge and truth are linguistic entities constantly open to revision (Lyotard, 1984). Thus there is an emphasis in postmodernism on the role of discourses. These are subjective, linguistically formed ways of experiencing, acting and constituting phenomena which we take to be ‘out there’. These discursive conceptions are ‘collectively sustained and continually renegotiated in the process of making sense’ (Parker, 1992: 3). Thus what we take to be knowledge is constructed in and through language. The language of science can’t represent or illuminate some external reality – there is no discoverable true meaning, only a variety of different interpretations. Hence for postmodernists reality can have an infinite number of attributes, since there are as many realities as there are ways of perceiving and explaining. Influential upon our linguistically derived sense making are our social interactions in various milieux which bias us towards particular ways of viewing the world. Usually we remain unaware of these constructive socio-linguistic processes. While we may perceive things as objective and separate from ourselves, as ‘out there’, through language we are active participants in creating what we apprehend (Chia, 1995). However, individuals are not completely free to make their own interpretations. Instead the decentring of the subject which is associated with postmodern writings places emphasis on the development of shared discourses through exposure to which the individual is constituted. Human beings therefore make sense of the world through particular historical and socially contingent discourses. These discursively produced hyper-realities can be mistaken for an external reality. Postmodernists counter this through the use of deconstruction which is a key element of poststructuralist approaches informed by the work of writers such as Derrida, Foucault and Lacan. This originally derives from literary criticism where texts are analysed in order to reveal their inherent contradictions, assumptions and layers of meaning. In organization studies deconstruction attempts to show how any claim to truth, whether made by social scientists or practicing managers is always the product of social construction and therefore always relative. This is attempted by showing how texts contain taken for granted ideas which depend upon the exclusion of other things. Often this will involve identifying the assumptions that underpin any truth claim and then are disrupted through their denial and the identification of the absent alternatives whose articulation produces an alternative rendition of reality. Thus deconstruction denies that any text is ever settled or stable. However it does not offer a tool to find ‘the truth’. At most it offers alternative social constructions of reality within a text which are themselves then available to deconstruction and thereby not allowed to rest in any finalized truth. Thus there is a strong strand of postmodern writing focusing on the deconstruction of existing works in organization studies (see for example Kilduff’s (1993) deconstruction of March and Simon’s work and Carter and Jackson’s (1993) examination of motivation theory or Davidson et al.’s (2006) examination of a Harvard Business Review article promoting web services to explore predictions about the future of IS organizations and IT architecture) which focuses on the logics and contradictions of existing theories, examining gaps and instabilities in time, space and text (Cooper, 1989). While there is a degree of scepticism about empirical work and recognition that scientific methodology ‘loses its status as the chief arbiter of truth’ (Gergen and Thatchenkerry 1996: 12), 77

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postmodernism offers some important insights into research methodology. Research from this perspective focuses upon gaining an understanding of a situation at a particular point in time, recognising that this is only one of a number of possible understandings. There is no reliance on particular methods to provide accurate correspondence with reality and while there appears to be a preference for qualitative approaches in much postmodernist work, research methods are viewed as embodied in cultural practice and no particular approach is considered to have a privileged status. Thus some management researchers have focused on the liberating potential of the postmodern perspective, arguing that it frees researchers to mix and match various perspectives or research styles in order to challenge conventional wisdom (Kilduff and Mehra, 1997; Gergen and Thatchenkerry, 1996). Others, however, see postmodernist perspectives as aligned with qualitative methods (Cassell, 1996; Kondo 1990), in particular ethnography, which Linstead claims is ‘the language of postmodernism’ (Linstead, 1993a: 98) because it has the ability to evoke rather than just describe. This, according to Linstead, requires both poetic and conceptual rigour from the author in order to produce an account ‘poised in the space between fact and fiction’ (Linstead, 1993b: 70). Other methods informed by these perspectives are the analysis of stories, for example Boje’s (1991, 1995) explorations of the multiple stories in use at Disney, and the analysis of narratives in relation to how identities are constructed (e.g. Brown, 2006; Beech, 2008). As has been discussed in detail elsewhere (Johnson and Duberley, 2000), postmodernism demands that researchers are sceptical about how they engage with the world, the categories they deploy, the assumptions they make and the interpretations they impose. It encourages irony and humility as well as rebellion against the imposition of any unitary scientific discourse (Cooper and Burrell, 1988). It elevates the role of both the producer of research accounts and the reader of them. Authors from this perspective recognize that their work may be interpreted in a multitude of different ways depending on the perspective of the reader (Burrell, 1997). Thus it has been argued that postmodernist approaches enable us to know more and doubt what we know (Richardson, 1998: 358). Often quoted examples of this kind of work include Kondo’s (1990) examination of the production of identity in Japanese workplaces, Ely’s (1995) study of sex roles in organizations, Collinson’s (2006) studies of leadership and Jackson’s (2006) analysis of ‘laddish’ behaviour in schools.

Postcolonial methodology Recent years have seen the development of new methodologies. One example, postcolonialism surfaced within business and management research as a way of critiquing and resisting western modernity (Prasad and Prasad, 2002; Prasad, 2005). Postcolonialism focuses on a critique of colonialism and its continued existence in current social arrangements. As Prasad (2005: 263) suggests: ‘postcolonialism is extraordinarily relevant to management and organization studies because it offers an alternative historical explanation for many commonplace business practices that have their origins in colonial structures’. Indeed Prasad argues that the intensification of globalization makes postcolonialism especially pertinent for management and organizational studies. That said, other authors (see for example Westwood and Jack, 2007) bemoan the relative lack of concern with postcolonial theory from management scholars. Postcolonialism offers a lens which illuminates some of the more unattractive elements of globalisation including epistemic coloniality (Ibarra-Colado, 2006: 464) where ‘the processes by which the institutionalization of knowledge as scientific knowledge permitted the integration of native elites into the dominant Anglo-Euro-Centric ideology of modernity’ (Florescano, 1994: 65). 78


Postcolonial researchers are not limited to specific research designs. They adopt a wide variety of methods of data collection including document analysis, interviews and participant observation. What is important though is that studies from this perspective bring global, (frequently imperialist) dynamics into management and organization studies (Prasad, 2006). According to Westwood and Jack, this involves locating and revealing the historical, political, cultural and ideological partialities and limitations of Western knowledge. They suggest that methodologically, postcolonial theory opens up space for knowledge systems that have been repressed, marginalized or silenced by the colonizing propensities of the West’s discourses, knowledge systems and institutions. Through methodological interventions, researchers in this tradition seek to return agency to such people, allowing a reclaiming of an ‘essential identity’ as a temporary strategic device to resist dominance and exclusion, give voice and to reassert a unique identity; a process Spivak (1993) has referred to as ‘strategic essentialism’. Thus, as with critical theory, participatory methods are favoured – although these are recognized to be challenging. Postcolonial theory also calls for an epistemic reflexivity at both the individual scholar level and the broader field level. This requires a full account of the localized particularities of the researcher – historical, ideological, sociocultural, economic, geopolitical – and how that constructs and surrounds the research theoretical resources, interpretative schema and methodological practices he/she brings to research in the field.

Conclusions Any methodology in social research entails a social and political process of knowledge production; assumptions about the nature and meanings of ideas, experience and social reality, and how/if these may be connected (Ramazanoglu and Holland, 2002). Ramazanoglu and Holland further argue that it should also include critical reflection on what authority can be claimed for the knowledge that results and accountability for the political and ethical implications of knowledge production). In this chapter we have tried to outline the variety of philosophical perspectives upon these issues which implicitly and explicitly underpin different methodologies in management research. The nature of a chapter like this requires that clear divisions are drawn between alternative philosophical approaches. Of course, it may not be possible to draw such neat boundaries in practice. The challenge is not to be able to fit one’s research approach neatly into any particular category but to ensure levels of self-reflexivity and awareness to show the various ways in which our philosophical assumptions have influenced our research. Such reflection may encourage researchers to step outside their ‘methodological comfort zone’ (Aguinas et al., 2009: 109) and consider alternative means of achieving their research objectives. Calls for greater reflexivity have been made a number of times over recent years. Researchers are increasingly being required to reflexively engage with their work by thinking about their own beliefs and how those beliefs have repercussions for what they chose to study and how they undertake research (Willmott, 1998; Alvesson and Skoldberg, 2009; Prasad, 2005); to engage in a continual assessment of the relationship between knowledge and the ways of doing knowledge (Calás and Smircich, 1992: 240). This involves reflecting upon how those often tacit, unacknowledged pre-understandings impact upon how those ‘objects’ of research are conceptually constituted by the researcher; what kinds of research question are then asked by the researcher and how the results of research are arrived at, justified and presented to audiences for consumption (e.g. Holland, 1999; Chia, 1995; Alvesson and Skoldberg, 2009). Despite increased discussion of reflexivity and the emergence of more critical approaches to studying organizations, Newton, Deetz and Reed (2011: 8) argue that debate and research often progress as though most writers hold positivist or naïve realist assumptions; they contend that 79

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there remains a tendency to assume that it is relatively straightforward to (1) gain reliable and valid knowledge of organizational life and (2) to use such knowledge to inform management practice or public policy. Further, they argue that many studies assume that knowledge construction and application can proceed in a relatively unproblematic manner ‘so long as the “correct” research methodology is adopted and the “right” questions are asked’ (Newton et al., 2011: 8). Amis and Silk (2008) concur with this in their discussion of the problems of reliance on key texts about research methodology which adopt a foundationalist perspective towards qualitative research. In conclusion, while extended debates about the link between philosophy and methodology may appear to some as navel-gazing, we would argue that it is imperative that the justification of any research methodology must include consideration of fundamental issues such as how we are to know and how we are to act. Central to the further development of the field is an awareness of the relationship between philosophy and methodology and critical engagement with the tensions that methodological choices may create.

Further reading For more in-depth discussion of the philosophical underpinnings of methodology students should look at Howell (2013). An Introduction to The Philosophy of Methodology. There are numerous books which address these issues in qualitative research – see for example Denzin and Lincoln (2007) The Landscape of Qualitative Research (3rd edn), which examines the competing paradigms that underpin qualitative research and their implications for methods. Prasad (2005) Crafting Qualitative Research: working in the postpositivist traditions similarly provides a clear and concise view of alternative traditions that exist within the qualitative field. Marshall (2006) Designing Qualitative Research also provides a useful overview of the implications of various philosophical positions for methodology. It also provides interesting vignettes to illustrate the methodological challenges of qualitative research. There are also useful books which address methodology from one particular philosophical perspective – see for example Edward et al. (2014) Studying Organisations Using Critical Realism. Finally Alvesson and Skoldberg (2009), Reflexive Methodology (2nd edn) gives a thought provoking analysis of the linkages between philosophical assumptions and methods employed which they see as both an ‘intellectualisation of qualitative method’ and ‘a pragmatization of the philosophy of science’ (Alvesson and Skoldberg, 2009: vii). It is recommended for those wishing to explore the underpinning assumptions of methodology in more depth.

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Part II


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5 Discourse as organizational and practical philosophy Rick Iedema

Introduction This chapter reviews philosophical background to our contemporary perspective on ‘organizational discourse’. The chapter starts with an overview of contemporary discourse theory, identifying two over-arching tenets: discourse synthesis and discourse analysis. Before outlining the basis and contours of a third approach to discourse here referred to as spherogenics, the chapter traces a trajectory that starts at the time when, around the end of the Middle Ages, continental Europe began to unhinge its worldly perspective from the Middle East as stable centre. Attention rapidly shifted towards the West, the oceans and the Americas, spurred on by travel, trade and the organization of work (Sloterdijk, 2005). This reorientation from East to West was accompanied by a shift from belief and conviction towards experimentation and uncertainty, precipitating a journey ‘into disenchantment’. The chapter posits that the notion discourse encapsulates and epitomises this sense of disenchantment, as its principal function is to relativize everything within its remit. Now, in the new century, we have begun to call into question this journey into disenchantment and relativization itself, and with this, speculate about what may lie beyond it.

What is discourse? Discourse has been defined in different ways by different commentators (Torfing, 1999). Some regard discourse as the general patterns of meaning making, knowledge and behaviour displayed by a group or culture (Foucault, 1978b). Others equate discourse with linguistic structures ‘larger than the sentence’ (Coulthard, 1977), and again others regard discourse as ‘language in use’ (van Dijk, 1985). What binds these various perspectives together is that they call into question how we are, think and act, by framing these matters as constituted in and from relations. By discourse . . . I do not mean something that is essentially restricted to the areas of speech and writing, but any complex of elements in which relations play the constitutive role. This means that elements do not pre-exist the relational complex but are constituted through it. (Laclau, 2005: 68) 87

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Laclau’s emphasis on ‘relations’ echoes de Saussure’s (1972 [1983]) insight that linguistic signs – e.g. ‘five’ or ‘time’ – do not simply reflect or label an external reality. Instead they are terms whose meaning is contingent on a system of internal differences (Thibault, 1997); hence, ‘the arbitrary nature of the sign’. Signs are arbitrary in relation to what they claim to represent, because they are related in the first instance to other signs in the system. For example, ‘Ms’ complements ‘Mr’ and ‘Mrs’. ‘Ms’ has no prior relation to the people who describe themselves as ‘Ms’. It is tempting to define discourse as a form of linguistic meaning making. However, drawing a neat boundary between linguistic and non-linguistic meaning making is near enough impossible (Willems and Hagoort, 2007). Your nod or you rolling your eyes by way of response to my statement that it is a nice day might not qualify as language, but it is certainly integral to how we accomplish and maintain mutual intelligibility. Even whole body conducts have been characterized as discourse (Grosz, 1990) to explain, for example, how ‘girls are girled’ (Butler, 1993). Other scholars have shown that architecture, art and technologies can also be seen to harbour discourse (O’Toole, 1994). Given this breadth of definition, in this chapter we will err on the side of inclusivity and treat big ‘D’ ‘discourse’ as the overall reservoir of possible meanings or ‘meaning making practices’. We refer to this as ‘meaning making’ for short.1 Its plural and little ‘d’ counterpart ‘discourseS’ is used to refer to specific instantiations of Discourse (cf. Gee, 2014).

How has discourse been investigated? To date, the investigation of discourse has proceeded on two fronts (Grant et al., 2009). The first approach has been synthetic, offering a generalising perspective of social and organizational practices. This perspective is most prominently evident in Foucault’s early work, exploring what can and what cannot be said by who and under what circumstances (Foucault, 1972). By examining how Discourse harbours and imposes rules around who can speak about what and when, Foucault exposes what he terms ‘regimes of truth’ (Dreyfus and Rabinow, 1983; Foucault, 1978b). In a similar vein, Laclau and Mouffe define Discourse as did Saussure: ‘a system of differential entities’. What they add is that Discourse is inevitably subverted by an inherent excess that forever prevents ‘fixed meanings’: We have referred to ‘discourse’ as a system of differential entities – that is, of moments. But we have just seen that such a system exists only as a partial limitation of a ‘surplus of meaning’ which subverts it. . . . On this point, our analysis meets up with a number of contemporary currents of thought, which – from Heidegger to Wittgenstein – have insisted on the impossibility of fixing ultimate meanings. (Laclau and Mouffe, 1985: 111) Driven by the desire to fix meaning and achieve closure, we are caught in a never-ending struggle which Jacques Lacan saw as basic to all human communication (Wilden, 1980). The work by Paul Ricoeur (considered below) elaborates on the relevance for discourse theory of desire and affect, both central to excess. The second approach to discourse is analytic. This approach is oriented not in the first instance towards describing over-arching socio-historical and institutional phenomena, but towards specifying ‘text analytical’ structures and procedures that are intrinsic to workplace interaction. This approach was popularized by scholars such as Fairclough, Kress and van Leeuwen (Fairclough, 1992; Kress and van Leeuwen, 2001; van Leeuwen, 2008). Here, the predictable 88


aspects of a conversation, a document, a sound, a visualisation, or any physical or technological ‘text’ is ‘decoded’ according to principles that are inherent in signs – or semiosis. Numerous textbooks set out varieties of decoding procedures (e.g. Gee, 2014). The details of these procedures are not at issue here, but what is at issue are these endeavours’ philosophical origins and principles. Organizational discourse scholarship has drawn on both the archeological–genealogical preoccupations of Foucaultian research and the structuralist-inclined, discourse analytical and social semiotic approaches emerging from within linguistics (Alvesson and Kärreman, 2000; Phillips and Hardy, 2002). One critical aspect of these endeavours is their view on the breadth of discourse. As variations of Kant’s philosophy (discussed below), some scholars equate discourse with ‘the real’,2 leaving no remainder outside of discourse (Alvesson and Kärreman’s ‘muscular’ perspective). Others opt for less expansive definitions, acknowledging there is likely to be more to reality than human discourse (Alvesson and Kärreman’s ‘weak’ perspective). The vexing question about the grip of discourse (‘muscular’ or ‘weak’?) on human knowledge and understanding becomes more vexing still when we ask, can we turn discourse theory’s defining principle – ‘everything is relative’ – back on itself? This second question places discourse theory in tension with its own Kantian principle – that all we can say and know is shaped by and through discourse. That is, in positing that all discourse is humanly constructed and that no discourse unproblematically represents ‘the real’, we ipso facto acknowledge there must be something other than discourse. For Meillassoux, this ‘something other’ is unlike anything we know, embodying an ‘absolute capacity-to-be-other’ (Meillassoux, 2009). Let us summarize discourse theory and research for now as setting most store by two central principles: objectification (as ‘practice’ or ‘text’) and distanciation (by the ‘expert analyst’), together underpinning the science of discourse theory and research. More recently, a third approach advocated calling into question distanciation and objectification as the prime methodological operations driving our research (Fox and Alldred, 2014). Shifting the point of gravity towards affect, this work is concerned not with analysing representations but with accounting for phenomena where the non-discursive plays a prominent role; for example, love or war (Fox and Alldred, 2014). Converting this third approach from a theoretical stance into a methodological practice, related work focuses on initiating collaborative investigations with those who populate practices of interest. These collaborations, in effect, transgress the conventional boundaries between researchers and the ‘researched’, and thus between theory, analysis and in situ discourse (Iedema and Carroll, 2015). Referred to as spherogenic, this latter endeavour engages researchers and researched in deciding what and how to investigate and what investigation might entail. Here, both parties declare themselves prepared to call into question – relativize – their own points of departure, knowledge and practices. In this spherogenic research, relational and affective dynamics take centre stage as all stakeholders are enabled to speak and act beyond and outside of their original practices, expertises and subjectivities. Indeed, this research shifts from retrospective analysis to prospective experimentation with ways of going on, with new and different social, practical, interpersonal and intellectual spheres of connection. Before elaborating these issues further, we first need to clarify the way in which the notion ‘discourse’ and the theory that informs it are but one step in a much longer intellectual journey marked by increasingly pervasive mutual/self-questioning. This questioning of our own ways of being, doing, thinking and saying has led to most if not all aspects of human culture to be bleached of normality and necessity – to be regarded as relative, as ‘discourse’. As we shall see below, this journey into questioning and relativity was first characterised by Emmanuel Kant as our journey into the ‘disenchantment of reason’. 89

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Our journey into disenchantment Early philosophies: the disenchantment of reason Our journey begins at the time when, in the late Middle Ages, our attention began to refocus from the East as centre of religious truth and certainty, towards the West as the space of chance, opportunity and discovery. This journey cannot be divorced of course from the West’s invention of new technologies, particularly those enabling transportation, making possible encounters with new and different societies and cultures. One important, paradoxical and perhaps unintended effect of our rising inclination to travel was having to come to terms with the limits inscribed into our own ways of being, doing, feeling and knowing. In accounting for the progressive disenchantment of how we understood ourselves and the world and how this has affected us over the last several centuries, we will first touch on the influence exerted by Emmanuel Kant, a prominent German philosopher (1724–1804). Kant’s insight was that it is the way we perceive and interact with the world, rather than the world itself, that determines how we make meaning about the world. For Kant, it is not ‘the real’ that shapes how and what we mean. That would be to assume ‘the real’ determines how we mean, with ‘the real’ effecting its own transparent and straightforward conversion into meaning. It is clear from the competing descriptions we often produce about events and experiences that this process of translation is far from straightforward and transparent. Kant concluded that it is our own cognitive structures that shape how and what we mean: Up to now it has been assumed that all our cognition must conform to the objects; but all attempts to find out something about them a priori through concepts that would extend our cognition have, on this pre-supposition, come to nothing. Hence let us once try whether we do not get further with the problem of metaphysics by assuming that the objects must conform to our cognition. (Emmanuel Kant, 1781, Preface to Critique of Pure Reason B/XVI) This insight, as Kant suggested himself, was equal in significance to the Copernican revolution. This would be just like the first thought of Copernicus, who, when he did not make good progress in the explanation of the celestial motions if he assumed that the entire celestial host revolves around the observer, tried to see if it might not have greater success if he made the observer revolve and left the stars at rest. (Kant, 1781: B/XVI) With this move, Kant imposes a radical finitude on what it means to be human (Hughes, 2012). That is, Kant denies the human mind and its knowledge the privilege of a divine origin and a God-like apperception of and language about ‘the real’. Kant instead anchors cognition and apperception to what he regards as specifically human affordances. Why did Kant frame these changes in how we understood nature and ourselves as a source of disenchantment, a disillusionment? For him, a loss of illusions was the inevitable effect of Western culture turning away from universal ‘God’s view’ explanations and myths. Exemplary here is the contest waged by Cardinal Bellarmino persuading Galileo that his theory of heliocentrism should be treated as ‘less than a thesis’ – a hypothesis, a discourse – not a fully fledged, mature claim about reality (Blackwell, 1991). Their clash of truths necessitated the invention of a new category – the ‘hypothesis’. The hypothesis served to qualify knowledge by attributing a restricted truth status. As a result, we can now claim to know things, and make claims about the truth status of our own claims. 90


In these and related ways, Western culture began to qualify representations about and aspects of itself, hastening its own relativization. Henceforth, knowledge was no longer simply selfevident. It therefore had to be both ‘self-grounding’ and self-legitimating: rather than being the expression of some cosmic order, [knowledge] had both to be selfgrounding and to produce an order for its norms out of itself. (Lumsden, 2013: 74) Half a century later, Nietzsche (1844–1900) was to extend Kant’s project by pushing yet further the point that how and what humans mean is contingent on where and who they are. Where for Kant, meaning making still issues from general and relatively fixed structures of the human mind, for Nietzsche, human meaning making takes on a distinctly locally produced character. Where Kant still sees universality, Nietzsche sees local negotiation and situational effects. “Nietzsche accomplished nothing less than the proof that all cognition is local in character and that, in imitating the divine eye, no human observer is able to go as far as transcending his own location” (Sloterdijk, 2012: 88). Importantly, Nietzsche trained as a philologist. Philology is the study of the historical-linguistic development of languages. Nietzsche’s philological background no doubt inclined him towards the view that cognition is a function of language, or meaning making. As social-historical phenomenon that is shaped itself by local situations and events, meaning making in turn shapes how we understand and experience ‘the real’: here, ‘no fact exists apart from an interpretation’ (Ansell-Pearson, 1994: xix). Since he saw humans and their cognition as fully embroiled in representational practices, Nietzsche did not regard it as possible for us to have transparent access to phenomena an sich. Focusing on compassion, for example, Nietzsche warns against equating this sentiment with a specific feeling, value or behavioural manifestation. Instead, it was to be understood as a locally unique phenomenon emerging at the interstice of historical events and personal enactments. Seen from that angle, the meaning(s) and conduct(s) of ‘compassion’ should not be equated with a socially sanctioned definition or some privileged construal. Hence, compassion, and any other construct like it, lacks a single, identifiable, stable and recognizable centre or origin. Why does Nietzsche challenge the pursuit of origin (Ursprung) . . .? . . . because it [the pursuit of origin] is an attempt to capture the exact essence of things, their purest possibilities, and their carefully protected identities . . . this search assumes the existence of immobile forms that precede the external world of accident and succession. (Foucault, 1977: 142) For Nietzsche, there was no such thing as compassion outside of the ‘world of accident and succession’. That is, he regarded it as impossible for humans to know what compassion is outside of the currents and counter-currents of interest, interaction and interpretation; in short, the discourses that make compassion manifest as such. In rejecting the possibility of the search for origins, and in regarding our enactment of and any meaning attributed to compassion as discourse, Nietzsche regarded it as impossible for us humans to identify a real-world origin for any particular meaning and feeling we might like to enact. Thus, we are unable to retrieve things ‘in and for themselves’, outside of their discursive manifestation. Here, Nietzsche’s views foreshadow the ‘social construction of reality’ thesis which we will address in a moment. We also learn from Nietzsche that not even the scholar or the analyst remains untouched by these conclusions. No amount of objectivity in their approach can forestall the process of interpretation, and, for Nietzsche, ‘interpretation is the violent or surreptitious appropriation 91

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of a system of rules which in itself has no essential meaning’ (Foucault, 1977: 51). In this sense, analysis of whatever persuasion is done ‘in order to impose a direction, to bend [such system] to a new will, to force its participation in a new game’ (Foucault, 1977: 52). We will return to this insight and the implications it has for what discourse scholars do in the last section of this chapter. Finally, Nietzsche’s view of meaning making as infused with morality is most forcefully expressed in his theory about the human will to power. In The Genealogy of Morals (Nietzsche, 1996), he anchors morality not to objectively defensible and generalizable notions of good versus evil, nor to related values of objectivity, truth and impartial analysis. For him, our judgement about what is good and what is evil is no different to our feeling of compassion: neither are experiential or ontological ‘prime numbers’. They must instead be understood as arising from our ‘will to power’. Put differently, human existence is steeped in and shaped by an inclination – a determination? – to fit ‘the real’ into conceptions and interpretations that realize and optimise people’s sway over things; their power. This is a theme that is also at the heart of discourse theory: meaning making is the articulation of the human will to bend an otherwise indifferent world to suit its values and interpretations (Nietzsche, 1996). Our view of the relationship between being human and making meaning took yet another leap with the philosophy of Martin Heidegger (1889–1976). Heidegger fully rejected Kant’s intellectualism and located the point of gravity of meaning making no longer in human will, as did Nietzsche, but in a far more abstract phenomenon: complexity. Anchoring his thinking in a posthuman logic, Heidegger construed meaning making as a complex system in and for itself, exacting authority over humankind to ensure its existence and continuation (Edwards, 1990). For Heidegger, humanity’s obligation to make meaning is inherent in the supra-human intelligence that is produced from our ‘doing discourse’. Heidegger’s way of forcing this point home was to insist that ‘language speaks us’ (Heidegger, 1971). Language is not a work of human beings: language speaks. Humans speak only insofar as they co-respond to language. (Heidegger, cited in Guignon, 1983: 125–6) Our role as humans is to ensure that ‘language continues to speak’. On this view, our ‘speaking’ (here: meaning making) is not in the first instance an expression of feelings and intentions or an exchange of thoughts and information, but an acquittal of a debt to the overarching task of ‘building and maintaining the house of being’ (Sloterdijk, 2013: 9).3 We owe this debt to language (discourse) because it embodies a supra-human intelligence that shelters and guides us. In a moment we will pick up again this notion of discourse as ‘the house of being’, and explain its significance for understanding discourse not just as a source of intellectual intelligibility and personal connection, but also as a source of immunity granted to those who partake in it, and thereby being sheltered by it. In effect, with Heidegger the Copernican revolution comes full circle. Humanity is now displaced well away from the centre of meaning making, and the origin of meaning making is fully unhinged from human cognition and intention. We have been relegated to the role of ‘extras’ in events and practices that are choreographed neither by God, nor by the structure of the human mind, nor by the communicative aspirations of individual actors. Instead, we have come to regard ourselves as entrained and steered by phenomena that supersede us in terms of agency, logic and power. Indeed, these phenomena at once precede us in time (they are prepersonal), and they exceed us in terms of their power and their logic (they are post-human). The implications of regarding discourse as pre-personal and as post-human will be addressed in the next section of this chapter. 92


Twentieth century theories: building multiple houses of being Above, the productive capacity of discourse was evident from its acting as ‘the house(s) of being’. Our contribution as humans is to ‘build’ discourse through our everyday exchanges and interactions: these are our ‘molecular’ building activities. It is through these activities of course too that we contribute to the formation of ‘regimes of truth’: power. Power has been a critical concern for all varieties of discourse research, particularly that focusing on organizations. In the rather long quote that follows, Antonio Gramsci explains how ‘molecular’ activities are the building blocks of ‘collective historical movements’ (of which organizations are one example). Here, molecular activities produce and are channelled by ‘hegemonic’ or dominant discourses: One could study in actual fact the formation of a collective historical movement, analysing it in all its molecular phases, which is not usually done . . . instead we assume the currents of opinion already established around a group or a dominant personality. It is the problem that in modern times is expressed in terms of a party or a coalition of parties: how to initiate the founding of a party, how to develop its organised force and social influence, and so on. It is a question of a molecular process, very detailed, of extreme analysis, extending everywhere, whose documentation is constituted by a boundless quantity of books, pamphlets, articles in journals and newspapers, conversations and oral debates which are repeated an infinite number of times and which in their gigantic unity represent this work from which is born a collective will of a certain level of homogeneity. (Gramsci, cited in Thibault, 1991: 212) Thanks to being ‘repeated an infinite number of times’ either orally, or technologically (i.e. print, etc.), ‘molecular’ phenomena accrue a ‘gigantic unity’: a movement, an institution. What is gigantic, of course, is also powerful, or hegemonic. Gramsci’s agenda was to illuminate how we as ordinary citizens contribute to the formation and perpetuation of hegemony. Gramsci’s views are echoed most famously in Berger and Luckmann’s (1966) thesis about the ‘social construction of reality’, where the social world gains in durability through its sustained transmission as and through discourse. the social world gains its massivity in the course of its transmission. (Berger and Luckmann, 1966: 79) The durability and ‘massivity’ of discourse is echoed in its earlier Heideggerian conceptualization as ‘the house(s) of being’. These notions highlight a solidity that results from humans expending energy in re-enacting particular ways of being, doing, feeling, saying and knowing an infinite number of times. Our performance of discourse – our ‘discourse practices’ (cf. Foucault) – produces not just historical and hegemonic movements (cf. Gramsci) but ‘reality’ per se (cf. Berger and Luckmann). Note that now we have moved a long way from ‘articulating what is out there’, and we have arrived at ‘constructing what is out there’. Far from seeking to reduce the world to a flatland of representations or pure discourse, Gramsci’s ‘molecular processes’ and Berger and Luckmann’s ‘social construction of reality’ are anchored in everyday practice and materiality. In that regard, their ideas are cognate with Foucault’s (later) thesis about ‘capillary power’ (Foucault, 1978a). ‘Capillary power’ describes molecular human activity and meaning making that contribute to the production and maintenance of social formations, regimes of truth – power. In sum, what these ideas share is 93

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the view that humankind is embroiled in the (social) construction of realities – houses of being, or spheres of power. But these theorists also favour a complex view of power; that is, power is neither a privilege of specific individuals or factions, nor an outcome of the application of force. Complexity must be thought of instead as operating in capillary, or molecular, ways too multidimensional for any person or faction to control. For its part, discourse theory at times errs on the side of framing power as a conspiracy exacted by the privileged few on unwitting citizens whose only hope is analytical deconstruction of its main resource – discourse (Fairclough and Wodak, 1997). It is important to counterbalance this reductive tendency, and account for a dimension of discourse practice that exceeds both individuals’ and organizations’ power and control: affect.

Discourse and lack/desire It is important to acknowledge that, by and large, the investigation of discourse is about challenging power and domination. Here, whether understood as ways of being or as ways of representing, discourse is ‘deconstructed’ to lay bare the resources of hegemony. This approach avoids the questions, however, about how and why any power is contingent on its confirmation and perpetuation by many who are not in power, other than by assuming that people are ‘taken in by it’, or that they derive benefit from it in some way. Focusing on individuals’ personal motivations for making and identifying with particular meanings, the French philosopher Ricoeur switches our attention from discourse’s house(s) of being to people’s unconscious motivations: their affects. Above we referred to the notion of ‘surplus of meaning’, or the problem that our discourse never fully captures or contains what we want it to express. For Ricoeur, this surplus of meaning is the logical consequence of our ‘essential inability to communicate’. For him, we are caught in having to resolve a persistent sense of lack that comes about as our progressive subjectification and individualization divorces us from ‘the other’. Here, discourse counters ‘the fundamental solitude of each human being’, but, at the same time, it is bound to fail as ‘[m]y experience cannot become your experience’ (Ricoeur, 1976: 15–16). Communication in this way is the overcoming of the radical non-communicability of lived experience as lived. (Ricoeur, 1976: 16) Taking Jacques Lacan’s lack and desire as starting points, Ricoeur’s stance on discourse sets itself apart from philosophies that promoted the agency of language and discourse at the expense of human agency (Gilbert, 2004). Ricoeur’s focus on lack and desire to a degree revitalises our interest in the uniquely human energies or affects that undergird and drive discourse per se. But what is affect, and how does it relate to discourse?

Speculations about the other side of discourse Speculating about extra-discursive phenomena The twenty-first century has been claimed to pose unique questions and problems arising from ‘a systematic breakdown of modernity; a breakdown that the resources of modernity, by their very nature, are unable to resolve through a rational renegotiation of its practices’ (Lumsden, 2013: 79). Jean-Luc Nancy articulates this idea in these terms: 94


A moment arrives when one can no longer feel anything but anger, an absolute anger, against so many discourses, so many texts that have no other care than to make a little more sense, to redo or to perfect delicate works of signification. (Nancy, 1993: 6) A realization has set in that ‘[c]hange does not need more reasoned discourse, but change in the material-bodily structures of everyday life’ (Lumsden, 2013: 73). It is this material-bodily angle that defines affect theory and speculative theory – both offering critical revisions of our assumption that we and ‘the real’ are constituted in and through discourse. Affect theory promotes consideration of life’s material-bodily vitalities, as manifested for example in seemingly logic-less viral phenomena that we witness almost every day (TicinetoClough, 2008). In shifting attention to such hard-to-explain energies and their becoming, affect theorists dismiss discourse research as concerned with ‘structure where nothing happens’, and regard discourse research as pursuing an ‘explanatory heaven’: structure is the place where nothing happens, that explanatory heaven in which all eventual permutations are prefigured in a self-consistent set of invariant generative rules. (Massumi, 2002: 27) Affect theorists’ shift towards energy and becoming is motivated by the realization that consciousness arises not from the recognition of structures, but thanks to ‘matters becoming different’ (Blackman and Venn, 2010). That is, for us as humans ‘the first things’ are not pregiven entities or static patterns, but shifting tendencies: The first things are not simple givens but tendencies swinging between extremes: becoming heavier, becoming lighter, becoming narrower, becoming wider, preferences, dislikes, descents, ascents. These comprise . . . a complex of pre-logical resolutions and orientations upon which are contingent our logical, factual and evaluative relations with the world. (Sloterdijk, 2009: 255)4 If our understanding of the world is not based on ‘simple givens’ (coherent discourses) but on ‘shifting tendencies’ (viral energies), we may also be obliged to rethink Kant’s Copernican revolution and discourse theory’s first principle: our apprehension and understanding of ‘what is’ are hostage to the structures of human cognition and discourse. Extending affect theory’s questioning of discourse theory’s first principle, the recent ‘speculative turn’ in philosophy thus directs our attention to that which precedes and exceeds discourse (Meillassoux, 2009): fossils, earthquakes, uprisings, and the like – phenomena whose logic corresponds less with identifiable patterns and structures, than with rapid-fire escalations and inexplicable disappearances. We are aware of reservations about its theses (Roffe, 2012), yet the speculative turn confronts us with an important dilemma: is the ponderous and reflexive enterprise of discourse research still appropriate in today’s ‘runaway’ world where we face increasing numbers of wicked problems, unidentifiable causes, tragic outcomes, lightning-fast developments and unpredictable futures?

Reinventing discourse Affect theory and speculative theory refocus on material doing and becoming. These types of theories have significant implications for our role as social science researchers. For a long time, we have presumed to speak ‘the truth to those who had yet to see it, in the name of those who 95

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were forbidden to speak the truth: [they have been] conscience, consciousness, and eloquence’ (Foucault and Deleuze, 1977: 207). The characterization of our findings as ‘truth’ however normalizes our privileged position: informing lay people about ‘what is really going on’, ‘somewhat ahead and to the side’ (Foucault and Deleuze, 1977: 207) of everyday practice. But we are now facing an upheaval: The intellectual spoke the truth to those who had yet to see it . . . he [sic] was conscience, consciousness and eloquence. In the most recent upheaval, the intellectual discovered that the masses no longer need him to gain knowledge: they know perfectly well, without illusion; they know far better than he and they are certainly capable of expressing themselves. But there exists a system of power which blocks, prohibits, and invalidates [lay people] . . . Intellectuals are themselves agents of this system of power – the idea of their responsibility for ‘consciousness’ and discourse forms part of the system. (Foucault and Deleuze, 1977: 207). In Foucault’s and Deleuze’s eyes, the intellectual commits the ‘indignity of speaking for others’ (Foucault and Deleuze, 1977: 209) for three reasons. First, the presumption that one’s expertise is valid, yet the contemporary world is now so complex that any expertise risks overgeneralising and rendering unduly static domains of social life that are multifaceted and in flux. Second, those experiencing local complexity, when given the opportunity, display insight into their own practices and circumstances that may be more practically relevant and sensitive than the pronouncements of experts (Iedema and Carroll, 2010). Third, experts, including discourse researchers, misrecognise the role of theory as one of ‘informing practice’ rather than as one of ‘affecting practice’. Instead of arming themselves with elaborate procedures which are themselves forms of power, Foucault and Deleuze suggest the intellectual should ‘struggle against the forms of power that transform him [sic] into its object and instrument’ (Foucault and Deleuze, 1977: 208). This latter stance involves the intellectual in questioning their own assumed role as illuminating the lives and practices of others ‘from a safe distance’: In this sense theory does not express, translate, or serve to apply practice: it is practice. . . . It is not to ‘awaken consciousness’ . . . but to sap power, to take power; it is an activity conducted alongside those who struggle for power, and not their illumination from a safe distance. (Foucault and Deleuze, 1977: 208). Leaving aside wholesale rejections of discourse theory that promote a return to a simplistically realist agenda framing social and organizational phenomena (Reed, 1998), we may consider Allan Luke as among the first to apply Foucault’s and Deleuze’s questions to contemporary discourse theory: if we are to take the axiom of ‘what is to be done’ seriously in current conditions, critical discourse studies must turn towards a reconstructive agenda, one designed towards redress, reconciliation and the rebuilding of social structure, institutional lives and identities. (Luke, 2004: 151) If we fail to engage such a reconstructive agenda, conventional discourse theory’s focus on ‘[r]ecognising our culture, our discourses, or our “construction of reality” [remains] just one more way of allowing ourselves to remain who we are, enslaved to an image of thought’ 96


(Colebrook, 2002: 66). On this view, the continued investigation of the means of ‘recognition’ – discourse structures and patterns – prevents us from really confronting what shapes us, and it prevents ‘discourse experts’ from confronting their own points of departure, cementing these as forms of power. Hence, discourse theory now must face the question, what does it mean to practice ‘active thinking: a thinking that is not defined by an image it creates of itself, but that reforms itself’ (Colebrook, 2002: 66)? It is here that spherogenics radicalizes discourse theory and research, through accommodating affect and speculation. It positions the affective relationships among researcher and researched as primary, and it challenges both to reform their thinking and their practice – to allow thinking and practice to become (Iedema and Carroll, 2010, 2013). Here, discourse research acknowledges and targets how we are together, how the world is and what it may become, and how we can go on together. Such research does not simply objectify the world as patterns of meaning and distanciate us from its structures of feeling. Instead it seeks to involve researchers and researched in facing up to wicked problems and runaway situations. Here, we collaborate on conceiving theories and enacting practices using our own unique bodily material circumstances, resources and relationships as both our starting point and final goal.

Conclusion Discourse theory has served to level explanations that previously enjoyed special status. Its synthetic and analytic discourse investigations have alerted us to the shared and overarching features of such explanations as ‘meanings’, or ‘discourses’. This scientific attitude emerged from an extended journey into disenchantment – entailing our own decentring. This was helped along by our global travels which unseated the logic and legitimacy of our ways of being, doing, feeling and knowing, revealing them to be just ‘discourses’. Then we proceeded to relativize discourse itself as a way of understanding our position in the world, acknowledging it itself is contingent on other, prior, and very different, phenomena: affect, and the non-human. This latter move towards affect and the speculation about material reality may well be a tactic to re-enchant the world, suggesting there are aspects to life that we cannot represent as or reduce to discourse. There may well be such aspects, and acknowledging this means relativizing discourse theory. That is to say, we are now experiencing phenomena – just think of environmental destruction, social conflicts, and climate change – that exceed discourse in logic, complexity, and impact. One response may be to construe discourse no longer as disembodied object for technical dissection according to pre-determined methods and procedures. Discourse researchers’ conclusions need no longer be timeless claims about the structural regularities of what people do and say, intended to evoke awareness, and effectively ‘pulling the rug from underneath them’ (Latour, 2004). Instead, discourse research could be harnessed to create new and common ground between researcher and researched. Here, researchers are as challenged as those who are conventionally subjected to research, inviting all involved in research to rethink how they are and act in the contemporary world.

Notes 1

Communication and meaning making are closely related terms. Where the notion communication tends to foreground humans’ intention to convey something, meaning making also encompasses those aspects of human conduct that exceed intentionality; for example, I ‘sub-consciously’ change my facial expression when running into a colleague known for gaming their academic track record. 97

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2 3


We put ‘the real’ in scare quotes throughout this chapter to indicate that ‘the real’ is a discursive construction. The English translation of Sloterdijk’s 2009 book Du mußt dein Leben ändern: Über Anthropotechnik appeared in 2013 after the writing of this chapter had already started. For this reason, and because the translation has a number of problems, we retain our references to the original German publication rather than switching to the English translation. My translation. The original reads: ‘Die Ersten Dinge sind keine Gegebenheiten, sondern Tendenzzüge zwischen Extremen: Erschwerungen, Erleichterungen, Engungen, Weitungen, Hinneigungen, Abneigungen, Senkungen, Hebungen. Sie bilden . . . einen Komplex aus vorlogischen Aufschlüssen und Orientierungen, in welche die logischen, gegenständlichen und wertenden Weltbezüge eingehängt sind.’

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Iedema, R. and Carroll, K. (2015). Research as affect-sphere: towards spherogenics. Emotion Review, 7(1): 1–7. Kant, E. (1781). Critique of Pure Reason. Kress, G. and van Leeuwen, T. (2001). Multimodality. London: Sage. Laclau, E. (2005). On Populist Reason. London: Verso. Laclau, E. and Mouffe, C. (1985). Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: towards a radical democratic politics. London: Verso. Latour, B. (2004). Why has critique run out of steam? From matters of fact to matters of concern. Critical Enquiry, 30(Winter 2004): 225–48. Luke, A. (2004). Notes on the future of critical discourse studies. Critical Discourse Studies, 1(1): 149–52. Lumsden, S. (2013). Habits and the limits of the autonomous subject. Body & Society, 19(2–3): 58–82. Massumi, B. (2002). Parables for the Virtual: movement, affect, sensation. Durham NC: Duke University Press. Meillassoux, Q. (2009). After Finitude: An Essay on the Nessecity of Contingency. London: Continuum. Nancy, J.-L. (1993). The Birth to Presence. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Nietzsche, F. (1996). On the Genealogy of Morals (D. Smith, trans.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. O’Toole, M. (1994). The Language of Displayed Art. London: Leicester University Press. Phillips, N. and Hardy, C. (2002). Discourse Analysis: Investigating processes of social construction. London: Sage. Reed, M. (1998). Organizational analysis as discourse analysis: a critique, in Grant, D., Keenoy, T. and Oswick, C. (eds), Discourse and Organization. London: Sage, pp. 193–213. Ricoeur, P. (1976). Interpretation Theory: discourse and the surplus of meaning. Fort Worth (Texas): Texas Christian University Press. Roffe, J. (2012). Time and ground. Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities, 17(1): 57–67. Saussure, F. de (1972 [1983]). Course in General Linguistics (R. Harris, trans.). London: Duckworth. Sloterdijk, P. (2005). Im Weltinnenraum Des Kapitals: Für Eine Philosophische Theorie Der Globalisierung. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Sloterdijk, P. (2009). Du Mußt Dein Leben Ändern: Über Anthropotechnik. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Sloterdijk, P. (2012). The Art of Philosophy: wisdom as a practice. New York: Columbia University Press. Sloterdijk, P. (2013). You Must Change Your Life (W. Hoban, trans.). Cambridge: Polity Press. Thibault, P. (1991). Social Semiotics as Praxis: text, social meaning making, and Nabokov’s Ada. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Thibault, P. (1997). Re-reading Saussure: the dynamics of signs in social life. London: Routledge. Ticineto-Clough, P. (2008). The affective turn: political economy, biomedia and bodies. Theory Culture and Society, 25(1): 1–22. Torfing, J. (1999). New Theories of Discourse: Laclau, Mouffe and Žižek. Oxford: Blackwell. van Dijk, T.A. (1985). Introduction: the role of discourse analysis in society, in van Dijk, T.A. (ed.), Handbook of Discourse Analysis (Vol. 4. Discourse Analysis in Society). London: Sage, pp. 1–8. van Leeuwen, T. (2008). Discourse and Practice: new tools for critical discourse analysis. New York: Oxford University Press. Wilden, A. (1980). System and Structure: essays in communication and exchange (2nd edn). London: Tavistock. Willems, R.M. and Hagoort, P. (2007). Neural evidence for the interplay between language, gesture, and action: a review. Brain and Language, 101(3): 278–89.


6 Feminist organization theories Islands of treasure Yvonne Benschop and Mieke Verloo

Introduction Feminism is a success (Walby, 2011) however contested that assertion may be at a time when gender inequalities still persist. Projects and programmes for gender equality can be found in many domains and organizations. Feminist theory, the academic strand of successful feminism, has over the years developed into many different strands informing an impressive amount of multidisciplinary academic research. In this chapter, we examine how feminist theories have contributed to our understanding of organizations and organizing. Overall, feminist theorists have called attention to the gendered limitations to knowledge production in the field of organization studies, taking issue with claims to the ‘gender neutrality’ or ‘objectivity’ of any knowledge (Martin, 1994). Though we can see that the production of knowledge on the reproduction of gender inequality has blossomed, much less attention is paid to the processes that are needed to change organizations into gender-equitable workplaces (Benschop and Verloo, 2011) The impact of different contexts and the variation these bring to organizations and organizing also remain understudied (Ahonen et al., 2014), especially for nonWestern contexts (Özbilgin et al., 2012). Despite the success of feminism, virtually all theories of organizations and management remain silent about gender (Hatch, 2012), and some assert that feminist thought and gender theory are marginalized or even ‘ghettoized’ in the field of organization studies (Alvesson and Billing, 2009). One indication of this may be that the separate chapter on gender issues in edited organization theory books is the only place where gender is addressed at all. The feminist ancestry of some insights on inequalities, justice and equal opportunities that have now been mainstreamed into organization studies is also not addressed. This development is sometimes referred to as postfeminism, a critical response undermining the achievements of feminism and presenting it as out of date (McRobbie, 2004). Between these assertions of feminist success and achievement on the one hand and the isolation and marginalization of feminist theory on the other is where we write this chapter. Here we find ourselves amidst various debates and controversies, both in- and outside the various strands of feminist thought. These strands have previously been analysed by Calás and Smircich (1996, 2006), whose influential overview of the impact of feminist theorizing on organization studies 100

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comprises liberal, radical, psychoanalytical, socialist, poststructuralist/postmodern and transnational/postcolonial feminisms. While we acknowledge that psychoanalytical feminism (Fotaki et al., 2012; Harding et al., 2013; Vachhani, 2012), feminist postcolonialism, and transnational feminism (Gill, 2006; Metcalfe and Woodhams, 2012; Calás and Smircich, 2011) have certainly impacted management and organization studies; given the restrictions of this chapter, we will here focus on the four major strands of feminist thought that arguably have been most influential in contemporary management and organization theory. Two of them, (neo)liberal feminism and socialist feminism, are grounded in prominent political ideologies and philosophies, and the other two, social construction feminism and poststructuralist feminism, are rooted in the domain of social theories. As an exhaustive discussion of the merits of each of those strands is clearly beyond the scope of a single chapter, we will highlight and discuss the key contributions each strand makes to our understanding of organizations and organizing. First, we will analyse the impact of (neo)liberal feminism on the study of leadership, calling attention to numerical representation and to perceptions of leadership styles. Second, we will highlight the impact of socialist feminism on what we know about the production and reproduction of inequalities in the workplace, particularly the dual intersecting inequalities of class and gender. Third, we will emphasize how social constructionist feminism’s insights into the genderedness of organizations and identities contribute to our understanding of the gendered social order in organizations. Fourth, we will discuss how poststructuralist feminist thought has had a major impact through its focus on discursive practices of gender and its emphasis on masculinity and femininity performances, and on subjectivities and sexualities at work. We will end our chapter with a section that goes beyond these four strands to discuss promising developments in the impact of feminist organization theories on the field of organization studies.

Liberal feminism Liberal feminism is one of the most influential strands of feminism in management and organization studies. Rooted in political philosophy, the notion of liberalism embraces the core idea of individual liberty as a political value. While for classic liberalism and liberal democracy (Jewson and Mason, 1986) individual freedom, choice, opportunity and equality are core notions, philosophical debates continue on how individual freedom has to be balanced against equality and social justice. Feminist philosophers engaging with liberal political theory have pointed out that without social and political equality, justice in the sense of fairness is meaningless to women (Okin, 2005). Furthermore, these feminist philosophers challenge liberalism for separating and opposing the private and the public spheres (Pateman, 1989). The focus of liberal feminism is on individual women and men getting equal opportunities to develop themselves as they choose and to engage in free competition for social rewards (Jewson and Mason, 1986). Liberal feminism thus meshes well with the political ideals of the free labour market and the meritocratic workplace, and uses those ideals to critique existing gender inequalities like those in wages and positions of authority. Recently, several authors have noted how neo-liberal feminism is quickly replacing liberal feminism (Eisenstein, 2009). The key difference with liberal feminism is the lack of critique in neo-liberal feminism, which seems all too well attuned to the neo-liberal dominance of capitalist market values and its emphasis on individualistic, entrepreneurial women embracing full responsibility for their own lives and careers (Rottenberg, 2014). In her influential article, Fraser (2009: 108) argues that we are dealing with a ‘disturbing convergence’ of neo-liberal capitalist and feminist ideas, in which the cultural recognition of identity and difference prevails over the 101

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redistribution of economic resources. While liberal feminism traditionally called for legislation against the discrimination of women and fought for affirmative action to increase the number of women in management positions (Lorber, 1997), we now witness how neo-liberal feminism dresses up as corporate feminism, urging individual elite women ‘to lean in’ (Sandberg, 2013) and be ideal workers (Acker, 1992) without questioning the underlying masculine and capitalist norms of that ideal. In both of its incarnations, liberal feminism has shaped some of the core questions on leadership by placing gender centre stage. First, the unequal distribution of positions of authority is a question of numerical representation that can be perfectly summarized as ‘Why so few?’ (Valian, 1999). Studies on the underrepresentation of women on corporate boards and the debate about quota systems in business (Storvik and Teigen, 2010) both address this issue. The popular, though contested, metaphor of the glass ceiling refers to the almost invisible barriers that prevent women from advancing to positions of leadership and authority. These barriers have been exposed by making it clear how both gender and leadership are linked to status. Agentic women leaders are perceived as breaching the status expectations for women when they take up high-status positions of authority primarily associated with men and masculinity in the gender hierarchy (Rudman et al., 2012). Even in the twenty-first century, women leaders are not typical leaders, nor are they typical women (Eagly and Karau, 2002). Liberal feminists believe that these stereotypical expectations of women and men stand in the way of both the individual’s freedom of choice and of the meritocratic free labour market and that they should be replaced by equal opportunities for equally qualified women and men. This idea of equality as formal equal opportunities also features in the second issue pertaining to gender differences in styles of leadership (Eagly et al., 2003). There are constant clashes between the ‘no-difference’ camp, which emphasizes how intra-group differences exceed differences between women and men, and the ‘crucial difference’ camp, which points at small but significant sex differences in leadership style congruent with the alleged communal qualities of women and agentic qualities of men. In either case, liberal feminists emphasize the equality of the sexes, and seek their explanations for perceptions of difference in the cultural masculinity of leader stereotypes (Koenig et al., 2011). Additionally, (neo-)liberal feminism has a profound impact by placing the issue of work–life balance on the agenda of management and organization studies. For many, the public and the private are no longer the separate domains in which a gendered division of labour created order. With the intensification of work and the increasing number of dual-career households, work–life balance is becoming an increasingly prominent issue in organizations (Hoobler et al.; 2009 Mescher, 2011). Outsourcing household and care tasks to the market is the preferred neo-liberal solution to conflicting demands, making this another area of ‘the dangerous liaison between feminism and marketization’ (Fraser, 2009). Rottenberg points out how ‘the [neo-liberal] feminist ideal is not a one-track professional woman, but a high-powered woman who manages to balance a spectacularly successful career with a satisfying home life’ (Rottenberg, 2014: 11). Neo-liberal feminism thus stresses how entrepreneurial subjects have to make individual choices for balance, drawing on a market rationality of efficiency and cost–benefit analysis (Rottenberg, 2014: 12). This portrayal of work–life balance as a personal problem hinders any systematic critique of the inequality regime (Acker, 2006) of organizations that demand a flexibility and availability from their employees that does not sit well with these employees’ activities and responsibilities in other spheres of life. And as (neo-)liberal feminism maintains that hiring (migrant) domestic care workers and nannies can be a solution for the ‘personal problem’ of work–life balance, the larger implications of this ‘personal choice’ are not problematized as contributing to societal gender inequalities (Dyer et al., 2011). 102

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Overall, (neo-)liberal feminism has had a profound impact on management and organization studies by introducing gender as an issue in questions of leadership and work–life balance. Yet, it seems to be satisfied as soon as women are also included in the myth that ‘everyone can make it to the top’, resulting in a fetish for research that limits itself to managers and professionals. Perhaps its success in management and organization studies stems more from the unproblematic fit of its assumptions about individual agency and choice with the mainstream neo-liberal discourses that dominate current management and organization studies than from its innovative solutions for gender inequality.

Socialist feminism Though both liberal feminism and socialist feminism were born from the second-wave feminism of the 1960s and 1970s, socialist feminism is closely connected to Marxist political philosophy through key notions such as social reproduction, domination, exploitation and oppression. Dissatisfied with the Marxist prioritizing of workers’ oppression over women’s oppression (Calás and Smircich, 2006), socialist feminist philosophy stresses that the system of capitalism alone does not sufficiently explain the persistence of gender inequalities, and calls for critical attention to the relation between capitalism and patriarchy as related structures of domination (Hartmann, 1979; Holvino, 2010). The core issues for socialist feminism are thus the inseparable relations of power and privilege related to the intersections of class and gender (Brenner and Holmstrom, 2012). Contemporary socialist feminist scholars make a strong claim for intersectionality (Verloo, 2013), including other social categories such as race/ethnicity and sexuality in their analyses of working-class women and men (Zanoni, 2011). Acker’s (2006: 441) notion of inequality regimes – the interlocked practices and processes that result in continuing classed, gendered and racial inequalities in work organizations – combines the classic system focus of socialist feminist theory with the newer recognition of the importance of intersectional inequalities. In contrast to liberal feminist organization studies, with its fetish for managers and professionals, socialist feminism-inspired research has expanded its perspective to all layers of organizations, starting with comprehensive studies of blue-collar work. Systemic analyses of the gendered division of labour have thus been performed under the label of ‘industrial relations’. Prominent examples are studies of gender segregation that show how women are more likely to be employed in low-qualified, low-valued, labour-intensive, temporary, numerically flexible jobs. Such gender-stereotyped jobs are making women vulnerable to low wages and to low career/development opportunities, and they provide little job security (Rubery and Rafferty, 2013). Under the label of organization studies, we find socialist feminism-inspired research on lower-class and migrant women working in call centres (Ng and Mitter, 2005), care work (Jonsson, 2011), cleaning (Soni-Sinha and Yates, 2013), nursing (Henttonen et al., 2013), and hotel services (Adib and Guerrier, 2003; Dyer et al., 2010). This strand of research reveals the lived realities of disadvantaged workers at the intersection of class and gender in times of globalization and transnational exploitation. Following the post-2008 financial crises, socialist feminist theories regained prominence as business scandals resonated with their critique on the excesses of the patriarchal capitalist system and its rising levels of inequality and insecurity. Linking macro developments in the globalized economy to both meso sectorial and organizational employment trends and micro work preferences and experiences, socialist feminism inspired new research on non-standard employment, the politics of austerity and the growing precariousness (Armano and Murgia, 2013). The most gendered form of non-standard employment is part-time work. Socialist feminisminspired research on the exploitation of part-time workers suggests that, in the UK context, 103

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men and women part-timers are both exploited but in different ways, with men working longer unpaid overtime and women missing out on promotion opportunities (Conway and Sturges, 2014). And deteriorating working conditions and job insecurities related to non-standard employment do no longer only characterize the lowest strata of organizations; they are rapidly expanding into the realm of professional work (Kelan, 2014; Hoque and Kirkpatrick, 2003). Furthermore, as a response to the financial crises, the politics of austerity often involve structural reductions of welfare-state provisions, which turn out to have specific gendered impacts (Karamessini and Rubery, 2013). Analysing the different austerity measures of states, employers and unions, research shows that these measures are reshaping the household-workplacecommunity nexus, re-invoking outdated and conservative views of women’s place, and reconfiguring the positioning of women’s rights (Briskin, 2014) although they are not leading to women’s return to the household (Walby, 2015). Very recently, scholars have been developing new concepts to grasp the increasing insecurity and instability of employment relations. The term ‘precariat’, for instance, refers to ‘an emergent class in the making’ consisting of those who face multiple related work and income insecurities (Standing, 2011). These notions are currently inspiring new research on age, class and gender, for instance in academic careers (see Overall, socialist feminist work has inspired organization studies to look at the detrimental effects of gendered and classed divisions of labour, emphasizing the systemic and structural dimensions of capitalist inequality regimes. Furthermore, the attention for the intersections of gender and class has opened opportunities to incorporate other axes of inequality, such as race/ethnicity, sexuality and age, in the study of organizations’ power dynamics. It unlocked new lines of research that are responsive to current economic dynamics and realities.

Social construction feminism Unlike the previous strands of feminism, social construction feminism does not originate in political philosophy or political movements, but in social theories about knowledge. Though one could argue that it is inspired by poststructuralist philosophical debates on realism/relativism (Burr, 2003), social construction feminism is most often seen as rooted in sociology and ethnomethodology, emphasizing social interactions as constitutive elements of social processes (Holstein and Gubrium, 2005). In a landmark article, West and Zimmerman (1987) coined the notion of ‘doing gender’, introducing a new conceptualization of gender in which it is seen as a routine, ongoing methodological social accomplishment embedded in everyday interaction. Gender can thus be studied as something that is said and done dynamically, within the boundaries of the gender order – the relatively stable cultural prototypes of masculinity and femininity that are experienced as universal, natural truths (Connell, 1987; Gherardi, 1994). ‘Gendering’ here becomes a verb referring to processes and practices that are enacted in various locations and relations, and also, prominently, in work organizations. Examining the social construction of gender as the dynamic practice of distinguishing between women and men, or articulating the differences between masculinity and femininity, can thus provide insights in power processes and in the production of social inequalities. These insights in the ongoing production of social inequalities in the workplace have had a profound impact on management and organization studies. Social construction feminism calls out the alleged gender neutrality of organization theory and organization processes, pointing to the persistent reproduction of gender inequalities in organizational realities (Acker, 1992). Social construction feminism shows how norms about gender equality at work that emphasize the gender neutrality of jobs, skills and qualifications co-exist with norms and rules about 104

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appropriate gender behaviour that imply differential assessments of femininity and masculinity at work (Benschop and Doorewaard, 1998b). A key contribution of this strand is the notion of the ‘ideal worker’ (Acker, 1990, 1992); this disembodied, abstract conception is characterized by more than full-time availability, mobility, flexibility, high qualifications, high ambitions, high commitment, a strong work orientation, and no other obligations or responsibilities in life other than the ones required by the organization. Acker (1992: 257) notes how, since the rules and codes that prescribe workplace behaviour incorporate assumptions about a separation of the public and the private spheres, the assumptions about this ideal worker fit men much better than women, rendering women less than ideal organizational participants. Over the years, several authors have contextualized the ideal worker in different sectors, industries, organizations or functions (Benschop and Doorewaard, 1998a; Tienari et al., 2002; Kelan, 2010; Styhre, 2012; Kelly et al., 2010; Pas et al., 2014), but all find an implicit masculinity in the norm that continuously constructs masculine work patterns as normal and legitimate. The social construction of gender is also elaborated in studies on women and men in nontraditional occupations. This research explores the experiences and identity work of women in masculine (top) positions and of men in feminized occupations, documenting the doing of gender in occupations that are traditionally held by the other sex. Non-traditional occupations are a particularly interesting site to study doing gender, as for instance demonstrated by studies on men in nursing and women in engineering (Simpson, 2014; Joshi, 2014). As the men and women working those jobs have to assert their competence and suitability for these gender-typed jobs, doing so means they have to challenge norms about masculinity or femininity in the conventional gender order. They thus develop strategies to manage gender in their daily work practices, complying with some constructions of masculinity and femininity, and resisting others. This body of research is connected to, and informed by, studies on masculinities in organizations. Social construction feminism is one of the key inspirations for this strand of research, named critical studies on men and masculinities, interested in the power-laden social constructions of men and masculinities in specific contexts, times, and places (Hearn, 2014). Taking issue with the taken-for-granted equation of men and masculinities with management, leadership, and authority, Connell (1995) and Collinson and Hearn (1994) were among the first scholars to think critically about the concepts of ‘men’, ‘masculinity’, ‘multiple masculinities’, and ‘hegemonic masculinity’ in the context of organizations. Though this strand could contribute substantially to management and organization studies, its impact has been relatively small so far. The strength of social construction feminism has also become apparent in the efforts to understand the slow pace of organizational change towards gender equality. Following Organization’s special ‘Beyond armchair feminism’ issue (2000), the debate about organizational change has lost its naiveté because simply ‘fixing the women’ or ‘creating structural equal opportunities’ or ‘valuing difference’ will be all too easily absorbed into the ongoing reproduction of gender inequality (Ely and Meyerson, 2000; Benschop and Verloo, 2006; Van den Brink and Stobbe, 2014). Realizing the resilience of gender inequality in organizations has wider implications for management and organization studies, as a social construction perspective on initiatives for change has proven to fully grasp the complexities of organizational change. However, with the spotlight on the difficulty or near impossibility of organizational change towards gender equality, this perspective is currently more invested in analyses of failed change than in providing suggestions and conditions for successful change. Overall, social construction feminism has contributed to management and organization studies through its insights in the dynamic interplay of organizational structures, cultural norms and identities, and their continuous reproduction of the symbolic gender order. The potential to 105

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change and transcend the gender order, however, though theoretically possible within the scope of this perspective, has so far been de facto understudied.

Poststructuralist feminism The origins of poststructuralist feminism can be traced back to poststructural/postmodern philosophy and social theory. In line with de Saussure’s (1966) structural linguistics, Derrida’s (1978) core ideas about the impossibility of a universal truth, the dominance of oppositional dichotomies in our thinking, and deconstruction as a method to unveil ambivalences, fluidities, and absences, and Foucault’s (1980) notion of the power of discourses, poststructuralist feminism questions unitary notions of woman and femininity, demonstrating that everyday social relations are characterized by instabilities and differences. As Lorber (1997: 32) says, poststructuralist feminism goes the ‘furthest in challenging gender categories as dual, oppositional and fixed, arguing instead that gender and sexuality are shifting fluid, multiple categories’. By focusing on discursive practices of gender, poststructuralist feminism deconstructs the binary logic of gender that is hindering more sophisticated and subversive conceptualizations of gender as a performative social practice (Butler, 1990; Poggio, 2006; Pullen, 2006). Gender and sexualities are no longer essentialized, but seen as multiple and fluid, situated performances. With the deconstruction of masculinity and femininity, there no longer is a solid gender order. In this perspective, the emphasis is on ‘subjectivity’ as a discursive effect, which means that subject positions – necessary in order to enact agency – are the result of cultural representations. According to poststructuralist feminism, what constitutes the subject position of a ‘man’ or a ‘woman’ is the outcome of the whole complex of performances in specific spatial-temporal settings. Intertwined with the binary logic of gender as two oppositional categories of women and men is a logic of desire that sees sexual attraction as the result of this gendered opposition. Gender and heteronormativity are thus simultaneously produced in dominant discourses (Pringle, 2008). Queer theory is a poststructuralist mode of critique that challenges such assumptions about relations between gender and sexuality and about the management of desire (De Lauretis, 1991). The influence of poststructuralist feminism has been particularly felt in like-minded strands of management and organization studies such as critical management studies. These also point to the political power of knowledge and science and to the illusion of scientific neutrality and objectivity. Poststructuralist feminist analyses of the performativity of gender have also found their way into management and organization studies in questioning how people perform gender in organizational life, or how people do and undo gender at work. Hancock and Tyler (2007), for instance, analyse images taken from corporate recruitment brochures as locations where idealized, embodied gendered subjectivities are represented, revealing the gendered organization of aesthetics and desire. Another example is Kelan (2010), who shows that the very act of being a female ICT worker discursively challenged multiple forms of masculinities and femininities in ICT. While discursive constructions of gender have been most prominent in poststructuralist feminist writings, this emphasis on discourse also triggered attention for the material dimensions of organizations. Focusing on the way gender is materialized in and through organizational space, Tyler and Cohen (2010) analyse how gendered subjectivities are performed and valued in organizations through the interplay of bodies with aesthetic and symbolic artefacts in workspaces. Building on the notion of the multiplicity and fluidity of gender, poststructuralist feminist approaches have extended to integrating other dimensions of inequality in their analyses. A good example of integrating intersectionality in a poststructuralist perspective is Riach et al.’s (2014) analysis of how lived experiences of age, gender and sexuality are negotiated and narrated within organizations. Taking issue with heteronormativity (the prescribed conditions that assume 106

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heterosexual and gender-normative coupling) and chrononormativity (the life course corollary of the heterosexual matrix), they show how older, self-identified LGTB professionals experience a fundamental vulnerability in their attempts to narrate and live coherent selves in the organizations they are part of (Riach et al., 2014). An important contribution of poststructuralist feminism to management and organization studies is that it places reflections on knowledge production centre stage – in line with the poststructuralist questioning of universal truths. A prime example is Lewis and Simpson’s (2012) revisiting of Kanter’s famous book, Men and Women of the Corporation. Their poststructuralist re-evaluation uses the so-called (In)visibility Vortex – the normative dynamics constituting visibility and invisibility in the maintenance of gendered power – to unearth Kanter’s hidden contributions to the understanding of the effects of numerical representation and number-based solutions in organizations on gendered power processes. Another manifestation of this poststructuralist feminist-induced reflexivity is a heightened awareness that the social location of researchers affects their production of knowledge (Pullen, 2006; Essers, 2009). Overall, poststructuralist feminism has mainly contributed to management and organization studies through its focus on performativities and subjectivities. It has also inspired a higher degree of reflexivity among knowledge producers both in terms of their accountability as often privileged researchers and their potential complicity in gendered power relations.

Concluding thoughts and directions onwards In this chapter we have shown that various strands of feminist thought have all made specific contributions to the field of management and organization studies. Yet the way in which these contributions of feminist scholarship have been recognized varies, especially in the degree to which they have been integrated in mainstream research. The chapters on gender in handbooks of organization theory and the multiple articles on gender issues in general management and organization journals do testify to the successful agenda setting of feminist scholarship. And as a separate field of studies, gender-and-organization studies has certainly matured, as evidenced by their own conferences, journals and handbooks (Kumra et al., 2014; Jeanes et al., 2012). Feminist theorists and researchers are rightly convinced that their sophisticated insights and results could inform and improve the understanding of organizational phenomena, even when their work is overlooked or ghettoized. For the mainstream, however, it seems as if gender and especially sex differences are palatable concepts, whereas feminist theory is hard to swallow (Ely and Padavic, 2007). This has been analysed as due to the inherent critical stance of feminist theory, which at times is perceived as mere troublemaking, rendering feminists killjoys who spoil illusions of happiness by pointing out practices of sexism and gender inequality (Ahmed, 2010). Although feminist theories thus meet resistance for their problematization and politics of changing organization theories, their contributions and thinking certainly have the potential to enrich and revitalize management and organization studies. Feminist scholars have also taken this resistance against feminist knowledge on board as a research subject, inspiring research on the causes, dynamics and consequences of resistance against feminist interventions in organizations (Benschop and Verloo, 2006; Lombardo and Mergaert, 2013). These insights in the dynamics of resistance to feminism could be used to come to a better understanding of, and design better strategies for, the integration of feminist theories into organization theories, benefitting both. Ideally, the influence between feminist theory and organization theory is two-way, and the analysis of organizational phenomena can be improved 107

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by organization scholars looking at feminisms and feminists looking at organization theories (Thomas and Davies, 2005). Our overview of the impact of feminist theorizing on organization studies points to three potential future directions of feminist organization research: searching for cross-disciplinary inspiration, cross-epistemological collaboration and transnational theorizations overcoming the current Western bias. We argue that the first two directions would help overcome two kinds of fragmentations or compartmentalizations: the disciplinary boundaries within the social sciences on the one hand and the epistemological boundaries between the different strands of feminist philosophy and feminist theory on the other. First, to surmount disciplinary fragmentation, multidisciplinary dialogues between feminist organization studies and cultural studies could, for instance, help spark new understandings of the backlash against feminism and the postfeminist taming of feminism into an acceptable corporate feminism (Lewis, 2014). Another example of crossing disciplinary borders would be to seek inspiration in gender and politics scholarship (Waylen et al., 2013), which would help foster contextualizations and explanations of the conditions of success and failure of feminist organizational change. This connection to gender and politics would tap into a body of knowledge that has developed a rich vocabulary to grasp the differential impact of political and societal contexts, an area that has received scarce attention in organization studies, as noted in our introduction. Second, and even more challengingly, to surmount epistemological compartmentalization, crossing and merging the various strands of feminist thought might deliver surprising contributions. This can only start by recognizing the specific contributions of each strand (as identified in this chapter) and being willing to engage in respectful dialogue and transversal politics (Squires, 2007; Yuval-Davis, 2006). Transversal politics here refers to a dialogue between different positions that departs from a common commitment to a broad feminist equality project. This dialogue can be productive to interpret insights stemming from one strand in another strand of feminist theory. Obvious examples are to be found in poststructuralist deconstructions of the liberal feminist theme of leadership (Davis et al., 2014) or the unbalanced numerical representation of women managers (Lewis and Simpson, 2012). Another example can be found in the crossing of the socialist feminist’s classic system focus with the sophisticated analyses of performed identities in McDowell’s (2012) study of the labour market exclusion of workingclass youth in times of austerity. While feminist theory has not been totally oblivious to its Western bias, non-Western, postcolonial studies and Voices from the South have primarily been developed as separate strands of feminist thought. Inspired by the pioneering works of Mohanty (1988), Spivak (1988) and others, there is a substantial body of scholarship questioning the globalized politics of knowledge production and the roots of organization theories in imperialist legacies (Calás and Smircich, 2006, 2011; Metcalfe and Woodhams, 2012; Ozkazanc-Pan, 2012). This restores the agency of both scholars and workers from the non-West and provides learning opportunities for those from the West (Mir and Mir, 2013). Postcolonial scholarship offers various promising starting points for further feminist theorizing, for instance on leadership (Nkomo, 2011), entrepreneurship (Ozkazanc-Pan, 2014), immigration (Prasad, 2012), and expatriates (Berry and Bell, 2012). There is clearly a high potential for cross-fertilization of this work with intersectional approaches and the theorizing of inequality regimes. In this chapter, we have outlined how many necessary ingredients for further progress are already in place to widen the scope of feminist organization studies’ success, hoping to inspire future generations of scholars building on our insights or contesting them. 108

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7 Hermeneutics in organization studies Michael D. Myers

Introduction Hermeneutics is primarily concerned with human understanding: how it is possible for us to understand the meaning of a text. The word ‘text’ is interpreted broadly in contemporary hermeneutics and refers to written text, speech and any kind of human communication (which may be non-verbal). Hermeneutics can be described as both an underlying philosophy and as a specific way of analysing qualitative data (Bleicher, 1980). As a philosophical approach to human understanding, it provides one of the philosophical groundings for interpretivism (Klein and Myers, 1999). As a mode of analysis, it provides a set of concepts for analysing qualitative data in qualitative research projects. Scholars in organization studies have engaged with hermeneutic philosophy in various ways. Some have used hermeneutic philosophy to establish and extend social constructivism and interpretive research as a viable research philosophy within management and organization studies (Klein and Myers, 1999). Interpretive research is now well accepted and has ‘come of age’ in organizational studies (Prasad and Prasad, 2002; Walsham, 1995). Others, however, have used hermeneutics as a way of analysing their qualitative data, and in fact that is the most common usage. In recent years critical hermeneutics seems to have come to the fore, with hermeneutically informed studies of culture, identity and sensemaking within the context of organizations. For example, Gopinath and Prasad (2012) used critical hermeneutics to challenge the conventional understanding and interpretation of a particular event, viz. Coca-Cola’s exit from India in the 1970s. While most previous researchers had blamed the protectionist policies in India for CocaCola’s demise, their hermeneutic analysis, focusing on the wider macroeconomic and historical context, suggests that the company lost a valuable opportunity due to its own inflexible policies. As another example, Robinson and Kerr (2009) used critical hermeneutics to study charismatic leadership in a British organization. Although charismatic leadership is usually associated with positive organizational change, Robinson and Kerr say that charismatic leadership and extreme leadership episodes in organizations can lead to long term damage. Hermeneutics is important in the study of organizations because it provides a way to understand how socially constructed systems of meaning become accepted (legitimate) or challenged. As Phillips and Brown (1993) explain, any act of communication that attempts to change or reinforce 113

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the interpretive frameworks of the organizational actors is potentially a subject for hermeneutic analysis. Even a subject such as government contracting can be analysed using hermeneutics, since the parties to a contract need ‘to come to a mutual agreement about the meaning of a contract and the circumstances surrounding it’ (White, 2009: 303). Despite its potential to provide deep insights into the study of organizational phenomena, however, hermeneutic philosophy has been used by a relatively small number of scholars in organization studies. Over the past 20 years most of the major journals have published only three to four articles that engage with hermeneutic philosophy in some way. One of the possible reasons for this is that some of the classic texts on hermeneutics are not easy to understand. It can be a struggle for PhD students and researchers in organization studies to digest some of the essential hermeneutic works. For example, Gadamer’s (1975) book Truth and Method provides an extensive review of the hermeneutical relevance of many important philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Husserl and Heidegger. He also engages with literary criticism, theology, semiotics and various European thinkers such as Levi-Strauss, Foucault and Derrida. Gadamer simply assumes that his readers will be familiar with these thinkers and their ideas, something which cannot be taken for granted with PhD students and scholars in business and organization studies. Hence it can be difficult for many scholars in organization studies to engage with hermeneutic philosophy in a meaningful way. Some of the classic texts are rather abstract and difficult to penetrate. However, probably the main reason for hermeneutics remaining the domain of a minority of organizational scholars is that most scholars in organization studies are committed to a positivist view of knowledge, one that tries to emulate the natural sciences (Barrett et al., 2011). Positivist researchers want to remain value-free and like their research findings to be seen as objective. Hermeneutics, by contrast, sees prejudice, biases and prior knowledge as an essential element in the process of human understanding. Researchers using hermeneutics see their research findings as not purely subjective or objective, but rather, as inter-subjective. This is probably a leap too far for many organizational scholars and goes against their ideal of how scientific research should be conducted. I believe these two reasons largely explain why hermeneutic philosophy has been somewhat neglected in studies of organizations. The main purpose of this chapter, therefore, is to explain the potential for hermeneutics for organizational studies. I hope that more organizational scholars will become interested in it and use it in their research work. The outline of this chapter is as follows. The next section looks at the historical origins of hermeneutics and briefly explains some fundamental hermeneutic concepts. The following section reviews how hermeneutic philosophy has been used by organizational scholars. The final section is the discussion and conclusions and suggests some possible directions for the future development of philosophical and critical hermeneutics in organization studies. Some key texts for further reading are suggested.

Hermeneutic concepts This section looks briefly at the historical origins of hermeneutics and explains some of the fundamental concepts of hermeneutics. Hermeneutics first arose in Western Europe during the Reformation, when Reformed scholars raised the question of Biblical interpretation. They argued that the meaning of the Scriptures could only be understood by interpreting the various texts within their social and cultural context. It was only in the eighteenth century, however, that the German philosopher Schleiermacher proposed hermeneutics as a general theory for the interpretation of all texts, not just sacred 114


texts. He suggested that ‘all text needs to be interpreted within a larger context, and that the process of understanding a text is circular, moving back and forth between the parts and the whole’ (Barrett et al., 2011: 184). These ideas were then developed further by philosophers such as Dilthey and Heidegger. Subsequently, most organizational scholars have based their work on more recent social philosophers such as Hans-Georg Gadamer, Paul Ricoeur and Jurgen Habermas. In these more recent works, the word ‘text’ in hermeneutics is no longer restricted to its literal meaning. Rather, the focus of contemporary hermeneutics is on text and text-analogues. The word ‘text’ is thus interpreted metaphorically: A text or text-analogue is anything that can be treated as a text, such as any human artefact, action, organization or culture. Organizational practices, social structures, and organizational culture can all be understood and interpreted in the same way that we might read and understand a written text. Hence the main focus of scholars using hermeneutics in organization studies nowadays is the textual treatment of social and organizational settings. The hermeneutic effort consists of an attempt to make clear, or to make sense of, some organizational phenomenon within its particular social and cultural context. I will now briefly explain some of the fundamental concepts of hermeneutics.

Historicity One of the most fundamental concepts in hermeneutic philosophy is that of historicity. Historicity implies that as human beings, we are our history. Who we are is a function of the historical circumstances and community that we find ourselves in, the historical language we speak, the historically evolving habits and practice we appropriate, the temporally conditioned choices we make. . . . In short, hermeneutics defends the ontological claim that human beings are their history. (Wachterhauser, 1986: 7) The concept of historicity implies that our understanding of ourselves and others occurs in an historical context where our own historical background and experience informs our interpretation of any topic or subject.

The hermeneutic circle Another fundamental concept in hermeneutic philosophy is that of the hermeneutic circle. The idea of a hermeneutic circle refers to the dialectic between the understanding of the text as a whole and the interpretation of its parts, in which descriptions are guided by anticipated explanations (Myers, 2004). As Gadamer explains: It is a circular relationship. . . . The anticipation of meaning in which the whole is envisaged becomes explicit understanding in that the parts, that are determined by the whole, themselves also determine this whole. (Gadamer, 1976a: 117) The idea of the hermeneutic circle can be applied not just to texts, but to any text-analogue. For example, if a researcher in organization studies is studying entrepreneurship in an organization, then the organization itself can be treated as a text. The researcher might start by gaining some general knowledge about the organization by reading the newspaper, searching the Internet etc. After doing this, the researcher might then interview specific people within the organization. As the researcher dives into the details, his or her understanding of the 115

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organization as a whole develops. The movement of understanding ‘is constantly from the whole to the part and back to the whole’ (Myers, 2004).

Prejudice Another important concept in hermeneutics is that of ‘prejudice’. Hermeneutics suggests that our attempt to understand a text always involves some prior knowledge or expectation of what the text is about. For example, at a minimum we must have some understanding of the language in order to understand the written or spoken word. Although we tend to think of the word ‘prejudice’ in a negative light (e.g. racial prejudice), Gadamer points out that prior knowledge is a prerequisite for understanding. We tend to take this prior knowledge for granted. Gadamer argues that the critical task of hermeneutics then becomes one of distinguishing between ‘true prejudices, by which we understand, from the false ones by which we misunderstand’ (Gadamer, 1976b: 124). Of course, the suspension of our prejudices is necessary if we are to begin to understand a text or text-analogue. But as Gadamer points out, this does not mean that we simply set aside our prejudices. Rather, it means that we, as researchers, must become aware of our own historicity (Gadamer, 1976b: 125). By this he means that we need to become aware of our own views and biases and how these affect the way in which we make sense of the world or interpret a text. The idea that we need to become aware of our own prejudices brings to the fore the realization that, for any understanding to take place, there needs to be a dialogue between the text and the interpreter.

Tradition Although one might think that our prejudices are simply a matter of our own personal preferences, Gadamer points out that this is not so. Rather, our prejudices are often based on tradition – the culture and customs that we have been taught, usually with the imprint of some form of authority. Tradition, along with our own historicity, forms the background and serves as the condition of our knowledge. However, this does not mean that we should remain uncritical of tradition; rather, tradition is the starting point for any understanding at all.

Autonomization Another hermeneutic concept is that of autonomization. Ricoeur (1981) says that the author’s meaning, once it is inscribed in a text, takes on a life of its own. This process of autonomization takes place whenever speech is inscribed in a text: the text takes on a fixed, finite and external representation. This means that the text now has an autonomous, ‘objective’ existence independent of the author. Nowadays this can be illustrated by the Internet: once something is published on the web, it is almost impossible to delete it.

Distanciation Distanciation refers to the inevitable distance that occurs in time and space between the text and its original author on the one hand, and the readers of the text (the audience) on the other (Lee, 1994). Ricoeur (1991) points out that, since the text takes on a life of its own, it becomes dissociated from the original author, the originally intended audience, and even its original 116


meaning. The older the text is, and the further away it is in space (culturally and geographically etc.), the greater the distance between the author and the reader.

Appropriation and engagement Hermeneutics suggests that to understand the meaning of a text we must appropriate the meaning of it for ourselves. We have to make the text our own. Gadamer suggests that meaning does not reside in ‘the subjective feelings of the interpreter’ nor in ‘the intentions of the author’. Rather, meaning emerges from the engagement of reader and text. This process of critical engagement with the text is crucial (Myers, 2004).

Fusion of horizons Gadamer says that true understanding comes from the fusion of horizons. The expansion of our own horizon (viewpoint) is only possible if we are prepared to engage in a dialogue with the text. The key idea is that we should be prepared to allow our own horizons to be challenged as we engage with the text or text-analogue e.g. another person or organization.

Types of hermeneutics There are different types of hermeneutics. The first one is what Prasad (2002) calls classical hermeneutics. Classical hermeneutics refers to the early hermeneutic philosophers such as Dilthey who advocated a ‘pure hermeneutics’ which stressed empathic understanding and the understanding of human action from the ‘inside’. The focus was on interpreting a text in order to recover the author’s originally intended meaning. The second type of hermeneutics is called philosophical hermeneutics. Philosophical hermeneutics is usually associated with more recent hermeneutic scholars such as Heidegger and Gadamer. These scholars rejected the idea that it was possible to fully grasp the author’s originally intended meaning. Rather, they emphasized that there is always a dialogue between the text and the interpreter, and any interpretation must acknowledge the reader’s historicity, prejudices and traditions. Philosophical hermeneutics is sometimes criticized for being too subjectivistic and relativistic, although Gadamer did not agree with these criticisms (Prasad, 2002). The third type of hermeneutics is called critical hermeneutics. Critical hermeneutics emerged following the debates between Gadamer and Habermas (a critical theorist). While acknowledging the necessary dialectic between the interpreter and the text, critical hermeneutic philosophers reject the idea that interpretation is necessarily subjective and relativistic. They argue that some interpretations are better than others. Critical hermeneutic philosophers also suggest that there are socio-economic and political constraints within which human communication takes place. In this form of hermeneutics there is thus an attempt to mediate ‘hermeneutically-grounded self-understanding’ and ‘the objective context in which it is formed’ (Bleicher, 1982: 150). The idea is to critique ‘the ideological aspects of the text being interpreted’ (Prasad, 2002: 16). Both Ricoeur and Thompson are scholars who advocate critical hermeneutics (Ricoeur, 1974, 1976b, 1981; Thompson, 1981). Ricoeur, for example, says there are two poles or distinct aspects of hermeneutics: the first is a hermeneutics of trust and involves the restoration of meaning; the second is a hermeneutics of suspicion and involves the reduction of illusion. This second pole involves the critique of ideology and implies that consciousness is, to some extent at least, ‘false consciousness’ (Ricoeur, 1976a). Ricoeur argues that both poles are a necessary part of hermeneutic interpretation. 117

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Closely related to that of critical hermeneutics is ‘depth hermeneutics’. Depth hermeneutics assumes that the surface meaning of the ‘text’ hides, but also expresses, a deeper meaning (Myers, 2004). ‘It assumes a continuing contradiction between the author’s conscious and unconscious mind, a false consciousness, which appears in the text’ (Diesing, 1991: 130). Depth hermeneutics thus gives more emphasis to one of Ricoeur’s poles of hermeneutics (the hermeneutics of suspicion) rather than the other (the restoration of meaning).

The engagement of organization studies with hermeneutics In this section I review some of the main themes that have been addressed by organizational scholars using hermeneutics. These include organizational theory, organizational culture, organizational narrative, organizational identity, leadership and organizational research methods. I provide a few examples of how scholars in organization studies have engaged with each of these themes.

Organizational theory Some scholars have used hermeneutic philosophy to critique organizational theories. For example, Addleson (1996) critiques the organizational learning literature from the perspective of hermeneutics. He suggests that hermeneutics provides a deeper understanding of how people view organizational problems and how they might be solved. Using Gadamer’s concept of prejudice and pre-judgement, he points out that, just as the organization means different things to different people, so organizational problems are constituted in terms of their own understanding. He argues that the usual metaphor in the organizational learning literature of the organization as an integrated system or network (in which knowledge accumulates and circulates) is misconstrued, because from a hermeneutic standpoint ‘organizational life is characterized by enormously varied points of view and by many conflicting and changing stories’ (Addleson, 1996: 38). Discourse is about shaping people’s interpretations and he argues that this is a firmer basis on which to build a theory of organizational learning. Burrell discusses the relevance of Habermas for organizational theory and mentions hermeneutics in the context of Habermas’ theory of knowledge and human interests. He suggests that organizational theorists need to become more like philosophers and hence become more familiar with contemporary philosophy (Burrell, 1994). Likewise, Blackler (1993) questions some of the conventional, deep-seated assumptions about managerial and organizational rationality. Using hermeneutics, he proposes a theory of organizations as activity systems which emphasize ‘the interplay of actions, language, technologies, social structures, implicit and explicit rules, history and institutions’ (Blackler, 1993: 882).

Organizational culture Organizational scholars have used hermeneutics in their study of organizational culture. They have looked at interpretation, meaning and culture in organizational settings. Instead of studying organizational culture from a functionalist, unitary perspective, scholars using hermeneutics tend to seek an in-depth understanding of the complex and diverse ways in which people interpret their culture (Barrett et al., 2011). I tend to think that most hermeneutic studies of organizations can be seen as studies of organizational culture, although some explicitly refer to culture more than others. 118


Organizational storytelling and narrative Closely related to the study of organizational culture is the study of organizational stories, storytelling and narrative. Although there are many approaches to narrative, hermeneutics is one of them (Boyce, 1996). Gabriel uses hermeneutics to explore the idea of organizational stories as myth. He says that myths, while often expressing ambivalent and contradictory wishes, actually permit different or competing interpretations. He suggests that these myths represent efforts ‘to deal with life’s harshness, unpredictability and arbitrariness’ (Gabriel, 1991: 873). Phillips (1995) suggests that narrative fiction (e.g. novels, short stories, plays, songs, poems and films) provides a useful way to think about organizations. He argues that the narrative approach to organizational analysis is complementary, rather than opposed to, traditional forms of organizational analysis. ‘The importance of narrative fiction lies in the fact that it tells a story, and in telling a story it creates a space for the representation of the life-world within which individuals find themselves. . . . Many different viewpoints can be included in the text, each represented by a character’ (Phillips, 1995: 628). Narrative fiction allows for different stories to be told and for doubts, uncertainties, contradictions and paradoxes to be acknowledged rather than hidden. Myers (1994) uses hermeneutics to tell the story of the failure of an information systems project. This study reveals how and why there were conflicting interpretations of what happened and who was to blame. He looks at the diverse views of the various stakeholders and how the story unfolded over time. From a hermeneutic point of view, he makes the point that ‘success’ is a matter of interpretation and depends upon whose perspective is being considered. Prasad and Mir (2002) use critical hermeneutics to examine CEO letters to shareholders in the oil industry. The CEO letter is seen by the authors as an account of, and justification for, the company’s activities and performance over the previous year. Focusing on the period from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, Prasad and Mir show that the American oil companies used Western cultural myths to portray their international partners in the Arab world as unreliable and potentially dangerous in order to protect their power interests at home (Prasad and Mir, 2002). A hermeneutic analysis thus shows the letters of CEOs to be a form of action, and not simply a means of communications. Kets de Vries and Miller (1987) say that interpretation is at the centre of organizational work. Researchers and managers need to search for themes and patterns in the text, and hermeneutics is very valuable in this regard. One example of searching for themes and patterns is Lee’s (1994) study of an email exchange. In a critique of information richness theory, Lee argues that there is a world of meaning in email communications within an organizational context. He uses several hermeneutic concepts to reveal how information richness occurs – it is an emergent property of the interaction of the email medium with its organizational context.

Organizational identity Brown and Humphreys (2006) explore organizational identity in the context of how different groups of people develop a shared understanding of place. Drawing on hermeneutics, they see organizations as social constructions and treat organizational identities as extremely fluid discursive constructions rather than as static and objective entities. Not only were there multiple, diverse and conflicting accounts or narratives of the organization’s identity, but these accounts 119

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enabled people to enact the version which they preferred. Looking at the meanings that people ascribe to place, they show ‘how different groups can draw on “place” as a resource in their efforts to develop, promote, and protect their preferred versions of themselves and their organization’ (Brown and Humphreys, 2006: 252).

Organizational design Boland and Day (1989) look at information systems design in organizations as a process of giving meaning to the world through language and action. Their study is a hermeneutic of organizational action in that it reveals the structures of meaning that are drawn upon during the systems design process for organizations. In a similar way, Butler and Murphy (2007) apply concepts from phenomenology and hermeneutics to understand how social actors interpret and understand their world. They use this understanding to develop a set of design principles for the development of knowledge management systems in organizations.

Organizational research methods Organization scholars have also proposed hermeneutics as being relevant for research methods and approaches. Interpretive approaches to research are usually regarded as those which draw on hermeneutics (Alvesson and Deetz, 1996; Hardy and Clegg, 2007). For example, Brannick and Coghlan (2007) suggest hermeneutics as a research paradigm for insider research – research that understands social reality by interpreting the meanings held by people or members of a social group. Klein and Myers (1999) propose hermeneutics as one of the philosophical foundations for doing interpretive field research. Although interpretive research is usually seen as opposed and irreconcilable with positivist research, Lee (1991) argues that the two are not mutually exclusive and that both can be integrated in some way. Prasad (2002) suggests methodological guidelines for employing hermeneutics in organizational research. Similarly, Lueger et al. (2005) suggest hermeneutics as a methodology for capturing sensemaking activities and the underlying social structures. They call this approach ‘objective hermeneutics’ since their focus is on the subject-independent structures of social fields. Of course, an understanding of these social structures can only be obtained via the subjective interpretations of the actors. Their proposed hermeneutic process consists of reconstructing the underlying rules that apply in a specific social and organizational context. They demonstrate this methodology in a study of how influence is exercised within organizations. Butcher (2013) focuses on the researcher’s identity while doing ethnographic fieldwork. Using the concept of reflexive hermeneutics, Butcher discusses how shared meanings developed with the research participants. He concludes that a researcher from outside can never truly belong in the field, no matter how much one wants to (Butcher, 2013).

The field of organization studies Lastly, some scholars have used hermeneutics to critique the field of organization studies itself. Rao and Pasmore (1989) suggest that the study of organizations is incited by divergent interests. They argue that there are four different paradigms within organizational studies; these paradigms are the social innovation viewpoint, the critical viewpoint, the language game viewpoint, and the hermeneutic viewpoint. They say that the hermeneutic viewpoint is the least developed of the four, but has much to offer organizational studies. 120


Discussion and conclusions As we have seen, hermeneutics has much to offer organizational studies. Whether the theme is organization theory, organizational culture, narrative, identity and/or research methods, the use of hermeneutics has the potential to provide deep insights into organizational phenomena. Hermeneutics is valuable, not just for making sense of a text or text-analogue that may be unclear, but also for challenging accepted interpretations. Critical hermeneutics in particular is a powerful way of critiquing ideology, power relations and culture. However, one notable feature of the literature in organization studies is the way that many authors cite one or more concepts from hermeneutics as informing their work, but apart from a brief mention their engagement with hermeneutic philosophy is perhaps best described as rather limited. For example, Yanow (2004) discusses how the local knowledge of lower level workers is often discounted and dismissed by managers and executives higher up in the organization. She focuses on the nature of local, contextual knowledge about organizational practices and how this knowledge might be translated to others higher up or outside of the organization. Although the subject matter is one of culture, meaning and power, and Yanow’s article is clearly informed by hermeneutics, she only discusses hermeneutics very briefly (Yanow, 2004). Alvesson (2010), likewise, provides an overview of the key images of identity in organizations and how individual identity is metaphorically understood by researchers. He mentions the hermeneutic circle, with reference to how we understand the meaning of texts, but apart from that, there is no further discussion of any hermeneutic concepts. Phillips’ (1995) treatment of organizational narrative is similar: his article about narrative fiction is obviously informed by hermeneutics, but he mentions the word just once. Some organizational scholars, however, do not mention hermeneutics at all, despite some of the key concepts apparently being informed by hermeneutics. For example, Weick et al. (2005) discuss sensemaking in organizations. Their discussion is informed by and appears to draw on various hermeneutic concepts (Weick et al., 2005), yet hermeneutics is not mentioned at all and no hermeneutic philosophers are cited. One possible future direction for organizational scholars using hermeneutics is a focus on leadership. At the moment there are very few hermeneutically informed articles on leadership, but I believe hermeneutics could offer rich insights into this subject. For example, Sparrowe (2005) focuses on authenticity in leadership as an emergent narrative process in which others play an important role. This is a different perspective than that which is usually adopted in studies of leadership, where authenticity is analysed in terms of the motivational effects of the leader’s values and behaviour, and the consistency of these values with those of their followers (Sparrowe, 2005). Drawing on Ricoeur’s critical hermeneutics, Sparrowe focuses on narrative and identity in his study of leadership. He argues that, rather than seeing the self as static, the narrative self is one that experiences change, reversal and surprise. We use different kinds of stories to make sense of these events, both to ourselves and others. He suggests that the concept of the narrative self, grounded in hermeneutics, provides a rich conceptual framework for understanding identity in relation to authenticity and leadership (Sparrowe, 2005). We can summarize the current state of play by saying that hermeneutics has made a positive contribution to organization studies. However, at this stage the use of hermeneutics within organization studies still remains something of a cottage industry. While many organizational scholars seem to be informed by hermeneutics, only a small proportion explicitly use hermeneutic concepts. Prasad’s comment, made more than a decade ago, that philosophical discussions of hermeneutics in management and organizational research remains rather limited is still true today 121

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(Prasad, 2002). Hence there is still much potential for scholars of organizations to better engage with hermeneutic philosophy.

Key texts for further reading Prasad (2002) provides a very accessible introduction to hermeneutics and its relevance for organizational studies. He also suggests methodological guidelines for employing hermeneutics in organizational research. A more comprehensive set of guidelines for employing hermeneutics is provided by Klein and Myers (1999). They suggest a set of principles for the conduct and evaluation of interpretive research in information systems. These principles are derived primarily from anthropology, phenomenology and hermeneutics. Although this article was written primarily for information systems scholars, I believe it is equally relevant for those seeking to use hermeneutics in organizational studies as well. A good empirical example of the use of hermeneutics in organizational research is Phillips and Brown’s (1993) study of a corporation’s image advertising campaign. Their study nicely illustrates how critical hermeneutics can be used to study corporate communications. They show how culture and power are constituted and maintained by the ongoing communicative interaction of the organization’s members (Phillips and Brown, 1993). After reading these articles it is probably a good idea to read one or more of the general philosophical introductions. A good place to start would be Palmer’s (1969) collection of readings. This book includes selected works by prominent hermeneutic scholars. Gadamer’s (1975) book Truth and Method is regarded as a classic in the field, but it is more difficult to read than the more general introductions. Gadamer’s main concern is the veracity of interpretation; given our subjectivity, how can we avoid being purely relativistic? Gadamer’s solution is to suggest that our prejudices and biases can be made subject to critical scrutiny (Myers, 2004).

References (key texts in bold) Addleson, M. (1996). Resolving the spirit and substance of organizational learning. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 9: 32–41. Alvesson, M. (2010). Self-doubters, strugglers, storytellers, surfers and others: images of self-identities in organization studies. Human Relations, 63: 193–217. Alvesson, M. and Deetz, S. (1996). Critical theory and postmodemism approaches to organizational studies, in Clegg, S., Hardy, C. and Nord, W. (eds), Handbook of Organization Studies. London: Sage, pp. 255–83. Barrett, F.J., Powley, E.H. and Pearce, B. (2011). Hermeneutic philosophy and organizational theory, in Tsoukas, H. and Chia, R. (eds), Research in the Sociology of Organizations. Bingley: Emerald, pp. 181–213. Blackler, F. (1993). Knowledge and the theory of organizations: organizations as activity systems and the reframing of management. Journal of Management Studies, 30: 863–84. Bleicher, J. (1980). Contemporary Hermeneutics: hermeneutics as method, philosophy and critique. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Bleicher, J. (1982). The Hermeneutic Imagination. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Boland, R.J. and Day, W.F. (1989). The experience of system design: a hermeneutic of organizational action. Scandinavian Journal of Management, 5(2): 87–104. Boyce, M. (1996). Organizational story and storytelling: a critical review. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 9: 5–26. Brannick, T. and Coghlan, D. (2007). In defense of being ‘native’: the case for insider academic research. Organizational Research Methods, 10: 59–74. Brown, A. and Humphreys, M. (2006). Organizational identity and place: a discursive exploration of hegemony and resistance. Journal of Management Studies, 43: 231–57. 122


Burrell, G. (1994). Modernism, postmodernism and organizational analysis: the contribution of Jurgen Habermas. Organization Studies, 15: 1–19. Butcher, T. (2013). Longing to belong. Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal, 8: 242–57. Butler, T. and Murphy, C. (2007). Understanding the design of information technologies for knowledge management in organizations: a pragmatic perspective. Information Systems Journal, 17: 143–63. Diesing, P. (1991). How Does Social Science Work? Reflections on practice. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press. Gabriel, Y. (1991). Turning facts into stories and stories into facts: a hermeneutic exploration of organizational folklore. Human Relations, 44: 857–75. Gadamer, H.-G. (1975). Truth and Method. New York: Seasbury Press. Gadamer, H.-G. (1976a). The historicity of understanding, in Connerton, P. (ed.), Critical Sociology, Selected Readings. Harmondsworth: Penguin, pp. 117–33. Gadamer, H.-G. (1976b). Philosophical Hermeneutics. California: University of California Press. Gopinath, C. and Prasad, A. (2012). Toward a critical framework for understanding MNE operations: revisiting Coca-Cola’s exit from India. Organization, 20: 212–32. Hardy, C. and Clegg, S. (2007). Relativity without relativism: reflexivity in post-paradigm organization studies. British Journal of Management, 8: S5–S17. Kets de Vries, M.F.R. and Miller, D. (1987). Interpreting organizational texts. Journal of Management Studies, 24: 233–47. Klein, H.K. and Myers, M.D. (1999). A set of principles for conducting and evaluating interpretive field studies in information systems. MIS Quarterly, 23(1): 67–93. Lee, A.S. (1991). Integrating positivist and interpretive approaches to organizational research. Organizational Science, 2(4): 342–65. Lee, A.S. (1994). Electronic mail as a medium for rich communication: an empirical investigation using hermeneutic interpretation. MIS Quarterly, 18(2): 143–57. Lueger, M., Sandner, K., Meyer, R. and Hammerschmid, G. (2005). Contextualizing influence activities: an objective hermeneutical approach. Organization Studies, 26: 1145–68. Myers, M.D. (1994). A disaster for everyone to see: an interpretive analysis of a failed IS project. Accounting, Management and Information Technologies, 4(4): 185–201. Myers, M.D. (2004). Hermeneutics in information systems research, in Mingers, J. and Willcocks, L.P. (eds), Social Theory and Philosophy for Information Systems. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons, pp. 103–28. Palmer, R. (1969). Hermeneutics: interpretation theory in Schleiermacher, Dilthey, Heidegger, and Gadamer. Evanston: Northwestern University Press. Phillips, N. (1995). Telling organizational tales: on the role of narrative fiction in the study of organizations. Organization Studies, 16: 625–49. Phillips, N. and Brown, J.L. (1993). Analyzing communication in and around organizations: a critical hermeneutic approach. Academy of Management Journal, 36(6): 1547. Prasad, A. (2002). The contest over meaning: hermeneutics as an interpretive methodology for understanding texts. Organizational Research Methods, 5: 12–33. Prasad, A. and Mir, R. (2002). Digging deep for meaning: a critical hermeneutic analysis of CEO letters to shareholders in the oil industry. Journal of Business Communication, 39: 92–116. Prasad, A. and Prasad, P. (2002). The coming of age of interpretive organizational research. Organizational Research Methods, 5: 4–11. Rao, M.V.H. and Pasmore, W.A. (1989). Knowledge and interests in organization studies: a conflict of interpretations. Organization Studies, 10: 225–39. Ricoeur, P. (1974). The Conflict of Interpretations: essays in hermeneutics. Evanston: Northwestern University Press. Ricoeur, P. (1976a). Hermeneutics: restoration of meaning or reduction of illusion?, in Connerton, P. (ed.), Critical Sociology, Selected Readings. Harmondsworth: Penguin, pp. 194–203. Ricoeur, P. (1976b). Interpretation Theory, Discourse and the Surplus of Meaning. Forth Worth: Texas Christian University Press. Ricoeur, P. (1981). Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Ricoeur, P. (1991). From Text to Action: essays in hermeneutics, II. Translated by Blamey, K. and Thompson, J.B. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press. Robinson, S.K. and Kerr, R. (2009). The symbolic violence of leadership: a critical hermeneutic study of leadership and succession in a British organization in the post-Soviet context. Human Relations, 62: 875–903. 123

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Sparrowe, R.T. (2005). Authentic leadership and the narrative self. The Leadership Quarterly, 16: 419–39. Thompson, J.B. (1981). Critical Hermeneutics: a study in the thought of Paul Ricoeur and Jurgen Habermas. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Wachterhauser, B.R. (1986). Hermeneutics and Modern Philosophy. Albany: State University of New York Press. Walsham, G. (1995). The emergence of interpretivism in IS research. Information Systems Research, 6: 376–94. Weick, K.E., Sutcliffe, K.M. and Obstfeld, D. (2005). Organizing and the process of sensemaking. Organization Science, 16: 409–21. White, J.D. (2009). The hermeneutics of government contracting. Administrative Theory and Praxis, 31: 302–321. Yanow, D. (2004). Translating local knowledge at organizational peripheries. British Journal of Management, 15: 9–25.


8 Institutional theory Reflections on ontology Tim Edwards

Introduction The philosophical foundations of institutional theory continue to be obscured by the problem of meta-theory, the ontological ideas that necessarily underpin institutional theory. These concern statements about the way the social world is, of the relationship between human agents and social structures and the transformational nature of that relationship. These are significant issues because ontology informs how scholars approach the phenomena they want to study, shaping the research questions asked and the methodology adopted, which informs what can be said about it (AlAmoudi and O’Mahoney, Chapter 1, this volume). The origins of the issue reveal distinct points of connection and contention, of how institutional theory has been conceived across disciplines (Nielson, 2001; Mutch et al., 2006; DiMaggio, 2008), which for organizational studies scholars becomes apparent when looking at the concept of ‘isomorphism’. The points of connection concern the necessary role of agency in explaining institutionalization; the points of contention relate to the ontological assumptions that might underpin the agency–structure relationship. The notion of isomorphism has been scrutinised by scholars interested in institutional logics (Friedland and Alford, 1991; Thornton et al., 2012) and related sub-themes around institutional work (DiMaggio, 1988; Zucker 1988b; Lawrence and Suddaby, 2006) and institutional complexity (Greenwood et al., 2011) because this work tended to focus on institutionalization as an outcome rather than as a process (DiMaggio, 2008). Early institutional reviews confirm the explanatory limitations of treating isomorphism as an outcome. For DiMaggio (1988) the puzzle was to begin to explain institutional entrepreneurship in highly institutionalized fields whereas for Zucker (1988b) the opposite issue was observed, which was to explain institutional stability in the context of social entropy. For both the challenge was to overcome the totalizing assumptions pervading previous institutional studies (DiMaggio and Powell, 1983), which meant giving explanatory attention to the way actors mobilized their interests to change or stabilise their social world. For Zucker this presented an opportunity to assess ‘self-interest introduced by noninstitutional processes’ (Zucker, 1988b: 44) that for DiMaggio in contrast meant considering institutionalization as ‘a product of the political efforts of actors to accomplish their ends’ (Zucker, 1988b: 13). By drawing attention to these different interactional dynamics both scholars, albeit with a different emphasis, created an important point of departure for institutional scholars, which was to encourage them to re-consider and explain institutionalization processes. 125

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To this end, many scholars found utility in the work of Anthony Giddens (1984) who, building on Berger and Luckman’s (1967) idea of the ‘mutual constitution of individuals and society’, developed the notion of structuring based on the reciprocal causality of the duality of structure (Jones, Chapter 16, this volume). The adoption of Giddens’ ideas seemed appropriate because previous institutional scholarship that had drawn inspiration from social interactionism (Blumer, 1962) clearly resonated: ‘the notion of structuring was long latent in interactionist scholarship [while] structural duality was also implicit in how interactionists understood the core concepts around which they organized their research’ (DiMaggio, 2008: 499, italics in original). ‘Exposing’ these conceptual links precipitated growth in structurational accounts of institutionalization (Barley, 1986; Barley and Tolbert, 1997; Lounsbury and Kaghan, 2001; Battilana, 2006; Lawrence and Suddaby, 2006; DiMaggio, 2008) and it initiated a shift in the field prompting some scholars to reject an ‘empirical agenda’ that ignored how institutions were created, altered and reproduced to one that included new discussions of how to frame the reciprocal relationship between institutions and action (Barley and Tolbert, 1997). While this period of reflection enabled some scholars to move beyond concerns over ‘isomorphism’ it is notable this process has only until recently included critical debate over the ontological merits of Giddens’ model of structuration and his interpretation of the mutual constitution of individuals and society, despite considerable – critical – deliberation elsewhere in sociology (Layder, 1987; Thompson, 1989; Cohen 1990; Archer, 1995; Stones, 2005). In many respects, interest in the ontological foundations of institutionalism has only just started to be taken seriously in the institutional field because it is only now that some scholars have begun to draw attention to the consequences of ontology for institutional research (see Mutch et al., 2006). In the case of Giddens’ work a counterpoint position based on an alternative view of structuring has emerged that relies on critical realism (CR) as a meta-theory (Archer, 1995, 2003). This work is distinct in so far as, rather than treating institutions as the medium and outcome of action based on the duality of structure, critical realists, such as Margaret Archer (1995, 2003), propose to hold social structures and agency separate, based on analytical dualism. These conceptual ideas have been taken up by a small number of critical management theorists involved in institutional research who have proposed the merits of treating structure and agency as distinct categories of analysis albeit related through practice to advance explanations that prioritize the historical foundations of institutional arrangements, while at the same time pushing for a more developed appraisal of the ‘agent’ involved in social interactions (Mutch, 2007; Leca and Naccache, 2006; Hesketh and Fleetwood, 2006; Delbridge and Edwards, 2013). In what follows, my aim is to attend to the differences attentiveness to philosophy, or some element of it, might have for understanding (and advancing) institutional theory. The chapter proceeds with a brief review of those commentaries concerning the conceptual issues facing institutional scholars interested in dealing with agency in institutional accounts. This is followed by a discussion of the way Giddens’ ideas have informed recent institutional work, which is then followed by a CR counterpoint position and the consequences this has for the future development of the field. Such reflections provide an opportunity to consider the role and significance of different ontologies for social science research, such as institutionalism.

Tracing the debate over agency and structure in institutional theory Indication of the core conceptual issues pertaining to the development of institutional theory can be gleaned from the introductory remarks made by Lynne Zucker in an edited book written following an American Sociological Society conference on the ‘Problems of the Discipline’ 126

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(Zucker, 1988a). It is perhaps telling when outlining the book that Zucker issues a cautionary note about the two conceptual chapters (written by her and Paul DiMaggio) on institutional work, because as she comments, they are ‘so different that it may be difficult to see how both can be labelled institutional’ (Zucker, 1988a: xiv). Her opening remarks indicate the lack of a coherent underpinning in institutional theory, because as she noted, DiMaggio showed that much of the institutional literature assumed social systems were tightly structured while for her these same systems were more likely to suffer from social entropy. This situation seemed to confirm the limits of agreement in explaining stasis and change, which confirmed the newness of the discipline (DiMaggio, 1988) but also the lack of understanding of ontology or even of its significance among exponents of institutionalism. According to DiMaggio the strength of institutional theory had been its focus on those parts of ‘organizational life that are so exteriorized and intersubjective that no actor is likely to question them’ (DiMaggio, 1988: 6). DiMaggio draws attention to the early work of Selznick (1949) on norms and more latterly to the literature around taken-for-granted assumptions to explain why variation in actor interests was not deemed significant in explaining outcomes. For the most part, it was thought: ‘as long as action is guided by norms or constitutive expectations, variation in actor interest will not play a role in its outcome’ (DiMaggio, 1988: 5). Expectations of high institutionalization confirmed institutions constituted ‘multifaceted, durable social structures, made up of symbolic elements, social activities and material resources’ that ensured stability and shared meaning (Scott, 2001: 49), and it was because actors preferred ‘certainty and predictability in organizational life’ that institutional change was unlikely (DiMaggio 1988: 8). While this provided a strong rebuttal to rational-actor models of agency it was also apparent that this topdown version of social order presented a narrow view of that social world. It illustrated one mode of the agency–structure relationship rather than a statement about the range of possible sets of relationship that might emerge in different social settings. As DiMaggio went on to argue these foundational elements could not be allowed to set limits on what might be possible within an institutional framework. The issue concerned the introduction of agency within institutional theory, which meant establishing ‘the ways in which institutional and interest-based approaches to organizational change are consistent with and capable of enriching one another’ (DiMaggio, 1988: 12). How agency and interest might be introduced and therefore jointly conceived was expressed as follows: Institutionalization is a product of the political efforts of actors to accomplish their ends and that the success of an institutionalization project and the form that the resulting institution takes depend on the relative power of the actors who support, oppose, or otherwise strive to influence it . . . Institutionalization as an outcome places organizational structures and practices beyond the reach of interests and politics. By contrast, institutionalization as a process is profoundly political and reflects the relative power or organized interests and the actors who mobilize around them. (DiMaggio 1988: 13, italics in original) This is significant because DiMaggio suggests that institutions existed beyond simple manipulation (outcome) while change was an inherently agentic-political endeavour (process). His solution to this interactional paradox was to treat institutional work as ‘situated’ in so far as institutions tended to persist when the material or ideal interests of actors aligned with existing arrangements and when these did not align due to emergent political interests then the potential for deinstitutionalization was likely. The implication was that the agency–structure relationship shifted in respect of ‘situated’ sets of institution-related processes when actors mobilized organized 127

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interests. To explain change DiMaggio suggests that actors could ‘push against’ institutions because the internal dynamics of institutional processes presented space for actors to bargain and negotiate, at which point new and alternative institutional forms could be envisioned. Zucker (1988b) maps out a different version of social order, one that emphasizes social entropy. This contrasts with DiMaggio’s framing in so far as his discussion draws attention to the challenge of changing institutions and hence asks institutional scholars to explain the scope for institutional entrepreneurship despite pressures towards stasis (Holm, 1995; Seo and Creed, 2002; Delbridge and Edwards, 2008; Battilana et al., 2009). Zucker, on the other hand, draws attention to social entropy, which means institutions tend to decay and therefore have to be ‘actively’ maintained (Zucker, 1988a: xv). The issue was to examine the relationship between what Zucker (1988b) described as institutional and non-institutional processes as well as multilevel discrepancies between micro and macro level processes. As Zucker described: ‘entropy in a social system is increased not only by the natural decay of institutional elements and by self-interest introduced by noninstitutional processes, it is also increased by inconsistencies or even conflict between social order at the macro- and micro-levels’ (Zucker, 1988b: 44). Here Zucker drew attention to distinctions between the micro and macro order, which are variations between different levels of analysis, between the actions of individuals at a local, organizational level and the broader institutions that spanned much wider tracts of time and space. Attention focused on times when the micro and macro lost ‘synchronicity’ when endogenous processes of decay might occur. What is interesting about Zucker’s work is that she treated levels of analysis as distinct categories of social reality albeit interconnected by social practice (Friedland and Alford, 1991). DiMaggio also argued that while institutions may be enduring institutional processes connected these structures with the actors involved. In each, the problem of the agency–structure relationship focused around a common dilemma, albeit articulated differently, of how to link institutions and actors without reverting to determinism or allowing rational-action models in through the rear door. While both wanted to conceptualize the links between actors and the social order shaping action, neither developed an articulated social ontology. Instead, the issue of stasis and change in institutional analysis remained unresolved albeit with this loosely framed by the idea that institutions endure and decay and that in some way these processes inculcate actors who are not social dopes because institutions do not have totalizing effects on action.

The first tentative moves toward a social ontology of institutional theory Moves towards specifying a social ontology of institutional theory explicitly emerged in the work of Barley and Tolbert (1997). This seminal paper mapped out those unarticulated ontological ideas often implied in many institutional studies and reviews (Zucker, 1988a) that were now aligned with the work of Anthony Giddens (1984), as was specified in his theory of society (also see DiMaggio, 2008). Barley and Tolbert’s (1997) structurational model of institutions was firmly based on a ‘praxis’ reading of institutionalization because it was claimed that earlier institutional work was consistent with the causal idea of the ‘duality of structure’ (i.e. structuring), even though much of this work focused on the outcomes of institutional processes. In particular, they argued that DiMaggio and Powell’s (1983) concept of field explicitly demonstrated that ‘institutions exhibit an inherent duality: they both arise from and constrain social action’ (Barley and Tolbert, 1997: 96). And, consistent with this they argued that fields could only be understood in terms of the interactions ensuring their existence. For DiMaggio and Powell (1983: 148) fields only existed to the extent they were institutionally 128

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defined and institutional definition relied on interactions among actors and broader structures; such interactions required actors to be knowledgeable (not social dopes) as they had to be aware of a shared enterprise; and structures constrained action due to inter-organizational structures of domination (DiMaggio and Powell, 1983: 148). This interpretation presented an opportunity to specify interactions as the mechanism through which agency and structure connected, and in doing so, it seemed possible to resolve the ‘problem’ of earlier institutional scholarship that had treated institutions as exogenous to organizational action (e.g. Meyer and Scott, 1983; Scott and Meyer, 1987; Sutton et al., 1994; Scott and Meyer, 1994). Overcoming this issue was seen as necessary because it rectified the problem of reification when institutions were depicted ‘as somehow distinct from those who comply and, more importantly, from the act of compliance itself’ (Barley and Tolbert, 1997: 96). Here Barley and Tolbert (1997) specified a social reality whereby institutions no longer existed separately from practice and by implication individuals could not be specified outside of a social context. Put in the context of the earlier work of DiMaggio (1988) and Zucker (1988b), the solution for accounting for institutions as outcomes and processes was to focus on the social practices that could be used to frame the connections between the institutional realm and realm of action (Barley and Tolbert, 1997). Building on Giddens’ model but elaborating in ways that revealed earlier adaptations (see Barley, 1986) they define institutions as the ‘shared rules and typifications that identify categories of social actors and their appropriate activities or relationships’ (Barley and Tolbert, 1997: 96, italics in original), which in keeping with Giddens meant institutions were to social action as grammars are to speech: Speech allows for an infinite variety of expressions, yet to be comprehensible, every expression must conform to an underlying set of tacitly understood rules that specify relations between classes of lexemes. Similarly, social actions may vary in their particulars, but to be interpretable their contours must conform to taken-for-granted assumptions about the activities and interactions appropriate for different classes of actors. (Barley and Tolbert, 1997: 96–7) This meant institutions were enacted through scripts (Barley, 1986) – the ‘observable, recurrent activities and patterns of interaction characteristic of a particular setting’ (Barley and Tolbert, 1997: 99) that encoded the logic of a specific setting which appeared as local variations of broader institutional principles. In this sense, institutions only became manifest when actors used them as stocks of practical knowledge to engage in social behaviour. These features of the ontology of praxis indicated actors were capable of skilful action rather than reflecting taken-for-granted norms in the manner of simple cultural dopes (Fligstein, 1997); institutions were constituted in practice, they did not exist ‘out there’ (Bourdieu, 1977, 1993; de Certeau, 1984; Lave and Wenger, 1991; Giddens, 1995) and all action was in some way set around pre-existing institutionalized rules. While contexts revealed the imprint of institutions it was because actors were skilful they could modify them albeit depending on the unfolding context that may or may not lead to institutional change (Barley and Tolbert, 1997). These ideas offered a way to resolve the issues raised by Zucker (1988b) because they accommodated ‘micro and macro processes’ that may or may not be synchronized and because the ‘political negotiations’ (DiMaggio, 1988) that implicated actors in the enactment of scripts could now be explained with reference to the skilful, knowledgeable actor. 129

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Tensions in the ontology of practice In developing their model it is noteworthy that Tolbert and Zucker (1997) were quite aware of the criticisms made by some scholars unwilling to treat structure and agency as a duality or inseparable (Layder, 1987; Thompson, 1989; Cohen 1990; Archer, 1995). Treating agency and structure as complementary features (Thompson, 1989: 58) was viewed as a key problem in Giddens’ model because, as Archer (1995: 93–4) had contended, an examination of the performance of social action resulted in conflationism: ‘By enjoining the examination of a single process in the present tense, issues surrounding the relative independence, causal influence and temporal precedence of the components have been eliminated at a stroke.’ Although this was believed to settle reification the approach left little room, it was argued, to explore ‘prior structured distributions of vested interests’ (Archer, 1995: 99). This was also recognized by Barley and Tolbert (1997: 99) who stated: ‘Unless an institution exists prior to action, it is difficult to understand how it can affect behaviour and how one can examine its implications for action or speak of action’s subsequent effects on the institution.’ However, rather than deal with this ontological issue head-on they made the following – partial – concession: Although the critics of structuration theory have aimed their critique at problems they believe to be inherent to the theory’s logic and, for this reason, have sometimes argued for re-establishing the separation between structure and action that Giddens sought to transcend (Archer 1989: 103–4), we submit that the worth of the critique actually lies in the epistemological rather than the ontological issues that it raises. (Barley and Tolbert, 1997: 99) While Barley and Tolbert (1997) wanted to separate actions and structures to be able to talk about the historicity of institutions they effectively stopped short of treating these features as distinct because they relied on scripts to frame the connection between agency and structure. The upshot was a ‘side-step’ to the ontological question of the status of actors and institutions because the instantiation argument confined explanation to the enactment of scripts that did not ‘allow’ structure to exist as prior to action, or agency as potentially separate to total ‘social specification’. A criticism of the framing of structuring from a Giddens’ perspective was that while this acknowledged actors were knowledgeable it did not really consider the sets of agentic processes that explained how actors made judgements about how they navigated situations, acting creatively (or perhaps not) (Archer, 1995). The focus on scripts was criticized because it was thought to flatten social reality despite an acknowledgement of the prior status of social structures and the importance of actors in explaining institutional stasis and change. These criticisms are reflected in the work of a small number of critical management scholars who have begun to debate the problem of conflationism within the institutional field (Mutch et al., 2006; Leca and Naccache, 2006; Hesketh and Fleetwood, 2006; Mutch, 2007). These conversations reveal how questions over the nature of social reality are beginning to inform how institutional complexity and change is researched as examples of conditioned action (Delbridge and Edwards, 2013).

Points of contention: ontology in institutional theory As noted, issues around ontology have percolated debates in institutional theory since the work of Barley and Tolbert (1997). To this end, an emergent body of work derived from CR has 130

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for some represented a significant move to adding ‘a firmer grounding’ to current theorizing (Palmer et al., 2008). This ontology is based on the analytical dualism of CR, which in recognizing the pre-existence of social structures provides the conceptual framework for empirical investigation into how such structures, such as institutions ‘impact’ agents. This is based on the basic idea that to explore how actors, with differing perceptions and depth of knowledge of their contexts, engage in institutional processes, it is necessary to commit to an empirical strategy that specifies such processes according to structure, social interplay and outcome. This is consistent with a diachronic model of social reality but differs in important ways to that specified by Barley and Tolbert (1997) because specific attention is given to explaining how institutions pre-date action and in treating actors as distinct categories of analysis. The key distinction is that while such a view recognizes the importance of practice in terms of process the analysis is not restricted to those social interactions. This is because the analysis explores the structural condition of action and then looks at how actors engage in practice given the relationality between social structures and the reflexive capacities of actors (Archer, 2003). The key difference is that attention is given to the context of interaction (before that interaction) and to the reflexive abilities of actors as a feature of their institutional biography (Suddaby et al., 2012) as well as their social positioning (Archer, 2003).

CR and analytical dualism The challenge facing scholars interested in proposing a CR ontology for institutional analysis is captured by Hesketh and Fleetwood (2006: 683, italics in original) when they state: Establishing the connection between critical realism and institutional theory is difficult not only because there are many versions of institutionalism, but also because critical realism, as a philosophy of science, inhabits a meta-theoretical domain, whereas institutionalism inhabits a theoretical domain: the role of meta-theory is to interrogate the pre-suppositions of any theory. In this respect, Nielsen (2001) offers a useful review of different institutional theories or approaches, which allows him to confirm that in most cases other than institutionalism in political science (because of its commitment to positivism) such approaches are compatible with CR in respect of the following points. First: Human agency is seen as purposeful, or intended rational, endowed with some freedom to deliberate or choose in accordance with individual psychology rather than, on the one hand, as irrational, automatic rule-followers or totally encapsulated in an externally defined role or, on the other hand, rational in the sense of isolated maximizing ‘economic man’; second: ‘they emphasize the constitutive importance of the cultural and cognitive framework’; third: ‘they recognize the central and pervasive role of power and conflict’; and finally, ‘they focus on the role of institutions such as habits, routines, and norms in the coordination of behaviour’ (Nielsen, 2001: 512). As might be noted these same conditions are commensurate with Giddens’ structurational model; the difference for scholars of CR is in the way these features are conceived in terms of their specificity and relationality and therefore how they inform research practice. CR is a meta-theory rooted in ontology that asserts: ‘The social world consists of human agents and social structures by which we mean institutions, mechanisms, resources, rules, 131

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conventions, habits, procedures and so on’ (Hesketh and Fleetwood, 2006: 685). To explain the transformational nature of the social world critical realists recognize that social systems can be either open or closed, which resonates with the commentaries of DiMaggio (1988) and Zucker (1988b). In the case of closed systems it is assumed that relationships and activities are highly regular, much in the same way as described by DiMaggio when referring to isomorphism. However, critical realists also acknowledge, as with Zucker (1988b) that the more common situation is when social systems are open and therefore lack event regularity (Hesketh and Fleetwood, 2006). In the case of open systems critical realists follow a different ‘script’ to those advocating structuration theory. This is described by Thompson (1989: 74): To explore the space between the differential distribution of options, on the one hand, and the wants and needs of different kinds and different categories of individuals, on the other, is to examine the degrees of freedom and constraint which are entailed by social structure. Such an analysis would show that, while structure and agency are not antinomies, nevertheless they are not as complementary and mutually supporting as Giddens would like us to believe. How this is achieved relies on a different notion of social reproduction as compared with Giddens’ interpretation of ‘structuring’. For critical realists, rather than rely on the causality of the duality of structure the focus is ‘analytical dualism’, which is a ‘method for examining the interplay between these strata; it is analytical precisely because the two are inter-dependent but it is dualistic because each stratum is held to have its own emergent properties’ (Archer, 1995: 133–4). CR is based on the main assumption ‘that structure necessarily predates the action(s) which transform it’. What this means is that institutions are ‘neither the creation of contemporary actors nor are ontologically reducible to ‘material existents’ (raw resources) and [not] dependent upon current acts of human instantiation (rule governed) for all their current effects’ (Archer, 1995: 138). This is different to Giddens’ assertion, because ‘social systems only exist through their continuous structuration in the course of time’ (Giddens, 1979: 217). In CR, institutions are the ‘generative mechanisms’ that give rise to social outcomes as empirical tendencies. The relationship between institutions and action is explained using a stratified ontology. Institutions condition action in specific ways because the meta-theory of CR specifies three ontological domains: the real, the actual and the empirical. Institutions constitute the real domain, which for critical realists cause social interactions (the domain of the actual) that are the subject of empirical observations (the domain of the empirical). The link between institutions and action is not straightforward because different societal orders may only function within a particular range of constraints, which as Archer (1995: 149) has noted means: ‘the emergent properties of structures and the actual experiences of agents are not synchronized’. Analytical dualism asserts there are discontinuities in the institutionalization process that indicate ‘before’, ‘during’ and ‘after’ moments. This reformulation of ‘structuring’ as discontinuous means that institutions have ‘emergent properties which are irreducible to the doings of contemporary actors, yet derive from the historical actions which generated them, thus creating the context for current action’ (Archer, 1995: 139). This is the same for actors as they too are treated as in some part autonomous from the process of institutionalization. In this respect, the most recent work by Archer (2003) has added further ‘meat’ to the CR meta-theory with greater attention being given to the concept of agency. These developments have also helped institutional scholars address the way in which Giddens frames actor knowledgeability because Archer (2003) draws attention to the ‘reflexive capacity’ of actors and their ability to see opportunities where others in the same position only see barriers. 132

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Archer’s work has been embraced by some scholars because she offers an insight into the properties and powers that are possessed by individuals as opposed to those pertaining to social forms. In particular, she draws attention to the range for reflexive deliberation available to actors, which is viewed as important because ‘agents have to diagnose their situations, they have to identify their own interests and they must design projects they deem appropriate to attaining their ends’ (Archer, 2003: 9). This for some might appear to imply a reified representation of individuals but instead is a major feature of the CR project because it is assumed that no social structure ‘is constraining or causal tout court’ (Hesketh and Fleetwood, 2006: 692). By holding agency and structure apart and treating each as having distinct emergent properties CR sets out to explain those distinct components that come together in social interaction but in ways that treat them as analytically separate. For Archer (2003), individuals embark on ‘agential enterprise’, which for that person is a personal project. Such projects are important because when actors deliberate over them they engage in a personal process that identifies the causal mechanisms – institutions and social structures – that connects to their agency (Hesketh and Fleetwood, 2006: 692). While institutions may have the power to facilitate or restrain action the significance of this power is contingent on those actors who conceive their projects. This means that institutions do not determine action rather such social structures shape action in-relation to the agentic properties of those engaged in action.

Ontology shaping research: a case example An example of this CR inspired approach in the institutional literature is elaborated by Delbridge and Edwards, (2013) when they report on their research into the super-yacht field. Here, they explain the historical development of the industry to explain variability in agency within different project arrangements. We see how their CR inspired treatment of agency and structure aids explanation by first giving attention to the ‘structural conditions’ that pre-date action: The importance of treating agency as discrete for analytical purposes in relation to organizational and plural institutional settings became apparent when we looked at the emergence of two different types of project – custom and in-house. Up until the early 1970s, yachts for the wealthy were designed, decorated and built in-house by a small number of European and American shipyards. It was only after the intervention of Jon Bannenberg that custom-built vessels emerged as a legitimate industry offering. Custom projects involve the shipyard with an independent designer in building a one-off yacht for a client, while in-house projects are conducted by the shipyard and their own design team, often building to an established formula. Each project type involves different levels of regulation associated with contractual arrangements and how actors engage in negotiations. For example, projects which rely on in-house shipyard designers for the creative input provide an environment where concerns over economic cost and efficiency . . . are prevalent in shaping design. . . . However, in custom projects involving independent designers, rather than builds being shaped by risk and cost assessments set by the shipyard, there are usually moves to push the boundaries of the design and budget envelope. Under these conditions, which are characterized by a network arrangement (the independent designer is contracted to the client, not the shipyard), designers exercise their professional interests thereby involving the shipyards, their engineers and the client in potentially complex negotiations informed by varying expectations on aesthetics, functionality and cost. (Delbridge and Edwards, 2013: 931) 133

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This historical analysis of two project arrangements – custom and in-house – confirm the tensions between different actors engaged in the same design and build process. The brief overview draws our particular attention to the configuration of organizational structures that shape subsequent social practices and it is because these pre-date action it is possible to show how different arrangements reveal different structures of domination relating to professional and market rules. This formulation necessarily maps out the historicity and contentions that are often implicit in institutional processes (DiMaggio, 1988). However, these structures do not determine action because as Delbridge and Edwards (2013) go on to demonstrate some shipyard owners and willing designers created a new third project arrangement that meant the shipyard commissioned designers prior to finding a client for the vessel ensuring the risks associated with innovative design (custom builds) was largely negated: In recent years, several independent designers working with a well-established shipyard have introduced a new way of commissioning, which is to develop limited series of boats that have been ordered by the shipyard rather than a private client. The new project indicates the potential for actors working in particular actor positions to reflect further on their social worlds and to find alternate project arrangements to organize the design-and-build process. On this occasion, a well-resourced shipyard challenged the status quo in terms of the role of independent designers but did so with the co-operation of established and highly reputed designers who had a long-term relationship with the shipyard (based on custom builds). This was an opportunity for the shipyard management to shift the relations by co-opting the independent designers to work for them as the ‘client’. Interestingly, this worked both ways; while the new relations enabled managers to take control of the commissioning process, much in the same way as in-house projects have for other shipyards, it suited the independent designers as this guaranteed economic rents. Such changes show how established institutional arrangements are not static and that the motivation for change can be driven by the reflexive deliberations of actors deeply embedded within the field. (Delbridge and Edwards, 2013: 931, italics added) The reflexive deliberation of actors is a separate but necessary category in explaining the scope for agency. The process of developing limited series boats could not be adequately explained by the interactions of the designer and shipyard without first allowing conceptual space to explain the origins of these arrangements nor would it be sufficient without due care being given to the reflexive performance of the designer and shipyard managers. The reason why these actors decided on this course of action is explained around the ‘interplay between the subjective world of agents and the objective and independent world of social structures and institutions’ (Hesketh and Fleetwood, 2006: 693). This formulation confirms the actions of agents are framed by increasing levels of complexity specified by the project arrangements and competing institutionalized rules around design and economics but at the same time the focus on interactions allow access to the agentic moves of different actors despite this complexity.

Some implications of this alternative ontology for institutional studies Analytical dualism provides an alternative to the causality of the duality of structure and as such provides an alternative to explaining how institutions and agency as distinct yet interconnected levels of social reality connect (Archer, 1995, 2003). While scholars of CR see considerable potential in this meta-theory others continue to see problems with ‘reductionism’ and ‘reification’ in the ontology (DiMaggio, 2008). However, there is growing evidence that scholars are also 134

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seeing problems in the focus on social practice. This is recognized by Hallett and Ventresca (2006: 229) who concede that the focus on interactions runs the risk of obscuring wider structures in the assessment of local interactions. This is echoed by Reed (2012: 206) who warns that our understanding of power elites, for example, must ‘be focused on the relations and interactions between corporate agents who have the “structural place” and “organizational power” (Archer, 2003) to shape the governing structures and regimes through which the everyday lives of citizens are ordered and managed’. This does not mean that the focus of analysis is simply those interactions but must reveal ‘the complex interplay between established structures of domination, the elite ruling strategies and relations that emerge from creative engagement with the latter, and the modes of resistance which they, in turn, engender on the part of corporate agents formally excluded from the process and practice of elite rule’ (italics in original). The existence of enduring structures of domination confirm, it is argued, the ‘structural’ elements that exist prior to and independent of practice albeit their continued existence (or transformation), which relies on their causal power, will necessarily be mediated through human agency. In presenting CR as providing a distinct ontology for institutionalism, which has been based on a criticism of Giddens’ particular account of structuring, it should be recognized that the ‘third way’ that has been associated with CR in management studies (Reed, 2005) has not been without criticism by other critical management scholars (Contu and Willmott, 2005) who are not convinced by the ontological benefits just outlined. For these commentators critical realists (and by implication advocates of CR for framing institutional theory) need to explain with greater clarity the pre-existence and ‘independence’ of the generative mechanisms that are thought to generate and shape events. The problem is that in proposing that generative mechanisms constitute the ontological domain of the real this demands that we accept the real a priori – it is a truism and so confounds adequate explanation (Contu and Willmott, 2005: 1649). Despite these problems the same protagonists recognize that CR does begin to throw light on questions such as ‘why is the world the way it is?’ and as such frame concerns over points of domination. In the case of the work of Delbridge and Edwards (2013) such questions allow us to unpack enduring power relations and struggles among different professional groups and how specific shipyard managers and independent designers have leveraged influence to overcome economic barriers and meaning systems to create a new type of super-yacht offering. While there is no doubt for some the problem of meta-theory in CR is the assumption of the domain of the real, it is also apparent that despite this the move to ask questions about the way institutionalization is by keeping agency and structure apart does offer opportunities to develop institutional theory in new directions.

Conclusions This chapter has set-out to broadly map the ontological foundations of institutional theory following work on isomorphism (DiMaggio and Powell, 1983). This is significant because ‘ontology matters’: opinions about the way the social world is inform how we make sense of key relationships and the role of power in institutional processes. As I hope to have shown in this brief and stylized discussion, these questions have remained largely obscured because there has been a reluctance to confront them. Once placed under the spotlight it is apparent that while there is unwillingness to countenance the possibility of reductionist approaches there is also a realisation that institutions are historical and therefore seemingly exist ‘out there’ at least as ‘prior’ features of the social world. This tension continues when understood from a praxis perspective because for some scholars – advocating a CR meta-theory – the idea of the duality of structure restricts our understanding of the various ways actors and structures link and operate. 135

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The debate that is now gradually emerging concerns how we deal with the agency–structure relationship, which is a marked advance from where institutional scholars were at the end of the 1980s. What remains to be seen is how studies from these distinct ‘structuring’ schools of social reality – such as those inspired by Giddens and Archer – inform institutional scholarship into the future and what distinct contributions each make because of the differing ontological foundations (and problems associated with them) of that work.

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9 Marxism A philosophical analysis of class conflict Richard Marens and Raza Mir

The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it. (Karl Marx, 1888[1976]: 423)

The most technical arguments of Capital are also those in which the categories of logic and ontology, the representations of the individual and the social bond, were wrested from their traditional definitions and re-thought in terms of the necessities of historical analysis. (Etienne Balibar, 2014: 5)

With the possible exceptions of Max Weber and Sigmund Freud, no thinker has exercised more influence over the evolution of academic scholarship in the social sciences than Karl Marx. This becomes especially true if one counts as ‘influenced’ the veritable library of published work written in response to or even in outright opposition to Marxist theory. Moreover, the impact of Marx’s ideas has gone past social science to encompass the humanities, leading one neoconservative historian to complain that ‘we are all Marxists now’ (Himmelfarb, 1989: 34). Given this extraordinary degree of influence, coupled with the preoccupation of Marx and so many of his intellectual descendants with the dynamic of capitalism, one might be puzzled as to why those who study organizations, especially business organizations, do not routinely tap this rich tradition more than they do. Marxism has of course, been deployed in multiple ways in organizational settings. Political economists studying the ‘varieties of capitalism’ idea (Hall and Soskice, 2001) or economic geographers analysing ‘post-Fordism’ (Graham, 1992) have routinely brought Marxist ideas into an organizational frame of analysis. Radical economists deploy Marxist ideas to analyse broader phenomena such as the economic crisis of the early twenty-first century within the organizational realm (Wolff, 2008). Marx himself delved into the bowels of the organization while studying the internal differences within the capitalist class in Capital (III) (Marx, 1894[1971]). However, it is doubtless safe to say that the mainstreams of organizational theory have been characterized by a conspicuous neglect of Marxist analytics. 138


In writing this chapter, we hope to contribute to rectifying this neglect, by demonstrating the relevance of a central construct of Marxism (perhaps the central construct), the ubiquity of class conflict, to the study of organizations. In doing so, we also try to highlight the philosophical traditions of Marxism, for despite Marx’s apparent hostility to philosophy as evidenced in the quotation that introduces this chapter, it is clear that Marx’s writings focus on unpacking the unexamined assumptions that underlie mainstream ideas. Theorists have studied Marx’s analyses of the pernicious role of ideology in naturalizing unjust socio-economic systems (Horkheimer and Adorno, 2002), the role of reification (‘commodity fetishism’) in enhancing the exploitative regimes of capitalism (Godelier, 1977), the contrary ontologies imbedded in the dialectical process (Merleau-Ponty, 1973), and the need to have a theory of time and progress in order to analyse the trans-epochal nature of class relations (Anderson, 1992) among several other themes.1 The philosophical introspection of such work underscores the easy relationship between Marxism and philosophy. A philosophical approach is imbedded within Marxism: scholars who work within the Marxist tradition, including those who take issue with one or more political or analytical assertions of its founder, start from the premise that no social structure or social pattern of behaviour can be entirely understood without some consideration of the latent or open conflict between classes over the surplus a society produces. The definition of surplus is itself a philosophical concept, for it can be defined in multiple ways. Fundamentally, surplus is defined as whatever a society produces that exceeds the minimum levels of material goods necessary, not only for physical survival, but also for participation within that society. This need not be in the form of money or even consumables. Surpluses can also accumulate in the form of prestige goods, obligations to perform personal services, agricultural produce, or anything else that possesses value within a particular society, although within a capitalist economy, this surplus is likely to either originate in or be converted to monetary form. The institutionalized and regularized seizing of any such surplus from those who create it is what Marxists label exploitation. In this chapter, we focus primarily on class conflict. This does not presume that the dynamics or outcomes of such conflict explains all social phenomena or is even always the primary explanans. There are explanatory limitations to Marxism, as there are with any social science theory, and one can find such limitations even within the brief definition we have provided. Studying class conflict and accepting its important role as a driver of social change will not by itself explain, let alone predict, what endows one particular good with more ‘prestige’ or ‘value’ than another within a given society, or entirely account for how even such a seemingly objective and measurable entity as ‘profit’ will be socially constructed at any particular time and place (e.g. Hopper et al., 1987; Partnoy, 2003). Nonetheless, identifying and analysing class conflict can explain a great deal, and is especially applicable to the study of business organizations, in which present and future access to revenues is inevitability entwined with the interests and behaviour of workers, investors and those, especially top management, whose functions overlap both categories. If the reality of exploitation does not determine the precise nature of the sensemaking and the resulting behaviour of organizational actors who are exploited (McCabe, 2011), at the very least, the fundamental need of most of us to accept a degree of exploitation in our work life sets the limits and possibilities for other social interactions. This not only holds for direct responses to exploitation such as internalization or resistance, but also those horizontal relationships between workers that may be compensatory or even solidaristic, but just as easily unpleasant and even oppressive to one another (Collinson, 1988). This near ubiquity of class conflict and exploitation across organized societies holds three implications for the study of organizations, especially business organizations. According to Knights 139

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and Willmott (1990: 348), orthodox organizational analysis [erroneously] presumes the reality of organizations ‘can be grasped without recourse to either a theory of action through which this reality is produced or to a theory of society in which it is located’. Even a cursory examination of many of the most influential texts in organizational theory suggests that Knights and Willmott are justified to a great extent in condemning these exclusions. Organizational scholars of great repute and influence in organizational theory (e.g. DiMaggio and Powell, 1983; Hannan and Freeman, 1977; Jones, 1995; March, 1991; Nelson and Winter, 1982; Pfeffer and Salancik, 1978) demonstrate this philosophical blind spot, and more recent mainstream organization theory built upon these iconic articles has done little to remedy these two failings. Marxian class analysis, however, can assist organization scholars in understanding both action within organizations and interaction with the larger society. First, class conflict can explain a great deal regarding both the exercise of power and the rise of conflict within organizations, two crucial factors in understanding the rationale of a great deal of both organizational structure and managerial practices. Second and perhaps less obviously, tracing class conflict can provide an important tool in understanding the ways in which organizations interact with the larger society, an interaction in which causality runs both ways since organizations impacted by the broader class struggles endemic to a given society collectively influence the trajectory of these same struggles through their aggregated responses. Analysing the organizational dynamics of both the internal and external arenas of class conflict leads to a third contribution, a theory of organizational change, exactly what several organization scholars working within more mainstream paradigms have argued is necessary for moving their field forward (Clemens and Cook, 1999; Seo and Creed, 2002). In this chapter, we consider each of these three potential contributions to organization studies. The first section discusses how class conflict relates to organizational structure and change. The second section uses the concept of class interests to account for the emergence and partial disappearance of Marxism as an accepted tool for understanding organizations. This is followed by a third section, which examines how class conflict can be used to understand how organizations relate to the larger society in a relationship of mutual influence, in effect endogenizing these relationships. All these issues are described and analysed with attention toward the philosophical influences that underlie them. The chapter concludes with suggestions intended to assist the organization scholar interested in applying class conflict in his or her own work.

Class conflict within organizations The story of class conflict also provides an important philosophical dimension to Marxian analysis. Class is after all, a manifestation of dynamic and fluid relations of production, which defy and challenge our methodologies as well as our understandings of knowledge, reality and society. While a Weberian perspective frames class conflict relatively narrowly as the clash of economic interests within a market society (e.g. Davis, 1994), a Marxist approach views class conflict as endemic to any society sufficiently organized to generate stratification. From this perspective, most of the events we tend to regard as ‘history’ are at least partly explicable in terms of class conflict. For Marx, however, the key class conflict that was transforming the world in which he lived was between workers and capitalists. This conflict has remained central to any deep philosophical understanding of the trajectory of the contemporary world, even though the rise of the large corporation at the turn of the last century generated a plethora of intermediate or ‘contradictory’ managerial and professional class positions that were rare or even non-existent in Marx’s own time (Wright and Perrone, 1977). 140


However, even new relatively well-paid occupations can be analysed in terms of the exploitation they suffer and/or impose upon others. For example, a skilled programmer may be paid relatively well, but still considerably less than her contribution to generating profits for her employer, and might be pressed by the threat of outsourcing to work longer hours or take less money than if the outsourcing alternative was not available (Hira and Hira, 2005). Moreover, nothing in Marxist theory precludes individuals from holding multiple class positions. A junior executive, for example, can function as (a) an agent overseeing the exploitation of others, (b) an owner of company stock who benefits from squeezing workers to raise the stock price, and (c) a worker pressured to put in excessive hours and neglect his family for the sake of advancing his career. Periods of relative corporate egalitarianism, whether located in a reputedly good employer such as IBM up to the 1980s or, in a more diluted form, across large swathes of a society such as post-war America, are themselves unstable, since new entrants using either cheaper or more efficiently exploited labour eventually turn the higher road into an expensive luxury, especially as work becomes increasingly standardized. As a result, it is unlikely that management teams can reliably make voluntary commitments to permanently end the tendency to increase exploitation in favour of maintaining a trusting relationship (Holusha, 1993; Thompson, 2003). Nor does intensifying exploitation necessarily require the trigger of competitive pressure, as demonstrated by monopolistic Microsoft when it attempted to cut employee benefits despite possessing $56 billion in cash reserves in the early 2000s (Peterson, 2004), or by Xerox when it repudiated a cooperation program with its union (Holusha, 1993), or by Bank of America, once regarded as ‘the people’s bank’, when it not only began to outsource programmers but used severance packages to pressure workers into training their replacements (Lazarus, 2005). Workplace class conflict need not manifest itself in overtly planned or organized activities such as strikes or sabotage on the part of workers, or speedups or harsh and punitive discipline on the part of management. It can also be latent as individual managers and workers struggle over how much work and responsibility should be delivered over a given unit of pay (Burawoy, 1979). From the days of the earliest corporate consultants, commentators warned management that the passive aggression or even petty sabotages of individual workers could prove to be a bigger threat to profitability than the organized opposition of labour unions (Leiserson, 1929). Class conflict exists in the inherent gap between ‘labour power’ and actual labour. It is here that a philosophical distinction makes itself useful. ‘Labour power’ refers to the general obedience that the capitalist firm purchases from a worker for a fixed period of time, while ‘labour’ is the actual work performed by the same worker, and a major task of any management system is to extract as much productive labour as possible from the labour power it purchases. This is not to suggest that the average worker would necessarily prefer to simply collect a cheque and loaf rather than exert some effort at tasks that feel useful or creative. But being engaged by one’s work and wanting to perform it well – a desire Marx certainly acknowledged – is not the same as working as hard and diligently as possible for an entire work day, and certainly one central task of management is to threaten, cajole, manipulate or otherwise encourage workers to generate more output than they would choose to deliver on their own (Rowlinson and Hassard, 2001; Thompson and Smith, 2001). Obviously, class conflict is hardly the source of all conflict or displays of power in any workplace. Other theories can provide insights regarding these phenomena that do not rely on Marxian notions of class and exploitation. Mainstream organization theorists have invoked control over vital knowledge or resources, or the ability to choose strategies to follow or problems to solve, as sources of organizational power and wellsprings for conflict, many of them between actors on the same level of formal authority (Crozier, 1964; Gouldner, 1954; Pfeffer and Salacnik, 141

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1978). Critical scholars, for their part, have focused on various forms of domination or oppression that are not simply reducible to exploitation (Barker, 1993; Foucault, 1977; McCabe, 2011; Sewell and Wilkinson, 1992). A Marxist perspective on these dynamics of class relations sets constraints upon the operation of these other exercises of power, especially with regard to business organizations, which necessarily requires some degree of exploitation (Rowlinson and Hassard, 2001), without which there would likely be no profit-oriented organization in which various political battles and non-economic oppression would operate. Furthermore, workers tolerate domination as well as various forms of oppressions (that do not necessarily originate from managerial personnel) precisely because they regard allowing themselves to be exploited as a necessity within a capitalist society. As the Marxist historical sociologist, Joan Robinson noted, the only thing worse under capitalism than to be exploited, is not to be exploited!

Organizational class conflict Marx’s understanding of class conflict was shaped by three philosophical forces, namely German philosophy (including Hegel’s analysis of dialectics), French socialism (especially the work centred around the Paris Commune of 1871) and British political economy (notably the works of Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus and David Ricardo) (Balibar, 2014: 7). In particular, his transformation of Hegel’s philosophical idealism into a socially materialist science of society constitutes the fundamental building block of his class analysis (Bottomore et al., 1983: 368–74). An examination of the history of scholars attempting to apply this analysis to the understanding of organizational practices both demonstrates what Marxism brings to the subject and why, nonetheless, it has failed to gain traction as an essential tool of organization scholars, especially those working within US business schools. If class conflict is unavoidable under capitalism, at least in a latent form, it follows that both organizational structures and policies that survive for any length of time must both reflect and manage this reality, and theorists have used historical data and case studies to explain various organizational outcomes from this perspective. The work of Steve Marglin (1974), Harry Braverman (1974) and Katherine Stone (1974) represent the starting point of a continuous stream of Marx-influenced organizational scholarship. Marglin argued from historical examples that the factory itself was originally established to allow the owner/managers to keep better control of both material and workers than the putting-out system it replaced. According to Marglin, technologies of the first industrial revolution arose that would not have been cost effective under a regime of home production only because it was possible to take advantage of the large group of workers essentially imprisoned along with the requisite raw materials, thus reducing both slacking off and embezzlement. Even if Marglin overstated the role of exploitation in the emergence of factories as some of his critics have argued (Landes, 1986), he successfully demonstrated a methodology for applying class analysis for a better understanding of organizational innovation. Braverman (1974) looked further down the road to the class conflict at the heart of the second industrial revolution and the large oligarchical firms that arose from it. He viewed the development of corporate management as the product of a campaign to ‘deskill’ workers. The purpose of the then new corporate organizations was to find ways of organizing work and productive technology in which skills necessary for production were selected and controlled by management, thus stripping independently trained craft workers of their traditional bargaining power. Stone’s (1974) case study of the development of occupations within the steel industry paralleled and extended Braverman’s analysis, viewed this deskilling of craftsmen and the subsequent reskilling on the part of the corporation itself as providing the impetus for creating the dependent, if skilled, white collar ‘organization man’ while narrowing the potential scope 142


of revised unionism to bargaining over the distribution of profits resulting from managerialcontrolled production. Others followed these pioneers. Burawoy’s (1979) factory floor study both extended and limited Braverman’s thesis by pointing to ideology and carefully designed incentives that put skilled workers in competition with one another, thus leading them to contribute to their own exploitation. Edwards (1979) broadened the perspective on ways management could exploit workers by suggesting multiple methods beyond traditional authoritarianism or even deskilling to include bureaucratic rules, technologically driven demands on workers, and the provisioning of ‘welfare capitalist’ benefits programme to ameliorate conflict. Furthermore, these more modern forms of control also tightened oversight on foremen and other supervisors, limiting their scope for corruption, favouritism and petty tyranny, practices whose oppressive nature not only did not add to exploitation, they often triggered outright resistance on the part of workers. It was no accident that some American scholars began to systematically apply class conflict at this time to the rise and operation of the large corporations that so dominated the nation’s economy. Not only did the decade of the 1960s feature challenges to the established social order through a variety of snowballing social movements, the unprecedentedly broadly shared economic growth of the post-war generation, which did so much to stimulate these social movements, was beginning to peter out by the early years of the 1970s. Corporate leaders began experiencing pressures from productivity slowdowns, higher oil prices, inflation and new sources of competition after decades of relative corporate stability (Edwards, 1975), and started to organize opposition to what they perceived as the recalcitrance of organized labour and the meddling of Naderite reformists (Brenner, 2002). Scapegoating what they regarded as excessively and undeservedly high wages and job security achieved through previous class struggle, they increasingly joined forces with what was then a smaller but well-funded permanent opposition to the post-New-Deal status quo to reverse these trends (Clawson et al., 1998). Young scholars, faced with underlying class conflict far more in the open than it was for their academic predecessors, one of whom famously declared ‘the end of ideology’ (Bell, 1962), and seasoned by participation in confrontational civil rights and anti-war movements, applied Marxian analysis to a variety of social science topics in opposition to this reaction. As the seventies unfolded, O’Connor (1973) wrote on the related issue of governments’ (failing) role in ameliorating the very class conflicts that arose out of the development of corporate capitalism. Wright and Perrone (1977) theorized the class position of managers, an occupation, while not unknown in Marx’s time, that grew enormously in terms of both numbers and importance with the emergence of large corporations. During this same time period, Robert Brenner (1976), who had been both a labour activist (he contributed to the formation of what would become the Teamsters for a Democratic Union) and a historian of revolutionary merchants of the seventeenth century, formulated a new Marxist grand theory regarding the rise of capitalism that emphasized class conflict more than most previous efforts. This surge of Marxist scholarship among American academics declined with the closing of the decade, and largely petered out with regard to the study of organizations. One overall obstacle was a result of the very fiscal crisis of the state identified by O’Connor. As money for public higher education dried up, there were fewer job openings and opportunities for tenure in sociology, the primary home at the time for organizational studies, and Marxist-influenced scholars, always a minority, were disproportionately impacted by the decline in opportunity (Calhoun and van Antwerpen, 2007). Economics was hurt less than sociology or history by cutbacks, but it became increasingly intolerant of heterodox approaches that fell outside of a neoclassical school that celebrated the hypothesized social contributions of corporate management (e.g. Alchain and Demsetz, 1972; Williamson, 1975). Moreover, as a ruling class reaction gained 143

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steam, and as business schools began expanding their faculties along with the return to profitability of corporation, the locus of the study of organizations shifted from the disciplines to business schools. Salvaging the field in this way came with a price. As one CEO put in an article that appeared in the Harvard Business Review as organized reaction began to mobilize, ‘Corporate support of education: some strings attached’ (Malott, 1978). Increasingly, the American study of business organizations would be conducted by academics affiliated and increasingly trained by an institution dependent on the patronage of American corporate executives, a group whose increasing paranoia regarding criticism and advocacy of government intervention was reflected in the purge of even the once mildly Keynesian staff of the Committee on Economic Development (Clark, 1976). Would-be organization theorists responded appropriately. Not only did Marxism disappear from the field, other more mainstream and less critical approaches that focused on power and organizational politics became increasingly disfavoured. Even theories or studies of power in organizations that were more mainstream than Marxism were now regarded as old-fashioned or excessively cynical. A managerial strata that was increasingly finding common (class) cause with the investors seeking to extract as much surplus as possible (Useem, 1996), was not going to appreciate scholars and teachers employed by ‘their’ schools raising the unpleasant realities of the power they exercised in prompting this cause, and successful academics were, insightful or not, always among those whose work just did not happen to offend. The influential ‘new’ institutionalism (DiMaggio and Powell, 1983) for example, focused on why organizations were so structurally similar, earning the disapproval of ‘old’ institutionalists, who had routinely dealt with organizational politics and conflict (Hirsch, 1997; Stinchcombe, 1997). Organizational learning theorists avoided serious discussion of how learning or innovating was shaped by class interests or influenced by the outcomes of class conflict (March, 1991; Nelson and Winter, 1982), and population ecology dispensed with human behaviour and organizational change altogether within either the organization itself or its metaphorical ‘environment’, although ironically, these theorists explain away organizational change by borrowing the core/periphery dichotomy from Marxian dependency theory in order to dismiss any observable change in an organization to a trivialized ‘periphery’ (Frank, 1967). The business school field of ‘business and society’, with roots in Keynesian economics and industrial relations, was supplanted by a banal ‘business ethics’ drawn from philosophy ill-informed as regarding actual business behaviour (Marens, 2010). Ironically, those economists who turned to the issue of explaining the existence of firms in a market economy possessed sufficient pro-capitalist legitimacy that they could discuss what Marxists would label ‘exploitation’, albeit framed with a great deal more appreciation of the exploiters. Alchian and Demsetz (1972) argued that people who depended on teams required managers to order them about, while Williamson (1975) suggested that business hierarchies exist to prevent the opportunism of workers, many of who might be in a position to hold up a firm due to its dependence on their specific skills or responsibilities. Similarly, Jensen and Meckling (1976) understood, as Marxists have (Sweezy, 1953), that the supposed separation of ownership and control between managers and investors is largely a tempest in a teapot, an inevitable divergence of interests that both groups are quite capable of satisfactorily dealing with, at least during periods when the overall results are satisfactory to both. The conditions that favoured the suppression of Marxism in the United States, however, did not necessarily exist elsewhere to the same degree, and organization scholars in other Englishspeaking nations continued to apply class conflict to the study of the topic. While a corporate reaction occurred in the United Kingdom as well, the impact was not as great on organization 144


scholarship. This created an opening for British sociologists trained in workplace studies, and many were influenced by their American predecessors of the 1970s (Thompson and Smith, 2001), often exposed to their work in graduate school through such texts as a widely assigned collection of articles that included Bowles, Braverman, Burawoy and Marglin (Nichols, 1980). What resulted was a series of ‘labour process’ conferences that provided a locus of this activity, resulting in a stream of published pieces influenced by Marxism, many of which were first presented at one of these conferences. This theoretical and empirical scholarship continued to focus predominantly on class conflict in the workplace, but with a far broader scope than what was covered by the Americans of the 1970s, let alone Marx and Engels. These scholars covered how class relations and the resulting exploitation operated within other kinds of workplaces and non-industrial occupations, ranging from insurance offices (Knights and Wilmott, 1990) to technical workers and bank employees (McCabe, 2011) to accountants and accounting practices (Bryer, 2006). Other factors in exploitation, such as labour markets and the role of finance entered the discourse to an extent, as did other approaches that relied on theories of domination that compliment a class conflict perspective (McCabe, 2011; Sewell and Wilkinson, 1992; Thompson and Smith, 2001). A few Americans continued to investigate class conflict within organizations. A student of Burawoy’s, for example, studied how the top executives of a major bank once known for its benevolent human resource policies intensified the exploitation of its middle managers in response to crisis. Not surprisingly this body of work generated controversies among these academics involved regarding a number of issues, even the epistemological one of how insight and usefulness ought to be determined (Rowlinson and Hassard, 2001). Whatever one’s position with regard to the inevitable academic controversies, however, there is no denying that the collective body of work that arose out of labour process scholarship has left a rich legacy that deserves to be studied by anyone hoping to understand organizational behaviour and structure. This is however an era of Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, unshared productivity gains, unions surrendering benefits, outsourcing increasingly touching upon middle-class occupations, and Thomas Piketty’s (2014) Capital reaching the top of the bestseller list. Ignoring or denying the importance of power and class conflict within business organizations has become intellectually unsustainable. But the class construct can do more than explain a great deal of internal organizational outcomes. By applying it more broadly to the society at large, it can explain much about the relationship between organizations and the societies in which they are embedded.

Endogenizing the organizational environment The dynamics of and outcomes from class conflict can contribute greatly to endogenizing those factors that explain those strategies and structures that organizations adopt. Mainstream theories tend to treat the social environment as a separate ‘thing’ from the particular organization being studied. For resource dependency, the demand for one or another skill that shifts the balances of power within an organization is a product of this separate environment (Pfeffer and Salancik, 1978), as are the laws, common practices and social expectations that mould organizations into similar shapes from the perspective of new institutionalism (DiMaggio and Powell, 1983). Stakeholder theorists generally ignore the question as to how one group but not another wins legitimacy from the larger society for any claims to stakeholder status (Jones, 1995). Organization ecology pays some attention to how organizations feedback into the environment that sustains them (Hannan and Freeman, 1977), but the metaphor that the theory relies upon tends to obfuscate how living breathing humans actually impact one another. In short, the relationship 145

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between organizations and their environments, while not entirely ignored by mainstream theories, is treated as causally unidirectional, with little attention paid as to how the aggregation of organizational choices and structural modifications feeds back into the environment around them, ultimately transforming it. Applying class conflict to rectify this neglect need not supplant these other approaches. Instead it can complement them, explaining, for example, why certain normative practices but not others successfully impose organizational isomorphism, or why one form of expertise is most valued at some given time or place, or where the social ‘resources’ that organizations extract from their environments originally arose from. Obviously, no single business organization changes the social environment entirely on its own, notwithstanding Charles Wilson’s infamous claim with regard to General Motors’ interests being synonymous with those of the entire United States. From a Marxist perspective, however, there are enough similarities regarding the dynamics of class conflict across organizations within the same industry or sector, if not always within the entire economy, to aggregate the impact of these ongoing conflicts as influences on the larger society. Since organizations subject to isomorphic pressures share structural similarities as well as shared environments, their responses to various pressures, including those generated by class conflict, are likely to overlap and generate an amplified impact on the larger environment, even without conscious coordination between them. As a result, schools, labour markets, political movements, neighbourhoods, the practices of investment fund managers and the like, not only furnish the social resources that feed and constrain organizations, they themselves are shaped by the sum total of decisions and practices of these same organizations. Marxist theoreticians of the dynamics of capitalism have actually made more progress trying to find coherence among these seemingly infinitely circulating loops of dialectical reactions. Given their preoccupation with the dynamics of capitalism, it is not surprising that for over a century, beginning most famously with Kondratiev (see Loucã, 1999) and Hilferding (1981), Marxists have attempted make sense of capitalism’s interconnected set of tensions, instabilities and contradictions, framing them as either stages of development or repeated cycles. While there are major differences among the various formulations, Marxists have generally viewed whatever set of political, social and economic relationships exist at a given point in the history of a capitalist system as temporary. No matter how seemingly stable or ‘normal’ to the current participants, each set of arrangements contains, in Marx’s own Hegelian terms, the seeds of its own contradiction, which cause a particular ‘regime’ or set of social relationships to, paraphrasing Marx and Engels (1848 [1977]), melt into air after a generation or two either gradually eroding or exploding into full blown crisis. It is here that a non-positivist philosophical approach is necessary, particularly to understand the ways in which class relations under capitalism continue to reconfigure themselves despite their seemingly inherent contradictions. The construct of class needs a more dynamic understanding, which is evidenced by the works of later Marxist theoreticians, who subscribe in the main to interpretive and critical-realist philosophical positions. One such set of theories, the ‘regulationist’ school (Aglietta, 1979; Jessop and Sum, 2006) has put forward models of capitalist accumulation that ought to be of great utility for organization scholars. What regulationist theory seeks to do is to ‘integrate analysis of political economy with analysis of civil society and/or State to show how they interact to normalize the capital relation and govern the conflictual and crisis-mediated course of capital accumulation’ (Jessop and Sum, 2006: 4). In other words, under capitalism, a given society generates a set of interlocking institutional arrangements – laws and other government policies, expectations and values promulgated through education and media, organizational forms – in fact the very sort of institutions that the new institutionalism points to as generators of isomorphism. 146


Regulationist theory, however, differs or at least adds to neo-institutionalism in at least two ways. First, regulationism views these institutions, generating through both deliberate policies and Darwinian survival, as fitting together to create a reasonably stable social environment for accumulating capital. To return to the previous example, if firms accept the rents of military spending they must also share these with otherwise troublesome unions, strengthening union leaders in the process who defend this arrangement within their own labour organizations from more anti-capitalist elements. Second, pressures for conformity to norms, laws and practices not only eventually erode, they are at least as likely to do so not because of their success in promoting stability as because of their failure. For example, if a set of social arrangements allow businesses to excessively exploit workers, these result in weak consumer markets and apathetic workers. Similarly, promoting innovation can result in bankrupting even highly functional laggards. If these two difficulties are overcome with easy credit, then when a crisis finally arrives the impact is amplified. The work of Giovanni Arrighi also provides an example worth emulating of placing the class analysis of organizational change in a dynamic historical and philosophical context. Arrighi’s (1994) model of capitalist change is especially interesting because it encompasses aspects of both the cyclical and developmental approaches to changes with the capitalist system.

Conclusion: putting Marxist philosophy to work As we had discussed earlier, despite its conscious disavowal of philosophy, the Marxist tradition is characterized by a deep suspicion of sedimented assumptions characterized as ‘nature’. These assumptions could be about the nature of reality, the nature of knowledge or the way we reach conclusions about social phenomena. Put in other words, Marxist approaches are ontologically reflexive, epistemologically dynamic and methodologically heterodox, the very definition of a philosophical approach. In this chapter, we have tried to survey Marxist-influenced scholarship that might assist the present or future organization researcher or theorist. As such, it is not meant to offer either complete coverage or an in-depth explanation of all Marxist theory. There is more to Marxism than class conflict and the resulting struggles, although we do assert that no single Marxist construct would prove more valuable for understanding organizational structure and change. The hope here is that organization scholars will be sufficiently interested in what was explained to go back to some of the work cited above and explore it in more depth. Within this body of work there are certainly major disagreements, but even the controversies should be of interest, perhaps especially so, since such controversies are expressions of uncertainty, and those areas ripe for further investigation (Thompson and Smith, 2001). In addition, the reader should bear in mind that we have included a commentary regarding the disfavouring of Marxist analysis for a very practical reason. Any reliance on Marxist ideas is always fraught with risk unrelated to the value of the particular construct in explaining the world, precisely because as Marx himself put it, he hoped to change it, and not in ways favourable to the ruling class. The risks associated with applying Marx are not confined to the obvious case of business schools. With the increasing corporatization of the rest of the university coupled to the austerity pressures placed on traditional government spending on education and research, applying Marxism is a potential handicap to publishing and promoting a career even within the liberal arts disciplines, and one that requires planning and strategy to overcome. Jensen and Fagan (1996) displayed sufficient loyalty to the system to predict the further squeezing of wages, but someone with the scent of opposition on their work will likely find themselves in a less tolerant situation. Fortunately, however, at a time when even the Chair of the Federal Reserve Board speaks publicly about the dangers of inequality, the careerist risks involved in applying class conflict may be changing for the better, at least incrementally. 147

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Finally, Marxism needs to be studied not only for the knowledge insights on the workings of capitalism and the organizations that compromise it, but to glean how to think dialectically. A major strength of Marxism is its global and multidirectional perspective on causality. Learning how to think dialectically can only help in generating insights and making connections. Marxist analysis is highly insightful, and one does not need to embrace the labour theory of value or the desirability of proletarian revolution to appreciate and employ its depth and sophistication.

Note 1

Etienne Balibar’s book The Philosophy of Marx deals with Marxist philosophy in a comprehensive manner, and advances the paradoxical thesis that ‘there is no Marxist philosophy and there never will be; [and] on the other hand, Marx is more important for philosophy than ever before’ (Balibar, 2014: 1). It is also important to direct the reader towards other chapters in this volume, including those on capital, conflict, historiography and value among others, which also deal with Marxian concepts. Our attempt here has been to write this chapter in a manner that avoids overlaps with those chapters.

References (key texts in bold) Aglietta, M. (1979). A Theory of Capitalist Regulation: the US experience. London: NLB. Alchian, A.A. and Demsetz, H. (1972). Production, information, costs, and economic organization. American Economic Review, 62: 777–92. Anderson, P. (1992). A Zone of Engagement. New York: Verso. Arrighi, G. (1994). The Long Twentieth Century: money, power, and the origins of our times. New York: Verso. Balibar, E. (2014). The Philosophy of Marx. London: Verso. Barker, J. R. (1993). Tightening the iron cage: concertive control in self-managing teams. Administrative Science Quarterly, 38: 408–37. Bell, D. (1962). The End of Ideology: on the exhaustion of political ideas in the fifties. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Bottomore, T.B., Kiernan, V. G. and Miliband, R. (1983). A Dictionary of Marxist Thought. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Braverman, H. (1974). Labor and Monopoly Capital: the degradation of work in the twentieth century. New York: Monthly Review Press. Brenner, R. (1976). Agrarian class structure and economic development in pre-industrial Europe. Past and Present, 70: 30–74. Brenner, R. (2002). The Boom and the Bubble: the US in the world economy. New York: W.W. Norton and Co. Bryer, R. (2006). Accounting and control of the labour process. Critical Perspectives on Accounting,17: 551–98. Burawoy, M. (1979). Manufacturing Consent: changes in the labor process under monopoly capitalism. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Calhoun, C. and van Antwerpen, J. (2007). Orthodoxy, heterodoxy and hierarchy: mainstream sociology and its challengers, in Calhoun, C. (ed.), Sociology in America: a history. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, pp. 367–409. Clark, L.H. (1976). Rehabilitation project: once-mighty CED panel of executives seeks a revival. Wall Street Journal, 17 December, 38. Clawson, D., Neustadtl, A. and Weller, M. (1998). Dollars and Votes: how business campaign contributions subvert democracy. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. Clemens, E. S. and Cook, J. M. (1999). Politics and institutionialism: explaining durability and change. American Review of Sociology, 25: 441–66. Collinson, D.L. (1988). Engineering humor: masculinity, joking, and conflict, in shop-floor relations. Organization Studies, 1(3): 58–76. Crozier, M. (1964). Bureaucratic Phenomenon. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Davis, G.F. (1994). Corporate elite and the politics of corporate control, in Prendergast, C. and Nottnerus, J.D. (eds), Current Perspectives in Sociology, Supplement I. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press. 148


DiMaggio, P.J. and Powell, W.W. (1983). The iron cage revisited: institutional isomorphism and collective rationality in organizational fields. American Sociological Review, 48: 147–60. Edwards, R.E. (1975). Stages in corporate stability and the risk of corporate failure. Journal of Economic History, 35: 428–57. Edwards, R. (1979). Contested Terrain: the transformation of the workplace in the twentieth century. New York: Basic Books. Foucault, M. (1977). Discipline and Punish: the birth of the prison. London: Random House. Frank, A.G. (1967). Capitalism and Underdevelopment in Latin America. New York: Monthly Review Press. Godelier, M. (1977). Économie marchande, fétichisme, magie et science selon Marx dans Le Capital. Horizon, trajets marxistes en anthropologie, 2: 201–24. Gouldner, A.W. (1954). Patterns of Industrial Bureaucracy. New York: Free Press. Graham, J. 1992. Post-Fordism as politics: the political consequences of narratives on the left. Society and Space, 10(4): 393–410. Hall, P.A. and Soskice, D. (2001). Varieties of Capitalism: the institutional foundations of comparative advantage. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Hannan, M.T. and Freeman, J. (1977). The population ecology of organizations. American Journal of Sociology, 82: 929–64. Hilferding, R. (1981). Finance Capital: a study of the latest phase of capitalist development. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Himmelfarb, G. (1989). Some reflections on the new history. The American Historical Review: 661–70. Hira, R. and Hira, A. (2005). Outsourcing America: what’s behind our national crisis, how we can reclaim our jobs. New York: AMACOM. Hirsch, P.M. (1997). Sociology without social structure: neoinstitutional theory meets brave new world. American Journal of Sociology, 102: 1702–23. Holusha, J. (1993). Profitable Xerox plans to cut staff by 10,000. New York Times, 9 December, D1. Hopper, T., Storey, J. and Willmott, H. (1987). Accounting for accounting: towards the development of a dialectical view. Accounting Organization and Society,12: 437–56. Horkheimer, M. and Adorno, T.W. (2002). Dialectic of Enlightenment: philosophical fragments. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Jensen, M.C. and Fagan, P. (1996). Capitalism isn’t broken. Wall Street Journal, 29 March, A10. Jensen, M.C. and Meckling, W.H. (1976). Theory of the firm: managerial behavior, agency costs and ownership structure. Journal of Financial Economics, 3: 305–60. Jessop, B. and Sum, N. (2006). Beyond the Regulation Approach: putting capitalist economies in their place. New York: Edward Elgar. Jones, T.M. (1995). Instrumental stakeholder theory: a synthesis of ethics and economics. Academy of Management Review, 20: 404–37. Knights, D. and Willmott, H. (1990). Exploring the class and organizational implications of the UK financial services, in Clegg, S.E. (ed.), Organization Theory and Class Analysis. New York: Walter de Gruyter, pp. 345–66. Landes, D.S. (1986). What do bosses really do? The Journal of Economic History, 46: 585–623. Lazarus, D. (2005). BoA: train your replacement, or no severance pay for you. San Francisco Chronicle, 9 June. Leiserson, W.M. (1929). Contributions of personnel management to improved labor relations, in Wertheim Lectures on Industrial Relations: 1928. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Louçã, F. (1999). Nikolai Kondratiev and the early consensus and dissensions about history and statistics. History of political economy, 31(1), 169–181. McCabe, D. (2011). Accounting for consent: exploring the reproduction of the labor process. Sociology, 45: 430–46. Malott, R.H. (1978). Corporate support of education: some strings attached. Harvard Business Review, 56(4): 133–8. March, J.G. (1991). Exploration and exploitation in organizational learning. Organization Science, 2: 71–87. Marens, R. (2010). Destroying the village to save it: corporate social responsibility, labour relations, and the rise and fall of American hegemony. Organization, 17: 743–66. Marglin, S. (1974). What do bosses do? Review of Radical Political Economics, 7 (1): 20–37. Marx, K. (1888 [1976]). The German Ideology: including theses on Feuerbach. London: Pyr Books. Marx, K. (1894 [1971]). Capital, Volume 3 (trans. David Fernbach). Harmondsworth: Penguin. 149

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Marx, K. and Engels, F. (1848 [1977]). The Communist Manifesto, in David McLellan (ed.), Karl Marx: Selected Writings. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Merleau-Ponty, M. (1973). Adventures of the Dialectic. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press. Nelson, R.R. and Winter, S.G. (1982). An Evolutionary Theory of Economic Change. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Nichols, T. (1980). Capital and Labour: studies in the capitalist labor process. London: Athlone Press. O’Connor, J. (1973). The Fiscal Crisis of the State, Livingston, NJ: Transaction Publishers. Partnoy, F. (2003). Infectious Greed: how deceit and risk corrupted the financial markets. New York: Henry Holt and Co. Peterson, K. (2004). Microsoft workers vent over cuts in benefits. Seattle Times, 26 May. Pfeffer, J. and Salancik, G. R. (1978), The External Control of Organizations: a resource dependence perspective. New York: Harper & Row. Picketty, T. (2014). Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press. Rowlinson, M. and Hassard, J. (2001). Marxist political economy, revolutionary politics, and labour process theory. International Studies of Management and Organization, 30(4): 86–111. Seo, M.G. and Creed, W.E.D. (2002). Institutional contradictions, praxis, and institutional change: a dialectical perspective. Academy of Management Review, 27: 222–47. Sewell, G. and Wilkinson, B. (1992). Someone to watch over me: surveillance, discipline and the justin-time labour process. Sociology, 26: 271–89. Stinchcombe, A.L. (1997). On the virtues of the old institutionalism. Annual Review of Sociology, 1997: 1–18. Stone, K. (1974). Origins of job structures in the steel industry. Review of Radical Political Economics, 6(2): 61–97. Sweezy, P. (1953). Present as History. New York: Monthly Review Press. Thompson, P. (2003). Disconnected capitalism: or why employers can’t keep their side of the bargain. Work, Employment, and Society, 17: 359–78. Thompson, P. and Smith, C. (2001). Follow the redbrick road: reflections on the pathways in and out of the labor process debate. International Studies of Management and Organization, 30(4): 40–67. Useem, M. (1996). Investor Capitalism: how money managers are changing the face of corporate America. New York: Basic Books. Williamson,O. E. (1975). Markets and Hierarchies: a study in the economics of internal organization. New York: Free Press. Wolff, R. (2008). Capitalist crisis, Marx’s shadow. Monthly Review, 26(09): 1–18. Wright, E. O. and Perrone, L. (1977). Marxist class categories and income inequality. American Sociological Review, 42: 32–55.


10 Postcolonial theory Speaking back to empire Gavin Jack

By the 1930s, colonies and ex-colonies covered 84.6 per cent of the land surface of the globe. Only parts of Arabia, Persia, Afghanistan, Mongolia, Tibet, China, Siam and Japan had never been under formal European government. (Loomba, 1998: xiii)

Mainstream social science pictures the world as understood by the educated and affluent in Europe and North America. From Weber to Keynes to Friedman and Foucault, theorists from the global North dominate the imagination of social scientists, and the reading lists of students, all over the world. For most of modern history, the majority world has served social science only as a data mine. Yet the global South does produce knowledge and understanding of society. (From the back cover of Connell, 2007)

Introduction: working with (and against) postcolonial theory Colonialism – ‘the conquest and control of other people’s land and goods’ (Loomba, 1998: 2) – has been a constant feature of human history.1 However, it is usually the expansion, conquest and occupation by European powers of the majority world in Africa, Asia and the Americas from roughly the sixteenth century onwards, and the subsequent contraction of those empires and political independence of former colonies, that form the historical backdrop for the interests of postcolonial scholars. Postcolonialism is a critical response to this history and the contemporary global system which bears its legacy; postcolonial theory provides a set of intellectual resources and an interrogative space to animate this response. Postcolonialism is a highly significant body of work for organizational researchers for two crucial and interrelated reasons. First, because (varieties of) (neo-)colonialism and imperialism are historical and contemporary lived realities for the vast majority of peoples in the world. That nearly 85 per cent of the world’s population was subject to colonization less than 100 years ago, as Loomba notes, is a condition of possibility and ever-changing reality of the global political economy in which organizations function and organizing takes places. Young’s (2001) concept of ‘postcoloniality’ as ‘the economic, material 151

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and cultural conditions that determine the global system in which the postcolonial nation is required to operate – one heavily weighted towards the interests of international capital and the G7 powers’ (Young, 2001: 57) encapsulates this state of affairs. Legal and illegal migration, farmer suicides and protest movements in India, Islamaphobia in Western Europe, and the struggles for self-determination by Indigenous peoples across the world all have certain roots in various colonial pasts and imperial presents. Second, postcolonialism is important for organizational researchers because we are part of this neo-colonial world, inhabiting and inhabited by scholarly traditions and academic disciplines that often grew out of the colonial encounter (notably anthropology and sociology). As social scientists, we participate in an inequitable system of knowledge production (Alatas, 2003), in which the ideas and institutions of the Global North2 enjoy a position of privilege. Connell (2007) argues above with respect to social theory and sociology, that student reading lists and conventional theoretical frames are dominated by authors and ideas from the Global North, while theoretical knowledge generated in/about the Global South is often overlooked, devalued or ‘unimaginable’. The same could be said of organization studies. As Calás and Smircich (2003: 45) note: ‘The stories we have written in much organization theory, our concepts and representations, no matter how “global” (or precisely because of this), represent the ways of thinking of certain peoples and not others.’ Postcolonial theory calls upon organizational scholars to locate their work within this context, to consider whose values, interests and knowledges underpin that work, and to contribute to nothing less than a reconfiguration and decolonization of both the imaginative and material basis of organizational scholarship, and the social, economic, cultural and organizational realities it surveys. As an established interrogative space for such critical scholarship, postcolonial theory has opened new vistas in organizational research, including: historicizing the development of management and organizational theory and practice in terms of the colonial encounter; bringing distinctive conceptual and empirical concerns to the field; providing a set of theoretical resources for denaturalizing, provincializing and critiquing organizational thought (for overviews, see Prasad, 1997, 2003; Jack et al., 2011) and underlying concepts like order, progress and modernity (Calás and Smircich, 2003). A philosophical perspective is important to organizational scholars of postcolonialism because it engenders use of a range of analytical approaches and reflexive questioning techniques that historicize, politicize and enable new articulations of management and organizational theory, but refracted through the distinctive lens of the colonial encounter. Philosophical domains and concerns articulated via postcolonial theory of relevance to organizational scholars include: epistemology, the human sciences and non-Western knowledge systems, notably in the form of critiques of Western metaphysics, humanism and foundationalism; subjectivity, ideology and values; language, notably in relation to the concept of colonial discourse; feminism(s), notably transnational and Third World variants; political philosophy and state-civil society relations. Crucially, postcolonial theory is a diverse and (internally and externally) contested body of knowledge whose ‘putting to work’ by organizational scholars requires a reflexive vigilance, a working with and against. First of all, there is no singular form of postcolonial theory; instead it covers several different, often interconnecting and sometimes competing theoretical and political perspectives (often associated with the heterogeneous tradition of continental philosophy, and including poststructuralism, psychoanalysis, feminisms). Just as different regions/countries/societies are ‘postcolonial’ in different ways and at different times (Loomba, 1998), so too postcolonial scholarship is marked by the location-specific experiences and varied philosophical interests 152

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of scholars. Scholars from, and scholarship about, South/South-East Asian experiences of colonialism and Indian Marxism, for instance, have been especially influential in the development of postcolonial theory. Young (2001), however, identifies in postcolonial scholarship a key ‘disjunctive articulation’ between ‘colonialism as an institutional performative discourse of power-knowledge and colonialism understood according to the dialectical formations elaborated in tricontinental Marxism’ that cuts across this diversity and ‘could be said to operate as the theoretical kernel of postcolonial theory itself’ (Young, 2001: 410). Second, the prefix ‘post’ in postcolonialism is contentious in its allusion to the end of colonial relations following the political independence of formerly colonized countries. Cultural, economic and political ties between colonizer and colonized remain and mutate even after formal independence (neocolonialism), as new forms of imperialism emerge and internal colonialism (of Indigenous communities) persists (Banerjee, 2011). The aim of this chapter is to provide an overview and discussion of how the philosophical concerns underpinning postcolonial theory inform and enable organizational research. The first section will briefly review the core theses, philosophical orientations, and main criticisms of three foundational thinkers in postcolonial theory: Edward Said; Homi Bhabha; and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. The second section selectively summarizes existing postcolonial organization studies, noting how the philosophical underpinnings of postcolonial theory are put to work to generate distinctive insights. The final third section gives future directions for philosophical, interdisciplinary and empirical organizational research using postcolonial theory.

Foundational thinkers in postcolonial theory Said, Bhabha and Spivak are sometimes referred to as the ‘Holy Trinity’ of postcolonial theory (Moore-Gilbert, 1997): a trio of influential thinkers whose distinctive works together comprise a theoretical apparatus for the critical analysis of colonialism and imperialism. Given space constraints, I will provide a very short overview of their works which have proven foundational to postcolonial theory (for more extended syntheses and critiques, see Moore-Gilbert, 1997; Young, 1990, 2001; and in organization studies, Prasad, 2003; Őzkazanç-Pan, 2008). Beginning with Said and Bhabha, I highlight the ‘problem’ of colonial discourse as pivotal in postcolonial theory, turning then to Spivak to progress an understanding of postcolonial theory from ‘colonial discourse studies to transnational cultural studies’ (Spivak, 1999: x). In working with/against postcolonial theory, I highlight certain specific criticisms of these authors’ works, and use them as a vehicle for a more general critique inspired by Young’s ‘disjunctive articulation’. I should state explicitly that I have restricted my interpretation of what counts as ‘postcolonial theory’ in this section to core works by these writers (as per Moore-Gilbert, 1997). However, the Holy Trinity of postcolonial theory is preceded by earlier writings, political speeches and treatises, and armed/non-violent forms of resistance associated with anti-colonialism, tricontinentalism (that is, the interlinked ‘struggles of people of African descent across America, the Caribbean and Africa or what Gilroy has labelled the “Black Atlantic” (Gilroy, 1993)’ (Nkomo, 2011: 368)) and national liberation movements. In this respect, writings and political actions (often inspired through engagement with Marxism and socialism) by resistance leaders, anti-colonial thinkers and politicians – including, among many others, Gandhi (1927[1982]), James (1938, 1969), Fanon (1952[1986]), Césaire (1955[1972]), Nkrumah (1961, 1965), Senghor (1964), Cabral (1969), Memmi (1965), Guevara (1969), Mariátegui (1971), Rodney (1974) – are a vital part of the broader terrain of postcolonialism, and precursor for postcolonial theory. 153

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Edward Said’s (1978) Orientalism: Western Conceptions of the Orient Regarded as the book that ‘effectively founded postcolonial studies as an academic discipline’ (Young, 2001: 383), Said’s text presents an exposition and critique of Orientalism: a field of Western scholarship, ‘style of thought’ (Said, 1978: 2) and ‘corporate institution for dealing with the Orient – dealing with it by making statements about it, authorizing views about it, describing it, by teaching it, settling it, ruling over it: in short, Orientalism as a Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient’ (ibid.: 3). From a Saidian perspective, colonial discourse (as exemplified by Orientalism) can be considered an epistemic weapon of the oppressor, used by colonial powers to control and govern the colonized. The Orient was a fabrication (and so too its dialectical opposite, the Occident), a ‘man-made’ (sic) (ibid.: 5) fiction, rather than an already existing reality ripe for ‘neutral representation’, effected through the creation of a vast assemblage of knowledge about the Other. To illustrate how the Orient is generated discursively, Said presents a textual analysis of the writings (novels, poetry, academic writing, religious texts, travel books, journalism, political treatises) of a number of predominantly French and British ‘Orientalists’ (scholars, writers, philologists, lexicographers, philosophers, economists etc.) from the eighteenth century onwards. Importantly, he distinguishes latent Orientalism as an (almost) unconscious underlying structure (of dreams, myths, fantasies) whose ‘unanimity, stability, and durability is almost constant’ (Said, 1978: 206) from manifest Orientalism as externalizations of this structure in Orientalist writing. At the core of Said’s analytical approach is the elucidation of Orientalist writers’ use of (colonial) binary divisions, and associated classifications, categorizations and figures of speech that position the Occident as culturally, morally and scientifically ‘superior’ (i.e. more ‘modern’ or ‘civilized’) to the relatively ‘inferior’ Orient. Such discrepant positionalities gave the colonizer grounds for justifying the colonial enterprise, while effectively ‘blam[-ing] the victim’ (Brantlinger, 1985: 198) for their own colonization. The perpetuation of Orientalism had (cultural) hegemonic effects which explained, according to Said, its ‘durability and strength’ (Said, 1978: 7). He wrote: ‘So impressive have the descriptive and textual successes of Orientalism been that entire periods of the Orient’s cultural, political, and social history are considered mere responses to the West. The West is the actor, the Orient a passive reactor’ (ibid.: 108–9). Said’s exposition of how colonial discourse works to achieve such effects in colonial settings is founded on: Michel Foucault’s writings about discourse, the subject and power-knowledge from The Archaeology of Knowledge (Foucault, 1972) and Discipline and Punish: the birth of the prison (Foucault, 1977) respectively (to theorise Orientalism as a discursive formation, and the colonized subject as an ‘object of [both] disciplinary practices and objectifying disciplines’ (West, 1996: 175)); Antonio Gramsci on hegemony from The Prison Notebooks (Gramsci, 1971); and Sigmund Freud (presumably The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud, 1913, although this text is not explicitly cited by Said) in his distinction of latent and manifest Orientalism. In moving ‘the analysis of colonialism, imperialism and the struggles against it to the question of discourse’ (Young, 2001: 384; emphasis added), Said’s work was reflective of contemporary anti-humanist and antifoundationalist currents in US/European humanities, and a constructionist philosophy of language. It is perhaps no surprise then that, following Said, postcolonial theory would become institutionalized as a form of literary and cultural critique (usually of Western ‘high’ culture) and a strategy for reading that ‘refuses the humanist assumption that literary texts exist above their historical contexts’ (McLeod, 2000: 38). While Saidian colonial discourse analysis as exemplified in Orientalism has become a general conceptual paradigm for postcolonial theory (Young, 2001), it has been subject to a number 154

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of criticisms. First, for conceiving colonial discourse as a homogeneous and totalizing phenomenon, rather than a heterogeneous one (e.g. reflecting historical and locational differences), and underestimating social differences in the experiences of colonial subjectivities (e.g. along gender, race, religion and class/caste lines among and between colonizer-colonized groups). Second, Orientalism has been criticized for underplaying the multiple forms of violent and non-violent counter-hegemonic struggle and resistance to colonial discourse (a point Said would later redress in his 1993 book Culture and Imperialism) and the ways that discourses themselves cultivate the grounds of their own subversion (McLeod, 2000). Third, Young’s (2001) multifaceted evaluation of Said’s notion of colonial discourse highlights inter alia: contradictions in Said’s ontological position (notably in his use of Foucault); and crucially in terms of a broader critique of postcolonial theory, Marxist and historical scholars’ (Ahmad, 1992; Dirlik, 1997) criticisms of Said’s emphasis on the textual nature of history ‘at the expense of materialist historical inquiry and politicized understanding’ (Young, 2001: 390). Together, these critiques have become generative of the ‘problem’ of colonial discourse in postcolonial theory.

Homi Bhabha’s (1994) The Location of Culture The Location of Culture is a collection of essays in which literary and cultural theorist Homi Bhabha outlines his philosophy of cultural identification and difference, and an associated ‘revisionary model of colonial discourse’ (Young, 2001: 392) through concepts including hybridity and the Third Space, ambivalence, the stereotype and mimicry. The book begins by arguing that the contemporary mode of cultural engagement in postmodern times involves ‘living on the borderlines’ (Bhabha, 1994: 1) invoked by social change, migration, and ethnic strife. Bhabha’s borderline epistemology means that, rather than conceiving cultural difference on the basis of two (or more) fixed, homogeneous, pre-formed categories of (national) culture or ethnicity (or a singular category like gender or class), we must pay attention to how cultural identities and differences are negotiated through conflict or collaboration in the ‘interstitial passage’ of a Third Space of enunciation. It is here that the multiple knowledges and positionalities of majority and minority groups intersect back and forth across cultural boundaries to produce hybrids that confound the idea of ‘an originary identity or a “received” tradition’ (Bhabha, 1994: 3; see also Bhabha (1990) on the pedagogical and performative elements of national culture in Nation and Narration). Bhabha carries forward this hybridizing sensibility – in contradistinction to Said’s binaristic logic – in the development of his more fractious view of colonial discourse in which ambivalence and anxiety provide the generative psychical (unconscious) apparatus. Ambivalence is the ‘co-existence and interdependence of two contrary impulses or affects (typically love and hate, desire and fear)’ (Hook, 2012: 162). Bhabha illustrates it with reference to the figure of the ‘Negro’ (inspired by Frantz Fanon’s 1952[1986] autobiographical experience of realizing his colonial objectification as ‘Negro’ in Black Skin, White Masks): ‘The black is both savage (cannibal) and yet the most obedient and dignified of servants (the bearer of food); he is the embodiment of rampant sexuality yet innocent as a child; he is mystical, primitive, simple-minded and yet the most worldly and accomplished liar, and manipulator of social forces’ (Bhabha, 1994: 118). The racial Other is thus the site and object of desire and derision, an irresolvable tension that provokes anxiety and neuroses for both colonizer and colonized. Movement between these two poles involves a transgression of the (supposedly discrete) boundary that separates colonizer and colonized, such that the Other is rendered both radically different/unrecognizable (outside the epistemological categories of the colonizer) and knowable/recognizable (coming inside those same categories). The breaching of this boundary means that the clear-cut subject positions (colonizer-colonized) and the one-way gaze (and 155

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associated processes of objectification and dehumanization of the Other) imagined by Said are untenable and will inevitably fail, as the colonizer’s goal to ‘fix’ the Other into an inferior and radical alterity is constantly undone. Instead colonial discourse involves a partial gaze (a looking relation) in which the Other is glimpsed, looks back and is momentarily recognized as another (human) subject, presenting a ‘hidden threat’ (ibid.: 127) to colonial authority and the grounds of possibility for subverting colonial discourse. Bhabha’s theorization of colonial discourse rests on two key concepts. First the stereotype, whose characteristically repeated use by the colonizer to ‘fix’ the ambivalence of colonial relations by normalizing difference through representation, is rendered futile precisely because of the irresolvability of that ambivalence. Second mimicry, which is often narrowly understood as a strategy used by the colonized to partake in (and subvert) the machinations of colonial power (for instance through parody, exaggeration or cynical adherence). In so far as Bhabha refers to mimicry as ‘one of the most elusive and effective strategies of colonial power and knowledge’ (ibid.: 122), it might be more appropriately or primarily interpreted in terms of the desire of the colonizer for ‘a reformed recognizable Other, as a subject of difference that is almost the same, but not quite’ (ibid.; emphasis in the original); it is thus ‘not a harmonization of repression of difference, but a form of resemblance’ (ibid.: 128–9). The characteristic indeterminacy of mimicry is the core ‘problematic of colonial subjection’ (ibid.: 129) in that ‘in order to be effective, mimicry must continually produce its slippage, its excess, its difference’, thus becoming ‘the representation of a difference that is itself a process of disavowal’ (ibid.: 122). Bhabha draws on a wide range of intellectual resources spanning multiple texts, but his articulation of colonial discourse is based on an engagement of poststructuralist (notably Foucault (1972, 1977; like Said) and Derrida (1978) on différance) and psychoanalytic theory (Freud’s (1927/1981) writing on fetishism to theorize the stereotype and most importantly, Lacan’s (1977) mirror phase and the Imaginary on colonial subjectivities). Crucially, Bhabha is an interlocutor of colonial psychiatrist and freedom fighter in the Algerian War of Independence (from France) Frantz Fanon, writing the foreword to the 1986 edition of Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks. Bhabha’s theoretical plasticity and oft-remarked ‘challenging’ writing style make him a tricky read. Beyond that, there are a number of substantive problems with his work, cogently and extensively summarized by Moore-Gilbert (1997) including: Bhabha’s unquestioning use of the transcendental (yet arguably Eurocentric) concepts of psychoanalysis to investigate the profoundly historical phenomenon that is colonialism; his insufficient attention to resistance, gender relations and economic aspects of colonialism; and above all, and paradoxically given Bhabha’s critique of Said, his unified conception of the colonial subject in which both the colonizer and the colonized are viewed as equally affected by ‘the imperative of the colonizer’s consistent and unvarying unconscious need/demand for psychic affirmation’ (Moore-Gilbert, 1997: 149).

Gayatri Spivak’s (1988) Can the Subaltern Speak? A commitment to self-reflexivity and self-transformation, and against intellectual colonialism, has driven the development of Spivak’s overarching interest in the institutional responsibility of the critic (echoing Said, 1983), and the ethics and politics of reading in the context of globalization, postcoloniality and relations of power. As a literary theorist, translator and teacher of (comparative) literature, Gayatri Spivak can be regarded as an analyst of colonial discourse in so far as she, like Bhabha and Said, illuminates the colonizing/imperialist (and Western metaphysical) logic, silences and writerly complicities of a variety of canonical (English) literary works, philosophical and political economic treatises. In her early essays on feminism (1981, 1985a), for instance, she unpicks the uninspected privilege, Western self-referentiality and cultural 156

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imperialism in selected French feminist works, and the parochial possessive individualism of US feminism. She shares a postcolonial and Third World feminist critique of Western feminism’s invocation of a universal (generalizable) category of ‘woman’ (Mohanty, 1984, 2003) and an associated ‘benevolent sisterhood’ (Sanders, 2006: 82) as epistemologically and politically problematic in its masking of diversity and hierarchy in women’s relationalities (see Benschop and Verloo, Chapter 6 this volume). Concerns with the politics of knowledge are most extensively articulated by Spivak in her famous essay ‘Can the Subaltern Speak?’, the answer to which would move between the essay’s earlier iterations (1985b, 1988 [the one I primarily rely on here]) and its inclusion in her magnum opus A Critique of Postcolonial Reason (1999) (abbreviated to PC in the remainder of this section). This multifaceted essay examines ‘the intersection of a theory of representation and the political economy of global capitalism’ (Spivak, 1988: 271). It begins with Spivak’s dissatisfaction with a published conversation between Deleuze and Foucault in which Deleuze ‘runs together’ (ibid.: 275) what she considers two different and discontinuous meanings of representation: ‘representation as “speaking for”, as in politics, and representation as “re-presentation”, as in art or philosophy’ (ibid.). She argues that an adequate theory of representation requires both these senses – ‘representation within the state and political economy’ and ‘within the theory of the subject’ (ibid.: 275–6) – and puts them to work in her critique of the representation of ‘the third-world subject . . . within Western discourse’ (ibid.: 271). This subject is ‘the subaltern’ (influenced here by Gramsci, 1971, and the Subaltern Studies group, for instance, Guha, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1987) and more specifically ‘the subaltern woman’, who is doubly colonized by imperialism and patriarchy. In the 1988 version, she declares that the subaltern woman cannot speak, a position Spivak reaches based on her analysis in the main body of the essay of the staging of the sati (widow sacrifice in India) in colonial law and Hindu scripture, and the specific case in the coda of the suicide of Bhuvaneswari Bhaduri. Her analysis is both a generic critique of the essentialism inherent in attempts to re-discover subaltern (women’s) consciousness (which she calls a ‘nostalgia for lost origins’ (Spivak 1988: 291), though famously argues that [strategic] essentialism can be a vital political tool), and a gendered critique of the incapacity for the subaltern woman to speak in her own terms, instead only audible through the subject positions afforded by the systems of representation of others (e.g. the Western colonizer, or the Indigenous patriarch). Spivak would later declare her lament ‘the subaltern cannot speak’ an ‘inadvisable comment’ (Spivak 1999: 309; see pp. 308–11 for her revisionary comments) following critics’ questions about whom counts as subaltern and on what basis, and the empirical fact that subaltern women do speak (but still cannot be heard) and that there might instead be ‘a number of intermediate positions between full subalternity and hegemony’ (Moore-Gilbert, 1997: 107). A Critique of Postcolonial Reason rearticulates her views about the necessity to inspect one’s privilege and complicity in domination and to learn from below by ‘seeking to speak to (rather than listen to or speak for) the historically muted subject of the subaltern woman’ (Spivak, 1999: 295). As a teacher of literature (in the metropolitan US) and literacy (in regional Bangladesh and India), Spivak has an enduring interest in pedagogy (see Spivak, 1993). According to Sanders (2006), Spivak directs her advice in PC about the need to be self-reflexive to migrant groups in metropolitan locations (including her students), underlining their potential for complicity in the exploitation of the subaltern as a ‘native informant’ speaking on behalf of others. She articulates her interdisciplinary theory and practice of transnational literacy as a mode of self-knowing, or self-othering, based on the capacity for literature to give students training in imagining other worlds, considering their relative privilege and exploring an ethical relation to the Other. 157

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Uneasy with the label postcolonial theorist, Spivak describes herself (according to Sanders, 2006) as a ‘practical deconstructionist feminist Marxist’, and her writings attest to a ‘quite formidable span of reference’ (Eagleton, 1999: 4). Her theoretical matrix (rather than singular position) enables her to work with and against a number of philosophical orientations (e.g. with and against Foucauldian poststructuralist thinking about the subject, and with and against aspects of the Subaltern Studies project). However it is Derridean deconstruction that she consistently sets to work as her underlying analytical approach (reflective of her role as translator and author of the preface to Derrida’s Of Grammatology (1976)). Moore-Gilbert (1997) summarizes core problems with Spivak’s work, a difficult task given Spivak’s continuous revision of her positions. Nonetheless, he notes that Spivak tends to downplay subaltern resistance and to reinscribe the metropolitan intellectual as a privileged object of investigation. He identifies tensions in her conceptions of history caused by her invocation of Marxism and discourse theory, and paradoxes in her reflexive statements about her positionality as a middle-class Indian intellectual working in a privileged metropolitan location. Like Bhabha, Spivak’s theoretical eclecticism and writingstyle have been critiqued, the latter famously as ‘obscurantist’, and an ‘intellectual version of Attention Deficit Disorder’, by Terry Eagleton (1999) in his ‘lively’ review of A Critique of Postcolonial Reason. That said, Eagleton (ibid.: 5) does point to important broader limitations of postcolonial theory as a ‘way of being politically radical without necessarily being anti-capitalist’, leading him to describe it as a ‘peculiarly hospitable form of leftism for a “post-political” world’ (which he feels Spivak only partly exhibits, compared with Said or Bhabha). In sum, Said, Bhabha and Spivak have contributed foundational texts and analytical approaches from colonial discourse analysis to transnational cultural studies as the basis for postcolonial theory. While they are key thinkers for postcolonial organizational scholars, I would re-iterate not only that they were preceded by many important anti-colonial thinkers and activists, but also that there are many other contemporary writers for postcolonial organizational scholars to consider from Latin America (Anzaldua, 1987; Quijano, 2000; Dussel, 1995; Mignolo, 2000), Arab/ Turkish writers in the US (Asad, 2003; Dirlik, 2007), and Islamic writers (Shariati, 1986), alongside long-standing South Asian (Nandy, 1983; Chatterjee, 1986, 2005) and under-appreciated African voices (Mudimbe, 1988; Hountondji, 1995).

Postcolonial organization studies This section places a spotlight on two principal foci of existing scholarship in postcolonial organization studies (for a more extensive review, see Jack et al., 2011): knowledge and identity. It synthesizes key themes and illustrates the specific ways that philosophy is used by organizational scholars who draw upon postcolonial theory to generate distinctive understandings of management and organization theory, knowledge and/or practice with respect to these two foci.

Knowledge: representations, texts and flows/counter-flows The overriding philosophical and political concerns of postcolonial organizational scholars have been with issues of knowledge, representation and textual modes of analysis, most notably in respect of academic disciplines. Postcolonial theory brings a distinctive theoretical inflection to long-standing critiques by mainstream and critical scholars alike (Boyacigiller and Adler, 1991; Clegg et al., 2000; Tsui, 2007) on the narrow constituency and parochial nature of the academic production of ‘global’ management knowledge, notably through the concept of Eurocentrism (more below). The wide-ranging scope and goodly number of postcolonial studies about these 158

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knowledge-related problems illustrate the endemic nature of the (philosophical) issues at hand (epistemology, ontology, values, power-knowledge). To give a selective review, organizational scholars working with and against postcolonial theory have studied the politics of knowledge (sometimes in relation to wider institutional and economic concerns) through analyses of: • •

• •

foundational texts (historical and contemporary) in the discipline (e.g. Hofstede’s (1980) Culture’s Consequences; see Fougère and Moulettes, 2009, 2012; Ailon 2008); core management and organizational concepts including corruption (de Maria, 2008, 2012), organizational control (Mir et al., 2003), organizational culture (Cooke, 2003), workplace resistance (Prasad and Prasad, 2003), information and communication technologies (Gopal et al., 2003), governance (Schwabenland, 2012; notably in relation to Indigenous communities in Australia (Sullivan, 2012) and Aotearoa/New Zealand (Panoho and Stablein, 2012)), leadership (in the context of Africa (Nkomo, 2011); and Ma¯ori ancestral leadership in Aotearoa/New Zealand (Kelly et al., 2014)), the network society (Hodge, 2014), development management and administration (Cooke, 2003a, 2004; Cooke and Dar, 2008), NGOs (Claeyé, 2014), sustainable development (Banerjee, 2003), Indigenous enterprise (Banerjee and Tedmanson, 2010), and capacity building (Tedmanson, 2012); student textbooks (Coronado, 2012; Fougère and Moulettes, 2012a) and curriculum content (Jaya, 2001; Joy and Poonamallee, 2013; Ruwhiu, 2014); whole disciplinary fields/sub-fields, most notably comparative (Westwood, 2001, 2004, 2006) and cross-cultural management (Jack and Westwood, 2009), and international business/ globalization studies (Banerjee and Linstead, 2001; Banerjee et al., 2009); business journalism (Priyadharshini, 2003) and commercial/marketing/popular cultural practices (Echtner and Prasad, 2003; Schroeder and Borgerson, 2012).

This long list is indicative of the ‘truism’ described by Mir and Mir (2012: 9) that: ‘modern organizational theory has tended to objectify the colonized nations, and the subjects of imperialism’. As organizational scholars we need to call out parochialism and decentre Eurocentrism, not just because it can engender ethnocentric (even racist) attitudes, ways of knowing and objectifying tendencies, but also because it actively produces ignorance, ‘a way of not knowing’ (Mueller, 1987: 8). This limits the relevance of our work for the majority world and for understanding and acting within the complex global assemblages (Ong and Collier, 2005) of contemporary economic and cultural life. To this end, the various philosophical perspectives and concerns of postcolonial theorists have been put to work by organizational scholars. A (postcolonial) philosophical inflection is evident, above all, in the types of research goals and questioning practices that postcolonial organizational scholars pursue. In this respect, active verbs are important, in the sense that through philosophical inquiry, we are doing things with knowledge, as well as to that knowledge, productively reconfiguring it to generate critique or new concepts with which to understand or more ambitiously attempt to change the world. These verbs may be particular to postcolonial thinking, or more generic and include: (1) to provincialize, defamiliarize and decolonize academic and practitioner knowledge (in the form of dominant epistemes and theoretical perspectives, core concepts, and methodological protocols) in specific disciplinary fields of management and organization studies; (2) name and critique underlying Eurocentrism and associated forms of Othering; (3) illuminate how (Western) management and organization theory (and practice) acts as a ‘mechanism of colonization’ (IbarraColado, 2006). Together, these varied but interconnected goals can be referred to as ‘postcolonializing organization theory’ (Jones, 2005), that is to say, ‘a more general decolonization 159

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of organization theory’, or, ‘the postcolonial as an unworking of organization theory’ (Jones, 2005: 238–9). Anshuman Prasad (2012) provides an excellent overview of the nature, development and negative effects (see Box 10.1) of Eurocentrism as a ‘taken-for-granted ideology or world-view’ (A. Prasad, 2012: 18) and the key instruments through which it emerged, including works of art/literature/philosophy, the European project of cartography, and the fabrication of ‘universalistic social science deeply imbued with notions of European exceptionalism’ and ‘the superiority of the European mind’ (A. Prasad, 2012: 19). Prasad’s definition of Eurocentrism is rather restrictive, however, since it tethers the concept to Europe alone. Mufti (2005: 474) expands the epistemic space of Eurocentrism, with particular significance for scholars working in the US-dominated discipline of management studies, by noting how it ‘underwrit[es] narratives of American universalism as well as those of a uniquely European polity and culture in the geographically specific sense’. To ‘provincialize’ knowledge, following Chakrabarty (2000), is to deploy theoretical scholarship and analytic practices to reveal and disrupt the hegemonic and universalizing status of Eurocentric modes of knowing and associated teleology. To this end, and with texts as the key unit of analysis, the general conceptual model of colonial discourse offered by Said (sometimes in combination with concepts or methodological approaches from other scholars, notably Bhabha) has been oft used by postcolonial organizational scholars. Coronado (2012), for example, combined Said’s colonial discourse with Hodge and Kress’s (1993) discourse analytic methodology to identify and critique four key discursive strategies deployed by writers of a sample of leading international business textbooks: speaking in one authoritative voice to a single audience; scientific stereotyping (i.e. talking in terms of static, homogeneous, ahistorical, fact-like cultural essences); presenting putatively neutral but negative evaluations of the Other based on imperialist semiotics; use of a range of other problematic discursive devices (e.g. overgeneralization, ideologically charged word choice, use of fictionalized case studies). Similarly, Priyadharshini (2003) uses Said to explore the discursive construction of ‘the Indian economy’ in selected issues

Box 10.1 The Problems of Eurocentrism •

Tendency to essentialize and exoticize the non-Western ‘Other’, and to portray non-Western

Flattens global heterogeneity

Can blind researchers to Europe’s historical connections and interdependencies with the rest

Devalues cultural self-scrutiny in the West (and leads to an uncritical celebration of Western

Frequent failure by Western researchers to see theoretical sophistication in the non-West

cultures as simple, naïve or child-like

of the world institutions and practices) (see also Connell, 2007); instead, they make frequent use of readily available Eurocentric stereotypes in theorizing non-Western cultural, economic, political and other institutions and practices •

Engenders cultural parochialism and/or paranoia in Western societies, often generating unflattering/menacing images of non-Western Others

Source: Adapted from A. Prasad, 2012: 19–20.


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of The Economist and Newsweek, but powerfully and distinctively combines it with Bhabha’s concepts of mimicry, ambivalence and the stereotype in an exemplary analysis of how Orientalist modes of knowing and profound ambivalences are co-terminous in such texts. Finally, and broader in scope, Jack and Westwood (2009) combine Said, Bhabha and the concept of ‘organization field’ to illuminate the perverse example of international/cross-cultural management (ICCM) studies. These are academic disciplines whose ‘eye on the world’ and substantive interest in cultural difference and borders of various kinds might be expected to generate disciplinary characteristics of epistemic diversity and an openness to multiple ways of knowing. However, hiding behind the myth of the detached observer that dominates these conventionally functionalist, positivist, Western disciplines lie a plethora of problems, including the overlooking of a large number of countries and peoples not deemed ‘relevant’ to ICCM research, and the positioning of locations/scholars ‘at the periphery’ (of the global academic system) as sites/hands for data collection (rather than theory generation) (Prichard et al., 2007) and (willing or unwilling) victims of ‘epistemic coloniality’ (Ibarra-Colado, 2006: 933). Beyond a concern with provincializing knowledge, postcolonial organizational scholars have explored what happens when corporate and organizational knowledge takes leave from one location and travels to another, for example in the form of corporate policies and practices, productivity models or knowledge management systems. This is a topic of particular concern for postcolonial scholars since ‘knowledge transfer’ has been a central technique of cultural imperialism, and the history of corporations as vehicles for such transfers is inextricably linked to the interconnected projects of Euromodernity and (colonial) capitalism(s) (Mir et al., 2003). In a present day context where old and new forms of imperialism co-exist and interact, intraorganizational knowledge transfer can be studied as a power-laden mode of ‘corporate imperialism’ (Banerjee et al., 2009). Mir and Mir (2009), for instance, conducted an ethnographic study of knowledge transfer between a US MNC and its Indian subsidiary that demonstrated how ‘much of the interaction reflected older relationships in the era of colonialism’ (Mir and Mir, 2009: 11). Bhabha’s work has been singularly important in developing a specifically postcolonial sensibility towards the study of knowledge transfer, and the attendant complex, ambiguous and culturally embedded processes of accommodation, resistance and hybridization. Frenkel’s work has been vital in this respect: (1) by illustrating the hybrid patterns of knowledge that developed in Israel after British and US models of productivity were exported and interacted with local Israeli ones (Frenkel and Shenhav, 2003); (2) by developing a conceptualization of knowledge transfer as a Bhabhaian Third Space (Frenkel, 2008): an ambivalent process never closed to the possibilities that the colonized will creatively subvert the knowledge imposed by the colonizer. With the emergence of the BRICS nations, and Chinese, Indian, Brazilian, and other regional multinationals, postcolonial scholars have noted the potential for counter- or backflows that may reverse colonial hierarchies of knowledge, or perhaps generate new imperialist ones in South–South settings (Jackson, 2012, on Africa–China relations). However, Frenkel’s (2014) study of DE-MNCs (developing and emerging multinational corporations) notes the tenacity of what she calls ‘the postcolonial imagination’ as a barrier to realizing the reversal of colonialist hierarchies. She writes: ‘against all odds and in contrast to stereotypical predictions, firms emerging from the south have shown that they can sometimes play the free market game of the north even better than the (northern) indigenous people (or firms) themselves. Surprisingly (or not), this fact has yet to transform the ways in which north and south conceptualise themselves and each other’ (Frenkel, 2014: 48). A final set of concerns in postcolonial organization studies involves questions of resistance to/decentring of dominant Western modes of knowing (Faria et al., 2013), reversing negative 161

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representations of others’ ways of organizing (Nkomo, 2011) and revaluing/learning about already existing alternative forms of organizational knowledge, notably from diverse Indigenous cultures (Henry and Pene, 2001; Misoczky, 2011; Humphries and Verbos, 2014). While many of Spivak’s core concerns are of relevance and sometimes cited in these regards, questions of resistance are generally not well explored by the Holy Trinity (as noted above). These tasks might broadly be encompassed as those of ‘writing back’ to the centre (Ashcroft et al., 1989); subjugated groups rewriting themselves back into history, memory and social science. Or, as Alcadipani et al. (2012: 131) more whimsically note with respect to organization studies, reminding scholars at the centre that ‘there is life beyond Northern academia, both in terms of managerial theoretical concepts and in terms of organizational practices’. Responses to these concerns have been varied, but two are noteworthy. First, postcolonial organizational scholars have addressed the questions of how to create relational conditions for theory development (Jack et al., 2008) and generate epistemic diversity, methodological pluralism, and greater levels of individual researcher reflexivity in a future vision of the discipline. Őzkazanç-Pan (2012) shows how researchers conducting fieldwork in international settings might use postcolonial feminist conceptions of subalternity, reflexivity and representation to address the risk of reproducing and re-inscribing inappropriate and imperious Western assumptions and research approaches. Second, researchers from Latin America, and notably Brazil (Faria et al., 2013; also Islam, 2012), have demonstrated the organizational insights offered by indigenous concepts such ‘anthropophagy’ as well as a distinctive decolonial (following Mignolo, 2000) approach to considering how to generate a pluriversal form of critical management studies. While indigenous knowledge systems offer valuable alternative modes of organizing and challenges to the deleterious effects of Euromodernity, care is needed among non-indigenous researchers in particular not to essentialize, homogenize or romanticize them (Vargas-Cetina, 2001), and attention paid to the tensions between postcolonial and Indigenous perspectives, and to critical Indigenous studies scholarship (e.g. Moreton-Robinson, 2009). As Warrior (2009: 122) notes, postcolonial concerns with Western categories of knowing mean that it has ‘never accounted for Native worldviews’.

Identity-work and subjectivity in neo-colonial workplaces The predominant focus on text-based analyses of knowledge/representations has resulted in only ‘modest attention to questions of practice and identity’ (Srinivas, 2012: 1658), that is to say, with the lived experience of colonialism/imperialism as enacted through processes of subjectivation, agency and social practice. Just how, and with what effects, are colonial and other modes of (self-)knowing taken up and practised by colonial/imperial subjects? A small but important number of conceptual, autobiography-based and empirical studies of the identity-work of managers or employees employed in past and present colonial and neo-colonial workplaces variously illuminate experiences of racial privilege and subordination, struggle and resistance, and ambivalence. In short, identity work in neo-colonial contexts is not a case of ‘simple’ interpellation through colonial discourse (as imagined by Said), but a more complex set of subjective processes, affective responses, and psychical/emotional coping strategies (as imagined by Bhabha or Spivak). A small subset of studies in this domain, specifically drawing on Said and Bhabha, focuses on understanding how organizations with dedicated diversity management policies nonetheless reproduce hierarchies of racial and cultural difference. Prasad’s (2006) conceptual essay contests a positive reading of diversity management initiatives as ‘organizational reform projects that would empower marginalized groups, and bring them to a position of equality with the privileged white 162

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group’ (Prasad, 2006: 135; emphasis in the original). Instead he argues that their function (wittingly or unwittingly) is to maintain white majority privilege by sustaining rather than dismantling the racial binaries that produce hierarchical relations of privilege and subordination. Following Bhabha, Prasad views diversity discourse as a linguistic repair and maintenance mechanism for the underlying ambivalence of dominant white groups towards racial Others, ‘traceable, in part, to the continuing imprint of . . . colonialist schizophrenia’ (Prasad, 2006: 136). Kalonaityte’s (2010) study of diversity management in a Swedish adult education institution (with many non-Swedish immigrant students) conceptualizes it as a mode of ‘internal border control’. She demonstrates empirically (through interviews with Swedish teachers) what Prasad contends, namely that ambivalences and contradictions (e.g. in the teachers’ self-representations of Swedishness) are the generative mechanism for a race-based hierarchy of inclusion and exclusion in that organization, but also noting ongoing resistance to it. Based on the same data, but using a postcolonial feminist lens (combining Said and Spivak) to illuminate the subject-positioning of female immigrant students (e.g. from Afghanistan and Iraq), Kalonaityte (2012: 117) shows how ‘the content and structure of the teaching practices, but also the conditions for student agency and gender equality’ construct these students as ‘the absolute victims of Orientalist cultures, Islam and native patriarchies’. Doubly colonized on grounds of gender and imperialism, such data demonstrate the continued presence of what P. Prasad (2012; writing with respect to discourses of the veil in the Scandinavian workplace) refers to as the ‘cultural fantasies . . . about Muslim women that have long captured the European imagination’ (P. Prasad, 2012: 55). Other studies concerned with identity dynamics and practices in colonial/neo-colonial workplaces focus on recorded experiences of managers or employees (even researchers doing fieldwork; see Alcadipani et al., 2015), demonstrating a number of different subjective processes and responses (Ulus, 2014). Yousfi’s (2013) empirical study of the modernization of a Tunisian organization based on a US management model evinced not just the local cultural hybridization of that model, but the ambivalent effects of its implementation by local managers on their identity constructions (see also Mirchandani et al.’s 2012 research with employees of Indian call centres). In neither wholeheartedly adopting nor completely resisting the implementation of the model, the managers effected ‘hybrid forms of identity presentation’ (Yousfi, 2013: 415) in which they ‘engage[d] with the adoption process without taking on a subaltern position’ (ibid.). From a different time and context, Srinivas (2012) explored the question ‘could a subaltern manage?’ through an analysis of the autobiography of Prakash Tandon, the first Indian Chief Executive of Lever Brothers India. Srinivas’s analysis (using Spivak and Bourdieu’s concept of habitus) highlights three distinct identity-work practices (self-monitoring, constructing a duality, finding a calling) developed by Tandon to respond to the expectations of European (mostly British) managers about what comprised professional managerial conduct and identity in a context of accepted racial inequality where ‘they were not to let exclusion get under the skin’ (Tandon, 1971: 59, in Srinivas, 2012: 1662). Anger, frustration, hurt and rage are typical emotions in neo-colonial workplaces that still manifest old colonial and new imperial forms of racism.

Future directions Postcolonial approaches are now an established feature of the critical theoretical terrain in organization studies, offering a distinct (but varied) set of intellectual and political resources for mounting anti-Eurocentric, anti-imperialist and anti-colonial inquiry. Notwithstanding this encouraging sign, our engagement with postcolonial theory (both within the field of postcolonial organizational studies, as well as this chapter) has been selective. I therefore conclude with two sets of suggestions for future work with and against postcolonial theory. 163

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First, there is further reading and philosophical reflection to be done, involving consideration of what, how and under what circumstances. With respect to ‘what’ (else) we might read, despite the apparent privileging of Said’s Orientalism and Bhabha’s The Location of Culture (with relatively less use of Spivak), we seem to have scratched only the surface of these texts and critical responses to them. I would suggest constant re-readings of these books, looking to surface more productive insights from each (e.g. working with Bhabha’s concept of the stereotype in a more complex fashion could yield further insights into the libidinal economy of neo-colonial racism in the workplace), including greater consideration of criticisms of their work (Young, 1990; MooreGilbert, 1997). Next, we might also add to the ‘library’ of postcolonial organizational scholarship by reading and writing about more work by anti-colonial writers/fighters for independence noted earlier, including: Fanon and other diverse voices from Africa to counteract ‘the omission of an “authentic and well sustained African input” . . . into postcolonialism’ (Nkomo, 2011: 366) and postcolonial organization studies (Nyathi, 2008); and Robert Young’s (2001) tricontinental theory which offers a starting point for postcolonial analysis more clearly grounded in anti-colonial/nationalist struggles for independence, and Marxism. Both these suggestions offer vehicles for philosophical reflection on the well-noted fault-lines between postcolonialism and poststructuralism (a question of the Eurocentric basis of the latter), postcolonial theory and Marxism (a question of the Eurocentric basis of the latter, and the textual rather than materialist emphasis of the former; see Parry, 1987), and postcolonialism and postmodernism (a question of whether the latter is a Eurocentric critical narrative that reinscribes the West at the centre of social theory; Radhakrishnan, 1994). In terms of ‘how’ we might read, and under what conditions, scholars might consider Connell’s (2007) approach in Southern Theory as exemplary in showcasing the distinctive theoretical insights about ‘modern’ society generated by diverse writers from ‘peripheral’ locations, while Spivak’s (1999) interdisciplinary and transnational approach to reading emphasizes the need for the study of global political economy to inform textual analysis. Postcolonial theory could be used as a foil for greater articulation and productive contrast with contemporary currents in queer theory and whiteness studies as applied to the study of organizations/organizing (see Rumens and Tyler, Chapter 15, and Swan, Chapter 31, both this volume). With respect to gender and sexuality, for instance, more study is needed of contemporary postcolonial and queer masculinities and femininities in/across organizations, and how these intersect with racial, classed and other hierarchies. The second set of suggested directions calls for more interdisciplinary (e.g. by working with international relations scholars or anthropologists located in multiple locations) and empirical research that can enable better understandings of the lived realities and experiences of metropolitan and rural subaltern groups (and others), and specifically the Global Poor (Mir and Mir, 2012) under conditions of postcoloniality. This recommendation would bring the philosophical concerns of postcolonial theory, and criticisms of it, closer to the materialist study of economic imperialism (in the globalizing guise of neo-liberalism; see, for instance, Banerjee’s (2008) work on necrocapitalism), and state–civil society relations in national and transnational perspective. In this respect, expanding postcolonial and transnational feminist thinking holds particular importance because of the ways that it can, according to Kim (2007: 118): ‘bridge[s] discursive and material analyses’; ‘highlight[s] the importance of social structure and the state’; ‘shift[s] analyses to linkages [and] various forms of border crossings, including conceptual, temporal, bureaucratic, geopolitical, geographic, economic, cultural’; and ‘stress[es] the role of empirical research’. As a corollary, such empirical scholarship could strengthen the theory–praxis engagement of postcolonial organization studies, and might ideally involve 164

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collaboration with individuals, groups and organizations that advocate for social change and anti-corporate protest such as farmers’ protest movements, trade unions, and indigenous organizations. In sum, there is much future potential for postcolonial theory in organizational studies, and reflexive vigilance should be its watch-words. A good place to enact them is this very Companion, asking questions about whose philosophical approaches to organization and thus voices and values are represented, how, and with what consequences for future scholarship, and whose voices are missing and/or silenced. That is to ask: Just whose library is this?

Notes 1 2

I would like to thank Kathleen Riach for reading drafts of this chapter and helping me to clarify the key ideas. The terrain of postcolonialism – in common with cognate areas like development studies, geography, international relations – is typically characterized by the use of a set of spatial dualities and associated references including: ‘the West’ and the non-West (or even ‘the rest’; the Occident and the Orient); the First, Second and Third Worlds of development studies; the Global North and the Global South; and of course the notions of centre or core/periphery, or metropole-periphery, associated with dependency theory. These terms should not be interpreted as neutral geographical referents, instead as problematic (since they are essentialisms, and objectifying and homogenizing categories, if not treated with care) and thus contested and contestable forms of epistemological shorthand. However, and appropriating Spivak (1988), I use them as examples of strategic essentialisms (or heuristics) that enable a relatively unencumbered mode of writing in this chapter.

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11 Poststructuralist theory Thinking organization otherwise Stephen Linstead

‘Theory’ in poststructuralism is a process or activity of theorizing that spans disciplines, questioning both its own representations and the way it is itself represented (Cooper and Burrell, 1988; Jones, 2009; Linstead, 2004; Palmer, 2008). It draws attention to the limits and lack of language and other representational systems, the challenges of reflexivity, the importance of negativity in and for experience, the critique of structures as patterns within relational processes, and the nature of the human – even extending this critique to the self as a site rather than a source of meaning. It not only suggests that things could be otherwise than they are, but that things are already otherwise than the ways in which they are represented. Ironically, it implies that the prefix ‘post’ indicates a return to the recognition of a process that precedes structure and remains at work behind and beneath structure. Thinking backwards in this way has a disruptive effect on knowledge. The instability, or trembling, it recognizes in the relationality of representations and reality blurs the boundaries between them. This destabilizes knowledge assumptions that include foundations, teleology, causality, depth and surface, creating what has been seen as a flattening of epistemology and ontology. Analysis then becomes a series of differential horizontal moves between alternative genres rather than a revelation of essential qualities, underlying determinants, or deeper insight. This has impacted particularly on social science knowledge, creatively interrupting thought in terms of aesthetics, critique, politics, psychoanalysis, ethics, ontology, epistemology and metaphysics.

In the beginning . . . or was it the middle Poststructuralism as a term poses its own originary problem – to what ‘structuralism’ is it post? It might appear to be a radically relativist phenomenological reaction to the big picture positivism of structural sociology, but pursuing an answer involves tracing how mostly French twentieth century philosophical thought has raised telling questions about core concepts in the sociology of organization. Saussure. Structuralism emerged in Francophone thought with the work of Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure (1916[1983]). Saussure’s seminal contribution was to create semiology as a ‘science of signs’ that rested on an understanding of a sign as a pairing of ‘signifier’ and ‘signified’. He drew attention to the difference between the ‘object’ signified and the ‘concept’ 171

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signified, and the initially arbitrary nature of the signifier (sound–image) that over time becomes conventional, institutionalised in language. Words (or sounds) gain their meaning not from their relation to the object, but from their relation to each other within a system of difference. This applied to representations – any pairing of object/concept and representational form (sound, text, image, sound even smell) that could constitute a sign. Saussure’s semiology then could be applied not only to any formally recognized sign system such as language, art or music, but more importantly to any system of relations with signifying potential (architecture, cooking, fashion, transport, sport). For Saussure, each field would have a range of styles of enunciation (at the level equivalent to speech, or parole) but the system of difference was governed by a hidden set of ordering principles (at the level of grammar, or langue). The important point was that there were no natural relations between sounds, or words, and meanings. There were only conventional relations, and these different sets of relations (languages) produced different concepts, and different versions of reality. Saussure turned linguistic thinking away from a causal model of analysis as employed in the sciences towards a structural but relational model. He also diverted it away from a diachronic (or historical) mode of analysis to a synchronic mode, that of considering the relations between elements of a system at any given moment in time, rather than their evolution. The explanation of a phenomenon was not to be found in terms of history’s impact on its development, but by revealing the underlying relations of difference governing its position within a wider system of reference. Saussure challenged realism (we don’t know the real world) with a linguistic relativism (we can know the systems of concepts generated by language) and displaced human agency to the extent that language is not the property of any individual – change in language, and hence in systems of thinking, is only slowly achieved. Lévi-Strauss. Influenced by Saussure, Lévi-Strauss argued that social phenomena can be understood as convergences of two or more terms, in relation. Mythology (Lévi-Strauss, 1962[1966], 1978[2003]) is particularly important for structuralism more generally. While the human mind becomes adept at thinking with contrasts, and seeing similarity in the ways things differ, it also has to address the problem of oppositions and contradictions. If it cannot resolve them, it must mediate in some way. This is the role of myth. Myths use basic units of meaning such as categories of food, tastes, sounds, silence, seasons, climates etc., and deploy them in a structured pattern both to express the contradictions of life, and render them intelligible and to some degree manageable, or at least endurable. They act as codes that lead us towards possible, or at least attempted, solutions of universal dilemmas. Patterns of behaviour and critical events in organizations can also be decoded (Turner, 1983; Linstead, 1985). The point was to penetrate the often bewildering subtleties of subcultural relations to get a sense of what wider connections might be possible, and conflicts discernible. Lacan. Lacan (1964[1977a], 1977b) occupies a pivotal position between structuralism and poststructuralism, taking Saussure’s idea of two characteristic functions of language being paradigmatic (a matter of vertical substitutability as a result of similarity) or syntagmatic (a matter of horizontal sequencing). Hence phrases like ‘the cat sat on the fluffy mat’ and ‘his dog jumped over my tumbledown wall’ are similar in structure but different in meaning. Lacan adapts this with Jakobson’s observation that paradigmatic association is that of metaphor (association of images – ‘my love is like a red, red rose’), while syntagmatic association is that of metonymy (association by contiguity – ‘the face that launched a thousand ships’). In metonomy the whole can stand for the part, or the part the whole. This shifts the emphasis from the functionality of language in Saussure to its poetic dimensions, and can be linked to Freud’s processes of condensation (one image contains several) and displacement (a fear of or wish for a forbidden object is deflected onto a different object with a non-obvious association) in the unconscious. 172

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This is important because although Saussure had said that the signifier can only be what it is in relation to other signifiers, he still concentrated, as a linguist, on the relation between the signifier (as sound image) and the signified as concept. For Lacan (1977b: 154), if the meaning of the signifier is determined in relation to other signifiers, the signified is another signifier. This produces a slippery view of language – signifiers change when placed into different contexts with other signifiers, but these signifiers are not stable either and slide into the signified. But the signified also slides relative to the signifier resulting in a general instability of meaning. Where structuralists saw difference as underpinned by more stable universal meanings that analytic effort was needed to reveal, this radicalizing turn, which is poststructuralist, shows that effort revealing more instability – and not just in language. Subjectivity is not a self-contained entity that expresses itself in language, but is a set of relationships called into being by the entry into a particular semiological (language) system. The process of identifying oneself in seeing oneself reflected (mirrored) back in language is also a moment when the self is lost, given up to the signifying system – ironically, like an object. For Lacan (1977b: 170), the unconscious is not the ultimate private place, primordial or instinctual, where desires can be revealed for what they are, but is the repository of the language or discourse of the other, and so is very public. It is the ground where the tension between giving up to the totalitarianism of language and resisting it to the point of isolation and madness in non-linguistic freedom is at work. Language is therefore the site of the unconscious. The struggle is not to realize desires, for these cannot be known and fulfilled outside language, but to trace the chains of (sliding) signifiers that they have travelled. Relatedly, Lacan (1964[1977a]) discusses three registers of subjectivity: the Real (which is pre-linguistic experience, that which always eludes language as its remainder); the Imaginary (at the level of everyday experience where fantasy and expression meet, and create the illusion that we have natural access to the Real); and the Symbolic (which is where everyday experience is ordered and made meaningful – the whole signifying system of human culture and institutions, its permissions and prohibitions). The sign as part of the symbolic order sets up the principle of the Law that Freud had associated with biologically based patriarchy as linguistic. This establishing of patterns of alienation, repression, and unfulfilled desires and claiming these as natural ‘murders’ the thing, or the Real (a point later developed by Baudrillard). For Lacan then, analysis is based on words because this creates the reality that we experience, and the unconscious is not outside this language to be reached through it, revealed by structural analysis, but is within it and present in it. Thus the psychoanalytic analysis of cultural institutions is possible through close attention to the language in which they are established and conducted. This radicalization of Saussure takes us a move beyond structuralism. In recent years Lacan’s work has enjoyed a resurgence of popularity in psychoanalytic studies of organizations (Contu et al., 2010) and in critical management studies via the work of Slavoj Žižek (Böhm and De Cock, 2006). Barthes. Barthes developed Saussure’s linguistic work formally but also extended its compass into other cultural phenomena such as fashion, wrestling, advertising, death, toys, strip-tease and food marketing (Barthes, 1957[1972]). These latter analyses, however, are paired with an important theoretical essay, ‘Myth Today’, that contemporises both Saussure and Lévi-Strauss in making a political point: that myth naturalizes and depoliticizes speech by motivating prefabricated responses that obscure contradiction. Resonating with concepts of ideology and kitsch (Linstead, 2002), Barthes demonstrated that signification operates on at least two levels beyond basic ostensive labelling. The first, which he called denotation, consists of the pairing of a signifier (say red roses) with a signified concept (say passion) which gives red roses as a sign for passion that is immediately and unreflectively decoded. However, at the level of connotation, this red rose of passion sign (the passionified rose) becomes a signifier for the signified Valentine’s Day. A fully commodified sign is delivered that valorizes consumption and expense as obligatory 173

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for romance. Barthes called this normalization myth – showing Lévi-Strauss’ (1962[1966]) ‘savage mind’ at work at the heart of the market economy. Although his earlier work partly inspired the development of cultural and media studies in the 1970s, later Barthes became increasingly uneasy about the position of the ‘mythologist’ or critic who appeared to have some sort of scientific privilege, where structuralism should have a decentring effect. His influence has been widely diffused, but examples of its direct impact in organization studies include Czarniawska (1999) and Golding (1996). Foucault. At the same time, historian and philosopher Michel Foucault was articulating a growing suspicion of a series of overarching explanatory models which led him to distance himself from Marxism, psychoanalysis, Sartre and ultimately from structuralism itself. In his early works Foucault takes a structuralist line that content masks form, which means for him that language masks the workings of desire and power, and adopts its anti-essentialist position that relationships, forged in arbitrary and autonomous systems of representation, determine reality. What Foucault does takes up Barthes’ position in regarding language as ideological but develops the insight that language is power in action shaping knowledge, which in turn shapes power. This connects to Lacan on subjectivity and its socially or other-determined nature, because language determines not just what may be said, but who is allowed to say it – in the process defining the speaker. His preferred term here was ‘discourse’, but discourse was more than a ‘regulated system of statements’, because it included the articulations of power/knowledge through actions and institutions. Discourse works to determine knowledge and truth rather than reveal them: truth is, more accurately, a truth-effect of power. Discourse is deceptive and paradoxical, shown by Foucault’s (1961[1964]) demonstration in Madness and Civilisation that madness, rather than being the opposite of classical reason, is at the heart of its paranoid Cartesian method of doubt obsessively centred upon the self, which when perfected to extremes (of categorization, exclusion and inclusion, measurement and containment) provided ‘the ultimate language of madness’ (Foucault, 1961: 65). Foucault takes a Nietzschean view of the discontinuities (rather than continuities) of history, arguing that it is possible to discern knowledge-based periods, or epistemes, in which discursive practices are united in generating particular epistemologies (such as nineteenth century positivism), sciences (such as eighteenth century medicine) and formalized systems (such as law and education). These periods have what he called regimes of truth: ‘the types of discourse which it accepts and makes function as true’ and the ‘mechanisms and instances which enable one to distinguish [both]true and false statements, [and] the status of those who are charged with saying what counts as true’ [including doctors, lawyers, scientists, judges, priests, teachers]. Epistemes are characteristically normalized, and history is essentially a ‘history of the same’ that also carries with it a dark side, a suppressed and silenced history of the abnormal, its equally characteristic ‘other’. What is important in this stage of Foucault’s work is that power is repressive, that language is the model for other systems, and that systems of division on the basis of scientific/knowledge categories (such as medicine) become the basis of moral distinctions (the sick are guilty). This is indicative of reason’s defence against unreason, most developed in modernism, and only in opening up a dialogue between reason and unreason can art be possible: and for Foucault, all human life is art. Madness is the absence of art from human life as it lies in the absolute domination of either unreason or reason and the suppression of the connection between them that art sustains. Here Foucault also argues for the importance of intensity and ‘limit-experiences’ that pull the subject out of the constraints of the ordering systems that define and speciously unify it, testing their limitations. This may provide a key to both his work and his life. 174

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Organization as writing: Jacques Derrida Jacques Derrida criticised Saussure and Lévi-Strauss in demonstrating that while their arguments hold on a practical or historical level, they contradict themselves at a logical level. Despite taking a relational view of the signifier, they privilege the ‘grammatical’ structural systems that discipline meaning. This logocentrism, however, runs against the evidence of play at work in signification they themselves present. Derrida accordingly argues that ‘play’ is inherent in every form of representation, and that logic itself – and structures derived from it – are unstable. ‘Authority’ then is undecidable, but this has been widely misunderstood as a generic justification for ‘anything goes’. His approach was termed by American scholars poststructuralism. Derrida’s (1967a, 1967b[1976], 1967c[1978], 1972) early significant works critique the metaphysics of presence, a mode of thought that privileges the type of expression most accessible to immediate experience as being the closest to true consciousness. So speech is privileged over writing, a process of phonocentrism emanating from Plato. Thinkers including Rousseau and Lévi-Strauss have given writing this ‘unnatural’ role. But Derrida argues, from close readings of the latter authors and Saussure, that although historically speech is prior to writing, logically this cannot be so as being, especially for structuralists, is constituted by the relations between the terms in which it is expressed. This, as we have seen in Lacan, includes the self and the unconscious. These relations shape the ways that become available for apprehending reality, and what is experienced is always already rendered intelligible through processes of ordering, sequencing, marginalizing and spacing that are typical of writing. This abstract ‘writing’ then precedes the ‘speech’ that it is supposed to inscribe. There is no concept of speech that adequately distinguishes it from the concept of writing. What is absent is more influential than what is present: or more precisely, absence and presence are inseparable and meaning depends on a dynamic relation – an absent presence – between the two. Other binary distinctions important to structuralism that break down similarly are nature/culture and origin/supplement, even being/non-being. Meaning does not reside in one term (a logic of identity) or even in the difference between two terms, but is distributed through a whole sign system, with each sign containing traces of the other signs. While the difference between black and white might be obvious and present as I type this text, the difference between these and other colours is also necessary for the concept of colour, but absent and deferred. Meaning as difference depends on relations between signs that are always deferred in language, which Derrida (1972) calls différance, producing the perpetual glissement or sliding of meaning. Because of this, and the fact that language always betrays its lack of control by simultaneously leaving aspects of reality unarticulated, while also setting in motion a surplus of meaning beyond it, margins are necessary – footnotes of clarification, marginal amplifications, parenthetical asides – to arrest the movement of the text. Margins seek to determine the centre – decentring textual and logical ‘authority’. The ‘grammar’ that structuralism identifies attempts to stabilize this decentring effect, and Derrida (1967b[1976]) terms his study of the ways in which grammar works to construct meaning, grammatology. Deconstruction is the process (often presented as a method) through which he exposes the ways in which binaries collapse, rhetoric and authorial intention diverge and conflict, and power is exerted through language to unilaterally resolve the play of difference. As language is public, it constitutes an encounter with the other that is also a matter of ethics, but at the same time, if signs are both unstable and constitutive of the idea of self, then subjectivity itself is unstable. Even the self is thus decentred. The use of ‘deconstruction’ as a somewhat radical and irreverent method has received considerable attention from commentators and critics, but this attention often fails to recognise that deconstruction is a movement already present within texts (sign-systems). Derrida as analyst merely teases out and seduces this movement to 175

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prominence. Similarly, power and ethics have always been present in Derrida’s work, although they are most explicit in his later contributions, but again are frequently overlooked (Jones, 2004). Derrida’s work has been usefully discussed and applied conceptually and empirically by Cooper (1989), Chia (1996), Linstead and Grafton-Small (1992), Learmonth (2005), Linstead (1993) and Rasche (2011).

Rethinking institutions: Michel Foucault Power and subjectivity are impossible to overlook in Foucault’s later work, as he shifts his attention to a more genealogical approach that looks more closely at non-linguistic aspects of discourse to trace discontinuities in epistemes. Where in his earlier work Foucault had tended to view power in terms of repression, exclusion and compulsion, for Discipline and Punish (Foucault, 1975[1977]) he develops a view of power as productive, in which the interactions of institutions, practices and language as discourse create power and themselves are shaped by power. Power makes certain practices, institutional formations and subjectivities possible, and generates new desires. It is everywhere rather than centred: no-one is outside it, no-one is powerless, and it operates through capillary action rather than centre-periphery flows. This does not necessarily mean that everyone is equally powerful, however; nor does it mean that there is no room for resistance. Foucault argues in Discipline and Punish that since the eighteenth century there was a governmental move from the type of corporeal power that sought to control people through physical means (of constraint, containment, banishment, punishment, torture, execution) towards a form of power that led them to internalize certain values and imperatives that controlled them from within, as self-disciplining or docile subjects. He illustrates this through the example of the Panopticon, a form of prison design in which prisoners were always visible, but never knew whether they were being watched. As a result, they had to behave according to the rules (the contemporary roadside speed-camera, which may or may not have film in it, operates on the same principle). Ultimately, the internalized discipline may be so powerful, and so normalized, that even implied surveillance is not necessary for conformance to occur. Individuals employ ‘technologies of the self’ in order to meet the implied demands of society with the same logic that they swot for professional examinations or prepare themselves for religious confession. This has informed a wide range of studies of workplace surveillance and human resource management (cf. McKinley and Starkey, 1998). Examination and confession become part of ‘governmentality’, the techniques and strategies by which a society is rendered governable. Within these dynamics power and knowledge are so mutually imbricated that he finds it necessary to coin the neologism power/knowledge. Foucault (1976[1978]) later turns to analysing the way in which discourse affects sexuality, rejecting Freud’s repressive hypothesis in showing how discourse shapes the sort of statements that can be made, how sexual relations are represented, and in what ways these enable the active construction of both sexuality and gender for docile and governable subjects. This institutional approach to the discursive construction of sex influenced work in organization studies on gender and sexuality since the 1980s (Knights, 2004). Later Foucault (1984a[1985], 1984b[1986]) turns to exploring the historical relations between the body, ethics and aesthetics that have more recently been taken up in studies of gender and organization. The capacity developed by postructuralist thinkers to read a ‘text’ against itself, often reversing the accepted interpretation of that text, but using the resources already found within it, is also evident in the work of Lyotard, Baudrillard and Deleuze and Guattari who take the concerns of poststructuralism in a ‘postmodern’ direction. 176

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What’s the big idea? Lyotard from language to justice The term postmodern was brought to prominence in the social sciences by Jean-Francois Lyotard. A philosopher of aesthetics, ethics and politics, his Libidinal Economy (1974[1993]) had gained him a controversial profile in an angry critique of semiotics, Marx and Freud, that accused them of a dehumanizing turn away from the other, despite their rhetoric. The intellectual structures that they developed to liberate, all end up becoming systems of totalization and closure – what was outside the system was unrecognized, silenced, and denied access. Lyotard argued against the structuring idea of desire as lack (or desire-as-wish) and for a view of desire as exuberance (desire-as-force). This positioned him against Lacan, but alongside Deleuze and Guattari and Baudrillard, taking up a legacy from Bataille. Part of Lyotard’s argument was that just as subjectivity is not simply a matter of being co-opted through one’s desires into capitalism and hence authorizing and legitimating it, resistance cannot be reduced to the anarchistic opposition of desire to capital. It proceeds most constructively by inventively exploiting the tensions of its own difference, using the channels created by the possibilities of co-option to disrupt and subvert capitalism. Identity, rather than being coherent and defined, is produced by intensity moving around and between dominant chains of signification, rationalization, commodification and colonization, unsettling them. In libidinal economy, Lyotard saw the pulsion of passion changing the world: in his subsequent thought he saw even here the tendency of ‘strong’ structured regimes of thought to do injustice to others. He came to prefer modest approaches with no explicit political intent that reflexively listen to silenced voices, rather than risking the imposition of silence on others, improvising identity and connection in the spaces of sublime supplementarity that evade reification into opposition. These concerns with legitimation resonated with those of Habermas and he addressed these specifically in Lyotard (1979 in French, 1984 in English). This work has been widely quoted in organization studies, but almost as widely misunderstood to the extent that it is often accused of neglecting issues which are its core concern. Lyotard argues that science is modern if it appeals for its legitimation to a metadiscourse via a grand narrative. Knowledge is historically animated by a limited number of Kantian ‘Ideas’ – in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, for the West the big idea has been emancipation. Below this overarching level, alternative ‘grand narratives’ compete to claim their right as the dominant channel for attaining the ‘Idea’. Lyotard (1988[1992]) identifies five such ‘philosophies of history’: emancipation from sin by redemption through love (Christianity); emancipation from ignorance and servitude through knowledge and egalitarianism (Enlightenment); emancipation from exploitation and alienation through the socialisation of work (Marxism); emancipation from poverty through industrial development (Capitalism); and what he calls ‘the speculative narrative of realization of the Universal through the dialectic of the concrete’ (Materialism). These may articulate, as do Christianity and Capitalism in Weber’s Protestant Ethic, or Capitalism and Enlightenment in liberal political economy; none is to be regarded as more ‘grand’ than any other. Modern science legitimates its knowledge through recourse to grand narratives But for Lyotard the postmodern condition is one in which the old grand narratives no longer convince, and new forms of legitimation have emerged. Lyotard identifies three – performativity, consensus and paralogy. Performativity is the dominant response where all activities need to be justified in terms of their value to and impact on capitalism and techno-science (rights are displaced by calculations, justice by efficiency, all elements are commensurable and subject to the ‘business case’ for their existence). Knowledge and power circulate in an algorithm of wealth, efficiency and truth, decisions being made with an arrogance that is the equivalent of ‘terror’. Consensus is Habermas’ preferred response, but this inevitably reproduces the tendency to sameness and 177

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exclusion, because it trusts that knowledge and power can be mediated through language. Lyotard argues that language can never represent experience, or do justice to reality, and in use ‘regimes’ of phrases cannot do justice to those outside those regimes. Language ‘games’ have serious consequences – the question is how such games can ever be ‘just’ (Lyotard and Thébaut, 1985). Judgement is therefore a matter of deciding how injustice is to be done. Paralogy is an approach to reassert the incommensurable difference, the limits of logic, the contradictions of reason, and articulate little narratives (petits reçus) that offer tentative accounts of local knowledges, aware of their sources and their audiences, that aim at the inclusion of specific and different others to avoid injustice. This suspicion of structures and language marks Lyotard as poststructuralist, and his work after The Postmodern Condition maintains his central focus on language and how it works socially, politically and ethically to establish the power to define, judge and literally ‘sentence’ the other (Letiche, 2004a; Linstead, 1994).

Crimes against reality: Baudrillard from sign consumption to hyper-reality and crisis Jean Baudrillard also came to prominence with critiques of semiotics and Marx and his argument that their approaches reproduced the relations (of production or signification) that they intended to challenge, which formed the basis of his critique of the consumer society (Baudrillard, 1970[1998], 1976[1993]). The consumer society depends on information, the circulation of knowledge as formulae. The knowledge economy is not based on blueprints taken from a model that exists to produce copies: it is based on patterns of information that can generate endless simulacra with no ‘original’. Baudrillard’s early work was influenced by Barthes and he emulated him in launching his critique of commodification through classifying objects as functional, (traditional or modern), non-functional (or marginal) and metafunctional (useless, aberrant and schizofunctional), and subjecting them to semiotic analysis. He extends this to a critique of production, arguing that ‘sign-value’ has displaced use-value and exchange value and meaning is what is transferred through the consumption of objects. The individual buys a group identity and a feeling of metaphysical order with each purchase, fulfilling the needs of the productive system while being reassured that they are servicing their private desires. The over-determination of each transaction leads to the implosion of signifiers into each other such that categories become blurred and the real becomes unknowable among a proliferation of specificities – ‘the law of confusion’. Baudrillard (1981[1994) specifies quite clearly what he considers to be the four stages of the ‘precession of simulacra’ – that is, how the simulation comes to displace the real. In the fourth stage cultural products no longer pretend to be real or representational, and lives tend to be lived in hyper-real – more real than the real – terms. These are ‘third-order’ or late capitalist simulacra. Appeal to the real is viewed as sentimental, uncritical, lacking reflexivity and irony; seduction draws us into the play of simulation as we simultaneously distance ourselves from responsibility for meaning as we abandon ourselves to its interactive working out. George Ritzer (2009) connects this early phase of Baudrillard’s work on consumption and the hyper-real with his own reading of Weber and applies them to the experience economy. But Baudrillard’s deconstruction of simulation goes much further. The frantic metaphysics of the real determines the subject, which means that the displaced subject cannot retake possession of the real. The only way for subjective consciousness to survive, rather than subsiding into nostalgia for ‘authenticity’ or the somnolence of kitsch, is to imitate the artificial dynamism of the capitalist real: to become more object than the object and reclaim the principle of activity rather than the subjective paralysis of the hyper-real. Baudrillard displaces metaphysics with pataphysics, seeking to accelerate the tendencies within the hyper-real – out-simulating 178

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simulation – until it implodes in catastrophic consumerism. What we might expect to see in organizations then is a pulsion into the ‘absurdity of ecstatic control and into the insane overdeterminations of all actions’, a direction towards which we might think the audit society is heading; or the strategy that Baudrillard followed in his later work, using writing to conceal his subjectivity in a situationist style rather than the highly reflexive and confessional styles that characterize some poststructural accounts that engage with the organized world (Letiche, 2004b). But this latter strategy nevertheless connects with the poststructuralist suspicion of language and the tendency to avoid semiotic capture, to resist by stealth and concealment, although Baudrillard is by contrast ‘hiding in the light’. Baudrillard’s approach to language takes a different, more extreme and more melancholic turn to that of Lyotard: although they both wrestle with the problem of entrapment and capture by regimes of signification, Baudrillard’s apparent narcissism shows no real concern with knowing the ‘Other’, and despite its insights leaves us with no sense of what renewed purpose might be salvaged from the ruins of catastrophe. His work has been used widely in the study of consumption, and in other areas of management including strategy (Grandy and Mills, 2004).

Becoming organized: Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari Deleuze and Guattari began their partnership following the events of May 1968 and a patronizing and dismissive attack by conservative French Freudians on the students, Marcuse, and Deleuze himself, who were all accused of being victims in flight from reality and with a utopian desire to return to the womb. This typical Freudian position, that rational accounts of action only mask unconscious motivations of desire, opposed the Marxist view of power deriving from relations of production to generate repressive social structures. Lacan rejected Freud’s psychosexual model of the unconscious, but replaced it with a psycho-social model that was nevertheless a structure of ‘authority’. Philosopher Deleuze and psychoanalyst Guattari saw the problem in both Freud and Lacan as Oedipal (of authority, control, restriction and necessary comportment), but resulting from the alignment of psychology with the powerful interests of capital. Capital was not simply an economic system, but a psychological and moral one: it sought to control, prescribe and channel meaning to produce behaviours that maintain desire as desire for the products of capitalist production (material and virtual). It established abstract equivalences that turned goods, bodies, actions, ideas and images into commodities to be exchanged for money; subjectivity was semiotically manipulated to be a matter of fitting in to this dissembling structure of authority, anxiety a result of not doing so effectively. Power was power over signification. Deleuze and Guattari (1972[1980]) sought to reconcile power (Marx) and desire (Freud) in critiquing capitalism through Nietzsche’s affirmative, active and creative view of desire. Here power was an object of desire rather than a structural feature of either society or the subjective unconscious. Structural features were temporary arrangements between different forces of power. Desire was not the desire of the partially unified subject to complete itself resulting from perceived lack, but preceded the subject: desire was free flowing and deterritorialized, lack was created by striations of signification, and the subject came into being only as a result of the repression of certain channels and possibilities of desire. Desire for identity, subjective reterritorialization, then became a paradoxical desire for one’s own repression and enslavement to the system, as victim, while appearing to be beneficiary. Deleuze and Guattari see desire as infinite possibility, with chaos as a normal state from which immanent order has to be filtered. If desire is force, power is its domestication, its capture by signifiers drawn into capitalist logic. The force that evades this is one of connection and expansion, a positive process they embrace as ‘schizophrenia’, on the principle that this condition of 179

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multiplicity is not pathological until it is judged so by totalizing and normalizing power, because it questions the truths power wishes to be self-evident. Schizoanalysis unmasks homogeneities for their suppressed difference, problematizes the taken-for-granted, releases possibilities and potential, argues that there are always alternatives and attempts to think the Other of capitalism. Like Lyotard and Foucault, it resists the incorporation of its dissent, its reterritorialization, and like Derrida, challenges the authority of power to ‘author’ it. It argues, like Baudrillard that the madness is in the system not outside it, and regardless of its rhetoric ‘caring’ capitalism is not, and has never been humane, liberal or paternal. This line of thought is not melancholic to the point of tragedy, as in Baudrillard; it is radical, but positive. Deleuze and Guattari (1984[1987]) use a number of metaphors to explore the motility of desire, and thought, and their connectivity: desiring-machines, assemblages, nomadic thought and rhizome, all intended to emphasize process over state, becoming over being, the molecular over the molar, non-identity over identity, multiplicity over definition and even dialectics (Linstead and Thanem, 2007). Thought that is mainstream and normalized, or becomes appropriated to the mainstream through participating in its logics and regimes of signification, they call majoritarian: thought that resists appropriation, connects with others, disinvests from territorialized desire they call minoritarian. Although in Deleuze’s individual philosophical work this is not always the case, in his work with Guattari thinking of alternatives to capital is always the political, social and psychological goal. When they argue that the task of philosophy is to generate new concepts this is still a matter of avoiding capture, of proliferating to resist translation and appropriation. This is very much a poststructuralist approach to theory (Carter and Jackson, 2004).

Future directions Poststructuralist theorizing emphasizes the capacity of signifying systems to re-present rather than represent reality through the processes they use to ‘capture’ it, and in recognizing that these signifying processes always lead to other significations that cannot be evaded (there is nothing that can be articulated and remain ‘outside’ the signifying process) looks carefully at these processes placing particular emphasis on their capacity to mask their contingent and dynamic nature. At the same time, recognition of the problems of reality capture through signification also reflexively acknowledges the tendency for the auto-capture of the users of the system in subjectification to the system. What energizes this seems to be a common recognition that there is always an inarticulable remainder to representation, subliminal, in excess of signification, that brings logocentrism up against its limits and operates non-dialectically. Resistance is not dialectical: poststructuralism is not anti-, contra- or counter- to some logos, but radically decompositional in exposing the workings of power as the power to define within representational systems and generate logocentric (truth) effects. Respect for the Otherness of signification leads to respect for alternative narratives, different truths, and a responsibility for finding ways of recognizing the ethics of the untranslatable. Politics is of becoming rather than perfectibility, even in the apparently tragic hypertheory of Baudrillard: who knows what will be liberated by the rubble of catastrophe? The power to define is also the power to seduce, and resistance is always subject to appropriation and incorporation. That which does not totalize, which appears as an excess, is also humble; exuberance is intensive but modest, elusive and minor; it is always vulnerable to habitual circulations of majoritarian logic and significations. In some presentations, postmodern theory has been offered as a means to widening perspectives, increasing creativity, opening up strategic foresight and responsive capacity – improving capitalism by moderating its fetishism 180

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for design and control. Organization studies should not ignore the fact that even where specific organizations themselves are not capitalistic, they operate in a world where logics and representations of the values of capitalism as the neutralizing logic of organizing economies, societies and selves penetrate everywhere. But most mainstream studies of organization do ignore it, and don’t question it, and where they consider it at all, tend to depoliticize power. As a result they have tended to regard poststructuralism as a marginal disturbance within interpretive inquiry, concerned largely with forms of discourse analysis. More energetic critiques of poststructuralism have emerged from other critical approaches to organization. As early as the late 1970s Anthony Giddens, while helping to introduce continental structuralism and hermeneutics to Anglo-Saxon sociology and sympathetic to poststructuralism, attempted to distance himself from it in developing structuration theory as an alternative to reconcile agency and structure. His characterizations and critical comments have been influential in some areas of organization studies. Poststructuralism has been castigated for its apparent failure to adequately address structural features of power such as hegemony, and the organization of resistance – politics in an everyday organizational and practical sense. Associated with this is an alleged lack of thinking through the consequences of conceptual fragmentation/ decentring of the self for human agency (and its apparent disappearance) within and beyond subject formation. Its interrogation of ‘authority’ has occasioned views that it renders questions of both individual and organizational identity ephemeral. Another accusation is of obsession with the overdetermination of language and text and neglect of non-discursive (material, corporeal) elements of organizational life. Critical realists, in particular, take issue with its dynamic blurring of the boundaries between ontology and epistemology, and see in relationality radical relativism. Marxists see in its ‘superstructuralism’ a neglect of economic interests rather than symbolic constraints. Critical responses, such as Giddens’ pronouncement of both structuralism and poststructuralism as ‘dead thought’, suffer from a partial reading of material available, mostly in translation, in the 1980s, and even some recent contributions reproduce dated and inattentive critiques as unexamined assumptions – the problems often stemming from reading poststructural concerns through existing categories of organizational sociology rather than being sensitive to their philosophical inventiveness. Willmott (2005) offers a careful and cogent response to questions raised by critical realists, drawing on Laclau and Mouffe’s (1985[2001]) recasting of ‘discourse’ in relation to Gramsci’s ‘hegemony’, by way of their reading of Lacan. This has proved a useful resource for organization scholars keen to maintain an overt concern with emancipation and an explicitly political dimension to subjectivity within a wider definition of discourse than offered by, for example, critical discourse analysis. Also within Laclau and Mouffe’s category of ‘postmarxism’ Rancière develops a highly original line on politics from a kernel of Foucauldian inspiration that also challenges Lyotard’s ‘differend’ with ‘dissensus’. Finally, motivating a different concept of desire from Lacanian analyses, Deleuze and Guattari have been influentially engaged by Hardt and Negri (2000) in conceptualizing global ‘empire’. Postmodern theory challenges us to move away from the taken-for-granteds and perversions of power to release desire, encounter otherness and embrace alternatives. The radical nature of this thinking often leads to evocative terms like breaking, exploding, imploding, crashing, crisis or catastrophe – that are sometimes dismissed as hyperbolic and symptomatic of the depthless play of signifiers. Poststructuralist theory, for all its emphasis on flux and slipperiness, places power, domination, ethics, otherness, responsibility and resistance at the heart of its thinking, challenges the logics that keep the (capitalist) world in place, and challenges us to do something about them. 181

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References (key texts in bold) Barthes, R. (1957[1972]). Mythologies. London: Paladin. Baudrillard, J. (1970[1998]). The Consumer Society: Myths and Structures. London: Sage. Baudrillard, J. (1976[1993]). Symbolic Exchange and Death. London: Sage. Baudrillard, J. (1981[1994]) Simulacra and Simulation. Ann Arbor MI: University of Michigan Press. Böhm, S. and De Cock, C. (2006). Everything you wanted to know about organization theory . . . but were afraid to ask Slavoj Žižek. The Sociological Review, 53(s1): 279–91. Carter, P. and Jackson, N. (2004). Deleuze and Guattari, in Linstead, S.A. (2004), pp 105–26. Chia, R. (1996). Organizational Analysis as Deconstructive Practice. Berlin: De Gruyter. Contu, A., Driver, M. and Jones, C. (eds) (2010). Jacques Lacan with organization studies. Special Issue of Organization, 17(3): 307–15. Cooper, R. (1989). Modernism, postmodernism and organizational analysis 3: the contribution of Jacques Derrida. Organization Studies, 10(4): 479–502. Cooper, R. and Burrell, G. (1988). Modernism, postmodernism and organizational analysis: an introduction. Organization Studies, 9(1): 91–112. Czarniawska, B. (1999). Writing Management. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F. (1972[1980]). Anti-Oedipus: capitalism and schizophrenia, Vol. 1. London: Athlone. Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F. (1984[1987]). A Thousand Plateaus: capitalism and schizophrenia, Vol. 2. London: Athlone. Derrida, J. (1967a). Speech and Phenomena. Chicago, IL: Northwestern University Press. Derrida, J. (1967b[1976]). Of Grammatology. Baltimore MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. Derrida, J. (1967c[1978]). Writing and Difference. London: Routledge. Derrida, J. (1972). Margins of Philosophy. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Foucault, M. (1961[1964 abridged]). Madness and Civilisation: a history of insanity in the age of reason. New York NY: Pantheon. Foucault, M. (1975[1977]). Discipline and Punish: the birth of the prison. New York NY: Pantheon. Foucault, M. (1976[1978]). History of Sexuality Vol. 1: the will to knowledge. London: Allen Lane. Foucault, M. (1984a[1985]). History of Sexuality Vol. 2: the uses of pleasure. London: Allen Lane. Foucault, M. (1984b[1986]). History of Sexuality Vol. 3: the care of the self. London: Allen Lane. Golding, D. (1996). Establishing blissful clarity in organisational life, in Linstead, S.A., Grafton-Small, R. and Jeffcutt, P. (eds), Understanding Management. London: Sage, pp. 51–65. Grandy, G. and Mills, A.J. (2004). Strategy as simulacra? A radical reflexive look at the discipline and practice of strategy. Journal of Management Studies, 41(7): 1153–70. Hardt, M. and Negri, A. (2000). Empire. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press. Jones, C. (2004). Jacques Derrida, in Linstead, S.A. (2004), pp. 34–63. Jones, C. (2009). Poststructuralism in critical management studies, in Alvesson, M., Bridgman, T. and Willmott, H. (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Critical Management Studies, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 76–98. Knights, D. (2004). Michel Foucault, in Linstead, S.A. (2004), pp 14–33. Lacan, J. (1964[1977a]). The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis. New York: W.W. Norton & Co. Lacan, J. (1977b). Écrits: a selection. New York: W.W. Norton & Co. Laclau, E. and Mouffe, C. (1985[2001]). Hegemony and Socialist Strategy. London: Verso. Learmonth, M. (2005). Doing things with words: the case of ‘management’ and ‘administration’. Public Administration, 83 (3): 617–37. Letiche, H. (2004a). Jean-Francois Lyotard, in Linstead, S.A. (2004), pp. 64–87. Letiche, H. (2004b). Jean Baudrillard, in Linstead, S.A. (2004), pp. 127–48. Lévi-Strauss, C. (1962[1966]). The Savage Mind. New York: Weidenfeld and Nicholson. Lévi-Strauss, C. (1978[2003]). Myth and Meaning. London: Routledge. Linstead, S.A. (1985). Breaking the purity rule: industrial sabotage and the symbolic process. Personnel Review, 14(3): 12–19. Linstead, S.A. (1993). From postmodern anthropology to deconstructive ethnography. Human Relations, 46(1): 97–120. Linstead, S.A. (1994). Objectivity, reflexivity and fiction: humanity, inhumanity and the science of the social. Human Relations, 47(11): 1321–46. 182

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12 Practice theory What it is, its philosophical base, and what it offers organization studies Jörgen Sandberg and Haridimos Tsoukas

Introduction During the last decades practice theory has steadily increased in popularity within organization studies (hereafter OS) (Nicolini, 2013). It is also forming part of a larger movement within the social sciences that emphasize ‘materiality’, ‘embodiment’, ‘emotions’, and ‘practice’, rather than the hitherto prevalent focus on cognition in various forms (e.g. cognitive schemata, interpretation, language, discourse) as a way to explain human action and social order (Coole and Frost, 2010). Its advocates claim that practice theory provides a substantive alternative to a range of ‘recent paths of thinking, including intellectualism, representationalism, individualisms (e.g. rational choice theory, methodological individualism, network analysis) structuralism, structure-functionalism, system theory, semiotics, and many strains of humanism and poststructuralism’ (Schatzki et al., 2001: 2). Similarly, Reckwitz (2002) distinguishes practice theory from three other major theory clusters, namely mentalism (e.g. classical structuralism and interpretivism), intersubjectivism (e.g. theory of communicative action, symbolic interactionism) and textualism (e.g. poststructuralism and various forms of postmodernism). The overall purpose of this chapter is to articulate the philosophical underpinnings of the perspective commonly known as ‘practice theory’. Scrutinizing its philosophical base is important for two major reasons. First, it enables us to see more clearly what is unique with practice theory and what it has to offer OS. As Bacharach (1989: 498) noted: ‘if a theory is to be properly used or tested, the theorist’s implicit assumptions which form the boundaries of the theory must be understood’. Moreover, as Alvesson and Sandberg (2011) note, understanding the philosophical assumptions underlying a theory is also crucial for being able to further develop it. Second, since practice theory is not a monolithic block but consists of a range of different theories, understanding its philosophical underpinnings makes it possible to see more clearly the differences and similarities among diverse practice theories and, thus, how each of them enables us to theorize and conduct empirical investigations within OS. 184

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The chapter is structured as follows. We begin by discussing the philosophical underpinnings of practice theory, with a particular focus on Wittgenstein and Heidegger, the two most prominent philosophers of practice. Thereafter, we distinguish three approaches to the study of practice: commonsensical theories of practice, general theories of practice, and domainspecific theories of practice. Finally, we highlight four critical features of practices that are of special relevance to OS and suggest ways domain-specific practice theories may be further developed.

The philosophical underpinnings of practice: insights from Wittgenstein and Heidegger Practice theory originates and has grown out from the long-standing philosophical critique of the logic of scientific rationality, which underlies a large majority of theories within OS and social science more generally (Sandberg and Tsoukas, 2011). Specifically, scientific rationality consists of three interconnected core assumptions that have historically underpinned scientific inquiries, including theory development in organization and management research. First, the world is made up of a totality of isolatable entities, with distinct properties, externally related to each other (Inwagen, 2001). Second, the epistemological subject–object relation forms the basis for all human knowledge: independent subjects aim at knowing about the properties of the entities making up the world. And third, the knowledge developed through the subject–object relation is representational: practitioners face a world of discrete objects, whose pregiven features they represent through cognitive activity (Varela et al., 1991: 134–5) and, on the basis of those representations, undertake action (Chia and Holt, 2006: 474). Likewise, researchers face a world of contingently linked behaviours, inner mental states, and objects, which they seek to scientifically represent in order to ascertain certain regularities (Taylor, 1985: Chapter 1; Tsoukas, 1998: 790). However, the representational knowledge about organizational practice developed by researchers following the canons of scientific method is typically seen as more objective, precise, and rational than the one developed by the practitioners (Robbins, 1989: 8–9; cf. Schön, 1983: 21). It is therefore believed that organizational and, more generally, human practices can be made more rigorous and will be substantially improved if they are based on – derived from – scientific knowledge developed through the epistemological subject–object relation. The importance of Wittgenstein’s and Heidegger’s work is that these philosophers made us see that there is an understanding manifested in human action and activities that is more basic than the explicit representations that actors and social scientists form (Braver, 2012; Rouse, 2007: 503). This is where practice comes in. Heidegger and Wittgenstein show that social practices provide the inevitable background understanding on which explicit interpretations (representations) form. Below, we briefly present Wittgenstein’s perspective on rule-following and then Heidegger’s approach to entwinement, which both show how social practices form the basis for our action, activities, as well as for our self-understanding and identity.

Wittgenstein and rule-following A great deal of what people do in organizations is guided by rules. Actors follow rules that enable them to carry out their tasks. But how do they know how to follow the rules? According to the cognitivist view, rules are mental signs: they are internalized by actors and are present in or before the mind when actors use them. For example, I know how to use the king in 185

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chess because I have a mental sign that tells me how the king is used. Understanding a rule in this view becomes a matter of hitting the correct interpretation of a sign (Tejedor, 2011: 139–46). However, if understanding a rule is a question of finding the correct interpretation, how does one know that one has found it? For example, I ask a friend to follow the rule ‘+2’, as in the series: 0, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, etc. My friend may continue the series until she reaches 1000, and then writes: 1004, 1008, 1012, etc. If I say that what she is doing is wrong, she may reply that her understanding of the rule was: ‘Add 2 up to 1000, 4 up to 2000, 6 up to 3000, and so on’ (Stueber, 1994: 15–16; Taylor, 1993b: 46; Winch, 1958: 29–30; Wittgenstein, 1958: 185). I need then to suggest another rule, which will clarify the first rule. But this leads to the problem of infinite regress: ‘understanding any one given rule requires understanding an infinite series of other rules’ (Tejedor, 2011: 143; see also Taylor, 1993b: 45–6). One way of addressing the problem of infinite regress is that a rule follower is shown in advance all possible misinterpretations of a rule. This, however, is problematic for it would require that we have ‘an infinite number of thoughts in our heads to follow even the simplest instructions’ (Taylor, 1993b: 46). Clearly, this is untenable. The only sensible conclusion we are left with is that the ‘application of rules cannot be done by rules’ (Gadamer, 1980: 83). According to Wittgenstein, following a rule is not about finding the correct interpretation but taking part in a practice: ‘there is a way of grasping a rule which is not an interpretation, but which is exhibited in what we call “obeying the rule” and “going against it” in actual cases’ (Wittgenstein, 1958: para. 201). ‘“[O]beying a rule” is a practice’ (Wittgenstein, 1958: para. 202). ‘Following a rule is analogous to obeying an order. We are trained to do so’ (Wittgenstein, 1958: para. 206). For example, when encountering a road sign we do not first stop to interpret it before following it. Rather we act according to how we have been trained when facing road signs. Thus, every act of understanding is essentially grounded on a taken-for-granted background practice (Taylor, 1993b: 47). It is when we lack a common practice that misunderstandings arise and, thus, are forced to articulate the practice and explain it to ourselves and to others (Winograd and Flores, 1987: 36–7).

Heidegger and entwinement Through the elaboration of his existential ontology, Heidegger has provided the most comprehensive and consistent ontological alternative to scientific rationality. In his analysis of the ontological structure of human existence, Heidegger showed that the epistemological subjectobject relation is not our most basic way of relating to the world but, rather, is derived from a more fundamental way of existence – that of being-in-the-world (Heidegger, 1962[1927]: 49–58). Contrary to the ontology underlying scientific rationality, which assumes disconnection – namely, that we, as sentient beings, are initially separated from the world to which we subsequently become contingently connected – the notion of being-in-the-world stipulates that our most basic form of being is entwinement: we are never separated but always already entwined (internally related) with others and things in specific sociomaterial practice worlds, such as teaching, nursing, managing, and so on (Dreyfus, 1995; Sandberg and Dall’Alba, 2009; Schatzki, 2005; Taylor, 1993a). Taking entwinement as the primary mode of existence means that for something to be, it needs to show up as something – namely, as part of a meaningful relational whole with other beings. For example, the specific tools used by flute makers (Cook and Yanow, 1996: 441) and the BlackBerrys used by investment and senior support staff at a private equity firm (Orlikowski, 2007: 1441) all receive their meaning as specific tools from their entwinement in, respectively, 186

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flute manufacturing and investment banking as specific sociomaterial practices. As Bartky remarked, ‘All these things form a structure both of being and of meaning and apart from such a structure a thing can neither be, nor be understood’ (Bartky, 1979: 213). In other words, being entwined with the world makes it possible for something to be at all, to be intelligible as something (Dreyfus, 2003: 2), and, insofar as this is the case, entwinement constitutes the logic of practice. Entwinement stipulates that ‘absorbed coping’ (Dreyfus, 1995: 69) is our primary mode of engagement with the world. Absorbed coping is primary in the sense that practice forms a familiar relational whole that actors are absorbed in and, at the same time, embody. In this mode, actors are immersed in practice, spontaneously responding to the developing situation at hand ‘independently of any representation’ of it (Merleau-Ponty, 1962: 139). It is only when we encounter some form of disturbance in our absorbed coping that we start to focus on – represent – the sociomaterial practice (i.e. ourselves, others and tools) as something separate and discrete, singling people and tools out from their relational whole, and, thus, ‘change over’ to the epistemological subject–object relation (Heidegger, 1962[1927]: para. 74; Dreyfus, 1995: 60–89). In other words, being absorbed in a sociomaterial practice world comes before the subject–object separation. It is our engagement in – entwinement with – certain practices that enables us to understand ourselves as particular subjects and objects as particular things in the first place.1 From the above, it should be clear that both Wittgenstein and Heidegger point to the primacy of practice, which constitutes a background understanding that is prior to any explicit interpretations of it. As Rouse (2007: 503) remarks, ‘the upshot of [Wittgenstein’s and Heidegger’s] criticisms is that there must be a level or dimension of human understanding expressed in what we do that is more fundamental than any explicit interpretation of that understanding’. In other words, Heidegger and Wittgenstein provide a broader and more basic onto-epistemology that transcends the prevalent substance-dualistic onto-epistemology underlying the prevailing logic of scientific rationality within OS and social science more generally.

Approaches to the study of practice In reviews of what practice theories stand for, it is commonly claimed that their most unique feature is that they take practice as their ‘primary object of study’ (Rouse, 2007: 499), treat ‘practices as the fundamental component of social life’ (Schatzki, 1996: 12), and by doing so ‘foreground the importance of activity, performance, and work in the creation and perpetuation of all aspects of social life’ (Nicolini, 2013: 3). At a first glance, claiming the primacy of practice may sound perplexing to OS scholars since they are supposed to have been studying it all along. Ever since Frederick Taylor’s (1911) The Principles of Scientific Management, the raison d’être of OS research has been to investigate – through the framework of scientific rationality – management and organizational practices as thoroughly as possible, in order to develop theories that explain how those practices function and, thus, how they can be improved (Sandberg and Tsoukas, 2011). However, what ‘practice’ actually is and how it can be studied is far from clear within OS. Below, we distinguish three approaches to the study of practice: commonsensical theories of practice, general theories of practice and domain-specific theories of practice. We devote considerably more space to the latter two since they are most relevant to the purpose of the present chapter.

Commonsensical theories of practice The notion of ‘practice’ adopted in mainstream OS research typically reflects a commonsensical understanding of the term practice, as simply what people do. For example, a recent edited 187

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volume The Work of Managers: towards a practice theory of management (Tengblad, 2012), claims to provide a distinct focus on management practice and develop theories of management practice: This book presents an understanding of management practice that is substantially more grounded in empirical evidence than one typically encounters in management literature or in the classroom . . . [and] in order to portray the complexity, contextuality, and uncertainty – inherent in the work of managers – the chapters in this book differ from the mainstream management tradition that is more oriented towards developing abstract theories about management than with describing management as it is practiced. (Tengblad, 2012: 337–8) Although commonsensical theories of practice like the ones in the volume above can be helpful in the sense that they may report phenomena about which we do not know a great deal, the largely a-theoretical nature of such commonsensical practice-oriented research presents it with significant limits. Notice in particular the unhelpful distinction between abstract theorizing and empirically grounded understanding of management practice in the quote above. The distinction is failing because the problem is not abstract theory as juxtaposed to concrete practice. The root of the problem is rather the particular kind of theorizing that, informed by the logic of scientific rationality, makes practice derivative of theory and, thus, practical relevance more abstract and less rich. However, pursued from within the logic of practical rationality, namely by adopting the onto-epistemological orientation outlined earlier and further developed below, theorizing makes theory derivative of practice and, thus, more reflective of the richness of practice. In other words, if we want to capture the logic of practice, we need to conduct our studies from within the logic of practical rationality (Sandberg and Tsoukas, 2011), rather than de-theorizing our research for the sake of capturing the mythical purity of practice. This is what the general practice theories enable us to do.

General theories of practice What above all characterizes general theories of practice is that they provide a systematic and comprehensive conceptualization of what defines practice as such and how it may be explained (Feldman and Orlikowski, 2011: 1241). This conceptualization can then be used for investigating and theorizing aspects of management and organizational practice in a more informed way and, thus, provide more accurate accounts of the logic of practice. The perhaps most extensive and fully fledged general theories of practice are those developed by Bourdieu (1977, 1984, 1990, 1998), Giddens (1976, 1979, 1984) and, more lately, Schatzki (1996, 2002, 2010). Although they are informed by several philosophers, including Wittgenstein and Marx, Heidegger’s existential ontology forms the basis in all of them. In addition, other theories that are often regarded as general practice theories are actor–network theory (Latour, 1999; Law and Hassard, 1999), Vygotski’s (1978) activity theory, and possibly Garfinkel’s (1967) ethnomethodology (Miettinen et al., 2009). More recently, there have also been attempts to develop a practice theory by drawing on pragmatism and pragmatist thinkers such as Dewey, James, Mead and Pierce (e.g. Simpson, 2009; Thevenot, 2001. See also Parmar et al., Chapter 13 this volume). However, given that Bourdieu, Giddens and Schatzki are typically seen as having offered the most extensive general theories of practice, we review them briefly below and how they all, in various ways, draw on Heidegger’s existential ontology together with Wittgenstein’s later philosophy. 188

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Pierre Bourdieu’s practice theory Bourdieu offers an extensive and highly elaborated general theory of practice, consisting of three main interrelated concepts, succinctly captured in the following formula: ‘[(habitus) (capital)] + field = practice’ (Bourdieu, 1984: 101). In outlining his theory of practice, Bourdieu (1990) takes point of departure in the objectivism – subjectivism divide, which he critiques for failing to capture the logic of social practices properly. On the one hand, Bourdieu (1990: 30–51) argues that objectivism (in the form of structuralism) is right in its claim that social practices are made up by ‘objective2 structures and regularities’, in the sense of historically and intersubjectively developed and sedimented activities, procedures, routines, and norms for what is right and wrong. However, he criticizes objectivism as fundamentally flawed in that it turns human beings into deterministic causality machines, failing to take into account how human interpretation determines their action. On the other hand, Bourdieu contends that subjectivism (social phenomenology, interpretive sociology) is right in its claim that the way humans interpret their specific situation and its contingencies, as well as what motives them (e.g. money, fame, career), significantly determines their actions and, thus, is part of social practices. Yet, he claims that subjectivism is ignorant about how the sedimented structures and regularities of social practices actually shape human interpretation and motives and, thus, action. Drawing on phenomenologists such as Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty and others Bourdieu (1977: 72–95; 1990: 52–65) introduces the notion of habitus to overcome the inherent deficiencies of objectivism and subjectivism. According to Bourdieu, habitus forms an ongoing generative dialectic between sedimented structures and practitioners’ interpretations and motives, which constantly produce and reproduce social practices. It consists of ‘systems of durable, transposable [embodied] dispositions’ of how to perceive, think and act that enable practitioners to respond and adjust to the unfolding contingencies of the situation at hand in such a way that give consistency and coherency to social practices over time (Bourdieu, 1977: 72). Although habitus provides constancy of social practices, it is not entirely circular and deterministic, but rather spirally defined through ‘the generative principle of regulated improvisation’ (Bourdieu, 1990: 57). Actions can never be completely deterministic due to the unfolding contingencies of the situation at hand, to which practitioners constantly respond and adjust. Nor can actions be completely random as they are predisposed by sedimented structures and regularities making up social practices. Instead, people, through their embodied habitus, respond to the unfolding contingences of practice, not deterministically or arbitrarily, but in ways that seem sensible or reasonable within that practice (Bourdieu, 1990: 55). As Bourdieu (1998: 25) notes, ‘habitus is this kind of practical sense for what it is to be done in a given situation – what is called in sport a “feel” for the game, that is, the art of anticipating how a particular game will likely evolve, which is inscribed in the present state of play’. Not only habitus but also the concepts of ‘field’ and ‘capital’ play a critical role in Bourdieu’s theory of practice. Bourdieu regards society as a meaningful whole made up of interlocking fields of social practices, in which we are constantly engaged, such as the academic field, the business field, and the arts field. Various forms of capital such as symbolic, social, economic and cultural provide exchange values that enable as well as predispose practitioners to do certain things and not others within their particular field. The notions of field and capital are closely related to habitus in that what is seen as valuable and sought-after within the field shape the practitioners’ interpretation and motivation for carrying out specific actions in significant ways and, thus, the enactment of social practices. For example, the academic habitus making up the social practices within today’s OS field, is largely shaped 189

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by OS researchers trying to accumulate valuable capital by getting published in prestigious journals, chasing academic titles and honourable positions and awards. Anthony Giddens’ practice theory

Giddens’ theory of practice is mainly articulated in his ‘structuration theory’. Similar to Bourdieu, Giddens takes as his point of departure the deep chasm between objectivism (structuralism and functionalism) and subjectivism (interpretive sociology) within social sciences. In order to transcend the problems generated by objectivism and subjectivism, Giddens (1979: 3) develops the notion of ‘duality of structure’ strongly influenced by Heidegger’s existential ontology. Simply put, duality of structure captures ‘the essential recursiveness of social life, as constituted in social practices: structure is both medium and outcome of practices. Structures enters simultaneously into the constitution of the agent and social practices, and “exists” in the generating moments of this constitution’ (Giddens, 1979: 5). Hence, contrary to objectivism and subjectivism, the notion of duality of structure suggests that agency and structure do not oppose but presuppose each other in the constitution of social practices. But how can structure be both the medium that produces social practice and at the same time the outcome of social practices? In order to answer that question we need to elaborate further what Giddens means by ‘structure’. Giddens (1984: 17) conceptualizes structure as the ‘structuring properties . . . which make it possible for discernibly similar social practices to exist across varying spans of time and which lend them “systemic” form’. The structuring properties making up social practices are specific ‘rules’ and ‘resources’. By rules Giddens does not have in mind rules like, for example, traffic rules (e.g. ‘stop when red light’). Instead, he takes a more Wittgensteinian perspective and regards rules as something constantly invoked in the enactment of social practices (as knowing how to go on), namely ‘as techniques or generalizable procedures applied in the enactment/ reproduction of social practices’ (Giddens, 1979: 133). Giddens (1979: 100) conceptualizes resources as the specific capabilities employed in the enactment of social practices. Hence, in the ‘duality of structure’ structure is seen as the structuring properties of social practices, in the sense of the specific procedures and techniques (rules) actors apply and the capabilities (resources) they use in producing and reproducing social practices. Importantly, regarding structure as enacted procedures and capabilities means that structures do not exist independently from the actors enacting them. Rather, structure is only manifest ‘in its instantiations in such [social] practices and as memory traces orienting the conduct of knowledgeable human agents’ (Giddens, 1979: 130). It is in this sense that agents and structure form a duality: the structure of social practice requires agents to carry out its specific procedures using specific capabilities, at the same time as the agents require a distinct know-how of how to go on. Although agents enact social practice in a recursive manner, it does not mean that they mindlessly produce and reproduce it. Instead, they enact social practice in a reflective manner, in the sense of constantly monitoring the conduct of their practice. The reflexive form of knowledgeability that Giddens (1979: 57) refers to has the character of what he labels ‘practical consciousness: tacit knowledge that is skilfully applied in the enactment of courses of conduct, but which the actor is not able to formulate discursively’. According to Giddens (1984: 21–2), the structural properties, ‘expressed first and foremost in practical consciousness, [are] the very core of knowledgeability which specifically characterizes human agents’. In this sense, doing and reflexive monitoring are intra-related. As Shove et al. (2012: 5) aptly note, ‘making a batch


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of cement mortar requires constant observation and adaptation: adding a bit more liquid, mixing, checking and adding again until the consistency is just right’. Hence, the ongoing reflexive monitoring that actors are involved in means that the duality of structure is not only recursive but, also, transformational (Giddens, 1979: 103–5): that is, actors’ ongoing adjustment of their procedures and capabilities means that the structural properties that enabled them to act in the first instance are simultaneously transformed. As Schatzki (1996: 290) notes, in this way, social practices, ‘extend themselves by continuously renewing the conditions that determine them’.3 Theodore Schatzki’s practice theory

Although both Bourdieu and Giddens have developed extensive theories of practice, Schatzki has probably outlined the most fully elaborated practice theory through a range of seminal publications (Schatzki, 1996, 2002, 2010). In elaborating his practice theory, Schatzki (1996, Ch1; 2002, Ch1) takes point of departure in the ontological chasm between the two master ontologies: individualism and socialism (which largely overlap with subjectivism and objectivism respectively in Bourdieu and Giddens’s work). Individualist ontologies stipulate that individuals and their interrelations ultimately constitute society. Accordingly, schools of thought based on an individualist ontology, such as symbolic interactionism, ethnomethodology (for the most part) and neoclassical economics, place ‘actions, strategies, mental states, and rationality of individuals’ at the centre (Schatzki, 1996: 6). Socialism ontologies, on the other hand, stipulate that society or other collectives are ultimately defined by ‘a kind of totality that exists beyond its parts, and that this totality specify the nature and meaning of the parts’ (Schatzki, 1996: 2). Consequently, schools of thought underpinned by socialism ontologies try to understand and explain human action by identifying the (external) totality making up the social, such as particular structures or systems, and see how it determines human actions and social order. In order to transcend the problematic ‘either/or’ dichotomy of individualism and socialism, Schatzki aims to develop a practice theory that provides a ‘general conception of social life that is equal to the interwoven complexity and lack of totality emphasized by recent writers and underwrites better understanding of the social constitution of the individual’ (Schatzki, 1996: 10). In this theoretical endeavour, he draws primarily on Heidegger’s existential ontology and Wittgenstein’s later philosophy (e.g. Schatzki, 1996: xi; Schatzki, 2002: xii; Schatzki, 2010: x). Following Heidegger (and Taylor), Schatzki (2002: 70) claims that the basic constitution of the human world is neither individuals nor societies, but social practices in which we are constantly engaged. Through socialization, education and work, we grow up in, embody and enact various everyday social practices, such as greeting, talking, eating, parenting and driving, as well as more work-related practices, such as teaching, nursing, managing and so on. As Dreyfus (1995: 34) observes, Heidegger shows that ‘human beings are a set of meaningful social practices and how these practices give rise to intelligibility and themselves can be made intelligible’. But how are social practices made up? According to Schatzki’s practice theory: ‘a practice is a temporally evolving, open-ended set of doings and sayings linked by practical understandings, rules, teleoaffective structure, and general understanding’ (Schatzki, 2002: 87). Let us unpack this quote as a way to better understand the main thrust of Schatzki’s practice theory, using the practice of cooking as an illustration. First of all, that practice is ‘open and temporally evolving’ means that practices are not static but ongoing and ever changing through our constant engagement in them.


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Second, all social practices are made up of a range of activities comprised of specific doings and sayings. For example, cooking is made up of a range of doings and sayings in which chefs are constantly engaged, such as sourcing ingredients, preparing ingredients, cooking dishes and plating the dishes, while also uttering requests, commands, etc. Moreover, the activities that compose practices are always bound up with material arrangements (artefacts, things, raw material etc.) (Schatzki, 2013). For example, the activities of cooking involve material arrangements of ingredients, knives, cutting boards, strainers, ladles, whisks, brushes, scales etc. Third, the nexuses of doings and sayings making up a practice are organized by four closely related components, namely practical understandings, rules, teleoaffective structures and general understandings (Schatzki, 2013: 3). Practical understanding involves certain abilities about how to go on, that is, how to carry out the specific doings and sayings of a practice. Practical understanding in Schatzki’s (2002: 79) account, is therefore similar to Bourdieu’s habitus and Giddens’s practical consciousness in that it is an embodied ‘skill or capacity that underlies’ the activities of a practice. For example, chefs in a restaurant kitchen embody a practical understanding of how to prepare ingredients, cook dishes and plate the dishes. Another component that joins the doings and sayings of a particular practice is rules. By rules Schatzki means explicitly formulated principles, instructions and prescripts that direct people to carry out the doings and saying of a given practice in specific ways, particularly by taking into account and adhering ‘to the same rules’ (Schatzki, 2002: 79). For example, chefs in a particular restaurant typically follow specific recipes and instructions in their cooking as a way to provide consistency and sameness of the dishes offered on the menu. Teleoaffective structure is another, perhaps the most crucial, component of organizing an array of doings and sayings into a specific practice. The teleoaffective structure of a practice is made up of a range of normative and hierarchically related ends its practitioners are supposed to pursue. For example, a restaurant chef is sourcing a specific fish with the purpose of making sashimi for the sake of being a Japanese restaurant. The ends actors pursue indicate what matters to actors, thus, furnishing them with an affective orientation. Finally, general understanding, organizes the doings and sayings of a practice through a shared sense of common concerns and standards, such as what matters and what doesn’t, what is worthy and what is trivial, what is proper and what is not proper behaviour. For example, the chefs in a Japanese restaurant embody a general understanding about what are proper and not proper ways of cooking Japanese food. Taken together, Schatzki (1996: 110–32) argues that the social practices in which actors are constantly engaged provide intelligibility to what they do and who they are in the sense that human action, beliefs, desires etc. presuppose social practices. It is only on the basis of specific practices we can make sense of what we do, what counts as equipment, how we use equipment, and who we are. For example, being a teacher carrying out specific teaching activities like having discussion with students would be unthinkable without the social practice of teaching. In other words, it is not the individual as such nor an abstract structure beyond the individual, but the practice of teaching that enables us to act and to understand ourselves as teachers. From the above, we hope it is clear that all three general theories of practice owe a big philosophical debt to Heidegger’s and Wittgenstein’s critique of intellectualism permeating most of the philosophical tradition. Each one (Bourdieu, Giddens and Schatzki) in his own way, elaborates on what they see as the critical aspects of practice. The common thread running through their analyses is their effort to overcome and move beyond the subjectivism–objectivism divide by showing that embodied human actors, embedded in sociomaterial practices, tacitly draw on the understandings, rules and resources of the practices they partake, in order to undertake situated action, thus reproducing and changing practices over time. We will see next how this insight has informed research on organizational knowledge. 192

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Domain-specific theories of practice: the case of organizational knowledge Several domain-specific theories of practice can be found in OS. These, inter alia, include a performative approach to routines (Feldman and Pentland, 2003), understanding strategy as practice (Whittington and Vaara, 2012; Golsorkhi et al., 2010), a stucturationist approach to technology (Orlikowski, 2000), and a practice-based view on organizational knowledge and learning (Gherardi, 2006; Nicolini et al., 2003; Sandberg and Pinnington, 2009; Tsoukas, 1996, 2009, 2011). For the sake of illustration we will follow the latter, especially organizational knowledge. A practice perspective on organizational knowledge and learning takes seriously the philosophical insight that explicit interpretations are necessarily based on specific social practices, which transcend unhelpful dualisms (Feldman and Orlikowski, 2011: 1242). Here, we will consider two such dualisms: individual versus collective knowledge and tacit versus explicit knowledge. The two dualisms may be explicitly related, as in Spender’s (1996) typology. According to an intellectualist or cognitivist view, knowledge is seen as held either by an individual or a collective. A good example of this dualistic way of thinking is in Crossan et al.’s (1999) influential 4I framework of organizational learning. The authors distinguish four processes (intuiting, interpreting, integrating and institutionalizing) that occur at three distinct levels: individual, group and organizational. Thus, for example, they note that intuiting, understood as preconscious pattern recognition, ‘is a uniquely individual process’. Individual processes are thought of as ontologically independent of, and contingently linked with, collective processes. A prime example of the second form of dualism is Nonaka and Takeuchi’s (1995) influential typology of knowledge creation. For the authors, ‘knowledge [in organizations] is created through the interaction between tacit and explicit knowledge’ (Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995: 62). Moreover, tacit and explicit knowledge are thought to be ‘independent’ and ‘convertible’ to each other. The ‘conversion’ of tacit to explicit knowledge and vice versa, gives rise to four modes of knowledge conversion, each one characterized by a particular content. Research informed by practice theory eschews such dualisms, which it regards as unproductive. Individual knowledge is possible precisely because of the sociomaterial practices in which individuals engage (Orlikowski, 2002). Intuition is achieved by virtue of individuals having been socialized in a particular practice and having been taught to competently use concepts, rules and tools in that practice (Klein, 2003). Tacit is not set against explicit knowledge; the two are, rather, mutually constituted (Tsoukas, 1996, 2009, 2011). Individuals use their knowledge to draw distinctions and see patterns because they have been trained to do so within a collective domain of action (a relational whole). Thus, for a medical student to learn to discern the medically significant pattern of an x-ray picture, she necessarily draws on a collectively produced and sustained body of knowledge (Polanyi, 1962: 101; Tsoukas and Vladimirou, 2001), guided by more experienced others. Similarly, for a photocopier repair technician to be able to diagnose a faulty photocopier, he needs to draw on a specific body of expertise, which is produced and sustained by the company that makes photocopiers and by the community of technicians as a whole (Orr, 1996). The reason this is so is that the key categories implicated in human action, such as, for example, ‘physiological variation’ and ‘pathological change’ (Polanyi, 1962: 101), ‘faulty photocopier’ (Orr, 1996), or a ‘clunky flute’ (Cook and Brown, 1999; Cook and Yanow, 1996), derive their meanings from the way they have been used within particular relational wholes or forms of life (the medical community, the technicians’ community, the flute makers’ community respectively). In other words, knowing how to act within a collective domain of action (a practice) 193

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is to make competent use of the categories and the distinctions constituting that domain. Knowledgeability, as Bourdieu (1990) and Giddens (1984) have noted, forms as an inherent feature of being a member of a practice. Hence, tacit and explicit knowledge are not contingently linked but mutually constituted (i.e. internally related). Tacit knowledge can be formalized and explicitly communicated if we focus our attention on it. And vice versa: explicit knowledge, no matter how abstract and codified it is (Boisot, 1995), is always grounded on a tacit component. Tacit and explicit knowledge are two sides of the same coin – being mutually constituted, they cannot ‘interact’, nor ‘convert’ to one another. As Cook and Brown (1999: 385) aptly remark, when we ride a bicycle, the explicit knowledge does not lie inside the tacit knowledge in a dormant form; it is rather generated in the context of riding with the aid of tacit knowledge. If we persist in misunderstanding tacit knowledge as explicit knowledge-in-waiting, we risk hypostatizing tacit knowledge and treating it as a set of quasi-rules waiting to be discovered. However, the distinctive feature of tacit knowledge is that it provides the unarticulated background of what is taken for granted, which is a necessary prerequisite for action. Therefore, from a practice theory perspective, knowledge in organizations is better appreciated if hitherto known dualisms are abandoned. All interpretations (articulated knowledge) are based on an unarticulated background practice providing subsidiary particulars, which are tacitly integrated by embodied agents. These particulars reside in sociomaterial-cum-discursive practices, in which agents are embedded. ‘Knowing is an ongoing social accomplishment, constituted and reconstituted in everyday practice’ (Orlikowski, 2002: 252). The locus of understanding is not so much in the head as in the practice individuals partake. As Lave (1993: 9) rightly notes: knowledge ‘cannot be pinned down to the heads or bodies of individuals or to assigned tasks or to external tools or to the environment, but lies instead in the relations among them’.

Discussion and conclusions As argued earlier, practice theory aims at overcoming and moving beyond unhelpful dualisms (Feldman and Orlikowski, 2011; Tsoukas, 2005). More specifically, it aims to capture the basic understandings manifested in how actors and materials are entwined in a relational whole, over time. Moreover, seeing actors as embedded in practices orients researchers to explore how actors follow rules and handle their experiences in enacting the practices they partake in. In that sense, practice theory is processual: viewing the enactment of practice as a performance implies focusing on how actors skilfully accomplish what they do over time. In other words, practice theory has the potential to bring OS scholars closer to understanding how organizational practices are constituted and, thus, being able to developing theories more relevant to organizational practitioners. However, although domain specific theories of practice emphasize relationality, many are still captured by the very dualistic ontology they criticize (Dall’Alba and Sandberg, 2014; Fox, 2006; Sandberg and Dall’Alba, 2009). As Dall’Alba and Sandberg (2014: 283–4) note, while practice-based approaches regard subject and object as interrelated, several of these approaches continue to treat them as separate entities that become related through practice. As a consequence, these practice-based approaches still operate within the subject–object constellation, albeit in a more sophisticated manner than conventional approaches to work and learning. In order to avoid these shortcomings and to further advance the domain-specific theories of practice, we highlight below four critical features of practices that are of special relevance to OS. 194

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First, taking entwinement as the point of departure highlights the logic of practice in the sense of the internal relations between the components of the relational whole and, thus, the non-contingent manner in which practitioners are related to their practices. This does not preclude historical contingency but does underscore the taken-for-granted nature of reality members of a practice experience. For example, there are many ways in which the practice of teaching may exist across space and time (hence, historical contingency) but teachers are, at any point in time, internally (i.e. non-contingently) linked with the practice they partake in. The ends to be achieved, the standards of excellence pursued, and the key distinctions constituting the practice are part of the inarticulate background making up the practice, which actors tacitly draw upon in enacting the practice (Sandberg and Tsoukas, 2011: 344). Second, practices are simultaneously social, discursive and material. They are social insofar as the norms and rules actors follow are intersubjectively defined and collectively sustained. Intersubjective meanings are shared not so much in the sense that each actor holds the ‘same’ meaning in her individual mind, as in the sense that actors are part of a common reference world, which is constitutive of their individual mind. Practices are discursive, since they involve the use of signs ‘for which there are norms of right and wrong use’ (Harre and Gillett, 1994: 28–9). And they are material in a strong sense that organizational life, from the most mundane to the most knowledge-intensive, forms a nexus of ‘constitutive entanglements (e.g. configurations, networks, associations, mangles, assemblages, etc.) of humans and technologies’ (Orlikowski, 2010: 135). Taken together, the sociality, discursivity and materiality of organizational life imply that the meanings underlying human agency are not just in the minds of individuals but in the practices themselves and that the capacities for action are crucially shaped by how intersubjective meanings are entangled with technological/material affordances. Third, the embodied nature of agency is important for practice theory. Membership in a practice is embodied in the sense that the person who enacts a practice embodies it (Merleau-Ponty, 1962) and is susceptible to certain affects (Schatzki, 1996). For example, being a member of a particular practice, a car repairer (Harper, 1987) or a photocopier service technician (Orr, 1996) develops a deep understanding of materials, tools and techniques, as well as an affective orientation concerning what matters, which become incorporated in his body as specific car repair or photocopier repair know-how. Similarly, becoming a member of a practice consists in training the body through ‘basic-level interactions with the environment’ (Lakoff, 1987: 297) and the forming of preconceptual experience tied to gestalt perception, mental imagery and motor movement (Lakoff, 1987: 267–8). As Bourdieu (1990: 54) remarked, the embodiment of practice ‘tends to guarantee the “correctness” of practices and their constancy over time, more reliably than all formal rules and explicit norms’. Fourth, practice theory sensitizes researchers to the temporality of practice (Hernes, 2014; Schatzki, 2010). The relational whole of a practice is temporal, not only in the sense of taking place in time but, more fundamentally, as immediate anticipations in the actual carrying out of action (Shotter, 2006; Bourdieu, 1990). The temporal structure of a practice, namely its rhythm, tempo, and directionality, is constitutive of its meaning (Bourdieu, 1990: 81). This is most clearly seen in sports, in which engagement in a game is a uniquely temporal experience. Bourdieu (1990: 81–2) has remarked insightfully on this as follows: A player who is involved and caught up in the game adjusts not to what he sees but to what he fore-sees, sees in advance in the directly perceived present; he passes the ball not to the spot where his team-mate is but to the spot he will reach – before his opponent – a moment later, anticipating the anticipations of the others. . . . One only has to stand outside the game, as the observer does, in order to sweep away the urgency, the appeals, the threats, the steps to be taken, which make up the real, really lived-in, world. 195

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In conclusion, practice theory offers important insights to OS researchers. In studying organizational phenomena and capturing the logic underlying organizational practices, practice theory urges researchers to: (a) take practices as their point of departure and simultaneously consider their social, discursive and material aspects – what categories and rules members of a practice follow, for what ends, with whom, with what tools; (b) look for how practitioners competently perform doings and saying, drawing on what resources, with what results; and (c) search for distinct ways in which performances are enacted in particular contexts and junctures.

Notes 1 2


For further discussion of Heidegger’s existential ontology, see Al-Almoudi and O’Mahoney in this volume. Bourdieu is not thinking about ‘objective’ in a strong sense but rather in the sense that activities, routines, norms etc. that have been developed and agreed on, have become naturalized and sedimented and therefore experienced as ‘objective’. It is an intersubjective objectivity, not objective in an absolute sense. For further discussion of Gidden’s structuration theory, see Jones this volume.

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Schatzki, T. (1996). Social Practices: a Wittgensteinian approach to human activity and the social. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Schatzki, T.R. (2002). The Site of the Social: a philosophical account of the constitution of social life and change. Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press. Schatzki, T. (2005). The sites of organizations. Organization Studies, 26: 465–84. Schatzki, T.R. (2010). The Timespace of Human Activity. Plymouth, UK: Lexington Books. Schatzki, T. (2013). A primer on practices, in Higgs, J. et al. (eds), Practice-Based Education: perspectives and strategies. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers, pp. 13–26. Schatzki, T.R., Knorr-Cetina, K. and Savigny, E. (eds) (2001). The Practice Turn in Contemporary Theory. London: Routledge. Schön, D.A. (1983). The Reflective Practitioner: how professionals think in action. New York: Basic Books. Shotter, J. (2006). Understanding process from within: an argument for ‘withness’-thinking. Organization Studies, 27: 585–604. Shove, E., Pantzar, M. and Watson, M. (2012). The dynamics of Social Practice: everyday and how it changes. London: Sage. Simpson, B. (2009). Pragmatism, Mead and the practice turn. Organization Studies, 12: 1329–47. Spender, J-C. (1996). Making knowledge the basis of a dynamic theory of the firm. Strategic Management Journal, 17 (Special Winter Issue): 45–62. Stueber, K. (1994). Practice, indeterminacy and private language: Wittgenstein’s dissolution of skepticism. Philosophical Investigations, 17: 14–36. Taylor, C. (1985). Philosophy and the human sciences: Philosophical papers, Vol. 2. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Taylor, C. (1993a). Engaged agency and background in Heidegger, in Guignon, C. (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Heidegger. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 317–36. Taylor, C. (1993b). To follow a rule, in Calhoun, C., LiPuma, E. and Postone, M. (eds), Bourdieu: critical perspectives. Cambridge: Polity Press, pp. 45–60. Taylor, F.W. (1911). The Principles of Scientific Management. New York: Harper. Tejedor, C. (2011). Starting with Wittgenstein. London: Continuum. Tengblad, S. (ed.) (2012). The Work of Managers: towards a practice theory of management. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Thevenot, L. (2001). Pragmatic regimes governing the engagement with the world, in Schatzki, T.R., Knorr-Cetina, K. and Savigny, E. (eds), The Practice Turn in Contemporary Theory. London: Routledge, pp. 56–73. Tsoukas, H. (1996). The firm as a distributed knowledge system: a constructionistic approach. Strategic Management Journal, 17: 11–25. Tsoukas, H. (1998). The word and the world: a critique of representationalism in management research. International Journal of Public Administration, 21: 781– 817. Tsoukas, H. (2005). Complex Knowledge. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Tsoukas, H. (2009). A dialogical approach to the creation of new knowledge in organizations. Organization Science, 20: 941–57. Tsoukas, H. (2011). How should we understand tacit knowledge? A phenomenological view, in EasterbySmith, M. and Lyles, M.A. (eds), Handbook of Organizational Learning and Knowledge Management (2nd edn). Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 453–76. Tsoukas, H. and Vladimirou, E. (2001). What is organizational knowledge? Journal of Management Studies, 38: 973–93. Varela, F., Thompson, E. and Rosch, E. (1991). The Embodied Mind. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind in Society: the development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Whittington, R. and Vaara, E. (2012). Strategy-as-practice: taking social practices seriously. The Academy of Management Annals, 6: 285–336. Winch, P. (1958). The Idea of Social Science and its Relation to Philosophy. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Winograd, T. and Flores, F. (1987). Understanding Computers and Cognition. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley. Wittgenstein, L. (1958). Philosophical Investigations (2nd edn) (trans. G.E M. Anscombe). Oxford: Blackwell.


13 Pragmatism and organization studies Bidhan L. Parmar, Robert Phillips and R. Edward Freeman

Introduction The purpose of this chapter is to give an introductory account of the main tenets of a philosophical approach called ‘pragmatism’. Pragmatism has its origins in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in the work of the American philosophers Charles S. Pierce, William James, John Dewey and others. It has experienced a renaissance in recent years under the auspices of modern philosophers such as Richard Rorty, Richard Bernstein, Hilary Putnam, and increasingly, many others. These more modern philosophers have established a myriad of connections to other intellectual movements and to other philosophers. For instance Rorty writes a great deal about the connections between Dewey and so-called Continental philosophers such as Nietzsche, Heidegger, Derrida and others. Little work has been done applying pragmatism to organization studies. There is a stream of work in business ethics especially in what has come to be called ‘stakeholder theory’ (Freeman et al., 2010), and the beginnings of a stream of work in organization theory (Kelemen and Rumens, 2013; Wicks and Freeman, 1998). In the second section we give a brief historical view of the development of pragmatism. In the third section we explain some central pragmatist ideas, even though not all pragmatists will agree. In the fourth section we argue why these ideas are important for organization scholars.

A brief history and key references It is important to note that pragmatism has been developed as a way to understand a set of traditional philosophical problems, rather than as a way to understand how human beings create value and trade with each other (business and management). However, we believe that a pragmatist approach to business and management offers great potential in practice and in theory. Pragmatism developed in opposition to some traditional philosophical claims. The first kind of claim – typical of Cartesian and Kantian philosophy – is that thinking must be somehow founded on a priori first principles. So, when James defends his ‘radical empiricism’, he is pitting it against the sort of theorizing that is thought to be prior to any empirical observation. For example, while science and the scientific method play vital roles the authority of science can be over-stated (e.g. positivism). Pragmatists are (generally) at great pain to demonstrate the 199

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relevance of moral thinking alongside scientific thinking. As we read the sample passages below, we may have cause to recognize this reductionist vice that the authors seek to pry open. Pragmatism shares, broadly, the features described below. At the margins, however, pragmatism comes in as many flavours as there are scholars writing about it. In 1908, Arthur O. Lovejoy isolated 13 different variations of pragmatism – a number Richard Bernstein called ‘far too conservative’ (Bernstein, 2010: 5). At the periphery there are arguments about who should be included in the Pantheon and who was (or is), a closet pragmatist whether they claimed the mantle or not. We will not attempt to summarize or adjudicate these questions here. The authors we summarize here were all quite wide-ranging in their interests and writings. We have isolated representative passages from each writer to give the reader a sense of each author’s style. While Charles Sanders Peirce1 is typically regarded as the first pragmatist, later in life, Peirce began describing his own work as ‘pragmaticism’ (‘a word ugly enough to be safe from kidnappers’) in order to distinguish it from what pragmatism had grown into. This quasi-apostasy notwithstanding, Peirce is credited by the other early pragmatists as the originator. Durand and Vaara (2009) adapt some of Peirce’s work for uses in understanding strategic management research. Here is a taste of Peirce’s (1878[1965]) work: From all these sophisms we shall be perfectly safe so long as we reflect that the whole function of thought is to produce habits of action; and that whatever there is connected with a thought, but irrelevant to its purpose, is an accretion to it, but no part of it. (Peirce, 1878[1965]: 256)

To develop its meaning, we have, therefore, simply to determine what habits it produces, for what a thing means is simply what habits it involves. (Peirce, 1878[1965]: 257) William James, considered the father of experimental psychology, is among the most accessible and reader-friendly of the early pragmatists. Combining a capacity for deep thought with remarkable writing skills and an eschewal of jargon, his work was able to speak to both scholarly and popular audiences alike. Margolis and Walsh (2003) make good use of James’s work in their influential discussion of businesses’ social initiatives. Here are representative passages from James (1907[2014]): In other words, the greatest enemy of any one of our truths may be the rest of our truths. Truths have once for all this desperate instinct of self-preservation and of desire to extinguish whatever contradicts them. My belief in the Absolute, based on the good it does me, must run the gauntlet of all my other beliefs. Grant that it may be true in giving me a moral holiday. Nevertheless, as I conceive it, – and let me speak now confidentially, as it were, and merely in my own private person, – it clashes with other truths of mine whose benefits I hate to give up on its account. It happens to be associated with a kind of logic of which I am the enemy, I find that it entangles me and metaphysical paradoxes that are inacceptable, etc., etc. But as I have enough trouble in life already without adding the trouble of carrying these intellectual inconsistencies, I personally just give up the Absolute. I just take my moral holidays to me; or else as a professional philosopher, I try to justify them by some other principal. (James, 1907[2014]: 78) A prominent public intellectual with a long-time interest in education, John Dewey emphasized the role that humans have in creating our world, not merely acting and reacting 200


within it. Dewey consistently emphasized the role of art, literature and morals – in addition to science – in co-creating our world. Dewey’s work was deeply influential on the later work of Richard Rorty (see below); Mahoney (1993) relies on Dewey and others to examine the role of determinism in strategic management. The following passages (Dewey, 1908[1998]) are representative of his critique of prior philosophizing and his beliefs in the centrality of values: If we suppose the traditions of philosophic discussion wiped out and philosophy starting afresh from the most active tendencies of to-day, – those striving in social life, in science, in literature, and art, – one can hardly imagine any philosophic view springing up and gaining credence, which did not give large place, in its scheme of things, to the practical and personal, and to them without employing disparaging terms, such as phenomenal, merely subjective, and so on. (Dewey, 1908[1998]: 125) To frame a theory of knowledge which makes it necessary to deny the validity of moral ideas, or else to refer them to some other and separate kind of universe from that of common sense and science, is both provincial and arbitrary. The pragmatist has at least tried to face, and not to dodge, the question of how it is that moral and scientific ‘knowledge’ can both hold of one and the same world. And whatever the difficulties and his proffered solution, the conception the scientific judgments are to be assimilated to moral is closer to common sense than is the theory that validity is to be denied of moral judgments because they do not square with a preconceived theory of the nature of the world to which scientific judgments must refer. (Dewey, 1908[1998]: 127) After a bit of a lull in philosophical interest in the middle part of the twentieth century, pragmatism was forcefully revived with the writings of Richard Rorty.2 Controversial among mainstream philosophers, Rorty considered language as the medium for making sense of the world and the poet (in a broad sense) as the one who shows us new and better ways to live. As with others on our list, Rorty was an apostate with a history in analytic philosophy. Wicks and Freeman’s (1998) work bears the marks of Rorty’s influence. The following passages give a sense of Rorty’s (2010) distinctive writing style: communities are held together by agreement on what counts as coherent, but make progress only when linguistic innovators break this agreement. One of their strategies is by talking about objects that we have no agreed-upon ways of talking about . . . Without a consensus to break, innovation would be pointless. Without innovation the crust of convention would never be broken. The alternation between the two has made it possible for human beings to move from poem to poem, from language game to language game, and from poorer to richer forms of life. (Rorty, 2010: 194) Like Peirce, Hilary Putnam is a mathematician as well as a pragmatist philosopher. Richard Rorty (1991) calls him ‘the most important contemporary philosopher to call himself a pragmatist’. Purnell and Freeman (2012) rely on Putnam’s collapsing of the fact/value distinction in assessing the quality of ethics conversations among investment bankers. While Putnam’s writing has perhaps less lyrical quality (poetry) to it than James or Rorty, it is less technical and jargon-laden than Peirce; it is clear, careful and precise. This is evident in the passages below (Putnam, 2002): There are a variety of reasons why we are tempted to draw a line between ‘facts’ and ‘values’ – and to draw it in such a way that ‘values’ are put outside the realm of rational argument 201

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all together. For one thing, it is much easier to say, ‘that’s a value judgment’, meaning, ‘that’s just a matter of subjective preference’, and to do what Socrates tried to teach us: to examine who we are and what our deepest convictions are and hold those convictions up to the searching test of reflective examination. . . . The worst thing about the fact/value dichotomy is that in practice it functions as a discussion-stopper, and not just a discussionstopper, but a thought-stopper. (Putnam, 2002: 43ff) More recently, Hilary Putnam calls Richard J. Bernstein’s The Pragmatic Turn, ‘by far the best and most sophisticated account of recent and present-day pragmatist thought’. With chapters centrally focused on Peirce, James, Dewey, Hegel, Putnam and Rorty among others, this book is an excellent critical introduction to the history of pragmatism, the surface of which is barely scratched here. Many, many others could have been on this list including, but not limited to O.W. Holmes, R.W. Emerson, C.I. Lewis, W.V.O. Quine, L. Wittgenstein, and C. West. And there are pragmatist interpretations of many others besides (e.g. Bernstein has a chapter entitled ‘Jürgen Habermas’s Kantian Pragmatism’). But any serious investigation into pragmatism and its potential role in the study of organizations must eventually contend with the work of the authors above.

What do pragmatists believe? While there are almost as many versions of pragmatism as there are pragmatist philosophers, there is a great deal of agreement on a few general principles, many of which are about what counts as doing work in philosophy that is useful. We isolate the following commonalities: 1 2 3 4

All ‘theory’ is based in experience and practice. Most dualisms and dichotomies are at best misleading. Framing and language use is central to understanding the world. Hope and freedom should be the goals of discourse rather than ‘truth’.

All ‘theory’ is based in experience and practice The founders of pragmatism, Pierce, James and Dewey, all believed that good thinking was rooted in experience. They talk about the primacy of both practice and experience. And, they all had an idea of experience as a primary conceptualization of humans encountering the world. Dewey especially thought that our conceptual apparatus evolved to solve problems. We became language users somewhere in our evolutionary history as it gave us an ability to solve complex problems, and an advantage over some of our natural competitors and predators. Dewey (1930[1998]) writes: Mankind has hardly inquired what would happen if the possibilities of experience were seriously explored and exploited. There has been much systematic exploration in science and much frantic exploitation in politics, business, and amusement. But this attention has been, so to say, incidental and in contravention to the professedly ruling scheme of belief. It has not been the product of belief in the power of experience to furnish organizing principles and directive ends. (Dewey, 1930 [1998]: 23) These pragmatists eschewed the idea of theorizing for the sake of theorizing that characterizes so much of contemporary philosophy, not to mention much of management theory. Pragmatists see the point of intellectual life as solving real problems that come from experience. 202


Gregory Pappas (2008) suggests that another related hallmark of Dewey’s thought is ‘seeing problems from the inside’. What does this problem feel like if you are experiencing it yourself? It is often too easy to intellectualize a problem away, or simply use one of our favourite theories to understand the problem. Pappas suggest that this is seeing the problem as a spectator, and that doing so loses most of what we gain when we actually have an experience. A good example is Dewey’s approach to ethics where he does not begin with a theory like utilitarianism, or deontology, or virtue, but he begins by trying to understand the particular aspects of a moral problem from the inside. As we see how these aspects are related to one another, and to other problems we have had, we can draw on these more theoretical ideas to help solve the problem. But, we are not trying to prove the theories in any case. Every situation is different, but there are common aspects. The pragmatists look for the particularity as well as the generality in experiences.

Most dualisms and dichotomies are at best misleading Much of modern philosophy depends on a set of dichotomies or dualisms that contrast ways of seeing the world. For instance, ‘mind versus body’, ‘external world versus internal world’, ‘things as they appear versus things in themselves’, ‘theoretical versus empirical’, ‘science versus non science’, ‘self-interest versus altruism’, ‘facts versus values’, etc. The list is almost endless and it has been said that Dewey never met a dichotomy that he didn’t want to collapse. Quine (1951) identified two of these dualisms as important dogmas of empiricism that are regrettably present in current management thinking as well. The first was the theory–observation distinction, or what philosophers would call ‘analytic–synthetic’ distinction. Analytic sentences were true by definition and synthetic sentences were true by virtue of their relationship to the world. The idea from the positivists was that certain terms were theoretical terms while other terms were observational (data), and that data stood in a relationship of confirmation or disconfirmation to the theoretical terms. Quine argued that there was no way to enforce this distinction without appealing to a set of terms that were circular in their meaning. Dewey’s version of the same argument was that the data that you look for is already at least partially contained in how you frame a hypothesis. Theory does bear a connection to the world, but only in terms of theory as a whole, not particular hypotheses. Quine’s dictum is that ‘[O]ur statements about the external world face the tribunal of sense experience not individually but only as a corporate body’ (Quine, 1951: 38) People always bring their background theories, disciplines, ideas, etc. with them. In a similar way, Hilary Putnam has argued that facts and values are entangled (see quoted passage above), much in the way that theory and data are entangled. Putnam’s example is that to call someone ‘cruel’ is to state a fact, if they are acting cruelly, and it is to make a value judgement at the same time, since calling someone cruel is to disapprove of them. Much of our language works this way. Putnam and Bernstein would argue that facts and values are interwoven with theory and practice, so that facts, values, and interpretations are always relevant to some interpretive community or other.

Framing and language use is central to understanding the world Most pragmatists would agree with Wittgenstein when he argued that we should not look to a world of meanings of words to understand language, but we should look to how the words are used. When children learn a language they learn what the words will do, what problems they will solve and what problems they will not solve. Meanings emerge out of these uses and problems solved, as ‘short hands’ or ‘rules of thumb’. They are not a representation of the 203

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relationship of language to the world. Indeed most modern pragmatists would argue that many people (philosophers) misunderstand the nature of language. As language-using primates we managed to coordinate our behaviour in powerful ways to become the dominant species on the planet. Indeed Tomasello and his colleagues (2012) have suggested that human evolution selects for being ‘good collaborators’. We coordinate our behaviour by making marks and noises that indicate what we are doing. Of course this is now very sophisticated yielding many vocabularies in fields as diverse as mixing concrete and quantum mechanics. According to philosopher Donald Davidson, language is an unbroken whole. By that he means that we can’t divide up language into different ‘mind sets’ or ‘conceptual schemes’ that are wholly different from each other. He argues that one of the main mistakes in both science and social science is the idea that such a ‘scheme-content distinction’ is possible. He articulates the problem of conceptual relativism as follows: Conceptual schemes, we are told, are ways of organizing experience; they are systems of categories that give form to the data of sensation; they are points of view from which individuals, cultures, or periods survey the passing scene. There may be no translating from one scheme to another in which case the beliefs, desires, hopes, and bits of knowledge that characterize one person have no have no true counterparts for the subscriber to another scheme. Reality itself is relative to a scheme: what counts as real in one system may not in another. (Davidson, 1984: 183) Davidson then argues the idea of a total failure to translate from one conceptual scheme to another makes no sense, and then shows how even a partial failure to translate doesn’t imply separate conceptual schemes. Language is all we have. Indeed even though we may not know how to navigate from one mindset to the other, it has to be possible even if sometimes it isn’t very useful. For instance, what does the vocabulary of nineteenth century romantic poetry have to do with the vocabulary of twenty-first century organization studies? One might find that the passion present in the stanzas of nineteenth century romantic poetry is simply missing in current organization studies. Such a comparison might lead to a question about why that is the case, and a call for a renewed vocabulary for understanding our humanity in organizations. The pragmatist program of seeing what problems vocabularies solve and why some are better than others, and how some can be enriched by comparison with others, yields very different methods for studying organizations than are currently used in the most scholarship on management and organizations.

Hope and freedom should be the goals of discourse rather than ‘truth’ When many scholars hear the word ‘pragmatism’ they immediately associate it with the idea that ‘truth is what is useful’. This often cuts against the very reasons that scholars have chosen their field, i.e. to ‘get to the truth of the matter’. In fact, many pragmatists have a far more nuanced view of ‘truth’, and there has been substantial philosophical debate about the idea in the literature among pragmatists. For instance, Davidson believes that even if we give up the idea of an ‘uninterpreted reality’ to be approximated by language, a view of objective truth is still possible. Davidson writes: Of course truth of sentences remains relative to language, but that is as objective as can be. In giving up the dualism of scheme and world, we do not give up the world, but 204


re-establish unmediated touch with the familiar objects whose antics make our sentences and opinions true or false. (Davidson, 1984: 198) Rorty on the other hand, thinks that the idea of truth is best understood as reminding us that any belief that we have is potentially revisable. Knowledge for Rorty is the idea of warranted assertability, and whether a claim is warranted is largely a matter of an interpretive community. The idea of an assertion being true reminds us that all the evidence for assertion may not be in. Rorty argues that vocabularies can be useful ways to solve problems or not. In that spirit, Hilary Putnam suggests that if you want to know why a square peg won’t fit into a round hole, the vocabulary of molecular structure won’t work very well (atoms and molecules being mostly empty space). There are lots of ways to talk about the world, and no one of them gets at the world ‘as it really is’. Rorty has gone further than most here by claiming that hope and freedom are more tangible goals than truth. By this he means engaging in the search for solidarity with others, seeing ‘them’ as ‘us’ rather than some outside ‘other’. He writes: The trouble with aiming at truth is that you would not know when you had reached it, even if you had in fact reached it. But you can aim at ever more justification, the assuagement of ever more doubt. Analogously you cannot aim at ‘doing what is right’, because you will never know if you have hit the mark. Long after you are dead, better informed and more sophisticated people may judge your action to have been a tragic mistake, just as they may judge your scientific beliefs as intelligible only by reference to an obsolete paradigm. But you can aim at ever more sensitivity to pain, and ever greater satisfaction of ever more various needs. Pragmatists think that the idea of something nonhuman luring us human beings on should be replaced with the idea of getting more and more human beings into our community – of taking the needs and interests and views of more and more diverse human beings into account. (Rorty, 1999: 82) What these ideas mean for research is that we need to engage in a conversation that at once moves across vocabularies. When researchers embrace a plurality of metaphors it can unsettle the dominant paradigm and provide a broader toolkit from which to craft a better world. In order to generate a plurality of metaphors and stories, researchers would be better served to relax assumptions about truth and focus instead on conversation. Conversation is where different perspectives encounter one another and form the basis for a constructive dialogue about the cash-value of particular metaphors.

Pragmatism and organization studies In 1959 the Ford and Carnegie Foundations issued separate reports on the state of universitybased business schools in the US. These reports were highly critical of the low standards and rigour in a majority of business schools and sought to instigate change by infusing these institutions with a dose of the newly emerging ‘management science’ – including a methodology for managerial decision-making honed during World War II. This new decision-making science included tools such as decision analysis, game theory and insights from emerging behavioural science. The hope was that knowledge from these new disciplines would allow managers to make decisions using reason and analysis rather than intuition and judgement. To realize the vision of a scientifically based business school and management profession, a new kind of faculty was needed, ‘one focused more on fundamental research than on descriptive 205

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analysis, and deriving decision making principles more from theory than from existing practice’ (Khurana, 2007: 271). Therefore new faculty were trained in behavioural sciences, particularly economics, and were encouraged to increase research productivity and publish in academic journals to raise the research profile of their institutions. Just five years after the publication of the Ford report, faculty at the 25 leading business schools in the US were significantly more research oriented and published more in academic journals. This new emphasis on science brought with it a positivist epistemology, rather than a science based on Dewey’s pragmatic experimentation. Positivism makes the assumption that the study of business and organizations can occur through a scientific approach that is value free and is superior to nonscientific methods because it corresponds to objective reality. Astley (1985: 497) argues that positivism embraces a conventional model of scientific progress as cumulative discovery of objective truth, where knowledge grows linearly as new data are added to the existing stock of research findings. Positivism, and its newer incarnations post-positivism and neo-positivism, are all attempts to uncover objective Truth or True Reality. Post-positivism differs from positivism in holding that reality can be known only probabilistically, and hence verification is not possible. Neopositivism asserts that science must deal in exact descriptions and generalization, both of which require ‘the quantitative statement’. Both post- and neo-positivism share the belief that science should not – and cannot – deal with value statements. Throughout the latter half of the twentieth century and the early twenty-first century, little changed in university-based business schools as faculty continued to publish research and focus on quantitative methods as a vehicle for discovering Truth. In the late twentieth century the introduction of programmatic rankings for graduate business schools (and similar ranking for journals) accelerated and focused these trends in ways that reduced the diversity of research published in these journals and increased the dominance of positivism. Rankings of business school programs typically include surveys of stakeholders such as students, alumni and recruiters but also count the number of articles that faculty have in a finite number of journals deemed ‘A’ journals. By constraining the space in which research publications ‘count’ as good research, rankings such as BusinessWeek and U.S. News & World Report increase competition for publishing in the journals they deem worthy as more faculty aimed for these journals to get tenure and increase their own research reputation. This increased competition in turn serves to strengthen ‘normal’ science and reinforce the dominant theoretical and epistemological perspectives as academic reviewers fall back on their own assumptions about epistemology and truth to make judgements on papers and ideas that they think are ‘True’ and therefore worth publishing. Constrained space for what counts as ‘good’ research makes new ideas and different approaches more difficult to publish, because those authors have to compete with authors who publish ‘normal’ science that fits dominant assumptions and expectations about how science should look. Given this background on the current state of management theory and scholarship, we now turn to several ways in which a pragmatist may seek to improve this situation.

Practice-focused research Pragmatism sees theory as a tool for doing things better in the world. For Dewey, the role of thought and knowledge is not to passively reflect a pre-existing world, but to change and improve reality. The outcome of a successful inquiry is a ‘transformation of the situation’. On Dewey’s account, the most ‘basic conception of inquiry’ is ‘as determination of an indeterminate situation’ (Dewey, 2008) or, to use another term, sensemaking. 206


Pragmatism encourages scholars to show how theoretical differences make a real difference to practice. This focus on practice shifts the focus on theory building in management science away from insular conversations between academics and towards practice relevant research. Research that is focused on theory only for the sake of theory makes the assumption that good theory is a value-neutral and Objective view of the world from which many different purposes can be achieved. Therefore academics focus on proof and evidence as mechanisms for creating Truth. This emphasis crowds out discussion of practical relevance and stacks the deck in favour of ‘an entrenched vocabulary which has become a nuisance’ rather than ‘a half-formed new vocabulary which vaguely promises great things’ (Rorty, 1989). Positivist assumptions direct research towards those questions that can be more easily ‘proved’ with statistics rather than questions that impact how we should live, but may not be as easily measurable. Organizational scholars have debated their relevance to practice in journal articles, books, and conferences: (i.e. Administrative Science Quarterly 1982, 27(4); Academy of Management Journal, 2001, 44(2); Lawler, 1999; Larwood and Gattiker, 1999; Mowday, 1997; Hitt et al., 1998; Huff, 2000). Some scholars argue that academics and practitioners hold irreconcilably different views about research that is relevant and of high quality (Shrivastava and Mitroff, 1984). Scholars have long called for practically relevant research, and that argues that there exist modest zones of agreement between practitioners and academics about what constitutes interesting research (Baldridge et al., 2004), but yet the actual practice of publishing work that has practical relevance is still difficult. If ‘management science’ is to become focused on practice, there are several prescriptions based on Dewey’s pragmatic experimentation that can make it more relevant and useful. First, publishing null findings is a useful practice so that researchers and practitioners know what does not work. Only publishing positive findings that fit existing theory is not a practice that fosters the sensemaking necessary to create more useful explanations. Rather it is an artificial way to limit the kind of research that ‘counts’. By not publishing null findings current research practice reinforces the ideas of Objectivity and Truth because there is less emphasis placed on the boundary conditions of a theory, and theoretical limitations are less salient when only positive findings are published with a small paragraph about hypothesized limitations. Additionally, according to Dewey, the scientific spirit requires seeking out new problems that are not widely known or experienced. Pragmatism would encourage management science to look for novel problems and develop new and distinct processes for evaluating novel work. Treating new ideas in the same way as old established ideas is a sure way to kill innovation and experimentation. Finally, inquiry is based in particular perspectives and theoretical lenses. These lenses were crafted for particular purposes and to address specific problems. Scholars must become clearer about the purposes for which their explanations were created, to encourage more careful use and experimentation with theory. Research is not an objective map of reality that can be used for any purpose, but itself is a purpose-driven activity, that must be clear about the uses it has been developed for so that others can pick up the right tool for the right job. For example, using economic assumptions to narrowly describe the corporate objective is a use of a theory in a way that creates negative outcomes for companies and their stakeholders. This is a use that is more likely to occur when scholars do not attend to the purpose for which a theory was originally created. Forgetting the purpose for which a particular theory is created can lead to what Daniel Dennett calls, greedy reductionism, where, ‘in their eagerness for a bargain, in their zeal to explain too much too fast, scientists and philosophers . . . underestimate the complexities, trying to skip whole layers or levels of theory in their rush to fasten everything securely and neatly to the foundation’ (Dennett, 1995: 82). 207

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Bringing back knowing how According to Dewey, knowing-that is a kind of knowledge that ‘involves reflection and conscious appreciation’. It is our ability to consciously reason about things. Dewey sees knowing-that as a kind of reflective thinking which is an active, persistent and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in light of the grounds that support it, and the further conclusions to which it tends. (Krueger, 2009: 36). Dewey sees most of everyday human action and interaction as involving a different sort of knowledge – knowing-how, or the experiential or embodied learning that is activated prior to, or without the invocation of, reflective thinking. This sort of knowledge is a pre reflective coping or skill-knowledge that enables us to navigate our world with a high degree of expert interaction. (Krueger, 2009: 37) This distinction is important for management theory because it largely focuses on ‘knowingthat’ and assumes that ‘knowing-that’ is sufficient to cope with the world in better ways. This distinction is connected to the need for practice-focused research. Theories and concepts solve problems. When they no longer solve problems they are discarded in favour of other theories and concepts that do a better job. For instance, astrology once solved a problem about why certain events occurred, and what we should do in the future given these astrological predictions. Ultimately, better explanations emerged, from biology, physics and psychology, and astrology has been largely discarded. It does not help us to solve the problems of what we should do in the future nearly as well as the theories and concepts of these more modern disciplines. When children learn language, they do not learn the meanings of the words. Rather they learn what the words do, including sometimes irritating their parents. We do things with words. This distinction helps us to see that much work must be done to build ‘knowing-how’. Faculty in business schools must think differently about how they teach and research, so that their students build the capacity to know how to live better. The problem a great deal of published research seems to solve is the problem of ‘how do faculty get published in A journals’, which has nothing to do with the kinds of problems that organizational members experience.

Fetish around perfect definitions As research becomes more insular, there is a growing emphasis on tight definitions and constructs. Tightly defined constructs are seen as necessary for science to accurately measure phenomena and to more closely reflect reality. Suddaby (2010: 353) argues that, For positivists, construct clarity helps them test theory, since precisely defined constructs are easier to operationalize and test (Schwab, 1980) and it is easier for researchers to compare and contrast results (Bagozzi and Edwards, 1998) . . . in some instances constructs become so clearly defined, measurable, and operationalized over time that they lose relevance with the empirical world and, ultimately, reappear under a different name. A pragmatist does not see these constructs as reflective of the world, but as shared assumptions and expectations within a community of scholars, trying to solve a set of real world problems. 208


Increased precision in constructs can be helpful as shared meaning about a construct increases understanding and coordination between the author and her readers. Suddaby (2010: 352) agrees when he argues that, The creation of a common vocabulary avoids the ‘Tower of Babel’ effect, in which subcommunities of researchers have no common means of communication. In the absence of common and well-articulated constructs, the boundaries between sub-communities become more sharply defined and organizational knowledge becomes increasingly fragmented. But these expectations about construct clarity can be also be a detriment when expectations about the precision of constructs gives license to scholars to reject work that does not share their personal (sometime idiosyncratic) definitions. For example, Suddaby continues, ‘finding a single exception is often fatal to a construct because it implies that any proposition associated with the construct is false. Reviewers may take this position even in cases where there is substantial positive empirical support for a construct, largely because most reviewers have been oversocialized to accept falsification as the basis of scientific truth’ (Suddaby, 2010: 349). The meanings of these constructs are negotiated in conversation, but in the journal review process the burden of translating new ideas into the old vocabulary is placed on the new author not the incumbent, thereby significantly decreasing the likelihood that novel work will be published in ‘A’ journals. Additionally, the assumption that research is an endeavour to produce Truth can give license to reviewers to reject work that does not fit their world view instead of engaging in conversation with the authors. It also disadvantages new vocabularies from being published when they contain constructs that are defined and used in a consistent and logical way, but may fall short of empirical testing.

Seeing problems from the inside Another important aspect of pragmatism is the focus on lived experience and seeing problems from the inside. When theorists develop descriptions of problems, their perspective and goals are different from those of the people who experience the problem. To help those successfully address the problem, it is important to see the issues from the perspective of individuals who experience those problems. For example in the study of ethics, John Dewey argues that traditional moral theories have abstracted out the qualitative experience of moral problems and the social context in which they occur. In his own masterwork, The Varieties of Religious Experience, James (1902[1985]) sees matters of religion and faith in terms of common, if difficult to explain, experiences. By disregarding the lived experience of ethical issues, scholars increase the likelihood that their theories will be less useful to those individuals. In organization studies, taking the lived experience seriously can mean several things. For example, in social psychological work on ethics we can examine not just how context shapes behaviour, but how people experience and interpret context differently. Across disciplines, we may work to understand how people experience and apply the theories we generate, rather than assume that their application is straightforward or obvious. Attending to how people experience and apply theories can shed light on how to make them more useful and applicable. One way to take experience seriously is highlight that organizational phenomena are socially constructed. In addition to redescribing phenomena as contingent and created, pragmatism encourages organizational scholars to pay attention to the effects of different social constructions. Each way of construing a situation or problem has benefits and costs that are differentially 209

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distributed across stakeholder groups. Therefore we must not stop at describing a process of social construction or at claiming that something is socially constructed, but also examine the effects of those constructions, how those effects themselves are created and maintained, and how they shape the ability of others to live better.

Conclusion We believe that pragmatism holds great promise in shaping organizational studies in ways that can help organizational actors live better lives. In this chapter we have provided a brief history of pragmatist thought, outlined several of its central tenets, and provided a few directions which the studies of organizations and management can take if scholars want to take pragmatist ideas seriously. It is important to note that ideas are only the beginning, and while a growing number of academics now sympathize with pragmatist thought and decry the narrow view of science that pervades our journals, action is important. To change existing practice is difficult, but necessary if we are serious about living and helping others to live better lives through our scholarship.

Notes 1 2

Though resembling Pierce, Peirce is homophonous with ‘purse’. Freeman (2004) has written a book review essay entitled ‘The relevance of Richard Rorty to management research’ in Academy of Management Review.

References (key texts in bold) Astley, W.G. (1985). Administrative Science as Socially Constructed Truth. Administrative Science Quarterly, 30: 497–513. Bagozzi, R.P. and Edwards, J.R. (1998). A general approach for representing constructs in organizational research. Organizational Research Methods, 1(1): 45–87. Baldridge, D. C., Floyd, S.W. and Markóczy, L. (2004). Are managers from Mars and academicians from Venus? Toward an understanding of the relationship between academic quality and practical relevance. Strategic Management Journal, 25(11): 1063–74. Bernstein, R.J. (2010). The Pragmatic Turn. Cambridge: Polity Press. Davidson, D. (1984). Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Dennett, D.C. (1995). Darwin’s dangerous idea. The Sciences, 35(3): 34–40. Dewey, J. (1908[1998]). Does reality possess practical character? In Hickman, L. and Alexander, T. (eds), The Essential Dewey Volume 1, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, pp. 124–33. Dewey, J. (1930[1998]). What I Believe, in Hickman, L. and Alexander, T. (eds), The Essential Dewey Volume 1. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, pp. 22–8. Dewey, J. (2008). The Later Works of John Dewey, Volume 7, 1925–1953: 1932, Ethics. Carbondale, IL: SIU Press. Durand, R. and Vaara, E. (2009). Causation, counterfactuals, and competitive advantage. Strategic Management Journal, 30(12): 1245–64. Freeman, R.E. (2004). Book review essay: the relevance of Richard Rorty to management research. Academy of Management Review, 29(1): 127–44. Freeman, R.E., Harrison, J. S., Wicks, A.C., Parmar, B. L. and De Colle, S. (2010). Stakeholder Theory: the state of the art. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Hitt, M.A., Gimeno, J. and Hoskisson, R.E. (1998).Current and future research methods in strategic management. Organizational Research Methods, 1(1): 6–44. Huff, A.S. (2000). 1999 presidential address: changes in organizational knowledge production. Academy of Management Review, 25(2): 288–93. James, W. (1902[1985]) The Varieties of Religious Experience. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. James, W. (1907[2014]). Pragmatism. New York: Cambridge University Press. 210


Kelemen, M. and Rumens, N. (eds) (2013). American Pragmatism and Organization. Surrey, UK: Gower. Khurana, R. (2007). From Higher Aims to Hired Hands: the social transformation of American business schools and the unfulfilled promise of management as a profession. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Krueger, J.W. (2009). Knowing through the body: the daodejing and Dewey. Journal of Chinese Philosophy, 36(1): 31–52. Larwood, L. and Gattiker, U.E. (eds) (1999). Impact Analysis: how research can enter application and make a difference. New York: Psychology Press. Lawler, E.E. (ed.) (1999). Doing research that is useful for theory and practice. Plymouth, UK: Lexington Books. Mahoney, J.T. (1993). Strategic management and determinism: sustaining the conversation. Journal of Management Studies, 30(1): 173–91. Margolis, J. D., and Walsh, J.P. (2003). Misery loves companies: rethinking social initiatives by business. Administrative Science Quarterly, 48: 268–305. Mowday, R.T. (1997). Celebrating 40 years of the Academy of Management Journal. Academy of Management Journal, 40(6): 1400–14. Pappas, G.F. (ed.) (2008). John Dewey’s ethics: democracy as experience. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Peirce, C.S. (1878[1965]). How to make our ideas clear. Collected papers of Charles Sanders Peirce (Vol. 5). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Purnell, L.S. and Freeman R.E. (2012). Stakeholder theory, fact/value dichotomy, and the normative core: how wall street stops the ethics conversation. Journal of Business Ethics, 109(1): 109–16. Putnam, H. (2002). The Collapse of the Fact/Value Dichotomy and Other Essays. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Quine, W.V. (1951). Main trends in recent philosophy: two dogmas of empiricism. The Philosophical Review, 60(1): 20–43. Rorty, R. (1989). Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Rorty, R. (1991). Feminism and Pragmatism – The Tanner Lectures on Human Values. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan. Rorty, R. (1999). Philosophy and Social Hope. New York: Penguin. Rorty, R. (2010). Reply to Aldo Giorgio Gargani, in Auxier, R.E. and Hahn, L.E. (eds). The Philosophy of Richard Rorty. Chicago, IL: Open Court, pp. 193–95. Schwab, D. P. (1980). Construct validity in organizational behaviour, in Staw, B.M. and Cummings, L.L. (eds), Research in Organizational Behavior (Vol. 2). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press, pp. 3–43. Shrivastava, P. and Mitroff, I.I. (1984). Enhancing organizational research utilization: the role of decision makers’ assumptions. Academy of Management Review, 9(1): 18–26. Suddaby, R. (2010). Editor’s comments: construct clarity in theories of management and organization. Academy of Management Review, 35(3): 346–57. Tomasello, M., Melis, A.P., Tennie, C., Wyman, E. and Herrman, E. (2012). Two key steps in the evolution of human cooperation: the interdependence hypothesis. Current Anthropology, 53(6): 673–92. Wicks, A. C. and Freeman, R.E. (1998). Organization studies and the new pragmatism: positivism, antipositivism, and the search for ethics. Organization Science, 9(2): 123–40.


14 Psychoanalysis and the study of organization Yiannis Gabriel

Psychoanalysis is how Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) in 1896 described his clinical method for the treatment of neurotic disorders. The method, quite radical for its time, involved nothing more than a conversation between patient and therapist. During this conversation, the patient was encouraged to give voice to his or her thoughts and ideas without seeking to organize or control them. The systematic exploration and interpretation of the products of this free association opened up possibilities of investigating mental processes that take place outside the patient’s consciousness, but underpin conscious experiences, such as perceptions, emotions, judgements, decisions and desires. As a therapeutic technique, psychoanalysis had variable but at times spectacular results, as depicted in the film A Dangerous Method (2011). Starting as a clinical practice, psychoanalysis developed a theory of the unconscious that encompasses a wide range of phenomena, both normal and pathological, by problematizing the former and normalizing the latter. More generally psychoanalysis developed a wide range of critical theories that have had a direct bearing on the study of politics, culture and organizations. As a result, psychoanalysis has had a considerable influence on numerous disciplines, including psychology, philosophy, sociology, aesthetics, linguistics and others. The originality of its ideas and their ability to illuminate hitherto opaque phenomena made psychoanalysis an important cultural current in the last hundred years whose influence reaches outside scholarly and clinical contexts, in arts, music and popular culture. The relation between psychoanalysis and philosophy has been a complex and troubled one. Some philosophers have censured psychoanalysis as unscientific, self-contradictory, essentialist, reductionist, conservative, masculinist, fantastic and/or mythological. Yet others have taken a more nuanced view and some have even defended psychoanalysis as being itself a branch of philosophy, taking off where Schopenhauer and Nietzsche ended. The contributions of psychoanalysis to the study of organizations have been varied. Some of them have sprung from a hermeneutic perspective using psychoanalytic theories to examine organizational artefacts, some have embraced more pragmatic quasi-therapeutic approaches to account for persistent organizational irrationalities and dysfunctions, while others have adopted an approach consistent with critical management studies (CMS), seeking to denaturalize and critique mainstream theories and to discover some emancipatory possibilities. What all these psychoanalytic approaches share is an emphasis on unconscious organizational processes and an interest in irrational, fantastic qualities of organizational life. 212


Key contributions Psychoanalysis owes its distinctness, its power and its controversial status to the premise that a large part of mental life is unconscious and that much of what is unconscious – desires, emotions, ideas – is the product of psychological defences seeking to ward off suffering. It follows that many conscious phenomena, such as actions (‘behaviours’), wishes, feelings and ideas, are but smokescreens for unconscious ones, for processes that do not simply happen to be inaccessible to consciousness but are systematically prevented from reaching consciousness. The meaning, therefore, of many conscious phenomena is distorted to obfuscate deeper unconscious ones and requires careful interpretation to bring to light. Psychoanalytic interpretation, as Ricoeur argued, is the ‘systematic exercise of suspicion’ (1970: 32). What conventional psychology addresses as motivation, psychoanalysis approaches through the concept of desire: many human motives and desires are unconscious, though not unknowable. Conscious desires, such desires for material objects, for specific careers or for particular forms of sexual gratification, frequently reveal themselves to be substitutes or surrogates for unrealized unconscious desires, some of which may be traced to earlier life. The mobility, volatility and frequent irrationality of human desires are the consequences of the properties of the unconscious and of the mechanisms of defence through which people seek to ward off anxiety-provoking thoughts and emotions. Thus, the psychoanalytic conceptualization of the unconscious is irrevocably linked with the idea of psychological defence. The ramifications of this conceptualization are far-reaching and present some challenges to philosophy that were appreciated early by thinkers as diverse as Wittgenstein (1966), Sartre (1956) and Popper (1963). Psychoanalysis argues that the subject harbours in him/herself a stranger, an agent who often takes over his/her thoughts, fantasies and actions without him/her being conscious. This can be highly disconcerting, if we consider that this stranger can have unpredictable, destructive and self-destructive appetites, an idea captured in Freud’s statement that ‘the ego is not the master even in its own house’ (Freud, 1917: 143). Anticipating subsequent discourses on the decentred subject and fragmented identities, Freud developed a model of the mind split into three regions which he dubbed the id, ego and superego. The id is the space of where various urges, drives or instincts reside and operate entirely unconsciously feeding different fantasies and desires. These are manifested in dreams and other conscious phenomena as ‘compromise formations’ – in other words, as outcomes of the struggle between the original desire seeking gratification and the censoring forces that seek to suppress it, civilize it or redirect it. Censoring forces generally reside in the ego, the seat of consciousness, which deploys logic, memory and judgement in an endeavour to satisfy the demands of the id within parameters set by what it constructs as an external reality and its mental representative, the superego. The subdivision of the mind into different regions is not novel, but it has drawn criticism from philosophers, notably Sartre (1956) and Thalberg (1982), who have argued that a subject cannot be simultaneously conscious and unconscious of something. Defenders of psychoanalysis (e.g. Gabriel, 1983; Gardner, 2000) have sought to refute such criticisms by pointing out that the ego is not operating entirely in the conscious domain. Many of its processes and contents are unconscious. In initiating psychological defences like denial or rationalization, the ego operates unconsciously. Its efforts to make itself the object of self-love in order to meet in response to narcissistic strivings is also unconscious. So too is the superego, the part of the ego that becomes society’s ‘fifth column’ in the subject, concerned with maintaining and enforcing moral and social norms and prohibitions, by wielding an ‘unconscious sense of guilt’ (Freud, 1924[1961]). In this way, in addition to the id, substantial parts of the ego and superego reside in the unconscious and the relationship between the three is dynamic: 213

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The ego, driven by the id, confined by the super-ego, repulsed by reality, struggles to master its economic task. . . . If the ego is obliged to admit its weakness, it breaks out in anxiety – anxiety [fear] regarding the external world, moral anxiety regarding the superego and neurotic anxiety regarding the strength of the passions in the id. (Freud, 1933[1988]: 110–11). Conflict is unavoidable and constitutive of the subject. The division of the subject assumes great significance in Lacanian approaches which treat it as ‘constitutionally conflictual in its organization . . . characterized by an original and radical lack of identity or a “lack of being”‘ (Arnaud and Vanheule, 2007: 362). Unresolved conflicts can result in different pathologies, ranging from phobia to hysteria and from depression to paranoia. In its attempt to avoid such acute psychopathologies, the ego deploys a variety of mechanisms that largely operate in the realm of the unconscious, some of which have now become part of the layperson’s language. They include repression, regression, rationalization, denial, sublimation, identification, projection, displacement and reaction formation. Defences operate in different ways – they can contain conflict for a certain period holding back anxiety or other threatening emotions; they may trigger symptoms that are socially unacceptable, thus prompting further defences; or they may backfire altogether. In light of this, Freud (1937) described normality as an ‘ideal fiction’ and argued that neurosis is itself normal – what distinguishes people categorized as normal from others is that they hide their neurosis, that they adopt socially acceptable forms of neurosis or that they have a diluted mixture of neurotic symptoms rather than any one specific one. Psychoanalysis was the first serious psychological theory to accord great significance to the early years of life, when the individual emerges as a subject. Defences that prove useful or effective during this period are liable to resurface in later life, sometimes with profoundly unsettling effects. Experiences in infancy and early childhood leave indelible marks – these include an ever expanding range of unconscious meanings, desires, defences and traumas, many of which have a sexual nature. Sexuality is thus conceptualized by psychoanalysis as a complex motivational force that can assume many different forms, focusing on different objects, activities and desires, but always aiming at pleasure. In this regard, psychoanalysis, at least in its original configuration, stands with philosophical traditions that approach humans as desiring subjects, subjects that are not primarily driven by reason or by the quest for meaning but by the pursuit of happiness, including sensuous pleasure (Marcuse, 1955). Since its beginnings, psychoanalysis has been a diverse body of knowledge. Some of this knowledge focused on the treatment of an ever widening range of mental disorders, its main ambition being to relieve extreme symptoms of distress and return patients to functional roles in society. For this reason, it was critiqued by Foucault (1969[1972], 1978) and others as an apparatus of normalization and control. Yet psychoanalysis has also supported a critical tradition in the human sciences that stems from a recognition that ‘the sickness of the individual is ultimately caused and sustained by the sickness of civilization’ (Marcuse, 1955: 244), a theme that preoccupied Freud in his final years. The emancipatory potential of psychoanalysis, whether as a type of knowledge representing an emancipatory interest (Habermas, 1972) aimed at challenging self-deceptions or as a doctrine seeking to combine political with sexual emancipation (Brown, 1959; Marcuse, 1955; Reich, 1970) has preoccupied numerous thinkers, not least those who sought a rapprochement between psychoanalysis and Marxism (Fromm, 1973; Marcuse, 1955). Today, psychoanalysis has evolved into numerous schools of thought that live more or less comfortably together. Some of the rancour that characterized earlier relations between psychoanalytic traditions and led to various more or less acrimonious splits has evaporated as has the quest for orthodoxy. Instead, psychoanalytic approaches have infiltrated, under different 214


guises and often in combinations – existential, object relations, Lacanian, ego psychology – a number of scholarly discourses, including feminism, linguistics, history, as well as cultural and consumer and organizational studies.

Psychoanalysis and organizational studies Psychoanalysing organizations The world of organizations, impersonal and formalized, was for some time thought of as being at the opposite end of the intimate and personal relations that provided the early cradle of psychoanalytic thinking. Against this background, the establishment of the Tavistock Institute in the UK marked a significant development. Founded shortly after WWII, the institute was the product of the belief that social science could revolutionize workplace relations and advance the Labour government’s post-war social agenda. The institute’s chief publication, Human Relations dedicated to the ‘integration of social sciences’ summed up its philosophy of making this a better world through the enlightened application of scientific knowledge. The institute’s early associates included several psychiatrists trained or well-versed in psychoanalysis, including Elliott Jaques and Wilfred Bion, who used psychoanalytic insights to study organizational and group phenomena. The contribution of these studies stemmed from the argument that psychological defences against anxiety do not operate only at the individual level but also at the group, organizational and even societal level. Groups, organizations, and other social collectivities have an unconscious life and even unconscious mental processes that are duplicated across their members. The work of psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion (1961) in this respect was seminal. Bion argued that groups, like individuals, generate a variety of destructive emotions, such as envy, guilt and especially anxiety. Failure to tame and contain these emotions leads groups to lose sight of the tasks they seek to accomplish and tips them into what he termed ‘basic assumption’ functioning. By this, he meant that group dynamics are taken over by various fantasies or collective delusions that severely distort their sense of proportion and reality. When groups lapse into basic assumption behaviour they are liable to experience overwhelming fears of annihilation from greatly exaggerated dangers or conversely excessive optimism and denial that they are under any real danger. They are liable to feel strong love and hate for particular objects and to misjudge seriously their capabilities and limitations. In this way, basic assumptions act as collective defence mechanisms that seek to alleviate group troubles, but end up by compounding them. Bion identified three basic assumptions – dependency, fight-flight and pairing – each with a characteristic set of behaviours and emotions. In basic assumption dependency, group members act as if the leader, who is seen as the messiah, will save them without them having to do any work. In this state, groups eventually become disappointed with their leader who cannot possibly live up to the members’ exaggerated expectations. In basic assumption fight-flight mode, groups act as if there is a great danger that must be confronted, either by attacking it or by running away from it. This imaginary danger can be from inside or outside the group and typically acts as a scapegoat that obscures other, potentially serious dangers. In basic assumption pairing mode, groups experience strong feelings of hopefulness, imagining that two members of the group will get together to generate an idea or give birth to a person who can solve all the group’s problems. The focus of the group turns away from difficult issues of the present to an imagined blissful future in which all such difficulties are overcome. Bion’s contribution to group psychodynamics has found extensive applications in organizational consulting (French and Simpson, 2010). His emphasis on the containment of collective anxieties was one that was translated from the level of groups to that of organizations 215

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by subsequent Tavistock theorists, including Elliott Jaques (1955), Isabel Menzies (1960) and Eric Miller (1976). Anxiety is seen as an incapacitating emotion which sets off mechanisms of defence. Organizations are systematic generators of anxiety. The containment of such anxieties within organizations has been the focus of numerous theories developed by Tavistock theorists. Drawing on the work of Melanie Klein (Klein and Mitchell, 1987), they argued that large bureaucratic organizations offer social defences in the form of hierarchies, impersonal rules and procedures, organizational and role boundaries and so forth. The downside of these defences is that in containing anxieties, organizations often resort to dysfunctional routines which stunt creativity, block the expression of emotion or conflict, and, above all, undermine the organization’s rational and effective functioning (Jaques, 1955; Menzies, 1960). Just as individual defences immerse the individual in a world of neurotic make-belief detached from reality, so too do organizational defences immerse their members in collective delusions, in which they pursue chimerical projects or run blindly away from non-existent threats. It is now generally agreed that the management of anxiety is a core task in every organization – excessive anxiety leads to dysfunctional defensive routines, while inadequate anxiety breeds complacency, inertia and gradual decay (Baum, 1987; French and Vince, 1999; Hirschhorn, 1988). The extent to which organizational consultants may help contain the anxieties is subject to much debate. Certainly part of such consultants’ role is to identify and distinguish those defences which bolster the organization’s ability to cope with uncertainty and danger, to build solidarity and to organize its tasks effectively from those that merely act as causes of the vicious circles noted above. The ‘Tavistock paradigm’ (French and Vince, 1999) has given rise to an approach described as ‘psychoanalysing organizations’ (Gabriel and Carr, 2002), that starts from a pragmatic concern over an organization’s performance and the well-being of those working for it, seeking to psychoanalyse organizations ‘as if’ they were patients. If psychoanalysis can return an individual to ‘normal’ functioning, can it not be used as a method of organizational intervention, enhancing organizational functioning? Organizational interventions seek to identify repressed forces, such as rivalries, fears of failure, taboo subjects, anger over betrayals, disappointments and frustrations, which systematically inhibit collaboration, creativity, harmony and organizational performance and thereafter to redress them (see e.g. Diamond, 1993; Hirschhorn, 1988; Levinson, 1968[1981]; Zaleznik, 1977). In psychoanalysing organizations, many of these theorists identified pathological conditions and processes in organizations, such as paranoia, megalomania, self-delusion, narcissism and depression, which directly mirror individual psychopathologies, so that, in a certain way, it can be said that the entire organization becomes afflicted by neurosis. The psychodynamics and especially the dysfunctions of leadership, such as narcissism and authoritarianism, have been an important preoccupation of this approach (Gabriel, 2011; Goldman, 2009; Hirschhorn, 1997; Kets de Vries and Miller, 1984; Levinson, 1968[1981]; Obholzer, 1999; Sievers, 1994; Stein, 2005). Coaching and mentoring leaders has thus emerged as an important organizational analogue of individual psychoanalysis with numerous psychoanalysts, especially in the US, turning their professional expertise to this new practice. Psychoanalysing organizations raises numerous philosophical and ethical objections. The translation of unconscious processes (such as repression, projection, splitting) from the individual to a group or social level calls for numerous assumptions that are difficult to justify (Smelser, 1998). Furthermore, the sharp difference between normal and dysfunctional functioning that characterizes this perspective involves numerous thorny normative assumptions. When does healthy skepticism become paranoid anxiety and when does healthy pride lapse into pathological narcissism? Finally, and maybe most importantly, could it not be the case that individual pathologies and collective pathologies are distinct and that unhappy, neurotic individuals may sometimes be quite functional and even thrive in organizational environments? (Gabriel, 1999) 216


Studying organizations psychoanalytically An alternative form of engagement of psychoanalysis with organizations has been undertaken by theorists without therapeutic ambitions who have used psychoanalytic insights to study organizations, their effects on people’s emotional lives and the manner in which they feature in people’s fantasies and dreams. A whole range of organizational phenomena can be approached in this way, including leadership, group dynamics, insults and jokes, sexual harassment, psychological contracts and obedience, and so forth. This approach can be summed up as ‘studying organizations psychoanalytically’ (see e.g. Arnaud, 2012; Fotaki, 2011; Fotaki et al., 2012; Gabriel, 1998, 1999; Schwartz, 1987, 1990; Sievers, 1986, 1994) and takes as its starting point Freud’s injunction that ‘the expectation that every neurotic phenomenon can be cured may, I suspect, be derived from the layman’s belief that the neuroses are something quite unnecessary which have no right to exist’ (Freud, 1933[1988]: 189). If individual pathologies have ‘a right to exist’, so too have group and organizational pathologies – the point is to understand their causes and ramifications, even if it is not possible to treat them. The starting point of this approach is the psychoanalytic interpretation of organizational texts and artefacts. This is akin to the way in which psychoanalysis first approaches other phenomena symptomatically, whether at the individual level (e.g. dreams, symptoms, fantasies) or at the cultural (e.g. works of art, religious practices, myths). Reading symptomatically approaches various texts as conscious expressions of unconscious phenomena and became an important feature in Althusser’s (Althusser and Balibar, 1970) re-reading of Marxist texts. Organizational ceremonials, stories, texts, brands and material artefacts, such as buildings, furniture, uniforms and brochures, can be interpreted or ‘read’ as expressions of unconscious. The aim of psychoanalytic interpretations is to reveal the deeper meaning of symbolic phenomena by making conscious what was unconscious, namely repressed wishes and desires that may be too troublesome or painful to be admitted into consciousness. A story of an employee’s suicide can, under certain circumstances, disclose a fantasy of the managers as murderers, just as a vast atrium at the heart of a corporate building can disclose a fantasy of the heartless core of an organization (Gabriel, 2000). Psychoanalytic interpretations of organizational texts, like other interpretations can never be final or conclusive. A single organizational text, just like a single myth, can have many divergent or even conflicting meanings, something entirely consistent with the psychoanalytic theory of the unconscious that can contain conflicting meanings and emotions. The interpretive aspect of psychoanalysis places it, in the view of Ricoeur (1970) in the great hermeneutic tradition of philosophy represented by Vico, Schleiermacher, Dilthey, Heidegger, Gadamer and others that moved from the exegesis of religious texts to the exploration of the possibility of human communication. Psychoanalysis represents a novel attempt to reveal how a dream, a neurotic symptom, a slip of the tongue or a cultural artefact may communicate meaning. It does so by proposing that ‘to interpret is to understand a double meaning’ (Ricoeur, 1970: 8); behind the ‘innocent meaning’ of a cough, a memory lapse or a work of art, psychoanalysis invites us to pursue the possibility of deeper, and potentially more disturbing meanings. What psychoanalytic interpretations reveal is the power of fantasy in organizational life, something that tended to be overlooked by more traditional analyses. The power of fantasy has been closely studied in relation to several phenomena, notably leader-follower relations, identity formation and the contrasted images of organization as perfect or as evil. Psychoanalysis addressed the leadership romance before it became fashionable to do so (Meindl et al., 1985). Followers, argued Freud (1921[1985]) form powerful emotional relations with their leaders, triggered by memories of earlier relations with figures of authority. The powerful figures of authority that dominate most people’s early lives are their mother and their father. To the 217

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eyes of the helpless child, these figures appear immense and god-like, a ‘primal mother’ and a ‘primal father’, who inspire powerful emotions. These frequently resurface in later life, transferred onto leaders who are experienced as reincarnations of the primal mother, caring, giving and loving, or primal father, omnipotent, omniscient but also strict and terrifying. Just as children are liable to idealize parents in early life, followers then idealize their leaders in later life, they identify with them and often emulate their appearance, actions and values. Of course, leaders almost invariably fail to live up to the fantasies in which they are cast by their followers, hence the leadership romance often ends up in tears (Gabriel, 1997; Kohut, 1971). Psychoanalytic approaches to leadership have at times been criticized for reductionism of politics to psychology, a charge that is not altogether unjustified. The importance of fantasy is also highlighted in psychoanalytic accounts of organizational and occupational identities. For psychoanalysis, the mental personality is decentred and fragmented. In as much as subjects can be said to have unique and enduring identities, these are coextensive with various truths, half-truths and fantasies that they maintain about themselves (Arnaud, 2012; Arnaud and Vanheule, 2007). Thus a factual element (‘I am working as an analyst for Company X’) can be as much part of my identity as an idealized fantasy (‘which is the most famous brand in the industry’), a wishful fantasy (‘where I am by far the smartest among my peers’), a half-truth (‘and have received innumerable prizes for my innovations’), a persecutory fantasy (‘in spite of the envy of my peers’) and an ambivalent evaluation (‘and this job is killing me but I love it’). As Schwartz (1987) argued, individual identities frequently contain idealized elements of the organizations with which we are associated. This is what Schwartz calls ‘organizational ideal’ which is analogous to and contiguous with the ego-ideal. By identifying with the glamour, power and other fantastic qualities of organizations that the subject associates with, as employee, as customer or merely as admirer, he or she derives a narcissistic satisfaction. Part of the organization’s allure becomes internalized by those associated with it. Organizations are often idealized but they are also frequently vilified and disparaged. This split between good and bad is a psychological defence (Klein and Mitchell, 1987) dating to the earlier part of life when the child, unable to comprehend how the same mother who is present and nourishing sometimes is absent and unavailable at others, splits the mother into a good mother and a bad mother. This defence is liable to recur in later life, for example, an organization being split into all good and all bad – thus, organization of old can be idealized as a perfect family and today’s organization can be vilified as a labour camp or even a killing camp. Instead of power and glamour, an organization can then epitomize oppression and corruption, experienced as ‘psychic prison’ (Morgan, 1986[2006]). Instead of an organizational ideal, the fantasy of organization which emerges then is precisely the opposite, an ‘organizational malignant’ (Gabriel, 1997), a caricature of undesirable or laughable attributes. In such cases, organizations become the object of cynical distancing (Fleming and Spicer, 2003). Like idealization and identification, cynicism represents an organization substantially distorted by psychological defences.

Significance of philosophy The contribution of psychoanalysis to the study of organizations hinges on the unconscious. If one accepts this as a fundamental dimension of individual, organizational and social life, psychoanalysis provides a unique way of illuminating it. If, on the other hand, the unconscious can be questioned or dismissed, psychoanalysis is reduced to an interesting mythology that opens the way to ingenuous speculation without any possibility of validation or confirmation. This is a topic that has long preoccupied philosophy, and generally divides up positivist and falsificationist 218


traditions which reject the unconscious (Grünbaum, 1984; Popper, 1963) as inherently unverifiable from more critical interpretive traditions that have, sometimes cautiously, accepted the unconscious (Gardner, 1993; Habermas, 1972; Marcuse, 1955; Ricoeur, 1970; Wollheim and Hopkins, 1982).1 Anticipating many subsequent criticisms, Freud sought to present psychoanalysis as a hard science like physics and medicine. He believed that the main danger facing psychoanalysis was a descent into mysticism. Yet, he was clear (at least after the mid-1890s) that psychoanalytic method and theories differed in some important ways from a positivist model of scientific theory. Interpretations and inferences about unconscious mental processes cannot be made along similar lines as medical diagnoses of physical disorders, since the inquiring subject is also the object of the inquiry. The standards of validity of interpretations and the nature of inferences are different from those of other disciplines. Towards the end of his life Freud explicitly recognized the futility of viewing psychoanalysis as an off-shoot of medicine. In the ‘Postscript to “An Autobiographical Study”’, he wrote: After a lifelong detour over the natural sciences, medicine, and psychotherapy, my interests returned to those cultural problems which had once captivated the youth who had barely awakened to deeper thought. These interests had centered on the events of the history of man, the mutual influences between man’s nature, the development of culture, and those residues of prehistoric events of which religion is the foremost representation . . . studies which originate in psychoanalysis but go beyond it. (Bettelheim, 1983: 48) Defending psychoanalysis as a natural science does it little justice, although Fischer and Greenberg (1996) have diligently reviewed 800 empirical studies and have found extensive support for some, though not for all, psychoanalytic theories. Yet, in current Anglo-Saxon culture, where much else sinks to the standing of ‘personal experience’ or ‘storytelling’, science alone, in the idealized model of physics or genetics, has come to be viewed as valid or objective knowledge. Freud was writing within a cultural milieu which took for granted a radical discontinuity between natural and human sciences, the latter encompassing not only psychology and sociology, but also history, ethics and other areas of philosophy. Meaning, will and motives as well as a lasting pre-occupation with the nature of the good life, these are the vital concerns of the Geisteswissenschaften, which generally deal with the peculiarities and singularities of unique, unrepeatable events rather than predictable regularities (Arnaud and Vanheule, 2007). Large parts of the social sciences in the United States and Britain have pretended that there is no difference between themselves and natural sciences. At worst, they see themselves as less developed versions of the natural sciences which, given time, will approach the same degree of objectivity and rigour as the established natural sciences. Concerned about being branded charlatans peddling glorified common-sense, many social science traditions sought to stay as close to the narrow model of science, that of natural science as possible. Yet, as Lear has argued: If psychoanalysis were to imitate the methods of physical science, it would be useless for interpreting people. Psychoanalysis is an extension of our ordinary psychological ways of interpreting people in terms of their beliefs, desires, hopes and fears. The extension is important because psychoanalysis attributes to people other forms of motivation – in particular wish and fantasy – which attempt to account for outbreaks of irrationality and other puzzling human behavior. In fact, it is a sign of psychoanalysis’s success as an interpretive science that its causal claims cannot be validated in the same way as those of the physical sciences. (Lear, 1995: 25) 219

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If psychoanalysis cannot be defended as a natural science what would its claims to validity and value be? In the first place, psychoanalysis can be defended as an interpretive discipline, which can reveal different meanings behind opaque phenomena and offer guidelines for corroborating such interpretations. In this respect, psychoanalysis offers not only a systematic way of examining symbolic transformations of ideas and desires but powerful insights into human motivation and the meanings, often contradictory and ambivalent, of human actions and experiences. Of course, one does not need psychoanalysis in order to interpret one’s own behaviour or that of others for that matter. Everybody is ceaselessly involved in interpretation and self-interpretation. Psychoanalysis, however, enables us to go beyond ‘innocent interpretations’ and probe for selfdeceptions and double-meanings. In as much as it calls for a close scrutiny of the interpreter’s own motives, psychoanalysis is a truly reflexive discipline. A different defence of psychoanalysis concentrates on the understanding which is made possible through the concept of the unconscious, in illuminating countless phenomena that are otherwise opaque, as distorted expressions of hidden desires. Ultimately, even when repudiated, the unconscious has become an indispensable idea for most human sciences. The Marxist concept of ideology and the sociological concept of norm would lose their bearings, without the implicit or explicit assumption that there is an unconscious in which they become internalized. The unconscious is equally indispensable in linguistics, in which it is argued that people can learn a language without knowing its grammar in a conscious way – the unconscious is ‘a way of explaining how [the system of linguistic rules] can be simultaneously unknown and yet effectively present’ (Culler 1976: 76). The study of mythology, folklore, fairytales, symbolism and magic are largely dependent on the assumption of the unconscious. In all of these areas, cultural elements (like linguistic structures, symbols, moral constraints etc.) become constitutive of the individual by becoming engraved in unconscious areas of his/her mind, from where they can regulate his/her behaviour and shape his/her conscious perception and understanding. It is not an exaggeration then to argue that the unconscious is not a concept conveniently invoked by the human sciences on disparate occasions, but a theoretical foundation on which many of their concepts are anchored. Thus Foucault, in spite of his hostility to psychoanalysis, acknowledges that the problem of the unconscious – its possibility, status, mode of existence, the means of knowing it and bringing it to light – is not simply a problem within the human sciences which they can be thought of as encountering by chance in their steps; it is a problem that is ultimately coextensive with their very existence . . . an unveiling of the non-conscious is constitutive of all the sciences of man. (Foucault, 1970: 364) Psychoanalysis, concludes Foucault, paves the way for the human sciences to pursue their ‘project of bringing man’s consciousness back to its real conditions, of restoring it to the contents and forms that brought it into being, and elude us within it’ (Foucault, 1970: 364).

Future directions Future psychoanalytic studies of organizations are likely to continue focusing on a diffuse range of topics which generally revolve around the emotional, irrational and destructive aspects of organizational life. In particular, relations between leaders and followers, group dynamics, organizational learning (and the enduring failure to learn) and various organizational dysfunctions are likely to continue attracting psychoanalytic scholarship. The areas of health studies and clinical leadership will continue to provide rich material for psychoanalytic analysis. Lacanian approaches 220


to gender and sexuality are likely to continue growing while there is some evidence of a resurgent interest in Jungian theory of unconscious archetypes and their organizational manifestations (Kociatkiewicz and Kostera, 2012; Moxnes, 1999). One area in which psychoanalysis has not as yet yielded much scholarship but may well do so in the future is the burgeoning field of identity studies in connection with work and occupational identities as well as consumer identities. Identification is a core concept of psychoanalytic theory (Freud, 1921[1985]; Lacan, 1966[1977]) and identity was a concept that emerged from the psychoanalytic tradition (Erikson, 1950[1978]). Yet current approaches to identity and identity work from a variety of angles have not demonstrated much of an appetite to cross-fertilize or even engage in a serious dialogue with psychoanalytic approaches, something that may change in due course, most especially due to the resurgence of interest in narcissism both as an individual and a collective phenomenon. Fundamentally an open question remains whether experience is the product of subjectivity or vice versa, an issue on which psychoanalysis and other traditions of scholarship take fundamentally different positions. Currently there is a growing interest in Lacanian approaches to the study of organizations phenomena (see e.g. Arnaud, 2002; Arnaud and Vanheule, 2007; Driver, 2009; Faÿ, 2008; Harding, 2007; Vidaillet, 2007). Unlike Freudian and object relations approaches, these place a greater emphasis on how organizations constitute the subject through a variety of discursive and symbolized activities, indeed to ‘reintroduce the subject into management . . . in the belief that] paying attention to subjectivity removes the necessity for this subjectivity to find its expression in aspects of the organization’s regular functioning, which then presents itself as irrational or pathological’ (Arnaud and Vanheule, 2007: 365). Possibly one of the most promising future developments will arise from a cross-fertilization of psychoanalytic theories of the unconscious with rapidly emerging insights from neuroscience and cognitive science that highlight the wide range of mental phenomena that are concealed from consciousness (Damasio, 1999). In light of overwhelming experimental evidence that a huge part of mental functioning takes place outside the radar of consciousness, the prospect of a radical rediscovery of the psychoanalytic theory of the unconscious by the mainstream must certainly feature on the agenda.

Conclusions Psychoanalysis has maintained a rather low-profile presence in organizational discourses, which have generally been more attracted to other traditions in the human sciences, such as functionalist sociology, social constructionism, Marxism and poststructuralism. Several factors account for this, not least the enduring critique of some of its philosophical assumptions, its substantial blindspots regarding some issues of major importance, such as gender and race, the decline of psychoanalytic therapy, and its own fragmentation into different schools that have looked at each other with suspicion. Finally, unlike other far less troublesome and provocative discourses, psychoanalysis presents theorists with some highly uncomfortable possibilities regarding their own standing and practices. All the same, its rich range of ideas and theories, with their enduring ability to illuminate opaque social phenomena, is likely to maintain its presence within the variety of theoretical resources deployed in understanding organizations.

Note 1

This chapter will not address the emerging field of the non-conscious and preconscious currently proposed by neuroscience. See, for example, Hassin et al. (2005). 221

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Wittgenstein, L. (1966). Lectures and Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology and Religious Belief. Oxford: Blackwell. Wollheim, R. and Hopkins, J. (1982). Philosophical Essays on Freud. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Zaleznik, A. (1977). Managers and leaders: are they different? Harvard Business Review, 55(May–June): 47–60.


15 Queer theory Nick Rumens and Melissa Tyler

Introduction Queer theory demands that we question the dominant foundational assumptions about what is ‘normal’ and what is ‘abnormal’ through a process of incessant critique, typically to disrupt claims about the essential nature of sexuality and gender. The focus of queer theory has largely been on the discursive provisionality of the sexual and gendered subject, destabilizing the normalizing tendencies of a sexual order that privileges heterosexuality. Perhaps the greatest contribution of queer theory has been the interrogation of heteronormativity which Berlant and Warner criticise for maintaining damaging binaries within ‘institutions, structures of understanding, and practical orientations that make heterosexuality not only coherent – that is, organised as a sexuality – but also privileged’ (Bertlant and Warner, 1998: 548). Queer theory has sought to expose, celebrate and provide the conditions of possibility for non-heteronormative practices and subjects (typically lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans [LGBT]) as crucial sites of resistance (Butler, 1990, 1993, 2004a; Edelman, 2004; Halberstam, 1998, 2005; Halperin, 1995, 2011; Warner, 1993, 1999). While it is almost commonplace to identify queer theory with a concern with heteronormativity and LGBT people, queer theory’s concern with unsettling processes of normalization has relevance for other disciplines outside the humanities from which it first emerged in the early 1990s. Indeed, queer theory has been embraced by organizational scholars unhappy with how heteronormativity has shaped and continues to shape dominant academic understandings of sexuality, gender, management and organization (see Parker, 2001, 2002 and Harding et al., 2011 for notable examples). With this in mind, this chapter seeks to account for the philosophical underpinnings of queer theory in the first section before reviewing its impact on organization studies in the second. These sections introduce queer theory to scholars who have yet to consider its offerings, but also to consider, for readers already familiar with its characteristic ideas and more widely cited writings, what else queer theory might offer to organization studies. With regard to the latter, the third and fourth sections of this chapter draw on intriguing aspects of queer theory that remain under-developed within organizational studies such as its ethic of openness to the Other and its orientation towards ‘undoing’ heteronormative binaries, in order to open up opportunities for ethical and political critique within and of organization studies. 225

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In the light of this discussion, the final section points to potential avenues of future queer theory research within organization studies.

Queer theory’s philosophical contributions Queer theory has its genesis in a number of interconnected philosophies, most significantly feminism, postmodernism and poststructuralism, which have developed critiques of humanistic theories of identity, the self and difference. Inheriting much of the critical concern shown by poststructuralists and postmodern feminists for understanding how normative discourses have an essentializing and thus limiting effect on how identities, selves and differences may be constructed and performed (Butler, 1990; Foucault, 1979; Fuss, 1991; Sedgwick 1990), and how subjects might also mobilize discourse to transcend such constraints (Butler, 2004a; Foucault, 2005), queer theory burst onto the academic scene as a radical and vibrant philosophy that was quickly put to use by scholars of sexuality and gender (e.g. Halberstam 1998; Halperin, 1995). Specifically, queer theory appeared in academic discourse when it was adopted by feminist Teresa de Lauretis in the introduction to the published proceedings of a 1990 conference, ‘Queer Theory: Lesbian and Gay Sexualities’, convened at the University of California. Then, queer theory was used to ‘theorize lesbian and gay sexualities’ (de Lauretis, 1991: iii), focusing on how lesbian and gay identities were discursively constructed through and within the confines of heteronormative discourse in particular. There was good reason for queer theory to be concerned with the discursive limits of gay and lesbian identity categories, not the least of them being the particularly pejorative associations these identities evoked at that point in time (e.g. death, waste, excess, disease), and the violence done to LGBT people through upholding a rigid and restrictive binary gender and sexual order (Sullivan, 2003). Indeed, forms of queer activism emerged as a radical response to an American political context in the 1980s blighted by sexual prejudice towards LGBT people. Queer groups such as OutRage, ACT UP (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) and Queer Nation campaigned vigorously to transform widespread sexual prejudice against LGBT people, amplified aggressively during the AIDS crisis (Watney, 1994). Queer activism is intertwined with queer theory in that their histories are enmeshed and both encourage critical thinking and action. Perhaps nowhere is this more conspicuous than in how queer theory, and forms of queer activism that employ parody, play and irony as tools to destabilize systems of knowledge and power, propound an understanding of sexuality and gender as performative. In Butler’s (1988, 1990, 1993, 2004a) writing, this performative ontology is premised on her conviction that gender is a corporeal style, an act as it were, which ‘is both intentional and performative, where “performative” suggests a dramatic and contingent construction of meaning’ (Butler, 1990: 177, original emphasis). Through acts of repetition and recitation, gender becomes ritualized, the effects of which make it appear natural. Arguing that ‘this repetition is not performed by a subject; this repetition is what enables a subject and constitutes the temporal condition for the subject’ (Butler 1993: 95), Butler emphasizes that subject positions are continually evoked through stylized acts of repetition, including those compelled by heteronormativity through mundane acts of gesture and inflection. Butler, along with other pioneering feminist theorists such as Sedgwick (1990) and Fuss (1991) who over the years have achieved iconic status as the ‘high priestesses’ of queer theory, questions the essentialist nature of sexual categories such as ‘heterosexual’ and ‘homosexual’. Each has, in different ways, interrogated how sexuality and gender are configured in hierarchical binaries (e.g. heterosexual/ homosexual, masculine/feminine) considering the consequences for those who cannot or will 226

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not fit into these categories. Drawing on Butler’s (1988, 1990) idea that sexual and gendered identities are performative, queer theorists have delved into how these identities are also historically patterned, contextually contingent and ascribed meaning at specific moments in time. In this sense, queer theorists have raised ontological and epistemological questions regarding the limits of heteronormative identity politics such as: can ‘heterosexual’ and ‘homosexual’ identities adequately account for the diversity in erotic expression that many people feel as they explore their sexuality and gender over a life time? In light of the above we start to gain a sense of the specific philosophical contributions of queer theory related to the challenge it presents to ontologies of sexuality and gender that are imbued with a sense of stability and which have become taken-for-granted and categorized as ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’. At this juncture, it is important to point out that queer theory is not reducible to poststructuralism, feminism, postmodernism or gay and lesbian studies, all of which have provided it with its necessary conditions of possibility. Queer theory’s distinctiveness resides precisely in its refusal to be reduced to or casually explained away by other philosophies, marking it out as something that questions the status quo and the normativity ascribed to it. Indeed, David Halperin sums this up when he notes how ‘queer is by definition whatever is at odds with the normal, the legitimate, the dominant. There is nothing in particular to which it necessarily refers’ (Halperin, 1995: 62 emphasis in original). The idea of queer theory as an unstable and itinerant philosophical resource for unsettling ontological assumptions about sexuality (especially those coded in heteronormativity) rather than making a statement about sexuality per se, is a theme that runs through much queer theory literature. This is apparent in Jagose’s description of queer theory: ‘Queer itself can have neither a fundamental logic, nor a consistent set of characteristics’(Jagose, 1996: 96). While Edelman, discussing queer theory in No Future, submits that ‘queerness can never define an identity; it can only ever disturb one’ (Edelman, 2004: 17). With queer theory’s underpinning philosophy articulated in this way, queer is established as an enfant terrible, a standard bearer of nonconformity, producing feelings of uncomfortableness as it seeks to undo the stability and certainty subjects develop through their attachments to particular identity categories. As such, queer theory’s refusal to be pinned to any definition is often seen as a necessary virtue of a theory that is suspicious of identity categories that appear static and of the rigidity and violence with which they are enforced in everyday life (Sullivan, 2003). Put differently, a concern that anything other than a constant deferral of meaning may result in constraining queer’s radical potential by closing off potential future significations of the term appears to motivate the reluctance among many queer theorists to ‘name’ queer. Indeed, this understanding of queer theory as a form of immanent critique underpins Parker’s queer-inspired, performative critique of management in which he describes queer theory as ‘an attitude of unceasing disruptiveness’ (Parker, 2002: 158). It is in this spirit that Parker’s research invites organization studies scholars to tap into the critical potential of queer theory to challenge dominant modes of understanding management and organization, a nascent literature to which we turn now.

Queer theory and organization studies While queer theory has found a clearing in the humanities in which it has set up camp for some years now, the humanities has not been able to contain queer theory; indeed, if such a thing were either possible or desirable. We marvel at how queer theory has crept into other academic disciplines such as law, technology, politics, education and organization studies. Regarding the latter, queer theory now informs a small and important body of organizational scholarship, barely two decades old. And although queer theory’s incursion into organization studies came at a time when notable advocates of queer theory had already declared it a ‘conceptually vacuous 227

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creature of the publishing industry’ (de Lauretis, 1994: 297), its debut in Parker’s (2001, 2002) writing on queering management and organization signaled another instance of queer theory’s renewable energy. Parker (2001, 2002) was one of the first to articulate queer theory’s capacity to question what we take-for-granted about management as an occupation, as an organizational role performed by an individual, as an organizational practice and finally, as an academic discipline. Deriving inspiration from Butler (1990) and Sedgwick (1990), Parker (2002) reasons that if management can be shown to be a social construction, historically patterned, it follows that we may wish to explore how we can ‘do’ management in ways that do not engender ‘considerable cruelty and inequality’, currently stifled ‘through the generalized application of managerialism as the one best way’ (2002: 184). In that regard, Parker turns to queer theory and engages with it on the understanding that it is ‘not merely reducible to a concern with sex, gender or sexuality’ (Parker, 2002: 158). Although Parker acknowledges the salience of these focal points for exposing and problematizing the heteronormativity of management and organization, he expands queer theory to denaturalize what we currently understand about management in order that new forms of ‘doing management’ or ‘becoming manager’ may emerge. In this respect, queer theory may help organization studies scholars to question the common (business) sense that reasons managerialism is a ‘good’ thing, reminding us that managing is only one way of organizing among many. As such, queer theory is set up as having the potential to reinvigorate debates about management and organizing by drawing attention to the idea that ‘doing manager’ is performative in the Butlerian (1990) sense, revealing management as something that is constructed through a continuous and re-iterative enactment. More than this, however, Parker (2002) echoes Warner’s desire ‘to make theory queer’ (1993: xxvi) rather than spinning a strand of queer theory management. In this sense, Parker (2002) subscribes to a process of queering management that exposes the provisionality of management and the complicity of management academics in producing knowledge about management and organization in ways that come to be regarded as normative. An insightful and important jumping off point, Parker’s (2001, 2002) use of queer theory is characteristic of a now wider engagement with queer theory within critical management studies that questions the normativity of management, leadership and organization (Bendl et al., 2008; Courtney, 2014; Gibson-Graham, 1996; Harding et al., 2011; Muhr and Sullivan, 2013; Tyler and Cohen, 2008). Taking leadership as an example, Muhr and Sullivan (2013) employ Butler’s notion of performativity and the heterosexual matrix to examine the relationship between the body and leadership in the case of a transgender leader. They argue that a transgender leader’s body, presumed gender and gendered appearance are salient markers that employees use to make sense of leaders and leadership, and that this gendered construction of leadership reproduces restrictive gender dichotomies that constrain the ways leadership can be performed by a transgender subject. Like Harding et al. (2011), they invite organization studies scholars to queer leadership rather than create a theory of queer leaders by starting from the understanding that, ‘all managers perform leadership according to certain scripts set by the expectations generated by their gendered bodies, which produces limitations to the way leadership is seen as natural/ unnatural for a specific leader’s body’ (Muhr and Sullivan, 2013: 418). At the same time, the construction of leadership through a transgender body sensitizes organization studies scholars to the exploration of performativity, particularly the performative relationships between bodies, gender, sexuality and leadership and how a trans body can benefit from queering leadership. Courtney’s (2014) study of LGB school leaders also encourages organization studies scholars to escape the semantic calcification of leadership by using queer theory to examine the disciplinary and normalizing effects of heteronormative discourses of leadership. Notably, although the LGB school 228

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leaders participating in Courtney’s study neither identified as queer nor attached queer motivations to their embodiment and enactment of leadership, they still engaged in inadvertent acts of disturbing (queering) gender and sexual norms that unsettle, Courtney argues, the heteronormative assumptions underpinning how leadership ought to be performed in specific work contexts. At the same time, another strand of queer theory inspired organizational scholarship has problematized the presumed heteronormativity of work life. Specifically, this nascent literature casts a queer lens on LGBT people’s lived experiences within organizational settings, with a view to expanding knowledge about the habitual (re)production of heteronormativity within and through organization and its disciplinary effects on LGBT employees (Lee et al., 2008; Ozturk and Rumens, 2014; Rumens, 2010, 2012; Tindall and Waters, 2012; Ward and Winstanley, 2003; Williams et al., 2009; Williams and Giuffre, 2011). Ward and Winstanley (2003), for example, reveal how LGBT employees can be silenced by heteronormative discourses in the workplace and subjected to forms of homophobia and discrimination. They argue that silence can take many forms: (1) silence as reactive (where colleagues react to LGBT ‘coming out’ with silence, as opposed to the pervasive discussion of heterosexual employees’ lives); (2) silence as a means of suppression (where talk of LGBT sexualities is discouraged to render them invisible); (3) silence as censorship (where for instance, legislation and heterosexist policies can drive sexuality underground in social life). Elsewhere, US research draws on queer theory to problematize the discursive restrictions associated with disclosing and sustaining sexual identities within workplaces that have been shaped by a wider social trend towards the ‘normalization’ of gay and lesbian sexualities. For instance, Williams et al. (2009) examine the discursive closure levied on gay and lesbian employees by prevailing heteronormative expectations about how ‘normal’ gay men and lesbians should dress and behave, that is without attracting unnecessary attention to their sexuality, as a condition of being able to participate openly in organizational life. The authors found that performing ‘normal’ gay and lesbian identities at work is contingent on maintaining a state of ‘invisibility’, in that becoming ‘normal’ means many gay men and lesbians must emphasize their similarities with normative constructions of heterosexuality. On the one hand, this brings some gay men and lesbians much closer to heteronormativity with the advantages this confers (e.g. being understood in the workplace in terms of respectability, as ‘productive’ organizational citizens worthy of inclusion and equal to heterosexuals). On the other hand, as queer theorist David Halperin avers, the determination displayed by many gay men and lesbians to integrate themselves into all facets of heteronormative society, by demonstrating their essential normality, signals a disturbing move toward valorizing ‘heterosexual forms of life, including heterosexual norms’ (Halperin, 2011: 443) at the cost of those that may be understood as ‘queer’. Put differently, as more and more gay men and lesbians accept the terms upon which heterosexual dominance is expressed as the keynote of assimilationist politics in and outside work, opportunities for queer to disrupt, destabilize and enable individuals to think the unthinkable are constrained. As such, the importance of this type of queer theory organizational research lies in its ability to interrogate how norms impose the limits of what Butler (2004a) calls a ‘livable life’, a concept elaborated upon in the next section. In sum, despite its short occupancy within organization studies, some scholars have mobilized queer theory to occasion opportunities for us to consider alternative ways of becoming within and through the workplace that sustain human flourishing and organizing in ways that transcend heteronormativity. These explorations are emergent and much remains open both empirically and theoretically. In light of this, we turn next to discuss another aspect of organizational life that, in our view, remains relatively untouched by queer theory’s growing tendrils: ethics. 229

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Queer theory, an ethics of openness and organization Queer theory’s presence in organization studies is apposite at a time when new possibilities for living sexual and gender diversity are being documented in many Western nations (Seidman, 2002; Weeks, 2007). Yet the ethics of how the sexual organization of the social is undergoing change, and how this is currently felt by heterosexual and LGBT identified subjects in the workplace, is seldom considered by organization studies scholars, even those familiar with queer theory. One way to approach this issue is to consider how the norms by which subjects are recognized as viable in the workplace can produce a differential sense of which lives are livable, and which are not. In cultivating the capacity to develop a critical relation to the functioning of norms that shape what ‘counts’ as a livable life, we must recognize that the viability of a ‘livable’ life is understood in terms that confer what it is to be ‘human’ on some subjects, and not others (Butler, 2004a). What it is to be human is fundamentally contingent on social norms and because social norms of recognition change, so does what ‘counts’ as a livable life. Butler’s ethical dispositions on such issues in Undoing Gender (2004a) and Precarious Life (2004b) prepare organization studies scholars for understanding how organizations can demean the complex ways in which sexual and gendered lives are experienced and maintained. In addressing the possibility of how organizations might be transformed so that such complexity is not disavowed, one critical question thus becomes, how does one engage openly with the Other in the workplace? It is Butler’s writing on subjectivity, politics and ethics that helps us both to explore what form an ethics of openness to the Other might take, and also to re-consider the potential merits for organizational scholars of engaging with the more phenomenological aspects of her writing, as these are manifest in an integrated queer politics and ethics. In Butler’s hands, queer can be discerned not as a political or even ethical position but rather an ontological premise based upon recognition of our mutual corporeal vulnerability. This approach to queer is articulated most fully in Butler’s (2004b) essay on ‘Violence, Mourning and Politics’ in Precarious Life, in which she argues that Each of us is constituted politically in part by virtue of the social vulnerability of our bodies – as a site of desire and physical vulnerability, as a site of publicity at once assertive and exposed. Loss and vulnerability seem to follow from our being socially constituted bodies, attached to others, at risk of losing those attachments, exposed to others, at risk of violence by virtue of that exposure. (Butler, 2004b: 20) This ethics of relationality is grounded in queer theory’s concern with vulnerability and violence, framed theoretically in terms of the risk attached to exposing oneself to the Other, manifest in the homophobia that continues to contour countless organizational worlds. This risk is also apparent in the constant vigilance attached to fears around enforced ‘outing’ that shapes the everyday lives of LGBT people. In Butler’s hands, these risks are grounded in the phenomenological preoccupation with the desire for recognition of oneself as a viable subject. That our bodies are sites of publicity, ‘at once assertive and exposed’ means that in seeking recognition of ourselves as viable subjects, we are perpetually at risk of being subject to the violence brought about by misrecognition. As Butler herself puts it, emphasizing the mutual vulnerability engendered by our need for recognition, we stake a claim to recognition but simultaneously run the risk of misrecognition. Yet without taking this risk we cannot live a livable life, one shaped by the sociality attached to mutual recognition and all that it promises. Or to coin Butler’s words ‘we’re undone by each other. And if we’re not, we’re missing something’ (Butler, 2004b: 23). 230

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In queer terms, Butler invites us to think through the challenges for queer ethics and politics posed by a theoretical recognition of our mutual interdependency and the need for us to develop an openness to the Other based on a reflexive understanding of the constraints governing the conferral of recognition, and the consequences of its denial. By opening ourselves up to the Other, Butler reminds us that we both reaffirm our existence and render ourselves vulnerable, yet our embodied way of being in the world means that we can do no other. Butler submits that, from our very beginning, ‘we are given over to the Other’ rendering us vulnerable to the eradication of our being at one extreme, and the unfaltering physical support for our lives at the other. This basic inter-corporeal premise, the recognition that we are ‘given over’ to the Other constitutes what Butler describes as ‘the condition of primary vulnerability’ (Butler, 2004b: 31) as the basis for ethics and politics; one that, we would argue, has considerable potential for thinking through an alternative queer ethico-politics of organization. In her own development of this position on inter-corporeal vulnerability into a distinctively queer ethics, Butler goes on to emphasize how it connects to her performative ontology of gender subjectivity: as a mode of relation, neither gender nor sexuality is precisely a possession, but, rather, is a mode of being dispossessed, a way of being for another or by virtue of another (Butler, 2004b: 24). However, Butler’s concern to develop an ethics of openness to the Other leads her to question the term ‘relationality’ as the basis for an integrated queer ethics and politics; for Butler, ‘we may need other language to approach the issue that concerns us, a way of thinking about how we are not only constituted by our relations but also dispossessed by them as well’ (Butler, 2004b: 24). With this in mind, Butler’s notion of a distinctively queer ethics, an ‘ec-static’ ethic can be discerned in her concern to understand how our ethical compulsions and political impetus derive from being ‘beside oneself’, a way of being that follows from our embodied existence, one characterized by vulnerability and exposure to the Other. Yet as Butler herself acknowledges, at the same time as recognizing this ec-static ethic, a queer politics must also proceed on the basis of a claim to bodily integrity and self-determination. In apparent contradiction to the ethical position outlined above therefore, is a parallel queer politics premised on the recognition that, as Butler articulates, ‘it is important to claim that our bodies are in a sense our own and that we are entitled to claim rights of autonomy over our bodies’ (Butler, 2004b: 25). Reflecting on the consequences of this for a queer politics proceeding from a performative ontology of the subject and an Other-orientated ethos of openness, Butler concedes how ‘it is difficult, if not impossible, to make these claims without recourse to autonomy’ (Butler, 2004b: 25). This political-ethical dilemma arguably characterizes queer theory, or indeed the normative aspirations of any social movement that seeks protection and freedom. Butler’s response to this is to reiterate how, in addition to autonomy, there exists ‘another normative aspiration that we must also seek to articulate and to defend . . . a sense of ourselves as “in community”, impressed upon by others, impinging upon them as well’ (Butler, 2004b: 26–7). This inter-corporeal ethics of openness, and its political implications for embedded autonomy enables Butler to reclaim an ethics-politics of relationality as a fundamental ontologicalnormative premise: This way of imagining community affirms relationality not only as a descriptive or historical fact of our formation, but also as an ongoing normative dimension of our social and political 231

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lives, one in which we are compelled to take stock of our interdependence. (Butler, 2004b: 27, emphasis added) This basic vulnerability means that we are always at risk from violence, and exploitation of this primary connection, one imposed upon us by the materiality of our existence; that we are physically dependent upon each other means that we are simultaneously physically vulnerable to one another. But Butler’s phenomenological ethics means that this is also the case ontologically: ‘we are, as bodies, outside ourselves and for one another’ (Butler, 2004b: 27). A queer ethicopolitics therefore proceeds from a basic recognition of ‘the fundamental sociality of embodied life’ (Butler, 2004b: 28), an ethical awareness of the ways in which we are ‘from the start and by virtue of being a bodily being, already given over, beyond ourselves, implicated in lives that are not our own’ (Butler, 2004b: 28). Recognition of this shared dispossession potentially leads to a normative reorientation of politics for Butler based on inter-corporeal vulnerability. However, as Butler emphasizes throughout her essays in Precarious Life, some of us are more vulnerable than others, precisely because we are all ‘implicated in lives that are not our own’ existing within social relations in which our collective responsibility for others becomes occluded. The constant foreclosure of a collective recognition of the mutual vulnerability engendered by our inter-corporeal dependency eradicates what for Butler is one of the most important resources from which we must take our bearings and find our way in the world. As such, a consideration of the vulnerability of others, and hence of ourselves, represents the means by which ‘we might critically evaluate and oppose the conditions under which certain human lives are more vulnerable than others’ (Butler, 2004b: 30). Driving this queer ethic forward therefore is a concern to ask: at what cost do we establish the normative? Reconciling the mobilization of both autonomy and sociality referred to above represents a considerable challenge, as queer demands a social world in which our vulnerability is protected without being eradicated, recognized without being co-opted, and forms the basis of what Butler describes, albeit rather idealistically, as a ‘sensate democracy’ (Butler, 2004b: 151). Queer in this respect steers us away from an ethic of tolerance (putting up with the Other), as well as an ethic of generosity (giving oneself to the Other), ever mindful of the risks of appropriation, exploitation and normalization (Warner, 1999) associated with both strategies, towards an ethic of openness to the Other (being given over to the Other), premised upon a mutual recognition of the artifice of ethical boundaries between oneself and others, and of the political consequences of those boundaries. Turning to the workplace, we explore an ethics of openness through one vignette, presented below, drawn from Rumens’ (2010) research on the sexual and gender dynamics of gay men’s workplace friendships with heterosexual men.

Negotiating an ethics of openness at work Employing queer theory as a theoretical lens, Rumens (2010) examines the friendship between Callum (a gay man) and Armand (a heterosexual man), both of whom are university academics who appear to enjoy the exchange of scholarly ideas, perspectives and values that are part and parcel of their everyday activities and interactions as academics. This shared understanding has helped them to establish a form of intellectual closeness which has influenced how they relate to each other as friends and as manager–subordinate. From Callum’s perspective, their friendship has occasioned opportunities for both men to explore alternative ways of relating, allowing them to challenge heteronormative constructions of male friendship characterised as emotionally tepid and fraught with homophobia (Nardi, 1992). Seen as such, friendships between gay and heterosexual men are considered to be rare, difficult to negotiate and sustain, not least due to 232

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how the Otherness of homosexuality is negotiated between friends (Fee,1999). In Rumens (2010), Armand is said to make a point of being openly affectionate towards Callum, often in front of other academics and students, sometimes during departmental meetings or on campus. In these situations, Callum is often greeted by Armand with a ‘hug’ or a ‘kiss on the lips’, which he often experiences as moments of ‘tenderness’ and intellectualizes as ‘disrupting gendered organizational codes of conduct’. Certainly, the open expression of affection between these male friends is notable within the public arena of work for its potentially destabilizing effect on organizational discourses that promote largely instrumental ways of relating at work. At the same time, however, these gendered performances can be experienced in terms of personal discomfort and ambiguity as they negotiate heteronormative friendship norms that impose limits on how male workplace friendships ought to be lived. For instance, Callum admits that he has sometimes found ‘being kissed [by Armand] on campus in front of undergraduates . . . uncomfortable’. Although Callum seems to be supportive of Armand’s unconventional gender performances, negotiating an ethics of openness within friendships can be difficult, as Callum’s doubts indicate: I do think sometimes that he gives nothing away, particularly as he moves from one identity to the next, making himself ambiguous in terms of gender and sexuality. . . . So he moves between those things and I find it intriguing in one sense, but sometimes I wonder if he’s performing for my benefit or at my expense . . . it’s a conversation I’ve yet to have with him. From this excerpt, we can understand how Callum positions his friendship with Armand within discourses that contain competing and contradictory elements. On the one hand, Callum draws upon discourses on the performativity of gender and sexuality to intellectualize Armand’s performances of intimate friendship as ‘intriguing’. Armand’s discursive activities underline the constructed and performative qualities of gender and sexuality, and are certainly not out of place against a cultural backdrop of contemporary sexualities and genders within this particular social and organizational setting. This allows Callum to understand his friendship with Armand as ‘novel’ and ‘experimental’, not least because this male friendship exhibits a move beyond an ethics of tolerance toward an ethics of openness that recognises how heteronormative friendship norms narrowly constitute what counts as a viable friendship between men. On the other hand, Callum struggles to understand if Armand’s performances of gender are for his benefit or at his expense. On this matter, it is no small thing that friendships are often constructed idealistically, as relationships in which people can be themselves without pretence or dishonesty. Negotiating an ethics of openness in workplace friendships may lead friends to understand that there is not a fixed authentic self that can be accessed through friendship. Rather it might be that friends mutually recognize that one of the pleasures of friendship is about being able to nurture a process of becoming whereby friends can explore who and what they wish to become in terms of alternative identities, selves and modes of relating which can foster an openness to the Other. In this vein, Callum’s commentary encourages us to see the potential in cross-sexuality workplace friendship for this kind of queer activity and ethics, but also reminds us that in negotiating an ethics of openness, friends have to confront and reflect on each other’s discursive performances as well as their own. In this respect, the performative ontology and corresponding emphasis on a perpetual undoing considered above connects to the development of an ethics of openness in organizational relationships such as friendship. From a Butlerian perspective, this takes the form of a ‘petition’; through petitioning the Other, ‘when we ask for recognition for ourselves, we are not asking 233

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for an Other to see us as we are’ but rather our aim is ‘to solicit a becoming, to instigate a transformation, to petition the future always in relation to the Other’ (Butler, 2004b: 44). This version of ethics represents arguably a queer-infused Hegelian dialectic, a departure emphasizing not the sameness of the Other but our common vulnerability and collective responsibility given that ‘we are outside ourselves, constituted in cultural norms that precede and exceed us, given over to a set of cultural norms and a field of power that condition us fundamentally’ (Butler, 2004b: 45). In practice, this potentially implies a way of proceeding, of organizing ourselves and others, based upon this complex yet commonsensically appealing ethico-political imperative.

Conclusion As indicated at the outset of this chapter, its inherently critical orientation makes queer theory not only difficult, but undesirable, to capture or categorize what it means to be or even do ‘queer’, with queer being associated variously with a cacophony of ideas at odds with whatever is deemed ‘normal’, the aim of which is to continually disrupt and disturb (Edelman, 2004; Halperin, 1995, 2011; Jagose, 1996). If it is anything fixed or fixable, queer represents a philosophical challenge to normatively prescriptive ways of being and doing characterized by a politics of parodic critique and an analytical orientation towards a perpetual process of ‘undoing’ (Butler, 2004a). This challenge to normativity is underpinned by a concern with destabilizing the ontological-epistemic schema that organizes the relationship between sexual and ontological desire heteronormatively, what Butler (1990) described as the ‘heterosexual matrix’ in her earlier writing. In this respect, queer’s recurring preoccupation is with disrupting how our need for pleasure, intimacy and connection is shaped by and shapes our corresponding need for recognition of ourselves as culturally intelligible and socially viable, beginning with understanding how one becomes an impediment to the other, and exploring the conditions of possibility that might enable this relationship to be ‘done’ [organized] differently. In order to illustrate this, we have tapped into queer theory’s orientation towards ‘undoing’ heteronormative binaries to show how it can help organization studies scholars to open up opportunities for ethical and political alternatives to organization and organizing. With regard to the latter, we draw in particular on important aspects of queer theory that remain under-developed within organizational studies such as its ethic of openness to the Other, considering what this ethos might offer to the already more familiar tenets within queer theory such as the critical orientation towards ‘undoing’ heteronormative binaries considered thus far. We have started to think through what this might mean in regard to workplace friendships between gay and heterosexual men, but other avenues of research pertaining to an ethics of openness in particular and queer theory more generally have yet to be explored by organization studies scholars. Examples include how an ethics of openness is negotiated in work contexts where LGBT people are compelled to normalize their sexual and gender identities, and what the consequences might be in terms of sustaining the complexity of gendered and sexual lives. There is scope to craft analyses of how lives that resist processes of heteronormative assimilation may be sheltered and nourished within organizations. More widely, there is further research to be done that builds on prior efforts to queer academic knowledge production across the discipline of management (e.g. Harding et al., 2011; Parker, 2001, 2002; Rumens, 2013), allowing organization studies scholars to explore what would be necessary for us to organize ourselves differently. Both encouraging and enticing then, is that the future for queer theory and organization studies is an open question, an ontological and epistemological potential that is very much in keeping with its politics and ethics of openness that we have considered throughout our discussion here. 234

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References (key texts in bold) Bendl, R., Fleischmann, A. and Walenta, C. (2008). Diversity management discourse meets queer theory. Gender in Management: An International Journal, 23(6): 382–94. Berlant, L. and Warner, M. (1998). Sex in public. Critical Inquiry, 24(2): 547–66. Butler, J. (1988). Performative acts and gender constitution: an essay in phenomenology and feminist theory. Theater Journal, 40: 519–31. Butler, J. (1990). Gender Trouble. London: Routledge. Butler, J. (1993). Bodies that Matter. London: Routledge. Butler, J. (2004a). Undoing Gender. London: Routledge. Butler, J. (2004b). Precarious Life. London: Verso. Courtney, S. (2014). Inadvertently queer school leadership amongst lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) school leaders. Organization, 21(3): 383–99. de Lauretis, T. (1991). Queer theory: lesbian and gay sexualities. Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, 3(2): iii–xvii. de Lauretis, T. (1994). Habit changes. Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, 6(2–3): 296–313. Edelman, L. (2004). No Future: queer theory and the death drive. Durham: Duke University Press. Fee, D. (1999). ‘One of the guys’: instrumentality and intimacy in gay men’s friendships with straight men, in Nardi, P.M. (ed.), Gay Masculinities. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, pp. 44–65. Foucault, M. (1979). The History of Sexuality, Volume 1: An Introduction. London: Allen Lane. Foucault, M. (2005). The Hermeneutics of the Subject. (ed. Frédéric Gros, trans. Graham Burchell). New York: Picador. Fuss, D. (ed.) (1991). Inside/Out: lesbian theories, gay theories. New York, London: Routledge. Gibson-Graham, J.K. (1996). Queer(y)ing capitalist organization. Organization, 3(4): 541–45. Halberstam, J. (1998). Female Masculinity. Durham: Duke University Press. Halberstam, J. (2005). In a Queer Time and Place: transgender bodies, subcultural lives. New York: New York University Press. Halperin, D.M. (1995). Saint Foucault: towards a gay hagiography. New York: Oxford University Press. Halperin, D.M. (2011). How To Be Gay. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press. Harding, N., Lee, H., Ford, J. and Learmonth, M. (2011). Leadership and charisma: a desire that cannot speak its name? Human Relations, 64(7): 927–49. Jagose, A. (1996). Queer Theory: an introduction. New York: New York University Press. Lee, H., Learmonth, M. and Harding, N. (2008). Queer(y)ing public administration. Public Administration, 86(1): 149–67. Muhr, S.L. and Sullivan, K. (2013). None so queer as folk: gendered expectations and transgressive bodies in leadership. Leadership, 9(3): 416–35. Nardi, P.M. (ed.) (1992). Men’s Friendships. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Ozturk, M.B. and Rumens, N. (2014). Gay male academics in UK business and management schools: negotiating heteronormativities in everyday work life. British Journal of Management, 25(3): 503–17 Parker, M. (2001). Fucking management: queer, theory and reflexivity. ephemera, 1(1): 36–53. Parker, M. (2002). Queering management and organization. Gender, Work & Organization, 9(2): 146–66. Rumens, N. (2010). Workplace friendships between men: gay men’s perspectives and experiences. Human Relations, 63(10): 1541–62. Rumens, N. (2012). Queering cross-sex friendships: an analysis of gay and bisexual men’s workplace friendships with heterosexual women. Human Relations, 65(8): 955–78. Rumens, N. (2013). Queering men and masculinities in construction: towards a research agenda. Construction Management and Economics, 31(8): 802–15. Sedgwick, E.K. (1990). Epistemology of the Closet. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Seidman, S. (2002). Beyond the Closet: the transformation of gay and lesbian life. New York: Routledge. Sullivan, N. (2003). A Critical Introduction to Queer Theory. New York: New York University Press. Tindall, N.T. and Waters, R. D. (2012). Coming out to tell our stories: using queer theory to understand the career experiences of gay men in public relations. Journal of Public Relations Research, 24(5): 451–75. Tyler, M. and Cohen, L. (2008). Management in/as comic relief: queer theory and gender performativity in The Office. Gender, Work & Organization, 15(2): 113–32. Ward, J. and Winstanley, D. (2003). The absent present: negative space within discourse and the construction of minority sexual identity in the workplace. Human Relations, 56(10): 1255–80. 235

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Warner, M. (1993). Fear of a Queer Planet: queer politics and social theory. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota. Warner, M. (1999). The Trouble with Normal: sex, politics and the ethics of queer life. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Watney, S. (1994). Practices of Freedom: selected writings on HIV/AIDS. Durham: Duke University Press. Weeks, J. (2007). The World We Have Won. London: Routledge. Williams, C. and Giuffre, P. (2011). From organizational sexuality to queer organizations: research on homosexuality and the workplace. Sociology Compass, 5(7): 551–63. Williams, C.L., Giuffre, P.A. and Dellinger, K. (2009). The gay-friendly closet. Sexuality Research and Social Policy, 6(1): 29–45.


16 Structuration theory Philosophical stance and significance for organizational research Matthew Jones

Introduction Since the 1980s structuration theory has had a significant influence in the social sciences and humanities. Bryant and Jary (2001: 57) credit it with ‘reconstituting disciplines’ and ‘framing empirical research’ across a range of academic fields from archaeology and criminology to sociology and urban studies, among which they explicitly identify accountancy, management and organization studies. In order to understand the nature of this influence, particularly as it relates to the philosophical assumptions that inform structuration theory, it would seem necessary first to understand its origins and the philosophical debates to which it was seeking to contribute.

The origins and development of structuration theory Writing in 1982, John Urry, identified the recent emergence of what he referred to as a ‘structurationist school’ that was seeking to move beyond the long-standing dichotomy between structure and action in social theory. Instigated, he argued, by Berger and Luckmann’s The Social Construction of Reality (Berger and Luckmann, 1967) with its conception of the mutual constitution of individuals and society, the key features of this school were described as: a rejection of both structural determinist and voluntarist accounts of social life; the proposal of concepts that mediate between structure and agency; an emphasis on the role of tacit, practical consciousness in analysing human action; and an attention to the spatial and temporal location of social interaction. Although a number of sociologists and philosophers, such as Pierre Bourdieu and Roy Bhaskar, were seen by Urry (1982) as contributing to the development of structurationism, the concept is most widely associated with the British sociologist Anthony Giddens and it is his work that will be the main focus of this chapter. Giddens developed his structuration theory in a series of books in the late 1970s and early 1980s (Giddens, 1976, 1979, 1981, 1984). In the first of these, New Rules of Sociological Method, he positions his work as pursuing a critical analysis of the legacy of nineteenth century social theory, in particular the Comtean idea of a natural science of society, and also the elaboration 237

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of an alternative conception of the social sciences drawing on analytic philosophy and phenomenology, particularly Heidegger, later Wittgenstein, Winch and Schütz. These alternative schools of thought, he argues, share a common perspective on the significance of Verstehen to social interaction (and hence to the phenomena that constitute the object of social research), and on the taken for grantedness of the knowledge that members of society draw on in making sense of the social world (and that the concepts employed by social researchers are consequently dependent upon). Giddens argues, however, that the interpretive sociologies that derive from these schools of thought also have their weaknesses. In particular, they treat action primarily as meaning rather than as the practical realization of interests, neglect the significance of power in social life and overlook the differing interpretations of social norms. At the end of New Rules of Sociological Method, Giddens introduced the notion of ‘structuration’ to overcome what he saw as the limitations of both structuralism and functionalism on the one hand and post-Wittgensteinian ‘philosophy of action’ on the other. Structuralism, which he associates with the work of Lévi-Strauss and Saussure, and functionalism (e.g. Durkheim, Parsons), he argues, both treat the reproduction of social structure as a mechanical outcome rather than an active process of constitution. They are ‘strong on structure, but weak on action’ as he puts it (Giddens, 1993: 4). The action philosophy of writers such as Peter Winch, in contrast, is ‘strong on action, but weak on structure’ (Giddens, 1993: 4), focusing solely on production and offers no analysis of structure. Hence structuration (from the French for structuring) proposes that social life should be seen neither as just ‘society’, independent of human agency, nor as just the product of individual action, but as recurrent practices that themselves produce and reproduce the larger institutions of society. Structure is thus both the medium and outcome of human agency. Giddens terms this the ‘duality of structure’, in contrast to the dualism of the earlier traditions in which either structure or agency predominate. Giddens proposes that the duality of structure may be represented in terms of three dimensions (reflecting, it may be argued, his earlier work on Durkheim, Marx and Weber respectively), as shown in Figure 16.1. The modalities in this schema represent the interrelationship of structure and action that is bracketed by interpretive sociologists as stocks of knowledge and resources drawn on by individuals, and by functionalist sociologists as institutionalized rules and resources. Giddens emphasizes that the dimensions are purely analytical categories that do not exist independently of each other and that particular practices are always at the intersection of multiple sets of rules and resources. This account was elaborated in Central Problems in Social Theory (Giddens, 1979) and in The Constitution of Society (Giddens, 1984). In the former, Giddens introduces a number of recurrent themes in his later writing. In particular he emphasizes the temporal and spatial situatedness of social practices. The latter contains both an exposition of the elements of the theory of structuration, but also chapters connecting this project to other themes including: consciousness, self






Interpretive scheme







Figure 16.1 The dimensions of the duality of structure Source: Giddens (1976: 129).


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and social encounters (drawing on the work of Erikson and Goffman); time, space and regionalization (drawing on Hägerstrand and Goffman again); structure, system and reproduction (involving a critique of Durkheim’s conception of constraint); and change, evolution and power (deconstructing Marx’s historical materialism). At the end of this book Giddens provides a summary of key structurational concepts and discusses the theory’s relevance to empirical research and its implications for the nature of social research. This manifesto includes statements on the innate knowledgeability of human beings (even if they are not always able to articulate this discursively), on the accessibility of sociologists’ research findings to ‘lay actors’ (members of the public) and of the influence of these findings on their practices (which he terms the double hermeneutic), on the inherently hermeneutic character of social research (and of the dependence of quantitative research on qualitative interpretations), and on the implausibility of universal laws in social research. With structuration, therefore, Giddens was seeking to ‘transcend, without discarding altogether’ (Giddens, 1981: 26) two major traditions of thought in the social sciences. The first of these he terms ‘naturalistic’ sociology, on account of its adherence to the methods and logic of the natural sciences with the objective of establishing explanatory laws of society equivalent to those seen as having been developed for natural phenomena. The second, ‘interpretivist’, tradition, rejects any such equivalence on the grounds that society, being a human product, is fundamentally different from nature, and the social sciences therefore need their own methods and logics of enquiry. In doing so, he argues, structuration reconciles macro and micro accounts of society (that see it as independent of individual action, or as merely an epiphenomenon of that action) as well as the dichotomy of structure and agency. Notwithstanding his claims to be offering a middle way between two positions that view the object of social science in what they would consider to be completely opposed ways, the greater weight of Giddens’ arguments tend to be directed against the naturalistic tradition. Thus he emphasizes the knowledgeability and agency of social actors, rejecting any view of them as cultural and social dupes whose actions are determined by macrosocial structures. His methodological position also emphasizes the irretrievably hermeneutic character of the social sciences. Although he acknowledges that quantitative methods may play a valuable role in social research, and that structuration theory has no specific methodological implications that would preclude the use of quantitative techniques, he states that social research, even where it employs such techniques, necessarily ‘presumes ethnography’ (Giddens, 1991: 219). Perhaps precisely because of Giddens’ claim to have resolved long-standing differences in the social sciences, structuration has faced criticism on a number of fronts. These predominantly revolve around three key issues. The first of these tends to come from naturalistic researchers, who regard structuration as overly voluntaristic – it accords individuals greater influence over social structure than they actually possess. According to Giddens, these critics argue, structural constraint never imposes itself on individuals, it is always a negotiable outcome in immediate interaction. Certainly there is much in his writing that can be seen to suggest this, from statements that individuals, except where physically or chemically coerced, always ‘have the possibility of doing otherwise’ (Giddens, 1989: 258), to an insistence that every instant of reproduction of social structure is also potentially one of change. Giddens’ response, however, is to argue that any alternative to his view of agency amounts to determinism, and to stress the potential of subordinates to influence those who seek to control them, even in seemingly inescapable circumstances (including those of death threats). This he calls the ‘dialectic of control’. Power, for Giddens, is thus not a resource, but a relational property that is intrinsic to agency. A second focus of criticism is Giddens’ definition of structure, which sees it as ‘rules and resources, organized as properties of social systems’ that only exists in its instantiation in social 239

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practices and in ‘memory traces orienting the conduct of knowledgeable human agents’ (Giddens, 1984: 7). Structure is therefore virtual, even when the resources in question, such as land, say, have a material existence. It is only when they are drawn on in the process of structuration that they become real resources that affect social practices. This is problematic, however, not just for social researchers uncomfortable with the notion that material resources exist inertly in some limbo state until they are taken up by social actors, but also for researchers who see properties of social systems, such as class or hierarchy, as not just individual memory traces that are only brought into play in specific instances of action, but as enduring influences that condition action in significant ways. Archer (1990) argues, furthermore, that this central conflation of structure and agency, that means that structure only exists in the instant of action, renders structuration incapable of accounting for change. There is no ‘before’ that provides a reference point for change, just an infinite series of unconnected ‘nows’. Rather, building on Bhaskar’s Transformational Model of Social Activity (Bhaskar, 1989), she argues for a temporally extended view of structure/agency interaction in which structure precedes action, but is reproduced or transformed through the actions that it shapes. The third strand of criticism of structuration focuses on its relevance to empirical research (e.g. Gregson, 1989). In part this can be seen as reflecting the almost exclusively theoretical character of Giddens’ own writing. While he claims (Giddens, 1983: 75) that structuration provides a ‘a set of methodological concepts relevant to the practice of the social sciences’, discusses the implications of structuration theory for social research quite extensively in his work (e.g. Giddens, 1984: 281–4) and comments approvingly on studies that have sought to apply structurational concepts in a ‘sparing and critical fashion’ (Giddens, 1991: 213), the closest he comes to engaging with empirical research himself is in secondary commentaries on other people’s studies, such as Learning to Labour (Willis, 1977) in Giddens (1984: 289–309). Indeed, as he makes clear in the apparently misleadingly named New Rules of Sociological Method (Giddens, 1976: viii), he does not see himself as providing a ‘guide to “how to do practical research”’ or any specific research proposals. Rather, following the example of Durkheim’s original Rules of Sociological Method (Durkheim, 1938), his aim is ‘the clarification of logical issues’. Giddens’ theorizing, his critics argue moreover, is of an abstract and generalized nature, providing a high-level account of the constitution of society that has little to offer in understanding specific social phenomena. It is also expressed in such broad terms that it can be taken as describing almost any situation. Coupled with Giddens’ idiosyncratic definition of key concepts, the volume and fluency of his writing (he has published more than 30 substantive books and 85 major articles of social theory) and his frequent restatement (or, as critics would claim, revision) of his argument, in the light of challenges, it can be hard to pin down the theory’s implications such that they might be subjected to empirical investigation. While best known for structuration theory, structuration formed only a part of Giddens’ output and he added little directly to it, apart from responses to his critics, after the publication of The Constitution of Society in 1984. His broader interests in this work included a range of topics, such as the multiplicity of, often conflicting, social systems that impinge on organizations (that, as Whittington (1992) notes, received little attention in the management literature), theories of the state and of class society and an analysis of modernity. The last of these, in particular, became a major theme in his later work (Giddens, 1990), branching out into studies of selfidentity (Giddens, 1992) and into practical engagement with national and international politics, through the championing of Third Way (Giddens, 1994, 1998) and contributions to the theory of the risk society and globalization (Beck et al., 1995; Giddens, 1999). Although Giddens identifies all his writings as pursuing a common project, little of his later work is specifically philosophical 240

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in orientation nor does it revisit or revise the core principles of structuration as he initially described them. The contribution of structuration to philosophy in organization studies has not been substantially extended therefore in more than 30 years.

The philosophical stance of structuration As the outline of structuration above illustrates, Giddens has drawn widely on the work of philosophers such as Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Winch and Schütz in the development of his thinking and he sees both empirical social analysis and sociological theorizing as necessarily dependent on philosophy. ‘The social sciences are lost’, he argues (Giddens, 1984: xvii), ‘if they are not directly related to philosophical problems by those who practice them’. The focus of his account of structuration, however, is almost exclusively ontological. As has already been noted, Giddens has little to say on methodology. Nor, despite arguing in Giddens (1994: xviii) that critical theory ‘should have a positive conception of ethics’, does the topic receive any significant further discussion in his writings. Perhaps more problematically, Giddens’ ontology is not matched by a corresponding attention to epistemology (Bryant, 1992, Hekman, 1990). This is not an accidental oversight on Giddens’ part, though. Indeed in Giddens (1990: 300) he directly states ‘I am not particularly interested in epistemology, but in the ontology of social life’. If he recognizes that structuration necessarily carries epistemological implications, therefore, he does not see it as his responsibility to address them. In part this would seem to be, Stones (2005) argues, because he regards ontological questions as prior to those of epistemology, but also, as Bryant (1992) notes, because he sees little prospect of any immediate resolution to epistemological debates in the social sciences and believes that this should not stand in the way of the pursuit of social research. This is unsatisfactory, Bryant (1992) argues, as it leaves the status to be accorded to structuration as an account of the social world unresolved. On what grounds, for example, should we consider structuration to be preferable to any other theory of the social? Stones (2005) relates this lack of attention to epistemology back to Giddens’ restriction of the development of structuration to the abstract, philosophical level of what he describes as ‘ontology in general’, to the neglect of ‘ontology in situ’, that is of specific, situated social practices. Stones argues, however, that it is possible to recover a more complete account of structuration, in which epistemological questions are given due systematic attention, from Giddens’ writings, a project that Stones describes as ‘strong structuration’. This proposes an analytical division of the duality of structure into four aspects: external structures at the abstract ontological level that constitute the perceived action-horizon of social actors; internal structures, further subdivided into conjuncturally specific knowledge of external structures and general dispositional attitudes; active agency shaped, pre-reflexively or consciously, by these internal structures; and outcomes that shape the production and reproduction of external and internal structures and events. Whether or not this is seen to address his neglect of epistemology, that Giddens did not himself see fit to elaborate his thinking in this way, leaves structuration still vulnerable to accusations of selective attention. Even in terms of ontology, however, Giddens has shown himself unwilling to elaborate his position, restricting himself to remarks that, for example, the concepts he develops are ‘compatible with a realist ontology’ (Giddens, 1979: 63), but then declining to defend the claim. Similarly, Bryant (1992) reports that Giddens describes himself as a naïve realist, in the sense that he believes that there is a world out there that we encounter directly in our everyday experience, and Giddens has commented that, while he conceptualizes social structure as virtual, physical structures have a different mode of existence and exert causal effects that are ‘strongly 241

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relevant to the possibilities and constraints facing any individual or group’ (Giddens and Pierson, 1998: 82). He has little to say, though, on the implications of this position. In distinguishing so clearly between physical and social structures and locating the latter in memory traces and instantiation in action Giddens places structuration at odds with other schools of realist social theory, especially Critical Realism (Bhaskar, 1989; Archer, 1995 – see also AlAlmoudi and O’Mahoney, Chapter 1 this volume). There is no ontological stratification in structuration, with levels of the actual and real underlying the empirical, that social researchers can seek to uncover as the basis for their knowledge claims. In Giddens’ formulation (if not in Stones’), ‘the causal effects of structural properties of human institutions . . . are there simply because they are produced and reproduced in everyday actions’ (Giddens and Pierson, 1998: 83).

The significance of structuration for the study of organizations At the simplest level, structuration can be seen as providing a distinctive ontology of social (and hence organizational) life, which, while it may not be immune to criticism, has a strong and well-documented sociological pedigree. It is also a very general theory and thus applicable to almost any area of study in organizations. For researchers studying a wide range of organizational phenomena who are seeking a credible, but relatively simple (especially if reduced to Figure 16.1), account of ‘what sorts of things are out there in the [organizational] world’ (Craib, 1992: 108) it therefore has some evident attraction. Perhaps of greater significance for the study of organizations, however, has been its provision of a non-dualistic account of social life that claims to avoid both determinism and voluntarism and bridges the micro/macro divide. Thus, rather than seeing organizations as fixed entities that dictate the behaviour of passive individuals, structuration emphasizes the continuous active role of individuals in sustaining, but always also potentially changing, the organizations of which they are members. On the other hand, organizations are not simply seen as an agglomeration of individual practices, but as relatively enduring relations of power, legitimacy and meaning that shape, but are also shaped by, the practices of organization members. Such a lens provides a dynamic perspective on organizations that promotes a focus on both agency and structure and their interactions. More rarely, a few authors have argued that structuration is of potentially greater significance as a, if not the, means of transcending what are claimed to be the mutually exclusive beliefs of different paradigms in organizational research, the so-called ‘incommensurability thesis’ (Hassard, 1988; Willmott, 1993 – see also Scherer et al., Chapter 2 this volume). Thus Weaver and Gioia (1994) propose structuration as a meta-theoretic perspective that can eliminate the dichotomies (e.g. structure/agency, causation/meaning, description/prescription) that are taken as differentiating between paradigms and provide a more comprehensive view of organization that recognizes the differences, similarities and relationship across different schools of research.

Structuration and organizational research Within management, structurational research can be found in several sub-fields including strategy, accounting, organization studies, but also especially (if somewhat unexpectedly given Giddens’ conceptualization of structure as virtual and the almost complete absence of any discussion of technology in his work) in information systems (Pozzebon and Pinsonneault, 2005). There have been a number of reviews of this literature, including Whittington (1992), Jones (1999), Poole and DeSanctis (2004) and Jones and Karsten (2008), with the latter two focused predominantly on the use of structuration in the information systems field (broadly defined). 242

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What these reviews have shown is that structuration has been taken up by management researchers in a number of different ways that bear varying degrees of alignment with the philosophical position proposed by Giddens. Much of this literature, which amounts now to more than 2,000 articles across all areas of business research, moreover, may not even be based on Giddens’ work, but rather on secondary literature that appears to have played a critical role in the diffusion of structurational ideas within the field. Whittington identifies the significance of a paper in Administrative Science Quarterly by Ranson et al. (1980) in the early adoption of Giddens’ ideas, while Jones and Karsten (2008) focus on the contributions of Orlikowski (1992, 1996, 2000) and of DeSanctis and Poole (1994), both of whom proposed adaptations of structuration theory to better fit it for the study of information systems. Other influential contributors to the organizational literature employing structuration theory include Barley (Barley, 1986, 1990; Barley and Tolbert, 1997) and Willmott (1981, 1987; Knights and Willmott, 1989). The paper by Ranson et al. (1980) was a contribution to debates on how changes in organizational structures over time may be explained. Citing Giddens, they argue that structuration enables the elaboration of a theoretical model that is able to accommodate both of the traditionally dichotomous structuralist and interactionist perspectives on organizational construction and change. Their interpretation of structuration was questioned by Willmott (1981), however, who argued that, in proposing that the ‘structure as framework’ and ‘structure as interaction’ perspectives can be integrated within a single framework, and that structure may be viewed as separate from and conditioned by the external environment, they may have adopted Giddens’ rhetoric, but had misinterpreted his argument. In this disjuncture between the citing of Giddens and the use made of his work, and in the way that thei