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Business and Management
Oxford Brookes Business School
This article examines the selection process in a pilot project aimed at digitalizing disabled people through distributing computers. Particular attention is paid to the complexities generated by an allocation assessment form, designed to help these people improve their social interactions through electronic media. There is a paucity of discussions on forms in the organization studies literature but when studied, an over reliance on semantics such that their enactment in embodied sociomaterial performances is easily glossed over. Our problematic revolves around how forms and their surrounding sociomaterial performances constitute, but are also are transformed by, subjects, objects and organizational relations. The contribution of this article is, therefore, to address the embodied enactments and sociomaterial practices that are embedded within these allocation processes. So, for example, assessors in the project deviated from a strict interpretation of the questions on the form and sometimes ignored clients’ responses so as to prevent formal allocations of computers from being seen as illegitimate, and potentially disruptive to the organization’s objectives of distributing digital devices. This provided us with a focus on the sociomaterial and embodied relations that are enacted within the selection process and how these place limits on, but also possibilities for, those allocating and those seeking to be allocated computers. One implication of the research is to elaborate how humanistic and normalizing assumptions about the need for sociability that are inscribed on the assessment form could unintendedly reinforce the marginalization of disabled people. The case study shows how digitalizing disabled people is a complex sociomaterial process that is conditioned by the embodied performances and textual devices deployed.
Is vetting a craft that must be learned owing to the limitations of scientific discipline, or simply a question of practice makes perfect? This question arose from our empirical research on veterinary surgeons (vets), who we found were often struggling with the divergence between the precise and unambiguous knowledge underlying the training and the unpredictability and imprecision of their everyday practices. These are comparatively underexplored issues insofar as the literature on vets tends to be descriptive and statistical, focusing primarily on clinical matters and associated human-animal interactions. Our cliché title has a question mark because while many vets remain embedded in the disciplined ‘certainties’ and causal regularities within their training, in practice this ordered world is rarely realized, and they are faced with indeterminacy where the ‘perfect’ solution eludes them. Vets often turn these unrealistic ideals of expertise back in on themselves, thus generating doubt and insecurity for any failure in their practices. In analysing vets’ experiences, we pay attention to the anatomical models of science, where linear causal analysis is expected to provide orderly and predictable outcomes or ‘right’ answers to problems, as well as notions of expertise that turn out to be illusory.
The literature on resistance has largely attended to human agents whether in terms of collective action or individual subjectivity. Through focusing on the ‘missing masses’ or mundane material artefacts, this paper seeks to show how actor network theory (ANT) can advance our understanding of resistance. Drawing upon ethnographic research during a workplace dispute, this study explores how material artefacts as well as human actors reflect heterogeneous relations that together successfully mobilized opposition to the imposition of compulsory redundancies in a UK university. In so far as the mingling and entanglement of humans and non‐humans have been largely neglected in accounts of resistance, we believe that an ANT informed account contributes in distinctive ways to this literature.
This article reflects upon careering, securing identities and ethical subjectivities in academia in the context of audit, accountability and control surrounding new managerialism in UK Business Schools. Drawing upon empirical research, we illustrate how rather than resisting an ever-proliferating array of governmental technologies of power, academics chase the illusive sense of a secure self through ‘careering’; a frantic and frenetic individualistic strategy designed to moderate the pressures of excessive managerial competitive demands. Emerging from our data was an increased portrayal of academics as subjected to technologies of power and self, simultaneously being objects of an organizational gaze through normalizing judgements, hierarchical observations and examinations. Still, this was not a monolithic response, as there were those who expressed considerable disquiet as well as a minority who reported ways to seek out a more embodied engagement with their work. In analysing the careerism and preoccupation with securing identities that these technologies of visibility and self-discipline produce, we draw on certain philosophical deliberations and especially the later Foucault on ethics and active engagement to explore how academics might refuse the ways they have been constituted as subjects through new managerial regimes.
There have been numerous explanations of the 2008 global financial crisis, ranging from the greed of the bankers to excessive deregulation due to neoliberalism and the financialization of everything. This paper argues that a discussion of parallels between the crisis and leadership discourses can generate new insights into both. Through an empirical study of the subjectivity of leaders in a UK building society, discourses around both leadership and the crisis are argued to reflect and reproduce similar taken‐for‐granted assumptions about subjectivity and representations of organizational and economic life. These are grounded in the belief that leaders are ‘Masters of the Universe’, who are able to predict and secure the future. The authors believe that these assumptions and representations contributed to the crisis and are now in danger of producing yet another bubble.
This article demonstrates the importance of studying insecurity in relation to identities at work. Drawing upon empirical research with business school academics in the context of the proliferation of managerialist controls of audit, accountability, monitoring and performativity, we illustrate how insecurities in the form of fragile and insecure academic selves are variously manifested. Emerging from our data were three forms of insecurity—imposters, aspirants and those preoccupied with existential concerns, and we analyse these in the context of psychoanalytic, sociological and philosophical frameworks. In so doing, we make a three-fold contribution to the organization studies literature: first, we develop an understanding of identities whereby they are treated as a topic and not merely a resource for studying something else; second, we demonstrate how insecurity and identity are more nuanced and less monolithic concepts than has sometimes been deployed in the literature; and third, we theorize the concepts of identity and insecurity as conditions and consequences of one another rather than monocausally related. Through this analysis of insecure identities, insightful understandings into the contemporary bittersweet experiences of working in academia, and specifically in business schools are developed that could prove fruitful for future research within and beyond this occupational group.
Arguing that binaries and their relationship to masculinities operate to constrain the development of corporeal or embodied ethics in organizations, this article seeks to advance their deconstruction and dissolution. If bodies are to matter, binaries need to shatter. First, it deconstructs the binary by examining the epistemological space between representations of life, language, labour and gender and the assumptions of subjectivity that are their conditions of possibility. Recognizing deconstruction to have some limitations in terms of subscribing to cognitive and perhaps masculine discourses, the article turns secondly to two literatures that seek to dissolve binary constructions ontologically. By combining epistemological deconstructions and ontological dissolutions, the second of these approaches facilitates the development of an embodied and embedded approach to organizational ethics that disavows dominant discourses of masculinity. The article then has two central objectives of first documenting the dominance of masculine, disembodied binary thinking in organizations and society and second, of examining ways through which it may be deconstructed and dissolved so as to enable an embodied ethics of engagement in organizations.