The Cascade Effect of a Workplace Struggle Against Neoliberal Hegemony

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Florence Palpacuer and Amélie Seignour of the University of Montpellier. They recently published an article in the Journal of Management Inquiry entitled “Resisting Via Hybrid Spaces: The Cascade Effect of a Workplace Struggle Against Neoliberal Hegemony” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they reflect on the motivations for this research:]

JMI_72ppiRGB_powerpointWhat motivated you to pursue this research?

Certainly, the trigger for this research was the huge media crisis happening in France in the winter of 2010, about a series of employees’ suicides at France Telecom: management practices all of a sudden became a daily topic of debate among a broad variety of stakeholders, from political parties to major corporate leaders, union representatives, religious organizations, and observers of various kinds: everybody had an opinion!

We quickly observed that France Telecom epitomized the kind of restructuring we had studied in other large multinationals in the country, prompted by financialization and deeply undermining the social values and solidarities that had formed the ethics and social unity of these companies.

Looking deeper, we discovered a vibrant, innovative social movement stemming from within the firm to question the role of business in society and the living conditions it offered at the workplace. We were quite fascinated and decided to further investigate this movement.

What has been the most challenging aspect of conducting your research? Were there any surprising findings?

Indeed, we were amazed to discover this incredibly rich and inspired social movement cutting across the firm, civil society, and later on, the State, to turn the issue of work pressure and work organization into a political question, to make visible the suffering of workers who were deprived of their work ethics and identity, and to launch effective policies and actions to transform management practices.

A key challenge for us was to answer the “so what” question in academic terms. We were deeply immersed into the case, and the case itself had such strong resonance with broader transformations of French capitalism, the world of work, and civil society debates, that we believed the case was self-explanatory…well, it wasn’t!

This “so what” question forced us to theorize the case, to go beyond the building up of the story – already quite an intense exercise given the multi-level and multi-actor set up of the case – and to come up eventually with our neo-Gramscian take on the ‘hybrid space’.

In what ways is your research innovative, and how do you think it will impact the field?

The neo-Gramscian hybrid space is a very promising tool to explore the kind of social-political transformation we need to see happening in corporations and the economy, if we are to answer the social and environmental challenges of our times.

This framework highlights the key role of movements spanning across the firm, civil society, and the State, in the capacity of resisters to produce lasting changes in the hegemony. We show that change agents should act together both from within and beyond their institutional roles, in order to share and generate new forms of knowledge, resources and actions that will give them a transformative capacity.

We hope that this rich story of resistance, and its conceptual rendering, will inspire others to research and promote such transformations.

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How Can Organization Theory Help Explain the Emergence of ISIL?

28852073782_27d6f4e78c_zThe emergence of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in recent years has been a cause for concern across the globe, particularly as the terrorist group becomes not only more organized, but also more prominent. Analyzing the rise of ISIL, many researchers are unsure of what the future holds for ISIL, and how much longer the group can remain cohesive, especially in the face of opposition by many different groups. In a recent article published in Journal of Management Inquiry, authors Tuomas Kuronen and Aki-Mauri Huhtinen approach the issue of ISIL’s development in terms of the theoretical perspective of “rhizome.” Their paper, “Organizing Conflict: The Rhizome of Jihad,” delves into the rise of ISIL, the question of how long ISIL can endure, and how the organization of ISIL compares with Western military organizations. The abstract for the article:

In this essay, we study the emergence of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) Current Issue Coverfrom the theoretical perspective of the “rhizome” coined by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. We understand organizing in general and conflict emergence in particular through the becoming of the rhizomatic ontology of organizing. In our view, the emergence of organizing is a manifestation of a rhizomatic basis of things, seen in nomadic strategies of pursuing revolutionary aims and resisting power hegemonies. We discuss how armed resistance groups relate to time and duration, and their stark contrast to Western professional, expeditionary armies operating in a clearly defined space and time. We complement the established philosophical and organizing-theoretical approaches to being and becoming in understanding conflict emergence with the rhizomatic perspective. We conclude our essay by discussing both theoretical and practical implications for understanding and managing conflict.

You can read “Organizing Conflict: The Rhizome of Jihad” from Journal of Management Inquiry free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to keep current on all of the latest research from Journal of Management InquiryClick here to sign up for e-alerts!

*Soldier image attributed to Kurdishstruggle (CC)

Exploring the Politics of Labeling Through Wikileaks and The News of the World

business-man-1063650-m[We’re pleased to welcome Danielle Logue of the University of Technology Sydney. Dr. Logue recently collaborated with Stewart R. Clegg, also of the University of Technology Sydney, on their article “Wikileaks and The News of the World: The Political Circuitry of Labeling” from Journal of Management Inquiry.]

After my PhD, a colleague from Oxford went on to become a lawyer for Julian Assange. One day she posted a comment that said ““Defending an ‘enemy of state’…How a publishing organization, revealing human rights abuse, can be in same legal classification as Al Qaeda and the Taliban is just beyond me.” At the time I was starting on a new project that considered labels and categories, finding much organizational literature on labeling and categorizing focused within a market setting and the implications for firm valuations and evaluations. Yet, here was a case where the labeling of an organization was having profound impacts on people’s lives, none more than the founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange. I spoke with my co-author, Professor Stewart Clegg, and after some research we found that organizational and management studies was one of the few disciplines that had not analyzed Wikileaks. In addition to its labeling, it’s a contentious organizational form (virtual, fluid, imprinted by its hacker founding) – we found this surprising and disappointing, yet it also afforded us an opportunity to investigate.

JMI_72ppiRGB_powerpointSerendipitously, we were writing this paper around the time of The News of the World scandal, which we observed in contrast to the media coverage that Wikileaks was receiving. We noted this in one version of the paper, and under the suggestion of our managing editor, we expanded the case comparison. An interesting conjuncture was created: on the one hand, Wikileaks exposes what it labels as the covert and hence illegitimate actions of government; in response, government labels such exposure as itself illegitimate; it is reported and commented on as such in media that are subsequently exposed as having been themselves involved in very similar practices of unauthorized access. This reinforced our political conception of labeling, and how Clegg’s classic “circuits of power” could be a useful analytical tool. Coupled with a return to Becker’s (1963) work on labeling and deviance, we argue how the politics of labeling reveal, reinforce and/or undermine existing power structures. Stampinky’s (2013) work on ‘how experts invented terrorism’ showed us a parallel case in the politicization, morality and rationality in the creation and use of the label “terrorist”, by various actors striving to claim credibility and establish positions of expertise (Stampinksy, 2013).

Theoretically, we feel this paper makes a modest contribution to refocusing labeling, category and classification work in organizational studies on how they are connected to and are used to build, reinforce, and reflect broader systems of value, meaning and power (Douglas, 1986). Further work is needed into the changing conditions of institutional work in the media associated with changes in the institutional logics of news dissemination and, more importantly, the security of those involved in increasing transparency in a context where powerful interests would prefer less.

NB: We thank managing editor, Professor Saku Mantere for maintaining the rage with us throughout this production process.

Becker, H. (1963) Outsiders. New York: Free Press.

Clegg, S. R. (1989) Frameworks of Power. London: Sage.

Douglas, M. (1986). How institutions think. USA: Syracuse University Press.

Stampnitzky, L. (2013). Disciplining Terror: How Experts Invented “Terrorism”. UK: Cambridge University Press.

You can read “Wikileaks and The News of the World: The Political Circuitry of Labeling” from Journal of Management Inquiry for free through the end of June by clicking here. Want to know about all the latest research like this? Click here to sign up for e-alerts from Journal of Management Inquiry.

cZfLy6ezDanielle M. Logue is senior lecturer in strategy, innovation, and organization at UTS Business School, University of Technology, Sydney. She obtained her PhD in management from Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, UK.

indexStewart R. Clegg is professor at the University of Technology, Sydney; director of the Centre for Management and Organization Studies Research; and a visiting professor at EM-Lyon and Nova School of Business and Economics, Lisboa.

Stewart Clegg on Relationships in Organizations

valentines-day-theme-1-1413274-mStewart Clegg, widely acknowledged as one of the most significant contemporary theorists of power relations, recently collaborated with Miguel Pina e Cunha, Arménio Rego, and Joana Story on their article “Powers of Romance: The Liminal Challenges of Managing Organizational Intimacy” from Journal of Management Inquiry.

The abstract:

Problematic organizational relationships have recently been at the core of highly visible media coverage. Most analyses of sexual relations in organizations have been, however, JMI_72ppiRGB_powerpointsimplistic and unidimensional, and have placed insufficient systematic emphasis on the role of governmentality in the social construction of organizational romance. In this article, we proceed in two theoretical steps. First, we elaborate a typology of organizational romance that covers different manifestations of this nuanced process. We think of these as organizational strategies of governmentality. Second, we elaborate and identify liminal cases that fall into the interstices of the four predominant ways of managing sexual relationships in organizations. We think of these as vases of liquid love and life that evade the border controls of regulation by governmentality. Finally, we relate these issues to debates about the nature of the civilizational process and suggest hypotheses for future research.

You can read “Powers of Romance: The Liminal Challenges of Managing Organizational Intimacy” from Journal of Management Inquiry for free by clicking here. Want to know about all the latest research like this from Journal of Management Inquiry? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!

Snowden and … Sophocles? Whistleblowing in Antigone


Frederic Leighton [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

While figures like Edward Snowden and Julian Assange have been in the public eye in recent years, whistleblowers are not a new concept. Qui tam was a common law practice that began in thirteen century England that allowed an individual to bring charges against an entity who violated the law and receive compensation from the penalties charged against the guilty party, a system Continental Congress adopted before the Revolutionary War had even ended. Author Alessia Contu looks even further back in history for a fuller portrait of whistleblowers in her article “Rationality and Relationality in the Process of Whistleblowing: Recasting Whistleblowing Through Readings of Antigone” from Journal of Management Inquiry.

The abstract:

JMI_72ppiRGB_powerpointReporting wrongdoing is seen as desirable to fight illegal practices, but whistleblowers often suffer retaliations and are in need of protection. Overall, whistleblowers engender strong reactions and are cast either as saints or rats. I consider why whistleblowers are seen as unsettling and ambivalent figures by exploring the analogy between Antigone, the Sophoclean heroine, and whistleblowers. These reflections reconfigure the rationality and relationality of the process of whistleblowing. The rationality of the whistleblower is singular and not easily subsumed into universalizing norms which explains some of the limits reached by the empiricist pro-social research agenda. The relationality of the process of whistleblowing indicates that the reactions of those who hear the whistle are as important. This open up to an appreciation of the ethical and political valence of the process of whistleblowing and highlights a number of counter-intuitive and interesting issues in its synchronic and diachronic dimension.

Read “Rationality and Relationality in the Process of Whistleblowing: Recasting Whistleblowing Through Readings of Antigone” from Journal of Management Inquiry for free by clicking here. Want to keep up on all the latest from Journal of Management Inquiry? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!