Editorial matter, selection and Chapters 1, 5 and 9 © Adrian Carr and Philip Hancock 2003 Other chapters (in order) © Adrian Carr; George Cairns and Tamar Jeffers; Mary-Ellen Boyle; Catrina Alferoff and David Knights; Nick Nissley, Steven S. Taylor and Orville Butler; Nancy Harding; Astrid Kersten and Ronald Gilardi; Karen Dale and Gibson Burrell; Philip Hancock 2003 All rights reserved. No reproduction, copy or transmission of this publication may be made without written permission. No paragraph of this publication may be reproduced, copied or transmitted save with written permission or in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, or under the terms of any licence permitting limited copying issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency, 90 Tottenham Court Road, London W1T 4LP. Any person who does any unauthorized act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages. The authors have asserted their rights to be identified as the authors of this work in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. First published
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List of Plates Preface Acknowledgements Notes on the Contributors vii viii xii xiii
Part I Art and Aesthetics as a Way of Knowing Organization
1 Art and Aesthetics as a Way of Knowing Organization: Introduction Adrian Carr and Philip Hancock 2 Art as a Form of Knowledge: The Implications for Critical Management Adrian Carr 3 Looking into/out of* Organizations through the Rear Window: Voyeurism and Exhibitionism in Organization Studies (*delete as appropriate) George Cairns and Tamar Jeffers 4 Reconciling Aesthetics and Justice in Organization Studies Mary-Ellen Boyle 3
Work as an Aesthetically Ordered Activity
Work as an Aesthetically Ordered Activity: Introduction Philip Hancock and Adrian Carr
6 We’re All Partying Here: Target and Games, or Targets as Games in Call Centre Management Catrina Alferoff and David Knights 7 The Power of Organizational Song: An Organizational Discourse and Aesthetic Expression of Organizational Culture Nick Nissley, Steven S. Taylor and Orville Butler
8 On the Manager’s Body as an Aesthetics of Control Nancy Harding
Critical Engagements with Aesthetics at Work
9 Critical Engagements with Aesthetics at Work: Introduction Philip Hancock and Adrian Carr 10 The Barren Landscape: Reading US Corporate Architecture
Astrid Kersten and Ronald Gilardi An-Aesthetics and Architecture Karen Dale and Gibson Burrell
12 Aestheticizing the World of Organization – Creating Beautiful Untrue Things Philip Hancock References Index
List of Plates
1 2 3 4 5 6 Hands Bakers Soft and Hard Targets Ceiling Mobile on Four Part Call Left of Tower Right of Tower
These can be found between pages 112 and 113
Over recent years the field of organization studies has exhibited an increasing interest in the aesthetic dimension of work and its organization. Whilst this interest may have been awakened, more generally, by the publication of such philosophically oriented works as Eagleton’s The Ideology of the Aesthetic (1990) and Welsch’s Undoing Aesthetics (1997), it must also be understood in relation to a series of developments within the field itself over the last three decades or so. The shift from an almost exclusively objectivist approach to the analysis of organizational practice exemplified in Weick’s The Social Psychology of Organizing (1969) and Silverman’s The Theory of Organizations (1970), for example, signified a
significant step along the path towards an acceptance of the relevance of sensuality to understanding the rich tapestry that is organizational life. Of equal, and perhaps greater contemporary importance, has been the groundbreaking work focusing on manifestations of organizational culture and symbolism (Turner, 1990; Alvesson and Berg, 1992) with the Third International Conference on Organizational Symbolism (1987) whose theme was ‘The symbolics of corporate artifacts’, particularly noteworthy, resulting as it did in the publication of a selection of papers (see Gagliardi, 1990a) that helped to inform and focus the field of organization studies on the presence of an aesthetic sensibility. Subsequently, a range of published contributions to the field have been forthcoming, including individual journal articles (Carr, 1997; Guillén, 1997; Rustead, 1999; Carr and Zanetti, 2000) thematic editions of journals (Organization, 1996; Human Relations, 2001), chapters in edited collections (Hancock and Tyler, 2000; Thompson, Warhurst and Callaghan, 2000), edited books (Linstead and Höpfl, 2000a) and monographs (Strati, 1999), many of which have been characterized by the work and ideas of scholars who draw significantly on a range of radical traditions within the social sciences, including critical theory, poststructuralism and postmodernism. Furthermore, in addition to such academic and critically oriented offerings, more populist management writers are also starting to contribute significantly to the diffusion of aesthetic concepts throughout the business world. For example, building on the work of writers on corporate identity and design such as Olins (1989), the likes of Dickinson and Svensen (2000) have sought in their millennium manifesto, Beautiful Corporations: Corporate Style in viii
Action, to argue the case for an organizational aesthetic that expresses beauty and style through everything from physical design to corporate ethics and environmental responsibility. It is to this embryonic, if albeit increasingly flourishing body of research and literature within management and business studies that this edited volume seeks to both contribute and
help take beyond its current stage of development.
Art and Aesthetics at Work, while an ambiguous title is not one that was deliberately contrived to be so. Initially, it was conceived of simply as a description of the subject matter of the volume. That is, what the various contributors consider to be the role and opportunities that art and aesthetics are increasingly coming to play in the study and practice of work organizations. However, it quickly became clear that an alternative meaning, implicit within the title’s semantic construction, also had great relevance for the volume. For, what many of the chapters contained within this collection are at pains to consider is not only the presence of art and aesthetics within the everyday life of the workplace, but equally, how these are increasingly put to work in the service of a range of organizational aspirations and goals, or, alternatively, how they can provide a range of novel and informative insights into the structuring and maintenance of organizational activities, particularly those which rely upon the continued existence of asymmetrical relations of power and control. Aesthetic experience is thus differentially conceptualized at various stages throughout this volume, not only as an outcome of divergent terms of reference or theoretical agendas, but also as a consequence of the positioning and functioning that is ascribed to it within the organizational domain of work. The existence of ambiguity should not, of course, provide any great surprise for those familiar with the equally ambiguous history of the aesthetic itself. While the origins of the concept can be traced back to antiquity, its contemporary usage remains highly contested. Originally conceived of in the work of Baumgarten (1753/1954), as the systematic study of sensual and affective dimension of human experience the everyday meaning and usage of the term has shifted and changed considerably over the subsequent centuries. Yet today, while it is still more likely to be understood in relation to the categorization and judgment of art, much of Baumgraten’s original conception of its nature remains in evidence, particularly in work inspired by the critical interrogation of
modernity associated with critical theory and postmodernism. Such a broad engagement with the aesthetic, as the realm of sensual experience, is also, therefore, as important to the work contained within this collection, as is its more traditional association with the realm of art and artistic practice. Such divergences, ambiguities and contestations are therefore the lifeblood of the aesthetic and, as such, it is our hope as the editors that through the mix of international and established writers and scholars, and new or emerging academics within the field of organization and management studies, we have been able to provide a taste of this. Furthermore, we also anticipate that in doing so we have produced a volume that may yet provide an insightful, eclectic, and perhaps in some cases iconoclastic overview of the increasing relevance of aesthetics and aesthetic theory for the ongoing development of a critical understanding of contemporary work organizations.
While all the material within the collection can, and indeed should be understood as inter-related, the collection, for ease of use and accessibility, is divided into three thematic parts each of which is prefaced by an editorial introduction that serves to provide a brief overview of the context and main issues arising from the contributions. Part I deals with what is perhaps the predominant theme amongst writers on the subject of aesthetics and organization, the opportunity aesthetics and also, particularly, art presents as a way of knowing organization; that is as an epistemological framework within which studies of work and its organization may be developed so as to heighten its sensitivity to the non-cognitive, non-rationalized dimension of everyday organizational experience. Included here is a revival of a tradition that can be traced to the field of sociology where some, particularly those of the Frankfurt School, have suggested that art and aesthetics represents a distinct form of knowledge, and as having a language-like character. It is in such a context that some writers in organization studies (see Carr, 1997; Carr and Zanetti, 2000) have recently suggested that these forms of thinking may be put to work, so as to see anew that which has been taken-for-granted in the organizing and managing of the workplace. Part II focuses its attention on the idea that
the organization of work itself is an aesthetically ordered activity. Consideration is given here to how organizational processes, routines and understandings are themselves structured, ordered and challenged through the deployment of
aesthetic categories and representations of the aesthetic, and whereby aesthetics are not only evident within the realm of work, but are themselves put to work as organizational or individual resources. Aesthetics are thus understood as integral to the practice of organizing both work, and the individual capacity to work, rather than as simple adornment or distraction. Part III presents itself in terms of a more self-consciously critical engagements with aesthetics at work. Here the contributors take issue with the potentially negative outcomes of a range of aesthetically driven strategies and practices aimed at minimizing the effects of organizational inertia, and the posited divergence between the subjective capacity for labour and consumption and the institutional requirement for performativity and profit maximization. ADRIAN CARR PHILIP HANCOCK
In bringing this volume to fruition there are many people to thank and acknowledge. In particular the authors in this volume who contributed not just a chapter, but a cooperative spirit and enthusiasm that made the steps toward the discovery of the ‘new’, a pleasant experience. We would also like to thank Hugh Willmott and Irena Grugulis for allowing us to use The Second International Critical Management Studies Conference (University of Manchester, July 2001) as an initial venue for a stream on art and aesthetics from which some of the papers were selected for this volume. David Boje, editor of the journal TAMARA (Journal of Critical Postmodern Organization Science), is a person that has been very supportive of this project from the initial conception. David agreed to the development of a special issue of the journal, TAMARA, on the topic of art and aesthetics and
copyright release of papers that might also be used in this more tightly structured and focused volume. We would also like to extend our thanks to Benetton for granting permission to reproduce two of its adverts as illustrations. We are very grateful to Zelah Pengilley, Caitlin Cornish and the professionalism of the staff at Palgrave. Finally we would like to thank those people who have helped us in a variety of ways both personal and intellectual, in particular: Guy Adams, Richard Bates, Keith Bennett, Jane Coulter, Yiannis Gabriel, Ellis Hancock, Bill Hughes, Martin Parker, Rachel Russell, Melissa Tyler and Lisa Zanetti. Every effort has been made to contact all copyright-holders, but if any have been inadvertantly omitted the publishers will be pleased to make the necessary arrangement at the earliest oppurtunity.
Notes on the Contributors
Adrian Carr is an Associate Professor (Organization Studies and Applied Social Sciences) and the Principal Research Fellow in the School of Applied Social and Human Sciences at the University of Western Sydney. Dr Carr’s areas of research interest are psycho-sociological explanations of human behaviour, critical theory, public sector reform, postmodernism and the management of change. Dr Carr is a member of a number of professional associations and editorial boards, the latter including: Policy, Organisation & Society; the Journal of Management Development; Administrative Theory and Praxis: A Journal of Dialogue in Public Administration; Journal of Organizational Change Management; Radical Psychology: A Journal of Psychology, Politics and Radicalism; TAMARA: Journal of Critical Postmodern Organization Science and Global Business & Economics Review. Philip Hancock is a Lecturer in Organization Studies at the University of Warwick. His main research and publication interests are in the field of organization theory and, in particular, the relationship between contemporary cultural configurations and associated patterns of organizational governance and design. He has published work in a number of internationally recognized journals including Organization and the Journal
of Management Studies, and is co-author of Work, Postmodernism and Society and The Body, Culture and Society.
Catrina Alferoff is presently employed as research assistant in the Department of Management at Keele University on an ESRC-funded Project investigating work in call centres. Previously she has researched discrimination in employment and training for older workers on an international EU funded project in the School of Postgraduate Medicine at Keele University. At Staffordshire University she lectured in Sociology and Human Resource Management and researched into access to employment and training for people with disabilities, direct mail and the problem of privacy, and out-of-hours health service provision. xiii
xiv Notes on the Contributors
She has a continuing interest in the impact of new technologies on work and consumption, service provision, whether public or private, issues of discrimination and social exclusion. She has published on direct mail, training and development of older workers and on disability and access to employment. Mary-Ellen Boyle is an Assistant Professor at the Clark University’s Graduate School of Management. She received and MBA and PhD in sociology from Boston College. Her research focuses on the intersection of the private and public sectors in the global economy, with emphases on business, education, ethics and social responsibility. She is the author of The New Schoolhouse: Literacy, Managers, and Belief and has also published on the topics of immigrant education policy, corporate community relations, the new employment contract, and emerging models of workforce development. She is currently researching the social responsibility of the business school and the cultural determinants of social responsibility practices. Her interest in aesthetics and justice can be traced to a long-standing desire to connect humanities and the social sciences. Gibson Burrell is Professor of Organizational Theory at the University of Leicester and the editor of the journal Organization. It is all just too much for him. Orville Butler is widely trained, with a BS in physics, MA in history and philosophy of
science, M.Juris. in international trade law, and PhD in history. He served as the Maytag Company’s first archivist from 1988 through the Company’s centennial in 1993 and served as the archivist/historian for the International Management Division of the Academy of Management in 1998–9. With Stephen Adams he co-authored Manufacturing the Future, a history of Western Electric. He has also written several articles on the interrelationship between science, technology and business development. Currently residing in Auburn, Washington, he has lectured at several colleges and universities in the United States and Australia. George Cairns is Senior Lecturer in Management at the University of Strathclyde Graduate School of Business, Glasgow. His research interests revolve around study of ‘workplace environments’ – the social, physical, technological and organizational contexts of work. He seeks inputs to this study from those who live in these contexts, from those who design them, and from an eclectic range of fields of academic study.
Notes on the Contributors
Karen Dale is Lecturer in the Department of Accounting, Finance and Management at the University of Essex. She has published on the body and organization and inequalities at work. Currently she is writing a book on space and architecture with Gibson Burrell, and enjoying the disorganized, embodied world of her two growing children. Ronald Gilardi currently serves as Vice President for Academic Affairs at La Roche College in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He holds a law degree from Duquesne University and a PhD from the School of Information Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr Gilardi’s main areas of scholarly interests have included subjects ranging from law, managerial issues and information technology. Before coming to La Roche College, Dr Gilardi taught at the University of Illinois at Champaign, Illinois and the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, Canada. Nancy Harding is a Senior Lecturer in Health Policy and Management at the University of Leeds. This post requires research and scholarship both across the fields of critical management studies and in the sociology of health.
Her publications have included the book Social Construction of Dementia and is co-editor of the Journal of Management in Medicine, which is to be relaunched in 2003 with a new title and broader focus. A book entitled Social Construction of Management is also to be published shortly. Dr Harding’s research focus is largely relates to the application of postmodernist and gender perspectives to an understanding of public sector organizations and their management (and occasionally the illnesses they may or may not instigate). Tamar Jeffers is studying for a PhD in the Department of Film and Television at the University of Warwick. Her research interests include stars, both within and outside Hollywood, costume and the figure of the Career Girl in 1950s films. Currently, she is conducting research on Doris Day, and is also writing entries for a forthcoming Dictionary of European Stars in Hollywood. She is also Managing Editor of the journal Human Relations. Astrid Kersten is Professor of Management at La Roche College in Pittsburgh. She has served as Series Editor for Hampton Press and Reviewer/Editorial Board Member for Human Communication Research and Communication Monographs. Her research/consulting interests include critical theory, diversity management, organizational neurosis and organizational change. Her work has been published in the Journal of Organizational
xvi Notes on the Contributors
Change Management, Communication Yearbook, Current Topics in Management, various edited books and European magazines and journals. David Knights is Professor of Organizational Analysis at Keele University. He is the editor of the journal Gender, Work and Organization and his most recent publications include: ‘Autonomy-retentiveness! Problems and prospects for a post-humanist feminism’, Journal of Management Inquiry, 9(2), 2000; ‘A’in’t Misbehavin’? Opportunities for resistance within bureaucratic and quality management innovations’, Sociology, 34(3), 2000 (with D. McCabe); D. Knights, F. Noble, T. Vurdubakis and H. Willmott, ‘Chasing Shadows: control, virtuality and the production of trust’, Organization Studies, 22(2), 2001; Management Lives: Power and Identity in Work Organisation (with H. Willmott); and The Re-engineering Revolution: Critical Studies of Corporate Change (edited with H. Willmott). His recent research has focused on ICT and
virtuality, call centres, and financial services education and social exclusion. Nick Nissley is an Assistant Professor at the University of St Thomas, Minneapolis, in the Department of Organization Learning and Development. Nick completed his doctoral studies at the George Washington University, Graduate School of Education and Human Development, in Washington, DC. Prior to entering academia, Nick worked in the mining and healthcare industries, most recently as Vice President of Organization Development and Learning for a major Midwest healthcare system. Nick’s research and teaching interests are in the area of arts-based learning in organizations – how art may inform our understanding of organizational life – including critical perspectives. He has also performed semi-professionally with Playback Columbus (a form of improvizational theatre in which the audience members tell stories from their lives and watch them enacted on the spot). Steven S. Taylor is a Lecturer in Change Management at the University of Bath. His research focuses on the aesthetics of organizational action. His work has been published in the Journal of Management Inquiry, Human Relations, Management Learning, the Journal of Organizational Change Management and the Handbook of Action Research.
Part I Art and Aesthetics as a Way of Knowing Organization
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Art and Aesthetics as a Way of Knowing Organization: Introduction Adrian Carr and Philip Hancock
In the Preface to this volume we indicated that the chapters are grouped in terms of common themes. In Part I of the volume, art and aesthetics are examined as a way of knowing organization. What is intended here is to reveal how a discourse informed by art and aesthetics may help pave the way to an epistemological framework within which studies of work and its organization may gain a greater sensitivity to the noncognitive, non-rationalized dimension of everyday organizational experience. Moreover, considering the heuristic potential that art and the realm of aesthetics may
offer the fields of organization studies and management practice, also affords us an opportunity to reconsider the forms of ‘logic’ that we have employed in these fields. Art and aesthetics present us with a different way of knowing and understanding of human existence and experience and potentially may serve to alert us to what we have missed in our past theorizing of the fields. The chapters in this part of the volume highlight this heuristic potential. In Chapter 2, Art as a Form of Knowledge: The Implications for Critical Management, Adrian Carr brings a critical theory perspective to the proposition that art is a form of knowledge and as having a language-like character that incites philosophical reflection. The critical theorists that Carr relies upon to build his case are Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin and Herbert Marcuse – all scholars associated with the Institut für Sozialforschung (the Institute for Social Research) which, because of its initial establishment in Frankfurt University, is commonly referred to as ‘the Frankfurt School’. It might be recalled that the scholars associated with the Frankfurt School rejected the logico-rational tradition in which it was presumed that in the social sciences, like the natural sciences, there was an absolute truth capable of discovery through the scientific method. For these scholars, what passes for truth and knowledge in the 3
4 Art and Aesthetics as a Way of Knowing Organization
social sciences could not be detached from the knowing subjects – knowledge always has to be conceived as mediated through society and has a dialectic ‘nature’ in the interplay of the particular and the universal, of the moment and totality (see Carr, 2000b). It was in this context that the aforementioned scholars of the Frankfurt School conceived art and aesthetics as not some separate order as such, but instead as having a co-determined link to the ‘otherness’ it putatively sought to escape. The key issue here, for some of these scholars, is that on the one hand, art is mimetic and induces mimetic behaviour in the viewer. Art mimics or carries resemblance. On the other hand, there is an enigmatic face to a work of art in as much as it carries discrepancy between projected images and their actuality. It is in this very act of an expression of nonidentity with itself that art was
considered to induce critical reflection. The chapter explores the work of the surrealists to highlight the manner in which this critical reflection is induced. The intention of the surrealists was to break the rational ‘language’ of correspondence to induce new associations with the objects and images and to transcend the control, presence and even the overt intention of the ‘author’ of the work. Many of the works of the surrealists, for example, involved producing discomfort or ‘shock’ (an ‘estrangement-effect’) through the juxtaposition of objects being placed in unfamiliar settings. The production of an estrangement-effect is discussed in terms of the dialectic dynamic that was championed by some of the Frankfurt School scholars. The chapter concludes with a discussion of how this work of the Frankfurt School scholars and the exploration of art and aesthetics, in particular, may provide a valuable optic through which the fields of management and organization studies might be reflexively explored – to perhaps ‘see’ anew issues for which we have, at best, had a superficial understanding. In the chapter that follows, by George Cairns and Tamar Jeffers (Chapter 3), it is the matter of ‘seeing’ that has particular significance. Of major concern to these authors is the manner in which organization researchers themselves impose, or superimpose, meaning upon the research subjects. The authors engage the art of David Hockney and Alfred Hitchcock’s film Rear Window as a metaphor in an effort to cleanse/free or provide some distance for themselves from the categorization that they are trying to avoid. They are aware that there is no total escape and so they offer a work of ‘fiction’. Now the word metaphor is emphasized here because the authors tantalize the reader with the idea that they are simply engaging metaphor, in the traditional sense of the term. Metaphor is a figure of speech in which one object is likened to another as if it was that other, but all the time we are to be aware it is
Adrian Carr and Philip Hancock
not the object to which the likeness is being made. In the journey through their chapter Cairns and Jeffers, in keeping with Hockney and Hitchcock,
invite the reader to be voyeur and exhibitionist and at the very same time cause the reader to reflect on the question of whether the understanding of organizations that comes from academics is a post hoc rationalization of their voyeurism. Of course metaphor is as emotional as it is cognitive in its meaning and the authors treat the reader to experience more than the rational in their account of Hitchcock’s film of Rear Window. The metaphoric approach alerts us to the non-rational and also the guises in which we come to represent what goes on in organizations from smaller snapshots that we load with meaning that might be misguided. Thus we encounter the manner in which figures of speech get ‘extended’ in their meaning in the manner of synecdoche and metonymy. Synecdoche where a single representation stands for the whole and the whole for the part, e.g. roof for a house. This is different to metonymy where we might substitute an associated term for the name itself, as in ‘the crown decrees’ for ‘the ruler decrees’. These, amongst others, are issues that Cairns and Jeffers highlight as matters that academia is prone in trying to interpret and convey meaning about the organization dynamics that they encounter in their research. It is not merely some form of inconsequential language game. Language is the form of transmission of ideas and such transmission needs to be reflexively considered. In particular, the overt and hidden motives of those who research organizations may have in the language of representation. Using art and the aesthetic, Cairns and Jeffers bring into sharp ‘focus’ the degree to which the researcher (in their capacity) as both voyeur and exhibitionist can claim to know and to be objective. The authors, in this context, ask academics to render ambiguity, complexity and difference as simply that without reductionist and secondary rationalism. In this initial part of the book, the next chapter is that by Mary-Ellen Boyle (Chapter 4), who seeks to reconcile aesthetics and justice in organization processes and our experiencing of organizations. Boyle cogently argued that consideration of aesthetics has been such that it has been presumed to be politically neutral. In the process of challenging such an assumption, Boyle highlights how a reconciliation of aesthetics and justice in the structure, processes and dynamics of organization can result in a more humane, and perhaps a more ‘productive’, organization. The chapter pursues this central argument on the merit of reconciliation with reference to three arenas related to the
functioning of the organization. These three arenas are: (1) the aesthetics of the labour process
6 Art and Aesthetics as a Way of Knowing Organization
itself; (2) the image of the organization as captured, for example, in metaphors; and, (3) the manner in which the organization presents itself to the outside world and ‘consumers’. Each of these arenas are revealed as deriving benefit from the reconciliation of aesthetics and justice. Boyle concludes her chapter with a number of salient observations regarding how the field of organization studies and management practice might more reflexively consider aesthetics and justice. She observes that while aesthetic knowing may not be normative in intent, or in theory, it has normative and potentially unjust consequences. In concluding this introduction, a sentence from the last paragraph of her chapter expresses a sentiment echoed by most of chapters in this entire volume. ‘Beauty and the greater good need to be connected in order to establish the importance and legitimacy of aesthetics as a way of knowing organization, and in order to create a more just society.’
Art as a Form of Knowledge: The Implications for Critical Management Adrian Carr
Introduction and overview
Theodor Adorno (1970/1997) declared that art was a form of knowledge. In a somewhat related vein, his critical theorist colleague Herbert Marcuse (1956/1998) characterized art as a mode of cognition that is an alternative to positivism. The work of these two scholars is linked with the school of thought called ‘The Frankfurt School’. Famous for its notion and development of ‘critical theory’, the Frankfurt School’s work was carried out initially at the Institut für Sozialforschung (the Institute for Social Research). This Institute was established in, but financially independent of, Frankfurt University. Founded in February 1923, a number of the scholars associated with the Institute found themselves drawn to art and the aesthetics as
arenas in which alternative ways of thinking and ‘seeing’ were possible. For this group of scholars, in many ways, authentic art represented a ‘Great Refusal’ (Marcuse, 1956/1998, p. 149) against totalizing forms of logic. Drawing upon the work of the Frankfurt School, and specifically that of Adorno, Marcuse and Walter Benjamin, this chapter initially explores the mimetic and enigmatic qualities of art. Benjamin (1933/1999c) insisted that we all have a ‘mimetic faculty’ (mimicry) responsible for producing and perceiving resemblance. For Benjamin, imitation is one of our most irresistible impulses. Benjamin, and Adorno, came to think of mimesis as an assimilation of self to other – a type of enactment behaviour. Adorno suggests that all autonomously generated artworks are enigmas in as much as they have a capacity to sustain a discrepancy between projected images and their actuality. They carry similarity while at the same time carrying difference. As will be noted later, Adorno (1970/1997) 7
8 Art as a Form of Knowledge
argued that ‘the survival of mimesis, the nonconceptual affinity of the subjectively produced with its unposited other, defines art as a form of knowledge and to that extent as “rational” ’ (p. 54). It is in this dynamic that art carries its critical element. It was the decline of autonomously generated art which Adorno came to view as being as a direct consequence of the rise of the culture industry. Both Adorno and Benjamin came to think of art as a form of language, or having a language-like character, which incites philosophical reflection. This type of thinking was a forerunner to the post-structuralist JeanFrançois Lyotard’s (1971) more recent ‘discovery’ of the potential liberating tension between discursive (the verbal) and the figural (the visual). Lyotard viewed the unconscious as being associated with the figural and the preconscious with language. Art in this context is part of the transgressive and disruptive element in this tension. I will discuss this presently, but in a context of the work of Marcuse and Benjamin who suggest that forms of art, such as surrealism, liberate that critical dimension of art in producing a discomfort or estrangement. These forms of art represent art’s own ‘attempt to rescue the rationality of the negative’ (Marcuse, 1964, p. 67). The discussion of art as a form of knowledge, and
having a language-like character, will culminate in considering the forms of rescuing its own critical dimension, and whether similar forms could be used for critical management. In using the term ‘critical management’, I wish to denote forms of thinking that help us see anew that which we have taken-for-granted and may have blinded us to alternative constructions of problems and solutions. Some of the parallels between movements in art and ‘schools’ of thought in organization studies have featured in this author’s previous work (Carr, 1999, 2000a, 2001a; Carr and Zanetti, 2000). On this occasion a more targeted critique is intended and, in particular, a consideration of the field of management itself as merely being part of a culture industry that is intent upon producing, what Adorno (1975) called, ‘patterned and pre-digested’ products with no critical element. In this latter context to speak of critical management would seem an oxymoron. Having given a sketch of the chapter in bold relief, and noted some the direction of the argument, let us examine in a little finer detail some of the work of these scholars associated with the Frankfurt School.
Mimesis and enigma in art – hearing from Benjamin and Adorno Rainer Rochlitz (1992/1996) argues that ‘In German aesthetics, avantgarde movements have been interpreted primarily in the light of the
concepts elaborated by Benjamin and Adorno. In France, in contrast, whether or not a particular critic favours the avant-garde, he attempts to understand it through Nietzsche’ (p. 220). The contrast between the Benjaminian/Adornian orientation to art and aesthetics to that of the Nietzschean orientation, is a contrast that highlights the fundamental working assumption made by the two Frankfurt scholars. Nietzsche insisted art needed to be seen within the sovereignty of its own terms and would suggest that ‘art tends to set aside any criterion brought in from the logical or moral order … [with] “truth” (being) a vital illusion and the truth of art a tonic lie’ (Rochlitz, 1992/1996, p. 220; see also
ComteSponville, 1991/1997, pp. 55–7). Although often drawing upon the work of Nietzsche, on this topic the two Frankfurt scholars had a somewhat different view and, throughout their work, insisted that the ‘truth content’ of art has ‘not lost its logical and ethical stakes’ (Rochlitz, 1992/1996, p. 220). Adorno and Benjamin were of the view that art and aesthetics are not some separate order that obey some pure detached aesthetic logic as such, but instead had a co-determined link to the ‘otherness’ that, putatively, it sought to escape. Art, aesthetics and critical theory had a ‘power’ to disclose ‘truths’ about society. In contrast to ‘shouldershrugging aesthetic relativism’, Adorno (1970/1997) insisted that ‘art is directed toward truth, it is not itself immediate truth: to this extent truth is its content. By its relation to truth, art is knowledge; art itself knows truth in that truth emerges through it. As knowledge, however, art is neither discursive nor is its truth the reflection of an object’ (p. 282). Of course, Adorno, and his Frankfurt school brethren, reject any pretensions to absolute truth and argued that valid knowledge cannot be detached from knowing subjects – knowledge always has to be conceived as mediated through society and has a dialectic ‘nature’ in the interplay of the particular and universal, of the moment and totality (see Carr, 2000b). For Adorno and Benjamin, art and aesthetics was not only an attempt to represent, but in the representation it had the capacity to transcend that ‘rationality’ which it was representing. As Adorno (1970/1997, p. 31) once observed: ‘The modernity of art lies in its mimetic relation to a petrified and alienated reality. This, and not the denial of that mute reality, is what makes art speak’ (see also Rasmussen, 1996, p. 29). To understand the ‘rationality’ that art represented and also its transgressive and critical ‘self-reflexive’ ‘voice’, one needs to appreciate Benjamin and Adorno’s conception of mimesis and enigma. It is these two concepts that are pivotal to their work on art and aesthetics. Indeed, it would not be overstating the case to suggest that these two concepts are the essential
10 Art as a Form of Knowledge
scaffolding to how they came to the conclusion that art carried its ‘truth content’ and critical perspective. The notion of mimesis, although widely
used by Adorno and others in the Frankfurt school, was a notion first elaborated upon by their fellow theorist Walter Benjamin. It was this elaboration that shaped the use of the term by others of the Frankfurt school. Benjamin (1933/1999c) suggested that we all have a ‘mimetic faculty’ (mimicry) responsible for producing and perceiving resemblance. While imitation maybe the ultimate form of flattery, and a basic behaviour through which we may learn new skills, etc. Benjamin (1933/1999b, p. 698; 1933/1999c, p. 720) also viewed it as one of our most irresistible impulses. Indeed, Benjamin, along with Adorno, came to think of mimesis as an assimilation of self to other – a type of enactment behaviour (Benjamin, 1933/1999c, p. 720; Adorno, 1970/1997, p. 111; see also Jay, 1997b, p. 32; Nicholsen, 1997, p. 147). This enactment behaviour was to anticipate some of the work of Winnicott related to the psychodynamics involved in play (see Winnicott, 1971a, 1971b, 1971c, p. 41, 1971d, p. 100, 1971e, p. 107). Benjamin (1933/1999c, p. 720) notes that a child’s play is ‘everywhere permeated by mimetic modes of behaviour … The child plays at being not only a shopkeeper or teacher, but also a windmill and a train’. Anyone listening to their adolescent offspring trying to sing along with whatever is the top of the hit parade, will soon discover it is not only a matter of getting the words right, you also have to get the right accent to sound like the original! Of course, this behaviour is not always reproduced in the same form, i.e. an aural phenomenon imitated aurally. For example, the child who moves through the house as though they were an aeroplane. Here a human being is seeking to imitate a non-human object. Some areas of this imitation, such as flying, are substituted with a behaviour that is in another form – in this case, running around the house with outstretched arms. Thus the similarity is not necessarily embodied in the same form. These brief examples cause us to consider, perhaps more deeply, the dimensions of mimesis – not only the issue of the success in producing a likeness, but the more general question, that of: ‘What is the nature of the link with otherness that is both presupposed and created by imitation?’ (Nicholsen, 1997, p. 138). The ability to produce but also perceive resemblance would appear to implicate some form of human mimetic faculty or capacity. Mimesis and the mimetic faculty, for Benjamin (1933/1999b, p. 695), in times long gone is different to that of today. In those earlier times, Benjamin points
to interest in the cosmic order and divination as the medium through which the reading of correspondence was to occur.
Today the system of signs takes the form of language, as Benjamin (1933/1999b, pp. 696–7) argues: Language now represents the medium in which objects encounter and come into relation with one another. No longer directly, as they once did in the mind of the augur or priest, but in their essences, in their most transient and delicate substances, even in their aromas. In other words: it is to script and language that clairvoyance has, over the course of history, yielded its old powers. It was the process of producing similarities rather than the object of the similarity that was important for Benjamin (see Nicholsen, 1997, p. 140) – important, in as much as the mimetic faculty could be noted to exist throughout the course of history. Nicholsen (1997) makes the profound connection of mimesis and self and other, which she notes in the work of Benjamin, and argues: ‘Language, in short, can mediate the mimetic assimilation of self to other. Words mediate the loss of self as a loss of one’s own image, figure, or face. Words could make him like things, Benjamin says, but “never like my own image”; the child is “disfigured by likeness” to everything that surrounds him’ (1997, p. 143). Adorno (1970/1997) agreed with these sentiments but suggested that, rather than language, it was art that had become the emergent form of the mimetic impulse. For Adorno (1970/1997), a work of art actually induced mimetic behaviour in the viewer (or listener, in the case where he uses the term art in its broader sense to include music, film, etc.). He also, however, suggested that art has a rebus-like face – an ‘enigmatic gaze that it directs at us’ (Nicholsen, 1997, p. 150), which is a nonconceptual but language-like character that incites philosophical reflection. Nicholsen (1997, p. 149) summarizes Adorno’s position extremely well1 when she says: The work itself is analogous to a musical score. The recipient – listener, viewer, reader – follows along or mimes the internal trajectories of the work at hand, tracing its internal articulations down
the finest nuance … the act of aesthetic understanding is an act whereby the self is assimilated to the other; the subject virtually embodies, in a quasi-sensuous mode, the work, which is other. It is the enigmatic face of the work of art, the enigmatic gaze it directs at us, that incites this philosophical reflection … First of all, the work is enigmatic because it is mimetic rather than conceptual. Being
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non-conceptual, it cannot be unenigmatic, because it cannot have a discursive meaning. Further, it is enigmatic because it lost its purpose when the mimetic migrated from ritual into art; art has become, in Kant’s phrase, purposive but without purpose. As Adorno says (1970/1997, pp. 149–50), art cannot answer the question, ‘What are you for?’: The enigmatic quality implies otherness as well as affinity. It requires distance if it is to be perceived. The experiential understanding of art that is gained through mimetic assimilation to the work does not have this kind of distance. It is trapped inside the work, so to speak, and accordingly cannot do justice to it. (See also Adorno, 1970/1997, pp. 119–31.) For Adorno, all autonomously generated artworks are enigmas in as much as they have a capacity to sustain this discrepancy between projected images and their actuality. Carrying similarity yet difference at the same time: ‘Artworks say something and in the same breath conceal it …’ (Adorno, 1970/1997, p. 120; see also Held, 1980/1995, pp. 82, 83, 88–9). At one point Adorno (1970/1997) added to this dynamic and argued that ‘the survival of mimesis, the non-conceptual affinity of the subjectively produced with its unposited other, defines art as a form of knowledge and to that extent as “rational” ’ (p. 54). Art is everywhere engaged in a dialectic with reason in its various forms: as cognition, construction, technique, spiritualization, objectification, etc. (see Nicholsen, 1997, p. 148). Art overcomes the constraining and unreflective nature of rationality through the very act of expression of nonidentity with itself. The ‘truth-value’ of art arises from this ability to sustain ‘a discrepancy between its projected images (concepts) of nature and humankind, and its objects’ actuality’ (see Held, 1980/1995, p. 82). These were the dynamics in which art was considered to carry its critical
perspective. It was also the decline in this autonomous art that Adorno saw as the flip-side of the rise of the culture industry which will be discussed presently. It is to this ‘latent’ critical content carried by art to which I now turn my attention.
The critical content of art: hearing from Benjamin, Marcuse and Adorno on surrealism The notion that works of art return our gaze in a manner so as to induce critical reflection was something that some of the Frankfurt School thought was particularly well exemplified in the work of the surrealists. Benjamin and
Marcuse, and a little less so Adorno,2 used the example of surrealism, as a somewhat ‘exaggerated’3 case, to illustrate how the critical content of autonomous art gets played out in a dialectic manner assumed in critical theory. Benjamin and Marcuse found that the body of work by the surrealists engendered an opportunity to see the world anew. The variety of techniques developed by the surrealists in writing, poetry, painting, theatre and film were intended to create new associations and overthrow the usual linear correspondence of objects and ‘logical’/familiar associations. It was the paintings by De Chirico during 1911–17 that inspired some of the early work of the surrealists.4 Indeed, Breton (1927/1965, p. 83) saw the work of De Chirico as reflecting the founding philosophy of surrealism. In some senses De Chirico might be considered to be a surrealist, but his work did in fact preface both the formal declaration of surrealism by Breton in 1924 (see Breton, 1924/1969) and a subsequent movement of the surrealists into the medium of painting. De Chirico, like some of the ‘officially’ declared surrealist painters that followed, e.g. Magritte, Dali, Delvaux and Toyen, questioned the familiar identity of objects by faithfully reproducing them but placing them in unfamiliar settings and using such unfamiliar associations to produce a kind of poetic strangeness. The rich mimetic and the enigmatic mixture of the work. The shock of the juxtaposition of objects
in unfamiliar association elicited unforeseen affinities between objects and, perhaps, unexpected emotion and sensations in the observer. As Breton more generally observed: ‘the external object had broken with its customary surroundings, its component parts were somehow emancipated from the object in such a way as to set up entirely new relationships with other elements, escaping from the principle of reality while still drawing upon the real plane (and overthrowing the idea of correspondence)’ (emphasis added) (1927/1965, p. 83). It is important to recognize that the intent of the surrealist was to break with the ‘language’ of correspondence of that rationalism and logic that had, in their view, led to the atrocities of the First World War. Civilization seemed to have lost its justification and new ways of thinking were needed that were more authentic and particularly not infected by bourgeois society. This orientation is nicely captured in the words of the surrealist Patrick Waldberg (1965/1997, p. 13), when he observes that surrealism is: A distrust of rationalism and formal conventions (which were worshipped at that time by the representatives of the avant-garde) prompted the young men towards the exploration of the realm of the unconscious and the dream. They were seeking what might be
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called ‘the language of the soul’, that is, the expression – stripped of all logical device – of the profound ‘me’ in its nakedness. Surrealism actually had its beginnings in the written word but, it soon became associated with visual art for which it is probably more commonly known today. In their efforts to transcend rationality and linear thinking, the very early surrealists developed some specific techniques and approaches. One technique, the use of dreams or inducing a dreamlike state to give the unconscious unimpeded passage, was inspired by the work of Freud (1900/1986, p. 769), who once said that dreams were the royal road to knowledge of the unconscious. The importance of dreams to the surrealists was such that Breton (1924/1969, p. 14) specifically contrasted it with reality and suggested that he ‘believed in the future resolution of these two states, dream and reality, which are seemingly so contradictory, into a kind of absolute reality, a sur-reality’. Other techniques and approaches developed
by the early surrealists included: the exquisite corpse (stringing together of arbitrary chosen phrases by different poets unaware of what preceded or followed); and, automatic writing (writing quickly without control, self-censorship, or thought for the outcome in terms of literary merit, making free associations as they seem to flow). When it came to surrealism as an expression in the visual arts, the artists also experimented to try and produce further techniques that transcended rationality and the control and presence of the ‘author’. Some of these techniques included automatic drawing and painting (similar to automatic writing but in this case not trying to control the hand – an extreme version of this was draw with one’s eyes closed); decalcomania (placing a sheet of paper with wet paint onto another sheet of paper and then separating them to reveal ‘patterns’); coulage (paint drippings onto a canvas); collage (reassembly of objects on a canvas without concern for how they might be arranged and juxtaposed) and frottage. Breton (1948/1965) also insisted that the ‘exquisite corpse’ could be used in drawing and suggested it was ‘an infallible way of holding the critical intellect in abeyance, and of fully liberating the mind’s metaphorical activity’ (emphasis added) (p. 95). In the drawn version, ‘players’ took turns adding portions of the drawing. The first person might draw the head, with two lines protruding for the neck. The paper was then folded and passed to the second player, who added the torso, with lines protruding across folds for the arms and legs, and so on. The point of the ‘play’ was both collective and automatic: the unleashing of the ‘marvelous’ or non-rational, and the production of a work that could not have been produced by a single player acting alone (Caws, 1997).
Marcuse and Benjamin both viewed surrealism as producing discomfort, turmoil, shock and/or emotional disturbance and in so doing was a form of sociocultural critique. The shock induced through the juxtaposition and dissociation of the familiar in unfamiliar settings was particularly resonant with their ideas associated with dialectics. They came to view this
discomfort and shock in a manner similar to that captured by Bertolt Brecht in his idea of an ‘estrangement-effect’. Citing the words of Brecht, Marcuse (1964, p. 67) explains the effect in the following manner: To teach what the contemporary world really is behind the ideological and material veil, and how it can be changed, the theater must break the spectator’s identification with the events on the stage. Not empathy and feeling, but distance and reflection are required. The ‘estrangement-effect’ (Verfremdungseffekt) is to produce this dissociation in which the world can be recognised as what it is. ‘The things of everyday life are lifted out of the realm of the self-evident … That which is “natural” must assume the features of the extraordinary. Only in this manner can the laws of cause and effect reveal themselves’. (Brecht, 1957) Marcuse further argued, using literature as a specific example, that the estrangement-effect ‘is not superimposed on literature. It is rather literature’s own answer to the threat of total behaviourism – the attempt to rescue the rationality of the negative’ (1964, p. 67). Among other things, for Marcuse, the estrangement-effect was part of a ‘great refusal’ to one-dimensionality. For Marcuse, the limitations that were being imposed upon freedom and happiness by a domineering and repressive society had an antidote in the liberation of imagination. It was the enslavement of imagination that aided and abetted a social amnesia as to how the present sociocultural arrangements came into being – a social reification, and at the same time robbed us of thinking of alternative possibilities. It was in this context that Marcuse cites Breton’s First Manifesto of Surrealism: To reduce imagination to slavery – even if one’s so-called happiness is at stake – means to violate all that one finds in one’s inmost self of ultimate justice. Imagination alone tells me what can be. (Marcuse, 1956/1998, p. 149, citing Breton, 1924/1969a, pp. 4–5) Both Benjamin and Marcuse saw an affinity between the surrealists’ production of the estrangement-effect and the mode of critical thought
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championed by the Frankfurt School scholars, i.e. dialectics. This affinity was such that Benjamin (1929/1997b) argued that surrealism needed to be perceived dialectically in order to appreciate its purpose and contribution
and, in particular, to understand that ‘we penetrate the mystery only to the degree that we recognize it in the everyday world, by virtue of a dialectical optic that perceives the everyday as impenetrable, the impenetrable as everyday’ (emphasis added) (p. 237). The dialectic optic is used in its Hegelian sense.5 The estrangement that comes from contradiction, paradox and irony are the necessary reflective opportunities in which juxtaposition aids dialectical self-consciousness. Indeed, in Aragon’s ‘anti-novel’ Paris Peasant, this surrealist argues that ‘reality is the apparent absence of contradiction. The wondrous is contradiction appearing in the real’ (Aragon, 1926/1971, p. 166). Benjamin (1929/ 1997b, p. 227) came to describe this wondrous revelation carried in surrealism as ‘profane illumination’. He also reinforced that the act of reflection in the medium that is the work of art and the link to philosophy, when he observed that ‘all genuine works have their siblings in the realm of philosophy’ and that our task in understanding the work of art is to reveal the ‘virtual possibility of formulating the work’s truth content’ (Benjamin, 1922/1997a, pp. 333, 334). For Benjamin and Marcuse, in the surrealist movement the estrangement-effect becomes an artistic–political reflective device only to the extent that the estrangement can be maintained ‘to produce the shock which may bare the true relationship between the two worlds and languages: the one being the positive negation of the other’ (Marcuse, circa unknown/1993, p. 187). Marcuse warns that, in the past, intellectual oppositions to the mainstream became impotent and ineffective because the estrangement-effect was, in effect, disarmed by the assimilating mechanisms of the prevailing order. He argues in Aragon, for example: The avant-gardistic negation was not negative enough. The destruction of all content was itself not destroyed. The formless form was kept intact, aloof from the universal contamination. The form itself was stabilized as a new content, and thus came to share the fate of all contents: it was absorbed by the market. (Marcuse, circa unknown/1993, p. 182) Thus the estrangement-effect can only be maintained to the extent that it continues to reveal the prevailing order in its opposition and (simultaneously) the opposition in the prevailing order – that is, to the extent that it maintains a dialectical tension. The opposition between antagonistic spheres, is a dynamic conceived as the mediation of one through the other
(see Adorno, 1970/1997, pp. 44–5). This, of course, is
the dialectic optic that Benjamin argued was crucial to the understanding of surrealism.6 The dialectic dynamic inherent in the surrealist movement was also noted by Adorno, particularly in the context of throwing the spotlight on those aspects of social life that functionalism neglects, obscures and/or seeks to remove from our vision. He expresses this view succinctly when he says: [Surrealist paintings] … gathered together what functionalism covers with taboos because it betrays reality as reification and the irrational in its rationality. Surrealism recaptures what functionalism denies to man; the distortions demonstrate what the taboo did to the desired. Thus surrealism rescues the obsolete – an album of idiosyncrasies where the claim for happiness evaporates that which the technified world refuses to man. (Theodor W. Adorno, ‘Rückblickend auf den Surrealismus’, in Noten zur Literatur (Berlin-Frankfurt, Suhrkamp, 1958), p. 160 – cited in Marcuse, 1964, p. 70) Adorno (1970/1997) was to remark, more generally, that art could not be reduced to ‘the unquestionable polarity of the mimetic and the constructive, as if this were an invariant formula’ but what ‘was fruitful in modern art was what gravitated toward one of the extremes, not what sought to mediate between the two’ (p. 44). This line of thought leads Adorno to make a more general point about dialectics, when he states that ‘the dialectic of these elements is similar to dialectical logic, in that each pole realizes itself only in the other, and not in some middle ground’ (emphasis added) (p. 44). In the Dialectic of Enlightenment, although not adopting these words, it was the dialectic tension and the maintenance of some estrangement that Adorno and Horkheimer (1944/1997) had concern, in the face of the culture industry. They despaired at how the culture industry had assimilated the arts into a world of advertising and kitsch7 and in this process of objectification had repressed (neutralized) art’s critical knowledge content. To further understand the critical knowledge element and the language-like quality of art and aesthetics, it is instructive to very
briefly consider some of the contours of Adorno and Horkheimer’s view about the development of what they dubbed the ‘culture industry’.
Art as part of the culture industry: hearing from Adorno (and Horkheimer)8 Adorno and Horkheimer (1944/1997) in their book Dialectic of Enlightenment,9 in a chapter entitled ‘The culture industry: enlightenment
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as mass deception’, suggest that ‘art’10 and manual labour have become structurally divided. They viewed capitalism11 as engendering a new form of domination. The power of the ruling classes was being reproduced through a form of ideological hegemony; it was established primarily through the rule of consent, and mediated via cultural institutions such as schools, the family, churches and mass media. It was in this context that Adorno and Horkheimer argued that culture, like everything else in capitalist society, had been transformed into an object. This objectification resulted in both the repression of the critical elements in its form and content, but also represented a negation of critical thought. As Adorno (1975, p. 13) was to remark: Culture in the true sense, did not simply accommodate itself to human beings; … it always simultaneously raised a protest against the petrified relations under which they lived, thereby honoring them. Insofar as culture becomes wholly assimilated to and integrated into those petrified relations, human beings are once more debased. Culture had, metaphorically, become another industry producing commodities, which had little or no critical function. Adorno (1975, p. 14) was to clarify that the ‘expression “industry” is not to be taken literally. It refers to the standardization of the thing itself – such as the Western, familiar to every moviegoer – and to the rationalization of distribution techniques … [and] not strictly to the production process’. To paraphrase Adorno in a number of his works (see also Held, 1980/1995, p. 94; Rocco, 1994, p. 87), music, art, film were essentially, aimed at a passive, passionless and uncritical reception, which it induces through the production of ‘patterned and pre-digested’ products. The culture industry anticipates individual consumer ‘need’. The images and messages that are commercially produced are largely mimetic of the broader
socio-political relations. The criteria of merit for these products was perverted, according to Adorno and Horkheimer (1944/1997, p. 124), as it was judged by the amount of ‘conspicuous consumption’. Positivist rationality, the manipulation and suppression of critical imagination, were embodied in the images and messages produced by the culture industry – an industry so reductionist that culture was mere amusement. The structural division between work and ‘art’ (read culture) was such that culture was to be the vehicle of escape from the boredom, drudgery and powerlessness inherent in mechanized work processes. Culture had, instead, become an extension of that same world of work.
In the words of Adorno and Horkheimer (1944/1997, p. 137): Amusement under late capitalism is the prolongation of work.12 It is sought after as an escape from the mechanized work process, and to recruit strength in order to be able to cope with it again. But at the same time mechanization has such power over a man’s leisure and happiness, and so profoundly determines the manufacture of amusement goods, that his experiences are inevitably after-images of the work process itself. The ostensible content is merely faded foreground; what sinks in is the automatic succession of standardized operations. (For a similar critique, see also Marcuse, 1956/1998, 1964, 1968) Nowhere was Adorno and Horkheimer’s criticism of the culture industry greater, and more illustrative, than in the realm of art. Scathing as to what art had become, Adorno and Horkheimer suggested that art had not simply been turned into a commodity, but from the outset was conceived of as an item for sale to a market. In an idiom of style, art and advertising had merged as cultural products with perhaps the ultra-realism of Andy Warhol’s Campbell Soup painting saying it all (see Giroux, 1983, p. 21). The one-dimensional society, highlighted by Marcuse (1964), is a world that collapses the distinction between what is and what might otherwise be possible and, at the same time, reifies – serving to encourage a social amnesia as to the ontology of such a world. The aesthetic character of art
that brings enjoyment and entertainment now, simultaneously, serves to pacify and, in many instances, has been turned over as an instrument to aid in the promotion and acquisition of commodities. The ‘prevailing’ interpretation of reality gets reproduced and reinforced such that the reconciliation of alienated individuals with society occurs through a process of identification of the latter with the former, as Held (1980/1995, p. 94) cogently observes: The ‘plots’, the ‘goodies’, the ‘heroes’ rarely suggest anything other than identification with the existing form of social relations. There is passion in movies, radio broadcasting, popular music and magazines, but it is usually passion for identity (between whole and part, form and content, subject and object). The products of the culture industry can be characterized by standardization and pseudo-individualization. It is these qualities which distinguish them from autonomous art. Art had been robbed of its ability to suggest alternative possibilities to a world in which it now seemed to merely act as a mirror. To reverse a Kantian expression, in the words of Adorno and Horkheimer (1944/1997,
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p. 158; see also Adorno, 1970/1997, p. 139); ‘The principle of idealistic aesthetics – purposefulness without a purpose – reverses the scheme of things to which bourgeois art conforms socially: purposelessness for the purpose declared by the market’. Art had been neutralized into a mere object of contemplation.13 Art had become part of the culture industry that promoted, and sought to have assumed, intellectual and social conformity.
Management and organization studies: taking lessons from the world of art? Having heard from some of the Frankfurt School scholars on the matter of art as a form of knowledge and its language-like character, the question arises: ‘How might the work of these scholars provide us with a valuable optic through which to more deeply understand and reflexively explore management and organization studies?’ I would suggest the work of these scholars, on the matter of art, is helpful in a number of ways which are perhaps most conveniently addressed under three sub-headings.
Management and organization studies: has it become a culture industry? In 1997 a book was published, written by Gibson Burrell, entitled Pandemonium: Towards a Retro-Organization Theory. In the same year David Farmer (1997a) made a conference presentation entitled ‘Public administration discourse as (Heraclitean, Derridean) play: does it pay to play?’ (see also Farmer, 1998). Both of these prominent contributors to the organization discourses were independently voicing a disillusionment and seeking to ‘extract’ themselves from the mode of thinking that had characterized these discourses. Both of them had turned to post modernism which, at the time, I interpreted (see Carr, 1997; Carr and Zanetti, 1998) as, unknowingly, entering the realm of surrealism – more of that connection, of postmodernism and surrealism, in a moment. The core of their disillusionment appeared to be the shallowness or superficial ‘nature’ of the discourse and, in particular, linear thinking. Burrell (1997) expressed his disillusionment and frustration with the discourse throughout the book, both explicitly and implicitly. Early in his tome, in addressing those in the field that he expected to be his readers, he suggested that if his book were a video, ‘decidedly not for public viewing’, it would show ‘that we’re swimming in deep shit’ (p. 4). Burrell (1997, p. 4) goes on to make the following argument as to why he holds this view,
saying: The pressures to carry out work of an empiricist kind, to make this research relevant to a managerial audience and to play for good and instant feedback from teaching our clients, places tremendous pressures towards conservatism on lecturing staff. To put this comment in even greater context, it must be remembered that this was the ‘same’ Burrell who once joined with Morgan (Burrell and Morgan, 1979) and posed that most unKuhnian rendering of paradigms. You know that Burrell – the 2 2 typology in which ‘human nature’ became part of their strange brew of unproblematic oppositional dimensionality, and who talked of being confined to ‘cells’ in a context of incommensurability. In Pandemonium, this was clearly a
different Burrell (1997, p. 25) who observes that he ‘now leaves the equally sized rooms he has been stalking’. The work of Adorno and Horkheimer (1944/1997) might suggest that Burrell and Farmer, and of course others, are at one level expressing the pressures associated with a culture industry. Using the optic of the culture industry one might ask for some reflexivity – to inquire as to whether, both in the content and teaching methodology, as well as in research, the field in which we toil is simply another culture industry? For example, we often, jokingly, refer to MBAs as undergraduate management degrees for engineers. Carried in the joke is, perhaps, a hint of a larger story, a story that has something to say more generally about the field. MBAs and many other degrees in management and administration could be seen, very much, as commodities to be purchased from a marketplace. Commodities that give a superficial understanding of the subject matter. Burrell (1997, p. 27) remarks upon this superficiality when he invites some readers to exit his book as early as page twenty six. He refers to these ‘scholars’ as ‘being content with “Heathrow Organization Theory” and its practitioners (e.g. Handy, 1994)’. He then distinguishes his own volume by distancing it from the ‘Handy pocket theory with all its superficiality, ease of travel, liberal humanistic stance, technobabble language and fundamentally conservative political leaning … [and] all that consultancy-speak’ (Burrell, 1997, p. 27). Recalling the summary in the last section of this chapter about what art had become, the question remains: ‘Has the teaching, research and discourse in management and organization studies become another culture industry, aimed at a passive, passionless and uncritical reception, which it induces through the production of patterned and pre-digested
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products?’ The answer, for many of us, is a resounding ‘yes’. The work of Adorno and Horkheimer (1944/1997) has provided the basis to pose this fundamental question and in doing so has given us a basis for some reflexivity. For the scholars of the Frankfurt School, art is certainly a form of knowledge. It also represents ‘a kind of rationality that contains a certain “non-rational” element that eludes the instrumental form’
(Rasmussen, 1996, p. 29). Art’s non-rational element gives it the power to go beyond instrumental rationality. For Adorno (1970/1997, p. 79) ‘capitalist society hides and disavows precisely this irrationality, whereas art does not’. In this context, earlier it was observed, and it bears repeating, that: Adorno (1970/1997) insisted that ‘art is directed toward truth, it is not itself immediate truth: to this extent truth is its content. By its relation to truth, art is knowledge; art itself knows truth in that truth emerges through it. As knowledge, however, art is neither discursive nor is its truth the reflection of an object’ (p. 282). Of course, Adorno, and his Frankfurt school brethren, reject any pretensions to absolute truth and argued that valid knowledge cannot be detached from knowing subjects – knowledge always has to be conceived as mediated through society and has a dialectic ‘nature’ in the interplay of the particular and universal, of the moment and totality. (See Carr, 2000b) In seeking to liberate ourselves, and the discourse more generally, from the culture industry, a dialectic optic would cause us to more reflexively consider what our ‘own’ discourse offers us as knowledge. The critical dimension of our gaze is still within ‘the work’, in as much as we can see the superficiality and note the contradictions and ruptures in the ‘images’ that is our discourse – the field’s own mimesis and enigma dynamic. More than this, a dialectic optic would have our gaze upon knowledge itself as being an object of study in a twofold sense. In one sense we can examine our ‘knowledge’ in a context of understanding its social function, that is, the manner in which it legitimates certain practices and structures. At the same time, our ‘knowledge’ can be analysed ‘to reveal through its arrangement, words, structure and style those unintentional truths that contain “fleeting images” ’ (Giroux, 1983, p. 30) of other possibilities.
The contemporary evocation of surrealism in management and organization studies I noted earlier that prominent organization theorists such as Burrell (1997) and Farmer (1997a, 1997b, 1998), as well as others, had sought to extract themselves from ‘linearity’ and totalizing ‘logic’ (Burrell, 1997,
p. 27) by adopting a postmodern perspective. I interpreted this, at the time (see Carr, 1997; Carr and Zanetti, 1998), as, ‘unknowingly’, entered the realm of surrealism. Indeed, as my review of Burrell’s work was being published, in which I made this connection, Farmer’s aforementioned conference paper came out in a special issue of the journal Public Voices, edited by Farmer himself (Farmer, 1997b). This special issue focused upon postmodernism and public administration. The cover of this special issue featured a surrealist work, a reproduction of the René Magritte’s painting ‘The Blank Signature’. Farmer comments in his introduction, that this painting makes the point that ‘reality extends beyond conscious rationality’ (p. 8). I was left to ponder if he, and or any of the other authors in this special issue, had also ever considered any possible deeper connections between postmodernism and surrealism? The contours of that original argument, that much of postmodernist thought was a contemporary evocation of surrealism, is an argument that bears revisiting in the context of this chapter.14 It is an argument, that if sustained, also provides some clues as to how the analysis of surrealism by the scholars of the Frankfurt School, discussed earlier in this chapter, has implications for the management and organization discourse. This is, again, an attempt to learn from the world of art and those who have noted a transgressive and critical ‘voice’ of art. In the context of explaining how some the Frankfurt School scholars viewed surrealism as somewhat of an exemplar of the manner in which art carried its critical element or content, it was earlier noted that the surrealists sought to transcend rationality and linear logic. To achieve this objective, it was also noted that the surrealists developed techniques such as: the exquisite corpse; automatic writing/drawing/painting; dream work; decalcomania; coulage; collage; frottage; and others of a playful kind. Postmodernists appear to have taken a similar path. Their fundamental orientation is also to transcend rationality, linear thinking, and the ‘author’. The central and recurrent themes of postmodernism are that ‘its all in the text’ and the importance of the death-of-the-subject (see Carr, 1996; Carr and Zanetti, 2001). Also, postmodernists generally embrace the
early poststructuralist view that ‘truth’ is merely a construction of language (see Lyotard, 1984a, p. xxiii). Moreover, the human as a subject is likewise simply part of that text, nothing more than a transient epiphenomenon of a specific and local cultural discourse. Derrida (1976, p. 158) insists il n’y a pas de hors-texte, i.e. there is nothing outside of the text. Postmodernists ask us to consider the text without relation to any fixed referents, whether those referents be historical or metaphysical. For Derrida words gain ‘their’ meaning from their relationship to other words that may be presented at the same time,
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i.e. in the same written or spoken discourse and/or from their implied relationship to other words that do not appear in that discourse. It is this ‘play of difference’ that is at the heart of how language needs to be examined. Derrida similarly insists the text itself is a bearer of a statement, whose truth is problematic, as its ‘elements’ have a fluid rather than fixed meaning. It is in this context that the self has no referential status other than the text, and the hallmarks of Enlightenment – knowing, naming, and emancipation – become problematic. As noted earlier, the surrealists were extremely sensitive to exactly the same issues that Derrida raised, sharing a distaste for representation as it signified mastery (‘odius supremacy’ (Breton, 1927/1965, p. 81)) – whether that representation were political, social, linguistic, or cultural in origin. For the surrealist visual artists it was the interplay of absence and presence (akin to Derrida’s écriture) that was relied on to produce a kind of poetic strangeness. Its signification was not through everyday meaning, but through the impact of disturbing the everyday associations, and thus problematising what seemed to be real. The faith in one’s ‘eyes’ was challenged. For example, the idea of overthrowing correspondence, through the placing of familiar objects in unfamiliar associations and settings, was intended to inspire an anti-representational outcome in the observer – but it was the observer who was to make the ‘meaning’, not the artist (akin to the postmodernists ‘death-of-the-subject/author’). Sarup (1993) makes a parallel comment in respect of post-structuralists/postmodernists, arguing that
‘broadly speaking the signified is demoted and the signifier made dominant. This means there is no one-to-one correspondence between propositions and reality’ (p. 3). A similar comment is made by Rosenau (1992, p. 37) when she points out that ‘reader-oriented post-modernism implies that meaning originates not in the production of a text (with the author), but in its reception (by the reader)’. These intentions are exactly those of the surrealists. In postmodernist formulations the self or individual has no referential status other than the text. The self becomes figured and reconfigured as a textual creation. This is such a fundamental theme of postmodern thinking that one writer concludes ‘the connection between … thinkers and theories of postmodernity has mainly to do with their announcements of the “death of man” (Foucault), or the “death of the subject” (Derrida), or the “death of the author” (Barthes)’ (Kumar, 1995, p. 129). The individual is a part of the text and not first and foremost its subject. Indeed, we find the parallel in the surrealist movement in as much as Breton (1930/1969b), at one stage, even contemplated encouraging surrealists to remove their name from ‘their’ works as he feared that being able to
identify the ‘author’ would colour interpretation and too closely tie them to the world. At one point (p. 177) he declares that ‘the approval of the public is to be avoided like the plague’. Under the subheading ‘I ask for the profound, the veritable occultation of surrealism’, he says: ‘I proclaim, in this matter, the right of absolute severity. No concessions to the world, and no grace’ (pp. 177, 178). The nihilism of the surrealists, i.e. the disdain and rejection of a belief of values, which is also so characteristic of the postmodernists,15 is openly declared in the earlier writing of Breton. The rejection of modernism, and what it represents, was an early touchstone for the surrealists along with absenting the knowing subject. For many postmodernists, individuality and consciousness are conceived of as verbally grounded experiences where self-awareness can only
be realised through hearing oneself and being acknowledged by others through discourse, ‘man [sic] is decentred; the individual subject is dissolved into linguistic structures and ensembles of relations’ (Kvale, 1992, p. 40). Thus, like the surrealists, the postmodernists seek to transcend or absent the ‘author’. The similarity in orientation of postmodernist formulations with those of the surrealists suggest a close affinity. In many ways, it should not be at all surprising to find that the ‘techniques’ used in the service of such an orientation should also be similar. If, in the interests of brevity and immediate relevance, we concentrate on those in the discourse of organization studies and management that had championed postmodernism, we gain a rapid appreciation of the specific form that these have taken in our discourse. Our aforementioned Gibson Burrell (1997) and David Farmer (1997a, 1997b, 1998), for example, have asked us to become playful by engaging questions such as – ‘what if it wasn’t like this but the opposite?’ They suggest that it is through a clash-of-opposites that we may transcend the logic and rationality of the day. In Farmer’s case, the ‘play of irony’ is particularly viewed as important in considering, for example, public administration as a language game. Burrell’s playfulness is a little more elaborate. Burrell’s book is a medieval tale that is full of despair, images of death and decay, and is designed to shock our sensibilities. In a Hegel-versusNietzsche view of history, crudely summarized as teleology versus genealogy, Burrell has taken the side of Nietzsche. Nietzsche (1901/1968) rejected totalizing forms of analysis and instead advocated an approach that looks at the present and moves back in time until a difference is found. Burrell appears to have chosen the medieval period as it represented a time where the contrast between the aspects of the present he is so discomforted by are so different from the past. He declares that
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Pandemonium does not represent ‘an argument, or a thesis or a story. It is a ludibrium – a playful toying with ideas – more than anything else and contains hidden meanings of which I am not aware’ (1997, p. 28). Burrell also formats the book in a way to try to escape linearity and conventional logic and induce free association. The formatting is such that page
numbering is not conventional. The numbers are neither at the top or bottom of the page but indeed on the side of the page often flanked by an arrow to give the reader an indication of where to read next. There is a ‘dual carriageway in which text across the top half of the page moving from left to right “meets” text moving from right to left across the bottom half of the page. Pages have a central reservation which it is always dangerous to cross’ (Burrell, 1997, p. 2). This intertwining of form and content, that Burrell employs, was the very essence of the techniques beginning with De Chirico, later in the exquisite corpse and automatic writing, to also inspire free association and thus move beyond the constraints of conventional logic. In addition to playfulness, the clash-of-opposites and intertwining of form and content, other ‘surrealist’ techniques can be noted in the work of the group of writers who claim, or invoke, the insights of postmodernists in the organisation discourse. These well established writers have been advocating what, at first glance, seems to be using the fantastic to elucidate assumptions and neglected visions. These techniques have included: deconstruction (an introspective activity that seeks to unsettle the taken for granted meaning and assumptions of a text by using the text against itself, e.g. by erasing one word/concept, and substituting its ‘opposite’ also by scanning the text for contradictions and disruptions in the words, expressions, and ideas that are used and by so doing, putatively, exposing a text’s logocentrism); and, metaphoricality (the use of metaphors not just to capture a general idea but to be used as a tool to explore thinking of organizations as if, e.g. as if they are organisms – using this metaphor we may consider the issues as organizational health, decision centres, the existence and role of feedback, homeostasis, and the like, aspects that are, putatively, hidden or obscured from our everyday vision and consciousness). Not to labour the point, the parallels of these techniques with those of the surrealists, are summarized in Appendix A. If for the moment it is accepted that surrealism, in the form of a contemporary evocation postmodernism, in both its orientation and techniques, has permeated the discourse of organization studies and management, then are their lessons to learnt from the appreciation of the surrealist art movement? The work of the Frankfurt School scholars, outlined earlier in this chapter, is instructive here. It was noted, for both Benjamin and
needed to be interpreted dialectically in order to appreciate its purpose and contribution. It creates an estrangement-effect, and provides ‘profane illumination’, to the degree that it continues to reveal the prevailing order in its opposition and (simultaneously) the opposition in the prevailing order – a dialectic tension. This estrangement-effect is, as Marcuse (1964, p. 67) argued, not something that we can impose upon our own field, but is an endogenous reaction to rescue that ‘rationality’ of the negative. The problem here is that oppositions are all too easily absorbed into the prevailing discourse. In the case of surrealism, as was noted in an early work describing an ‘exhibition’ of surrealism held at the Galerie des Beaux-Arts, in Paris on 17 January 1938: by 1938, when the exhibition was held, images and devices from the visual portion of Surrealism had already begun to be appropriated by advertisers and marketers. Dali, for example, was designing perfume bottles shaped like torsos. Miro’s biomorphic fantasies were beginning to influence furnishings and interiors. Rather than announcing a revolution, the 1938 exhibition seemed more a display of radical chic about to cross the threshold into textbook history. Reviewers accused the Surrealists of seeming to take risks while actually being disengaged, and lamented ‘one more revolution that fades into that which it wishes to overturn’ (Sawin, 1995, p. 8). (Carr and Zanetti, 2000, p. 915) Similarly, G. Garfield Crimmins in an the recent wonderfully evocative, humorous and erotic journey in a book entitled The Republic of Dreams: A Reverie (1998), takes us to the ‘land’ of dreams called the Rêverian Republic. During this time-travel, we are treated to surrealist images and provided with the ‘Visitor’s Guide to la République de Rêves’ in which it is noted (1998, p. 28): Recently discovered documents in which the original Rêverians referred to themselves as ‘Rondomites’ suggests a connection with the Randomites, a society of nonlinear thinkers active in the 1920s. Their membership was international, as was their persecution and suppression by
linear thinkers of the period. By 1938, nothing more was heard of them and all traces of their activities had vanished. The recent postmodernist formulations in the organization and management discourse seem also set to become mainstreamed and commercialized which will fracture the dialectic. The terminology of postmodernism, such as ‘postmodern’ and ‘deconstruction’ seems to
28 Art as a Form of Knowledge
be heading in the same direction as the way in which the overuse of the word ‘paradigm’ has left it devoid of its original meaning. One of the lessons to be learnt, would seem to be, that the field itself needs to on its guard against the decontextualizing of concepts and allowing a variety of ‘chain-saws’ to be applied to the theoretics. Only by caring for the integrity and authenticity of streams of thought, can we take advantage of how that estrangement-effect helps in the re-presentation of previously-accepted truths and social conditions. In similar vein and unknowingly reflecting the Marcuse (1964, p. 67) cite of Brecht’s explanation of the ‘estrangement-effect’ that was used earlier in this chapter, Cooper and Burrell (1988, p. 101) note in a passing reference to the significance of the work of Foucault that: the auratic dimension appears as a form of ‘estrangement’ in which the normal and familiar come to be seen in a novel and sometimes disturbing way. In order to see the ordinary with a fresh vision, we have to make it ‘extraordinary’, i.e. to break the habits of organized routine and see the world ‘as though for the first time’; it is necessary to free ourselves of normalized ways of thinking that blind us to the strangeness of the familiar. The group of writers who have advanced a postmodernist view in the discourse of organization studies and management have, unknowingly, entered the realms of surrealism. If this argument was indulged a little further, what if writers were to literally adopt a surrealist orientation and seek to develop new forms and manifestations of surrealist ‘techniques’. Such a development would seem to advance the cause of enhancing ‘fresh vision’. Equally, it might also be instructive to look at other ‘surrealist movements’ in other fields to understand and explore new approaches. For example, it has very recently been suggested that in the
field of literature, magic realism might be similarly productive (see Carr, 2001b). Magic realism, as the name implies, is a form of representation that juxtaposes reality and fantasy. Although originally a form of art, it gains its more elaborate evocation in writing of a group of writers that reside in Latin America, most notably Gabriel García Márquez, Octavio Paz and Carlos Fuentes. These authors create narratives in which the realistic elements of the text are undermined by reference to events that have not occurred and situations that are impossible. In his introduction to a volume of Latin American Stories, Fuentes (1998, p. xii) remarks that as a story writer: you are … expected to construct your stories in one of two ways: in either a ‘realistic’ or a ‘fantastic’ mode. I, for one, have always tried
to avoid this stark choice by recalling the lesson of Balzac and particularly The Wild Ass’s Skin. The novelist who wished to be the public notary of French social classes ‘carried a whole society’ in his head, but also carried ghosts, myths, fears, unexplainable occurrences and a wild ass’s skin that fulfils your desires but shrinks every time it gives, until, at the end, it takes life from the hapless owner and disappears. Some historians (see Gonzalez-Echevarría, 1977) have suggested that the origins of magic realism are distinctly Latin American, pointing to the Cuban novelist Alejo Carpentíer’s work The Kingdom of This World (1949/1956) in which there is reference to ‘lo real-maravilloso’ (the marvellous-real, as was noted earlier in this chapter, the surrealists also talked of their own work as unleashing the ‘marvellous’ – see Spector, 1997). Carpentíer describes his reaction to what he sees as the fantastic and brutal history of Haiti. He argues that the ‘marvellous’ is a feature of life in Latin America, and the Caribbean, that cannot be authentically reproduced by the realism of a Dickens. Thus, magic realist, postmodernist, or surrealist, all liberate the ‘marvelous’ through what the Frankfurt School detected as that vital quality of a ‘medium’ to carry similarity and difference at the same time. This quality not only needs to be understood, but the dynamics of
assimilation mechanisms also revealed.
The dissociation of sensibilities
A third issue for the field of organization studies and management, that I believe immediately suggests itself from the work of the Frankfurt scholars on the matter of art, relates to a range of philosophical issues. In particular, those issues related to what the poet T. S. Eliot dubbed the ‘dissociation of sensibilities’ (see Carr, 2000b). It seems almost self-evident that modernism itself has encouraged a separation of our forms of knowledge within the social science. Each phenomena, including that of our everyday life, we are encouraged to examine through a multiplicity of specialist lenses. This differentiation has been accompanied with a regime that encourages: scientism; the realists idea that something is mindindependent; and, pervasive forms of ‘dualisms (nature vs. culture, mind vs. matter) that have served to valorize an abstract idealism at the expense of an embodied, practical rationality’ (Gardiner, 2000, p. 11). Different knowledge-forms, the abstractions, the hierarchy in the knowledge-forms that gives primacy to metaphysical reason, and dualisms – all have splintered and substituted for ‘real life’ and negate critical function. The work of the Frankfurt scholars, in their critical examination of art and aesthetics, alerts us to some ways in which the issue of ‘truth’ might
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be explored in a much more reflexive manner. Of course, it is all too easy to confuse truth and knowledge, but these Frankfurt scholars have teasedout that relationship. Their work leads us to the discovery that the issue is not one of objective truth, but one of some transparency over how we come to hold the conclusions that we do. What logic, reason and other mediated pathways did we use (consciously and unconsciously guided), in coming to ‘believe’ this was the truth? (see Carr, 2001c). The work of Burrell (1991) and of Farmer (1997a, 1997b, 1998) asks a similar question, but also echoes the Frankfurt scholars concern that totalizing forms of thinking, such as linear thinking, obscures and marginalizes any ‘other’ and in the process deprives us of reflexive opportunities. The ‘sub-text’, that is not so
subtly being suggested here, is one that we should give greater priority to examining the philosophy behind the generation of our knowledge and ‘truth’. A recently translated fragment of a work written by Benjamin, in 1920–1, seems to have anticipated our plight. Benjamin (1920, 1921/1997c, p. 276) suggests: The truth of a given circumstance is a function of the constellation of the true being of all other circumstances. This function is identical with the function of the system. The true being (which as such is naturally unknowable) is part and parcel of the infinite task. However, we have to ask about the medium in which truth and true being are conjoined. What is this neutral medium? Two things must be overcome: 1. The false disjunction: knowledge is either in the consciousness of a knowing subject or else in the object (alternatively, identical with it). 2. The appearance of the knowing man (for example, Leibniz, Kant). The two tasks facing the theory of knowledge are: 1. The constitution of things in the now of knowability; 2. The limitation of knowledge in the symbol. Benjamin’s words would suggest a discourse, in organization studies and management, of a different character than, with few exceptions, we have seen thus far. Clearly postmodernist approaches to our field have sought to ‘overcome’ the issues raised here by Benjamin. The exploration of art and aesthetics, and alike, affords us an opportunity to more reflexively examine our own field and perhaps take it away from scientism.
Appendix A: similarity of surrealism and postmodernism (Carr, 1999, p. 339) SURREALISM POSTMODERNISM ( / POSTSTRUCTURALISM) Management/Organization Studies discourse
General orientation To transcend rationality, linear thinking Central and recurrent themes of and the control and presence of the postmodernism are that ‘it’s all in ‘author’. Seeking what might be called the text’ and the importance of the ‘the language of the soul’, that is, the death-of-the-subject. Postmodernists expression – stripped of all logical
embrace the early poststructuralist device – of the profound ‘me in its view that ‘truth’ is merely a nakedness’ (Waldberg 1965/1997, p. 13). construction of language. Moreover, Some surrealists such as Desmond Morris the human as a subject is likewise (1987) did not believe their work was simply part of that text, nothing part of revealing some form of more than a transient essentialism of being, but simply it was epiphenomenon of a specific and ‘visual play’. local cultural discourse. ‘Techniques’ (Not a strict correspondence but overlapping affinity) Exquisite corpse – a stringing together Intertwining of form and content – of arbitrary chosen phrases by different formatting ‘text’ in a way which tries poets unaware of what preceded or to escape linearity and conventional followed. logic e.g. in Burrell’s (1997) book ‘Pandemonium’ page numbering is on the side of the page, often flanked by an arrow to give the reader an indication of where to read next. There is a ‘dual carriageway in which text across the top half of the page moving from left to right “meets” text moving from right to left across the bottom half of the page. Pages have a central reservation which it is always dangerous to cross’ (p. 2). Free association is encouraged by this technique. Automatic writing – writing quickly Playfulness and the play of irony – without control, self-censorship, or engaging questions such as – ‘what if thought for the outcome in terms of it wasn’t like this but the opposite?’. literary merit, making free associations It is through the clash-of-opposites as they seem to flow. that we may transcend the logic and
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Appendix A Continued SURREALISM POSTMODERNISM ( / POSTSTRUCTURALISM) Management/Organization Studies discourse rationality of the day. In the example of Burrell’s medieval tale of Pandemonium, a historical setting full of despair, images of death and decay is designed to shock our sensibilities. Clash-of-opposites – overturning an implied hierarchy and ‘reading’ of a text by disturbing the conventional associations – see deconstruction and playfulness. ‘Dreams’ or inducing a dream-like state to give the unconscious unimpeded passage. Metaphoricality – exquisite corpse could be used in drawing and suggested it was ‘an infallible way of holding the critical intellect in abeyance, and of fully liberating the mind’s metaphorical activity’ (Breton 1948/1965, p. 95). (The visual arts)
questioned the familiar identity of objects by faithfully reproducing them on canvas or in spaces but placing them in unfamiliar settings and using such unfamiliar associations to produce a kind of poetic strangeness. The shock of juxtaposing objects in unfamiliar association elicited unforeseen affinities between objects and, perhaps, unexpected emotion and sensations in the observer. A similar philosophy was applied in the technique of Collage – reassemble objects on a canvas without concern for how they might be arranged and juxtaposed. Other techniques which are variations of those listed above: Automatic drawing and painting, Decalcomania and Frottage.
Metaphoricality – the use of metaphors not just to capture a general idea but to be used as a tool to help us see that which is hidden or obscured from our everyday vision and consciousness. Deconstruction – an introspective activity that seeks to unsettle the taken for granted meaning and assumptions of a text by using the text against itself, e.g. by erasing one word/concept, and substituting its ‘opposite’ also by scanning the text for contradictions and disruptions in the words, expressions, and ideas that are used and by so doing, putatively, exposing a text’s logocentrism.
1. It is noteworthy that very few commentators on Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory have attempted to come to terms with his concept of enigma, and, indeed, how it is related to mimesis. Nicholsen is an exception and an exception well worth reading for the profound incite she brings to the work of Adorno. Nicholsen does not, however, pursue the logical conclusion of projecting Adorno’s argument further. If mimesis is enactment behaviour in which self seeks assimilation to other, then enigma would seem to represent an other to other. Thinking about this more laterally, the dialectical assimilation of self to other and other to self (see Carr and Zanetti, 1999) would in the same process appear to ‘create’, as an artifact of that process, an other that remained unassimilated – unassimilated as it represented a quality, or
in Nicholsen’s words ‘being nonconceptual’. 2. It could be said that Adorno was hesitant toward embracing the work of the surrealists – a conclusion reached by Wolin (1997) with which I concur. Adorno seemed to think surrealists fetishize certain objects and representations, producing a form of reification. The production of such images was carried out with little awareness of the mediated nature of their production. The whole work, in his view, is programmatic and becomes one imbued with rationality with the sole intention to shock and provoke. The problem I see in this position is that Adorno has failed to distinguish between the different ‘techniques’ used by the surrealists and he appears less than sensitive to the different form that surrealism may have to take in different arts. This said, Adorno was sympathetic to montage and in his last major work, Aesthetic Theory (1970/1997), surprisingly praised the surrealists for the ability to produce the ‘shock effect’ and in so doing defetishize and help disarm everyday rationality (see also commentaries by Agger, 1992, p. 228; Held, 1980/1995, pp. 104–5; Hohendahl, 1995, p. 211; Jay, 1984/1997a, pp. 129–31). 3. The word ‘exaggerated’ is used here as I am very mindful of the way in which the Frankfurt scholars saw the critical function of art and aesthetics being overpowered. Gardiner (2000, p. 15) reads this situation similarly when he says: In the perspective of Adorno et al., techniques of social control had become perfected to such an extent, and ‘false consciousness’ so pervasive, that moments of no-alienated or emancipated experience could only be glimpsed furtively in the most avant-garde of artworks and forms of theoretical production, in aesthetics and intellectual experiences which, by virtue of their very complexity and symbolic opacity, resisted absorption into what they termed the ‘culture industry’. The dynamics of the culture industry are discussed in the next section of this chapter. 4. See Carr and Zanetti (1998, 2000) for a much larger discussion of surrealism and the connection with the work of the critical theorists Adorno, Benjamin and Marcuse, and, also, the parallels with aspects of the work of postmodernists/poststructuralists. 5. Hegel argued that dialectical thought begins with a ‘thesis’, any definable reality that is the starting point from which all further development
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proceeds. As reflection progresses, this thesis is seen to encompass its opposite, or ‘antithesis’, as part of its very definition. The triadic structure of Hegelian thought is not simply a series of building blocks. Each triad represents a process wherein the synthesis absorbs and completes the two prior terms, following which the entire triad is absorbed into the next higher process. Hegel himself preferred to refer to the dialectic as a system of negations, rather than triads. His purpose was to overcome the static nature of traditional philosophy and capture the dynamics of reflective thought. The essence of the dialectic is the ability to see wholes and the conflict of parts simultaneously. 6. Of course the surrealists, like the Dadaist movement, often satirized and mocked bourgeois society, but such satire and mocking was reliant upon the extent to which the irony and juxtaposition could continue to create this unease and not ‘simply’ be taken as an aesthetic presentation and get otherwise absorbed into a world of advertising and kitsch. Indeed, in the case of Dada, as one of its leaders, Richard Huelsenbeck claimed: ‘The Dadaist considers it necessary to come out against art (painting, sculpture, culture, spirit, athletic club) because he has seen through its fraud as a moral safety valve’ (cited in Gardiner, 2000, p. 29). It was the repressive and ideological content carried in art that Dadaists found so objectionable. The Dadaist endeavoured to escape anything that was traditional or common sense by engaging the spontaneous and the by-chance. Some of the ‘techniques’ for exploring the spontaneous and by-chance were to find their way into that later movement called ‘surrealism’. Of course, the spontaneity and by-chance as an avenue to the repressed had also being championed by Freud in his notion of free association and Jung and his concept of synchronicity. The anarchistic and provocative ‘stunts’, and the nihilistic orientation, of the Dadaist were, however, not the path of the surrealist. Although originally followers of Dada, the founding surrealists sought a ‘radical renewal of means; to pursue the same ends [as Dada], but by markedly different paths’ (Breton – cited in Gardiner, 2000, p. 33). The path of the surrealist was more programmatic, aimed at the dawn of an intellectual revolution and not merely at protest, non-conformity, stunts, irrationality for its own sake and acts of destructive agitation. 7. For some, the position that these scholars are expressing on art and its function could be seen as elitist,
simply just one point of view, a personal preference, or merely an expression of taste. I think the key point here is, however, that Adorno and Horkheimer have identified that art appeared to have a critical function which, as will be noted in this next section, has been surrendered or lost in the context of the rise of a culture industry. It is the analysis of this loss that is the focus and as such is beyond the realm of simply a matter of taste (see also Jameson (1991, pp. 298–9) for a parallel argument on postmodernism). The issue of kitsch was a significant matter for some scholars of the Frankfurt School. Adorno and Benjamin were very careful in their interpretation of kitsch. Adorno (1970/1997, p. 239) argued: Kitsch is not, as those believers in erudite culture would like to imagine the mere refuse of art, originating in disloyal accommodation to the enemy; rather it lurks in art, awaiting ever recurring opportunities to spring forth. Although kitsch escapes, implike, from even a historical definition, one of its
most tenacious characteristics is the prevarication of feelings, fictional feelings in which no one is actually participating, and thus the neutralization of these feelings. Kitsch parodies catharsis. Ambitious art, however, produces the same fiction of feelings; indeed, this was essential to it: The documentation of actually existing feelings, the recapitulation of psychical raw material, is foreign to it. It is in vain to try to draw the boundaries abstractly between aesthetic fiction and kitsch’s emotional plunder. It is poison admixed to all art; excising it is today one of art’s despairing efforts. (emphasis added) Benjamin (1927/1999a, pp. 4–5), in the context of discussing surrealism, refers to kitsch in the following manner: Picture puzzles, as schemata of the dreamwork, were long ago discovered by psychoanalysis. The Surrealists, with a similar conviction, are less on the trail of the psyche than on the track of things. They seek the totemic tree of objects within the thicket of primal history. The very last, the topmost face of the totem pole, is that of kitsch. It is the last mask of the banal,
the one with which we adorn ourselves, in dream and conversation, so as to take in the energies of an outlived world of things. What we used to call art begins at a distance of two meters from the body. But now, in kitsch, the world of things advances on the human being; it yields to his uncertain grasp and ultimately fashions its figures in his interior. The new man bears within himself the very quintessence of the old forms, and what evolves in the confrontation with a particular milieu from the second half of the nineteenth century – in the dreams, as well as the words and images, of certain artists – is a creature who deserves the name of ‘furnished man’. 8. I have placed references to Horkheimer in brackets as much of this chapter of the book, including the first draft, was clearly written by Adorno (see Wiggershaus, 1994, p. 323). Also much of the line of argument emerges from Adorno’s earlier work in which he was the single author and which I cite in this section of the paper. 9. The term ‘Enlightenment’ is used frequently in this paper and has an assumed philosophical meaning. For those unfamiliar with the philosophy of enlightenment, the doctrines of Enlightenment include: reason is crucial to the capacity to act; humans are by nature rational and good; individuals and humanity as a whole can progress to perfection; all persons are created equal and should be accorded equality before the law and individual liberty; tolerance is to be afforded to all groups in society; beliefs are accepted only on the basis of reason (note: often the Age of Enlightenment is called the Age of Reason); rationality is the universal binding force that transcends differences in culture and creed and as such devalues customs and local practices to the extent that they maybe historically based rather than the exercise of reason; the non-rational is to take a back seat to the rational, thus education is to be viewed as imparting knowledge rather than developing feeling, emotions, and art as the product of good taste rather than genius (see Honderich, 1995, pp. 236–7). 10. Adorno and Horkheimer often used the terms culture and art interchangeably but in other instances were more disciplined and used culture as a more
36 Art as a Form of Knowledge
generic term that includes art, music, film etc. This is an important point as in their chapter on the culture industry when they refer to art they mean
the arts more generally as in culture, yet they also single out the world of art, as in painting, as an example. 11. In using the term ‘capitalism’, I am prompted to comment that readers of Dialectic of Enlightenment need to be aware that some terms were changed from the mimeographed edition of 1944. Euphemisms were inserted such that: capitalism became ‘existing conditions’; capital became ‘economic systems’; capitalist bloodsuckers was changed to ‘knights of industry’; class society became ‘domination’ or ‘order’; and, ruling class became ‘rulers’ (see Wiggershaus, 1994, p. 410). There were other small changes to phrases and certain phrases that were omitted, in acts of self censorship, in the interests of maintaining the goodwill and support of the American authorities. The Institute for Social Research, in Germany, that was the home of the Frankfurt School scholars was closed in 1933, under the Nazi regime, for tendencies deemed hostile to the State. The Institute moved its home, temporarily, to Geneva and then to New York, becoming affiliated with Columbia University. The Institute did not return to Frankfurt until 1949. 12. Adorno and Horkheimer used the now familiar tale by Homer of Odysseus to particularly highlight the dynamics of such a prolongation of work. For Adorno and Horkheimer the reconciliation of the apparent antagonism between work and pleasure, that appears in the tale, is attempted in the modern bourgeois in the same way, i.e. in the contemplation of art. The ancient tale is viewed by them as a parable for more recent times. Adorno and Horkheimer (1944/1997, pp. 34–5) explain this ‘lesson’ and simultaneously provide a restatement of Hegel’s master–servant parable: Whoever would survive must not hear the temptation of that which is unrepeatable, and he is able to survive only by being unable to hear it. Society has always made provision for that. The laborers must be fresh and concentrate as they look ahead, and must ignore whatever lies to one side. They must doggedly sublimate in additional effort the drive that impels diversion. And so they become practical … The other possibility Odysseus, the seigneur who allows the others to labour for themselves, reserves to himself … They (the oarsmen) reproduce the oppressor’s life together with their own, and the oppressor is no longer able to escape his social role. The bonds with which he has irremediably tied himself to practice, also keep Sirens away from practice: their temptation is neutralized and becomes a mere object of contemplation – becomes art … Thus the enjoyment of art and
manual labor break apart as the world of prehistory is left behind. The epic already contains the appropriate theory. The cultural material is in exact correlation to work done according to command; and both are grounded in the inescapable compulsion to social domination of nature. Measures such as those taken on Odysseus’ ship in regard to the Sirens form presentiment allegory of the dialectic of enlightenment. Just as the capacity of representation is the measure of domination, and domination is the most powerful thing that can be represented in most performances, so the capacity of representation is the vehicle of progress and regression at one and the same time.
For a larger discussion of the manner in which the reconciliation of the apparent antagonism between work and pleasure has modern significance, see Carr’s paper ‘Understanding the “imago” Las Vegas: taking our lead from Homer’s parable of the oarsmen’ (2001a). 13. Further to the previous note, this view has much in common and, in some senses, anticipated some of the work of Guy-Ernest Debord and his notion of ‘Spectacle’ (1967/1977). Debord described how, through capitalist rationalization, the individual had become alienated in a world of circulating images. Life was a spectacle to be watched from a distance rather than something the individual was an active participant and over which s/he had some sovereignty. 14. For a much larger discussion of this argument see Carr (1997), also Carr and Zanetti (1998, 2000). 15. In noting the nihilism of both surrealists and postmodernists it is not the intention to infer that, philosophically, such a position can be held as some kind of ‘ideal-type’. In the case of postmodernists, I have specifically challenged they fit into such a black and white labelling system, for they do hold a value position that focuses and privileges the neglected, the silent, the hidden and gives primacy to the ‘reader’ over the ‘author’ (see Carr, 1996; Carr and Zanetti, 2001).
Looking into/out of* Organizations Through the Rear Window : Voyeurism and Exhibitionism in Organization Studies (*delete as appropriate) George Cairns and Tamar Jeffers
For stylistic reference, see: A Hollywood Collection (David Hockney, 1965, National Gallery of Australia)
The very term academic is not about style; it’s really about attitudes, a drying-up, a sterility. (Hockney, 1976, p. 123)
This text explores organizational studies from consideration of the context of the research subjects, in terms of what constitutes value and meaning for them, and how they generate ‘data’, value and meaning for the researcher. We question whether the outcomes of observational and interactional interventions in organizations, as presented in research reports at conference and in journals, are in effect mere representations of superimposed meaning from the academic community. Do these (mis)representations have meaning for the subjects in their own context of thinking/acting? We explore this field through the use of metaphor – by reference to the art of David Hockney and the film of Alfred Hitchcock. Since we suggest that organizational research output may be regarded as the fictional constructs of the writers, we cannot escape our own categorization. So, we offer here a work of ‘fiction’ for your critical consideration, and for generation of your meaning … hopefully. Dear … You are observer and observed. You interrogate and seek meaning from this text. The text interrogates you, and seeks meaning within you. We are all/both voyeurs and exhibitionists. George, Tamar, … and You 38
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The arena of organization studies (that) is characterized by presentation of
analysis and interpretation of the thinking and acting of those from the world of organization by those from another world; academia. In this text, we seek to consider whether the content of this characterization – the academic meaning of organizational thinking/acting – is correlated, or merely co-related with meaning generated by the subjects themselves. That is to say, we consider whether the worlds of organization and academia are contiguous in relation to meaning generated – shared mental worlds – or merely in terms of the context of data generation – a common physical world. Can (must) the meanings generated by the communities of these different worlds be separated, such that each stands alone, with no meaning(full reference) to the other? If so, what purpose is served to those in organizations by the detached study of those from academia? In adopting our own stance, we must make some rather large assumptions about what is meaningful to those within organizations in their own context. The major assumptions we make are that they do not conceive their situation as rational and objective, and do not seek reduction and unity in search of the causa finalis (Nietzsche, 1901/1968) – the final cause or purpose – of human endeavour in managerial thinking/acting. Rather, that their perceptions are complex and ambiguous, based upon their own socially constructed reality (Berger and Luckman, 1966), derived of post hoc rationalization (Flyvbjerg, 1998) and justification of their own thinking/ acting by application of the ‘knowledge creating faculties of all the human senses’ (Strati, 2000a). (This is, of course, an academic argument.) These assumptions may seem fairly self-evident to you, our academic reader. But, we wish to play around with the theme that, no matter how hard we as academics try to avoid it, our own drive for construction of an appropriate causa efficiens (Nietzsche, 1901/1968) in support of academic recognition forces us to lay our own socially constructed ‘reality’ of organizational life onto situations. Whether overtly or inadvertently, the drive for success in the world of academia is such that ‘the so called drive for knowledge can be traced back to a drive to appropriate and conquer: (such that) the senses, the memory, the instincts, etc. have developed as a consequence of this drive’ (Nietzsche, 1901/1968, p. 227). As citizens of academia, we seek to assert our individual ‘will to power’ (1901/ 1968), whether over existing academic theory, or over meaning and understanding of (‘of’ meaning both ‘in relation
to’ and ‘possessed by’) our research subjects in organizations. We play with this theme by use of metaphor, specifically the film of Alfred Hitchcock and the art of
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David Hockney, and consider whether our academic ‘reality’ of understanding organization is mere post hoc rationalization of our academic voyeurism, and whether this is influenced by organizational actors’ exhibitionism – their desire for their 15 minutes of fame. In ‘accusing’ fellow academics of voyeurism, we of course stand accused of exhibitionism!
Framing our own thinking
In his work, A Hollywood Collection, David Hockney frames the ‘subject’ matter of the individual canvases, not by use of traditional external enclosure, rather by painting frame forms onto the canvas itself. In this way, he shows the frame as integral to the painting, and as contributor to the overall interpretation and to the meaning attached to the work by the observer. Hockney also gives us prompts as to how we might interpret the works by the way in which he ‘names’ the content – e.g. Picture of a Landscape in an Elaborate Gold Frame (Hockney, 1976, p. 122). Whereas Magritte famously tells us in the title of his work that representation is not reality – ceci n’est pas une pipe – Hockney tells us exactly what his representation represents. Does this then condition the viewer to accept the representation as the reality? (whether or not this is Hockney’s intention). In seeking to explore further Hockney’s work and the meaning of it, we may draw upon a vast range of literature. From a random selection, we are informed that his recent use of multi-image photography instead of painting overcomes the obstacle that ‘taking a single snapshot would have made him miss the chance to rearrange some of the elements of the scene and incorporate many different viewpoints’ (Mark-Walker, 1999, p. 33). In relation to sexuality represented in his earlier work, another source informs us that ‘Hockney was by no means the first English artist to make his homosexuality a theme of his art, but he was the first to do in a garrulous, social way, treating his appetites as the most natural thing in
the world and not, like Francis Bacon, as a pretext for the reflection on Eros’ power to maim and dominate’ (Hughes, 1988, p. 76). From the first source, we learn of Hockney’s intent in constructing the representation. From the second, we learn of his meaning for the representation and we are presented with critical comparison with Bacon’s meaning in representation of similar subjects. Or, do we merely learn about the respective writers’ socially constructed ‘expert’ meaning, that we the ‘uninformed’ are socially conditioned to accept as authoritative? Does the academic’s telling (or the standing of the academic who is telling) what their representation represents to them condition the reader of their work to accept this representation as
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some form of authoritative interpretation? Let us now move on to consider Hitchcock’s Rear Window. Here, we as writers present our (re)presentation of something that we have not originated, in support of our meaning generation and as contributor to you, our reader’s own generation of interpretation and meaning in relation to our work.
Look at/through the Rear Window
L. B. ‘Jeff’ Jeffries, a famous action photographer, is confined to a wheelchair in his apartment having sustained a broken leg while photographing a motor rally. In the searing heat of summer, he impatiently spends his time looking out of the ‘rear window’ of the apartment into and over the shared central courtyard, into his neighbours’ rooms, and into his neighbours’ lives. Jeff is looked after by two women – one, his day nurse Stella massages his muscles, takes his temperature and urges him not to spend each night in his wheelchair staring out the window. The other – his girlfriend Lisa Fremont – is a rich, glamorous and highpowered fashionista, very much at home with the members of New York’s smartest sets. Jeff resents the attentions of both women, shrugging off both Stella’s common-sense medical advice and Lisa’s amorous approaches, preferring to concentrate on
the lives across the courtyard, illuminated and framed like so many moving picture shows. There is the exotic dancer he nicknames Miss Torso, bending and stretching as she makes breakfast, and the couple who have forsaken their hot rooms to sleep outside on their balcony, and who lower their little dog down to the courtyard in a basket. There is the sad spinster Miss Lonelyhearts, a male composer, a female sculptor, and a couple of newlyweds whose apartment blind remains resolutely down. Gradually Jeff becomes convinced that another of the neighbours, the travelling salesman Lars Thorwald, has murdered his sickly wife. Watching Thorwald leave his apartment with his weighty sample case in the middle of the night, returning with it lighter, taking it out heavy again, Jeffries concludes that the man has cut up his wife’s corpse and is disposing of it in sections. Falling asleep at last, Jeff misses (but we, the audience see) Thorwald leave the apartment with a woman dressed in black. Stella and Lisa become intrigued by Jeff’s persuasive case for the murder of Mrs Thorwald and urge him to call his old army buddy Tom Doyle, now a policeman. Doyle pours scorn on the idea, however, and opposes each of Jeff’s theories with a pragmatic alternative. His major put-down is that Thorwald was seen by Doyle’s superintendent, leaving the building with a woman who was seen again at Penn Central Station boarding a
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train for the little town where Mrs Thorwald’s family lives. At this point, Jeff admits defeat and agrees that he has been carried away by his melodramatic imagination. Lisa concurs and lowers the blinds on the courtyard show for the night. The pair begin tentative romantic banter (Lisa has come prepared to spend the night) when a scream from the courtyard makes them raise the curtain again, and brings all the inhabitants around the courtyard to their windows and balconies. (This marks the only moment in the film where close-up shots, not given from Jeff’s point of view, are permitted of the characters around the courtyard.) The balcony couple’s little dog has been killed. Jeff instantly guesses, his obsession welling up again, that the dog has been killed because it has been sniffing around in the rose bushes where Thorwald has been digging and hiding something. Lisa
and Jeff turn their attention back to the apartments and observe that only Thorwald is absent from his window, as everyone else tries to see what the scream was about. Jeff concludes that Thorwald’s lack of curiosity proves his guilt. Thorwald is soon observed to be packing up, ready to make his escape. Jeff, Lisa and Stella fix upon a tactic to delay him. Jeff writes a note that Lisa delivers, demanding ‘What have you done with her?’. When Thorwald leaves his apartment to meet his assumed blackmailer, Lisa gains entry to look for a clue that will prove the fact of Mrs Thorwald’s murder. The watching Stella observes and is distracted by Miss Lonelyhearts preparing to take an overdose of sleeping pills. She and Jeff appear helpless to assist either woman, for just then Thorwald returns, but Jeff fails to see him in advance and to give the agreed signal – calling the apartment’s phone to warn Lisa. Now he is torn between ringing the police to stop Thorwald’s attack on Lisa and summonsing an ambulance to Miss Lonelyhearts. However, the diversion of the suicide attempt is cancelled when the beauty of the composer’s music stops Miss Lonelyhearts from killing herself, and Jeff and Stella turn their efforts on calling the police to Thorwald’s apartment. Helpless and worried, they watch the police arrive and arrest Lisa for attempted burglary. However, she manages to show Jeff that she has found the clue they needed – Mrs Thorwald’s wedding ring (Lisa had earlier argued that a woman would never have removed her ring through choice.) Lisa has the ring on her own wedding finger and points to it, knowing that Jeff can see her with the telephoto lens of his camera that he has been using like binoculars to bring the action closer. Thorwald observes this gesture, however, and realizing for the first time that he is observed he directs a look back towards Jeff’s window. When the police go, taking Lisa with them, Stella leaves to bail
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her out and Jeff is left alone and vulnerable. Thorwald comes for him, asking the question, ‘What do you want from me?’ As he moves to attack Jeff, who is still in his wheelchair, the photographer uses the powerful flashes from his
camera to dazzle Thorwald momentarily. The flashes also alert the police who have returned to the courtyard with Stella and Lisa. From outside Jeff’s apartment they watch as Thorwald struggles with Jeff and manages to throw him down into the area below. Jeff ends the film back in his wheelchair, with two broken legs for his troubles. Lisa watches over him while he sleeps. Our representation of Rear Window is intended to be detached and factual. It recounts Hitchcock’s story line without interpretation on our part (we have inserted a couple of explanatory notes in brackets, but these are clearly seen to be additional to the main body of text). In entering into discussion of the meaning that underlies thinking/acting of organizational actors that is intended to be detached and objective, the danger is that the inhabitants of academia go ‘off-world’ in relation to those whom they study. As Feyerabend (1987, p. 105) points out, ‘the worlds in which cultures unfold not only contain different events, they also contain them in different ways’. However, if the researcher seeks to be detached from the world of her/his subjects, the danger is that ‘they’ll just tell them nonsense … which of course a lot of the (researchers) believe at first because they got it “objectively” ’ (Pirsig, 1992, p. 43). Yet, is our account of Rear Window truly detached and lacking emotional involvement on our part? Try as we might, our account must be valueladen, in that we have transferred the account from the context of the director to that of our own interpretation. We have moved from the media of the visual and the In A Hollywood Collection, Hockney (1976, p. 122) plays with metaphor beyond the framing exercise. In Picture of Melrose Avenue in an Ornate Gold Frame, the ‘Melrose Avenue’ we see is only the sign (quite literally, the road sign) rather than the signified – not even an abstract representation of whatever lies on Melrose Avenue. As we are given the sign in this picture, we might be given the sign in academic studies – the naming of the organization or the people within it. But, do we get to ‘see’ the signified at all? Do we, the readers construct our own representation from the sign, a representation that we then postrationalize as residing as meaning within the text? Is the researcher’s report of a subject’s account just that – a report of a report of an event that we do not witness, let alone participate in? Picture of a Landscape in an Elaborate Gold Frame shows us a representation of a single tree – the picture is a representation of a representative sample from a
landscape. The single example stands for the whole and for all the other examples that make up the whole. Again, in the literature on studies of organizations, do we see the representation of the individual as representative sample of the whole, an abstract form represented by words from which we construct a mental
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spoken word to that of the written word. We have reduced many minutes of words and action to something you have read in several minutes (see, we assume this text has in fact been read!). Try as we might, we cannot escape our own representation of Hitchcock – Ceci n’est pas un film. In entering into discussion of the meaning that underlies thinking/ acting in the context of organization studies, we may seek out stories of organizational life in order to surface contextual interpretations of what it is like to be/look in(to) organizations. For example: Q – ‘How would you describe this organization?’ A1 – ‘It used to be like a biplane: old fashioned, slow – struggling to stay in the air. Now? We’re like Concorde.’ Metaphor that is easily interpreted to provide one individual perception of change – up to a point (in time). A2 – ‘One of the directors was asked to tell what the organization is like, using metaphor – like an animal, or some form or transport. He said it’s like Concorde! That was before the Paris crash. More like Concorde now than it was then … that’s sick! … but true.’ The meaning of one metaphor changed forever by a few seconds in history: its meaning in history forever changed in the perceptions of both observed(s) and (both) observer(s). image of the entire organizational landscape set within our mental ‘elaborate gold frame’? ‘This is selfevident’ you may say. Of course such partial representations may be read by some as post-rationalized representations of the whole, but postmodern critique has moved beyond such reductionist thinking. We know that writers such as Derrida and Baudrillard (Sim, 1998) have explored representation and simulation. Yet, postmodern critique frequently cannot escape the very representation of ‘meaning’ in art (e.g. Trodd, 1998) or cinema (e.g. Hill and Every, 1998) through the written word that it seeks to undermine. So, what is the alternative to representation of images of organization through the written word? In challenging subjective studies of organizations, do we replace dehumanized
objective analysis with the pointless abstraction of ‘dehumanizing nihilism’ (Nietzsche, 1901/1968)? Picture of a Pointless Abstraction Framed under Glass as suitable metaphor? Does the metaphor provide meaning, or mere superficial description? Is there meaning beyond the superficial?
What do you see?
At the start of the movie, curtains are raised on screen – as well as, or instead of in the auditorium in which the viewer sits. This framing of the action consciously places the viewer in the audience of a show. Hitchcock makes explicit that this film will be preoccupied with and will play with notions of ‘looking’ – in photography, theatre, movies, window shopping, pornography, strip show, peep show. The audience is implicated in this optic bargain. We take on Jeff’s interest so that when
George Cairns and Tamar Jeffers
this is proved prurient, so are we – part of the ‘nation of peeping toms’ Stella condemns, though she herself soon begins to look at the show through(out) the Rear Window. As the film proceeds, Jeff’s voyeuristic engagement with the neighbours develops slowly from bare eyes to binoculars, then quickly to the zoom lens on his camera. Lisa’s attitude changes from detached disapproval to, ‘Tell me everything you saw and what you think it means’. However, there is a sense that scenes are part of Jeff’s fantasies – at the beginning the back of his head is facing out towards the courtyard, so the images we see are his dreams, anxieties, desires acted out. His worries about commitment within marriage, of being trapped in a ‘hot apartment’ with ‘a nagging wife’ are displaced onto Thorwald, and the ugly conclusion of Thorwald’s relationship both echoes his own fears and, through enactment relieves them. As a result, Lisa and Jeff have a healthier relationship at the end of the film. The other characters around the courtyard also embody sexual or relationship options. The Newlyweds begin lovingly enough together, he carrying her into their tiny apartment as the street music down below appropriately warbles ‘That’s Amore!’ By the end of
the film, however, the husband has tried to escape from the marital bed several times for a breath of air at the window as the wife, shy and maidenly at first, become sexually predatory, querulously demanding his return. Miss Lonelyhearts starkly represents the options for a single woman in a big city when she is not a Lisa Fremont – dining alone and making do with an imaginary companion, or seeking a swift fix of romantic love in a bar, which soon goes horribly wrong. Her planned suicide is diverted by the music of the composer, a man surrounded by many women but not choosing any of them till the final stroll of the camera around the apartments. At the film’s end we see him, perhaps a little too tidily playing the now-recorded song for Miss Lonelyhearts. Meanwhile, Miss Torso fends off the wolves till her boyfriend gets home. The balcony couple has a dog instead of a child, and the sculptor woman sticks to her modern art. Thus the lives of the courtyard dwellers play out Jeff’s fantasies of the barren nature of married life and the self-fulfilment of the (single) artist. Note also that Jeff assumes Thorwald has killed his wife so that he can be with another woman – love between men and women must have murderous consequences. Rear Window elicits meaning for both viewers (who see) and an audience (that hears). Although the visual metaphors are the ones most remarked upon in critical works on the film, the soundtrack of musical pieces and ‘incidental noises’ – children playing, cars honking – also plays an important part in constructing the mood of the film. This insistence on the importance of
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both sound and vision within the film is deliberate on Hitchcock’s part, to demonstrate the significance of Jeff’s privileging of the visual, not only at the expense of the aural but also of the tactile. The film shows that Jeff’s obsession with looking – to which his profession as photographer licenses him – is more immobilizing than his broken leg which is a direct result of his fascination with the visual. Also, his relationship with Lisa is stymied because of this obsession with the visual – he either dismisses her verbalizations or attempts to silence her (‘shut up!’), and he shuns commitment to physical contact with her. Jeff is also obsessed with immobility and vulnerability. Lisa is predatory and sexually active, which
Jeff compares with Thorwald’s dominant position. He compares his own situation with that of Mrs Thorwald – both immobile and vulnerable, the wife in bed and the chair-bound ‘victim’. Although some critics see Jeff and Lisa’s relationship as being on safer ground after this adventure, Jeff has not been cured of his obsession, only punished for it – another broken leg, another spell of immobility. The significance of this is reinforced with Lisa ending the film wearing jeans, not so that we can gloat over the end of her career dreams or see that she has been punished, but to show that her legs are fully mobile. The jeans show this off better than the New Look frocks she wears earlier that emphasize her child-bearing hips but hide the legs. Throughout the film the impotence of the spectator – who can only look but cannot affect the action – is consciously played with by Hitchcock. He forces viewers to consider their own voyeuristic impulses, their need to know, to make sense of events, by portraying Jeff’s obsessive viewing of his neighbours which progressively intensifies as he uses first his ‘naked’ eye, then binoculars and then the teasingly phallic telephoto lens.
Final curtain – so, what do you see?
We have now provided a series of interpretations for the actions that we have previously endeavoured to describe in a detached manner. Do they present a true and accurate picture of the picture? Of course not. But on the other hand, do they enable you the reader to paint a richer picture of what may or may not be the range of intents and meanings that underlie the objective and detached view? Do they provide greater insight into the meaning intended by Hitchcock in constructing Rear Window? We can but hope so. Some from academia seek rationality and generalized transferable conclusions from their interpretations of data gleaned from organizational interventions. They proffer objective accounts of organizations with numeric data and statistical analysis to
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prove their verity. By these accounts, they seek to explain the social
interactions of those they have researched, and of organizations in general. However, our ‘main objection against intellectual solutions of social problems is that they start from a narrow cultural background, ascribe universal validity to it and use power to impose it on others’ (Feyerabend, 1987, p. 304). Here, ‘power defines what counts as rationality and knowledge and thereby what counts as reality’ (Flyvbjerg, 1998, p. 227) (emphasis in original). We argue that even the most determined effort to be objective and detached fails through necessary selection and ordering, whether in secondary reporting and (re)presentation, or during the ‘real time’ engagement with events themselves. Even if it can be implemented, is there value in the detached and objective paradigm? Some, such as Barnett Newman (Adorno, 1970/1997, p. xii) are cynical of such an approach, making comparison with the detached and objective critique of the art historian in which ‘aesthetics is … like what ornithology must be like for the birds’. For aesthetics, substitute organizational studies, management science, management studies, etc, etc. In such detached approaches, the dichotomization of observer/observed places power, and thereby knowledge, in the hands and mind of the knowing and objective researcher, but objectifies the (non-)knowing research ‘subject’. The subject ‘I’ becomes the ‘objective’ researcher and the ‘subject’ becomes object – ‘I’ research ‘you’. What the researcher considers to be ‘objective’ knowledge is not derived of ‘discovering what reality “really” is … Rather, power defines what counts as rationality and knowledge and thereby what counts as reality’ (Flyvbjerg, 1998, p. 227). In the extreme, the hierarchical ordering of knowledge becomes explicit representation of academic ‘will to power’ (Nietzsche, 1901/1968). If we read Rear Window as metaphor for academic intervention in organizational life, Jeff the inexperienced researcher observes, interprets, constructs meaning, and tries to persuade people that his view is the right one, the only one. As Lisa and Jeff’s interpretation conflicts with that of the ‘professional investigator’ – the policeman Doyle who pooh-poohs their ideas and says it is all more likely to be something less dramatic than what they suppose – so the innovative interpretation may be dismissed by the experienced academic. We can see Doyle as the senior researcher whose role as ‘gatekeeper’ is to work out what’s happening according to accepted paradigms of knowledge generation. He holds expert and
legitimate power (French and Raven, 1959) – also the ultimate coercive power (1959) – to dismiss ‘irrational’ explanations that do not concur with these paradigms even if these explanations do turn out later to be more
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closely aligned with the ‘facts’ of the case. Even after you have read our accounts of Hitchcock’s Rear Window, there are many missing ‘facts’, not to mention interpretations. As Hockney brings the frame/picture divide into our consciousness, so Hitchcock brings the framing of the film into our consciousness by ‘matching the size of the (apartment) windows to different screen aspect ratios’ (Curtis, 2000). Both Hitchcock and Hockney play with frame/subject/object relationships by showing that the frame, normally detachable from the sub/object that it frames and often ignored by the viewer, is an integral part of the subject matter within and of the interpretation placed on it. A further example – in ‘assisting’ Hitchcock to align his film with what would be ‘acceptable’ to the viewing public, the distributors removed the scene in the middle of the film in which the curtain that we see rise at the beginning falls and rises again. This editing removes a strong message that we are watching a performance (of a performance). Similarly, the reviewer of our academic output may assist us to align our work with audience expectations or with the editorial guidelines of our target journal by imposing paradigms on us – ‘suggesting’ that we remove or revise sections that will not be acceptable, or that do not conform to the norms of these audiences. On the subject of editing, Hitchcock himself uses the technique of ‘invisible editing’ in which the act of viewing someone observing is followed by an action scene. Within the viewer’s mind, the linkage is formed that creates a perception of the on-screen observer watching this action. Yet, there is no cause and effect relationship established beyond viewer perception. The viewer ‘invert(s) the chronological order of cause and effect. The fundamental fact of “inner experience” is that cause is imagined after the effect has taken place’ (Nietzsche, 1901/1968, p. 265). We suggest that what is read as cause and effect in literature on organizations may similarly be attributed to application of chrono-logical post hoc rationalization by the reader,
whether or not it is intended by the researcher/writer.
From this writing – we attempt to draw, not conclusions (to conclude is to end) but inferences on the nature of an approach to organization studies that elicits critical meaning for the actors within the organizational context. We have challenged the rational/objective approach, and the product of the contextual/subjective approach, yet we also see no value in fragmented nihilism in rejecting many or all of the constructed meanings for thinking/acting of/for those on the organizational ‘stage’.
George Cairns and Tamar Jeffers
What we argue for implicitly, let us now make explicit. We seek an approach to organization studies that openly embraces ambiguity, complexity and difference – without qualification – but not in a polarized opposition to rationalist unity (Anderson, 1990), and not within a ‘cultural and psychological smorgasbord’ (Montuori, 2000). We seek an anarchistic approach that proclaims and celebrates a ‘farewell to reason’ (Feyerabend, 1987), and that is ‘against method’ (Feyerabend, 1993). However, we assert that these terms must not be read in a simplistic literal way, as a denial – setting irrationality against reason and anarchy against method in ‘unhelpful false dichotomies’ (Feyerabend, 1999) that thrusts them into the class of nihilism and vilifies the thinking that underpins them (e.g. Rand, 1984). We accept that the rejection of reason permits (requires, even) that ‘there may, of course, come a time when it will be necessary to give reason a temporary advantage and when it will be advantageous to defend its rules to the exclusion of everything else’ (Feyerabend, 1993, p. 13). Similarly, the anarchistic rejection of method allows for all method to be accepted, which enables us to take a ‘perspectivist’ (Nietzsche, 1901/1968) approach to analysis, such that we may seek to build up a range of rich pictures of organization that use (un)reason and (non)method to explore a wide range of causae efficiens (Nietzsche, 1901/1968) that will provide interpretation(s)
and meaning(s) for and of actors in organizations. In seeking to understand and provide meaning to the thinking/acting of those who live out life in the world of organizations, do we from academia have the time and/or inclination to engage with them in their own contexts (to really see and listen, rather than just to observe and record)? Or, are we too busy constructing and defending our own intellectual high ground in academia to even share our stories and representations with one another? Are we under so much pressure to write our own accounts for academic survival to really engage with the accounts of others, let alone the ‘real lives’ of our subjects? Our argument is that the ‘different ways’ of observed and observer in organizational studies are subject to hierarchical ordering, and that the observer – the researcher – is encouraged by the reward system of academia to become both voyeur and exhibitionist. The sociopolitical system of academia encourages its citizens to turn the behaviours of the observed into ‘fantasies’ for self-preservation at best, and self-aggrandizement at worst, where academic ‘will to power has achieved mastery over something less powerful’ (Nietzsche, 1887/1994, p. 55). At this stage we might return to the metaphor of Hockney’s work, suggesting an approach to organization studies that is like his multiphotograph montage (Mark-Walker, 1999), showing views from different
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perspectives and over time. But, it goes much further. It is like the camera club exhibition – photos from all angles, at all times of day, night and year, by different photographers – and with the sub-/ob-jects of the works present to give and share meaning and interpretation. The danger, of course (to mix our metaphors) is that our organizational montage will become a ‘smorgasbord’. But, nothing ventured, nothing learned. To this point in time, can we identify a longitudinal study of organization that offers multiple perspectives, interpretations and meanings, generated from within the community observed and by those who observe? Is there such a study that has been subject to iterative transfer across the observer/observed divide – breaking down the subject/object and subjective/objective dichotomies in order to avoid reduction to(wards) a ‘single reality’ view, and in order to
enlarge and enrich the range of images of organization? If you know of one, please let us know. To be and not to be, that is the answer. (not William Shakespeare)
Reconciling Aesthetics and Justice in Organization Studies
Drawing upon cultural studies and organizational sociology, I argue for the reconciliation of aesthetics and justice in organizational life and in organizational theory. Such reconciliation could create more humane organizations as well as strengthen the emerging field of organizational aesthetics. In order to advance this argument, aesthetics will be linked with justice at three locations: inside the organization at the site of work itself, where an aesthetics of process is thought to mitigate status inequalities; outside the organization at the level of metaphor, where common images of organization highlight either injustice or aesthetics, but not both; and, in the public space of the media, where organizations present themselves to the world using aesthetics and justice in order to establish brand identity. These three sites (work, metaphor, and brand) do not present a complete overview of the possibilities for reconciling aesthetics and justice; rather, they combine to ground and to embody current thinking on the relationships among organizations, aesthetics, and justice.
Aesthetics and justice
Philosophers and social scientists have long contemplated the tension between aesthetics and justice. To the ancient Greeks, the two were intrinsically connected: justice was a perfect cube, symmetrical and therefore beautiful (Scarry, 1999, pp. 129–30). In The Critique of Judgment, Kant (1790/1951) argued for an essential connection, asserting that, ‘the beautiful is the symbol of the morally good’ (p. 198). Yet as modernity progressed, negative aspects of the relationship prevailed: the hegemonic 51
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power of aesthetics was thought to interfere with a just society. Foucault wrote critically about aesthetic politics (Osborne, 1998); Bourdieu (1977), offered the concepts of cultural capital and symbolic violence to explain the consequences of society’s differential aesthetic values. Said (1994) argued for connections between literature and domination. Thus a political critique of aesthetics evolved, with the result being that aesthetics and justice have become separate, antithetical concerns in the intellectual sphere. Cultural studies scholars have recently challenged this disconnection of aesthetics and justice. Gagnier (2000) accuses the market society of ‘forgetting’ the transformative power of aesthetics in its desire for consumption and profit. She writes of the consequences of this separation, saying, ‘Before aesthetics was forgotten as a social force or a handmaiden of the good, the Fabian socialists thought that disgust – distaste – at poverty and violence would be a progressive force for its amelioration’ (Gagnier, p. 232). She argues for a reconnection of art and justice through her example of the theatre of the homeless. Scarry (1999) also decries the disconnection of aesthetics and justice, and argues again for an intrinsic link between ‘beauty and being just’. To her, the political critique of beauty has relied upon two main tenets: the search for beauty distracts attention from wrongful social arrangements, and the gaze objectifies, reifies and thus destroys (Scarry, 1999, p. 58). Repudiating this ‘beauty blindness’, Scarry (1999), like Ramirez (1991), suggests that connection is at the core of valuing beauty, and beauty can inspire justice. Scarry’s reconciliation of aesthetics and justice in the humanities inspired my efforts to argue for a similar reconciliation in the context of organization theory. Consideration of aesthetics and justice within organizations (rather than abstractly) allows a grounded perspective on the tension and its reconciliation. Organizations are where power is made visible, and both aesthetics and justice can be understood as constructed and negotiated through organizational processes. The lenses of organizational theory provide a starting point for understanding the construction of aesthetics and justice and the possibilities for reconnecting the two.
Aesthetics and justice within organizations
Notwithstanding (or perhaps avoiding) this rich debate in the larger academy, aesthetics and justice have been considered separately, thus far, within organization theory. Both organizational aesthetics and organizational justice are regarded as relatively undeveloped fields; and, as
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is obvious from the symposium held at the Academy of Management during summer 2001 entitled ‘Organizational aesthetics: emerging field or passing fad?’, organizational aesthetics is still struggling to establish basic legitimacy. On the other hand, studies of organizational justice are more established, though seemingly stalled. The next section of this paper will bring the two fields together, and argue that organization studies are strengthened by such a synthesis. Organizational aesthetics and organizational justice share an acceptance of subjectivity, an awareness of culture, and understandings of organizations as shared meanings. They differ in their breadth and approaches to ways of knowing organizational phenomena. The literature on organizational aesthetics is nascent, broad, and fragmented. Aesthetics can be considered both subject and method of understanding organizations. There are a variety of empirical and theoretical approaches, and wide-ranging views on definitions and meanings (Strati, 1999). What all share is the desire to conceptualize organizations as more than structured, goal-centred entities and to understand them from an emotional and symbolic perspective as opposed to a purely rational, logical view (Gorawara-Bhat, 2000). I suggest that the field will be taken more seriously as definitional and methodological issues are resolved; but I also believe that its ‘faddish’ aura will persist until it is tied to legitimate (and politically salient) concerns such as justice. Strati’s (1999) seminal book makes little note of justice, though, citing Brian Rustead, he acknowledges that cultural studies scholars have taken on the ‘political neutrality of aesthetics’ (p. 183). It is this presumed political neutrality that I wish to question. Organizational aesthetics claims to bring a ‘critical’ perspective to organization studies, yet this critque is delegitimized when it avoids normative claims. The organizational justice literature is narrower and
better defined than that of organizational aesthetics, though it too is fragmented and seemingly detached from macro concerns about social justice. Within management and psychology, organizational justice researchers are primarily focused on the fairness of micro organizational processes. Empirical work has concerned workers’ and professionals’ perceptions of fairness, with little analysis at the organizational level. Methodological approaches are relatively traditional, relying upon survey research and ethnography (Cropanzano, 2001). Explicit links to aesthetics are not evident. This field has struggled with politicization, but like much organization theory, has remained non-critical and largely descriptive. Despite the normative connotation of the term ‘justice’, this field shares
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an assumption of neutrality with organizational aesthetics. Although a founder of the field acknowledges ‘no theoretical unity in conceptualizations of justice’, there is some agreement that definitions of justice are socially constructed, and therefore that analyses of justice must account for this subjectivity (Greenberg, 1993). Why are these fields so undeveloped? Difficulty in conceptualizing core constructs is one reason; but there are others, related to the nature of the subject at hand. With regard to organizational aesthetics, it is suggested that organization theory, like the humanities, may suffer from beauty blindness: the study of aesthetics may be thought to distract from ‘more important’ issues such as efficiency or profit or fairness; at the same time, aesthetic values within organizations may be blamed for perpetuating injustice and masking political interests. The fate of organizational justice is quite different: it is eclipsed by approaches to justice elsewhere in the academy. Justice is a common topic of social science, and often studied in the workplace. Indeed, studies of social stratification look to the workplace as the primary site for inequities to be made manifest. The entire labour process literature is concerned with inequities, and the sociology of work has questions about fairness as its foundation. So, while aesthetics may be considered trivial, justice is ubiquitous – a situation far from the perfect cube of the Greeks, and one that demands further scrutiny. I argue that connecting the two will
legitimize organizational aesthetics and revitalize organizational justice, while enriching organizational studies as a whole.
Methods of analysis
My approach is impressionistic and exploratory. I will examine organization/management literatures and reflect upon the consequences of combining aesthetics and justice. Taking seriously Strati’s admonition to ‘embody’ our thinking about organizations, I consider the body in the organization is a labouring body, a sense-making body, and a consuming body: ●
I will build upon critiques of work and technology, as well as the literature on caring work, to argue that aesthetics of the labour process can reduce the status inequalities that result from so-called ‘nonproductive’ work, thus increasing possibilities for justice in the work organization (Thomas, 1994). Secondly, beyond the labouring body, I consider how aesthetic knowing can enlarge existing images of organizations allowing
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participants to make sense of their organizational experiences (Morgan, 1986). Attempts to control the body have resulted in the familiar metaphor of the iron cage (Weber, 1921/1968), and although this image has been softened to a rubber and/or velvet cage (Ritzer, 1997), the cage symbolizes a place where justice and fairness are absent. I suggest that alternative images of organizations might reconcile aesthetics and justice, or begin to foster this rapprochement. Finally, I consider organizations’ attempts to encourage consumption through their brands, as made evident through advertisements, especially those categorized as cause marketing (Pringle and Thompson, 1999). I will use the visible public statements of Benetton and Phillip Morris (among others) to explore the mediated linkages between
aesthetics and justice. This aesthetics of the brand will be revealed as a contested arena, where embodied knowledge, intellectual knowledge, and images of justice and beauty are subsidiary to corporate goals of profit and survival. The public relations machine is subject to a moral critique that has bearing on the question at hand ( Jackall and Hirota, 2000).
These three sites, embodied and visualized, offer a variety of possibilities for the reconciliation of aesthetics and justice within organizational studies.
Aesthetics and the labour process
Paid work has always involved both product and process, and capitalism rewards each differently. The labour process literature (Braverman, 1974; Edwards, 1979) explains the privileging of mental and artistic/craft labour in the occupational hierarchy. Manual workers are thought to use simple brawn rather than brains, and consequently are rewarded less. Gender also plays a role in perpetuation of work-related status inequalities, as established in the literature on caring work and emotional work, also process rather than product-oriented (Hochschild, 1983/1985; Noddings, 1986). Technological developments, while minimizing the necessity of ‘brawn’, have nonetheless resulted in disparate work arrangements and perpetuated organizational injustices. Robert Thomas argues that inequitable rewards in the present hierarchy of work could be rectified by an aesthetics of process. In explaining the continued secondary status of manufacturing, Thomas (1994) argues for ‘philosophy of manufacturing that values the
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integration of the social and technical systems of production, rather than values one at the expense of the other’ (p. 7). Aesthetics is at the core of this revaluation, because, according to Thomas (1994), there is much that people do that machines cannot, especially, ‘the art of manufacturing’ (p. 259). He suggests that aesthetics has value in and of itself in organizations, and that this value is reflected in the respect and rewards given to one group of workers over another. In the case studies Thomas
presents, the product designers are more influential and respected than process engineers, often to the detriment of the end result (as well as the detriment of the workers). This is a political process and is mediated by the social exercise of power. He concludes that if manufacturing is to gain its deserved power, and if organizations are to become innovative and competitive, an aesthetics of the labour process must parallel the traditional aesthetics of product (Thomas, 1994, p. 247). Aesthetics and justice could thus be joined in the labouring body, resulting in fair and effective organizations. Using Thomas’ reasoning, it is possible to imagine that other types of devalued work could be subjected to an aesthetics of process: we could recognize and revalue the ‘art’ of nursing or teaching as a way to eliminate unjust work arrangements that are prevalent in the caring occupations. Other organizational scholars have written about the aesthetics of process, showing how the experience of beauty influences the processual aspects of organizational life and affects competitiveness (see, for example, Dean, Ramirez, Ottensmeyer, 1997). Moreover, the ‘art’ of management has been the subject of at least one management advice book (Dobson, 1999). Nonetheless, this processual approach has not been explicitly linked to status inequalities or broader issues of social justice. I suggest that such linkages are necessary, and that an aesthetic of the labour process can address the labouring body beyond the existing dichotomies. If aesthetics and justice are to be reconciled and synthesized in organizational life, it is well to begin with rewards given to the labouring body, a familiar experience to all. Process-oriented theories of organizational aesthetics may gain legitimacy by being connected to the well-established body of knowledge on the labour process, as well as by being used in a concrete manner to explain real organizational phenomena. In addition to reconceptualizing work processes within organizations, it is important to rethink the images used to depict organizations. As the next section will reveal, metaphors of organization can depict both justice and aesthetics, with unacknowledged power.
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Aesthetics of the iron cage
Organizations do not exist – buildings exist, employees and customers exist, and work products and processes are real. But organizations are abstractions. Yet since the earliest scholarly assessments of organizations, their abstract nature has been made material, through metaphor. Organizational participants, too, use metaphors to make sense of their lives within organizations. Gareth Morgan (1986, p. 12) writes persuasively about the importance and power of metaphors: ‘For the use of metaphor implies a way of thinking and a way of seeing that pervade how we understand our world generally.’ He suggests that multiple metaphors are necessary in order to encompass the range of human experience and to avoid oversimplifying our understanding of organizations. I am not arguing for a single metaphor, either, but I do believe that existing metaphors are both inadequate and too powerful, paradoxical as it may seem. One set of images that I will examine here stresses the injustices of organizational life, without reference to the possibility for justice or to beauty. Another set of metaphors reflects aesthetic ways of knowing, but does not incorporate considerations of justice. If we are to reconcile aesthetics and justice in organizational life, we must question the normative power of existing organizational metaphors and create new metaphors. Such new metaphors should depict the bodily experience of organizational members, the connection between people that is the prime reason for organizing them, and the potential for justice and beauty inherent in organizational life.
Metaphors of injustice and ugliness
Max Weber’s thought forms the foundation of organizational theory, and his imagery remains powerful. Weber’s ‘iron cage of rationality’, used primarily to describe bureaucratic structures, symbolizes not a benign abstraction, but a confining and inhumane place: a jail. This image is neither beautiful, nor just; though it may be considered to be in the aesthetic category of the ugly (Strati, 1999, p. 186). This ugly image is powerful, primarily because it obfuscates Weber’s nuanced analysis. Weber was critical of the bureaucratic structures of his day, yet he also wrote about the potential of bureaucracies (as opposed to paternalistic types of organizations) to advance fair treatment and create the leveling needed for democracy. Despite this complex argument, what remains most vivid is the negative metaphor –
the image of the iron cage. This metaphor may be accurate – individuals may experience organizations as
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if they were in a cage (iron, rubber, or velvet) (Ritzer, 1997), and, most importantly, the metaphor may be normative – managers might well consider injustice to be inevitable in a prison-like structure; employees may see ‘iron cages’ as impervious to change. I suggest that the ubiquity of the iron cage poses a problem for the aesthetics of organizations and for organization theory more generally. A beautiful metaphor, and/or one that implies justice is preferable, if not to describe organizational life (which may well be ugly) then to exert normative force. Alternative images have been proposed: Morgan (1986) lists machine, organism, brain, culture, political system, psychic prison, flux and transformation, and instrument of domination. These images range from neutral to value-laden, and clearly Morgan perceives that organizations play a role in perpetuating injustice (i.e. the psychic prison and instrument of domination metaphors) even as he does not explicitly acknowledge their aesthetic aspects. None of these metaphors suggests that organizations could be BOTH places where aesthetic knowing occurs and where justice exists; and therefore the dominant images potentially limit our expectations.
Metaphors of beauty
Contemporary organizational scholars have taken on the challenge of new metaphors, particularly those that are artistic and those that eschew mechanistic views of organizations. The image of organization as ‘moral maze’ is less damning than the cage, though it still reflects confusion regarding what is right, and connotes a less than liberating structure ( Jackall, 1988). Morgan (1986, p. 361) elaborates upon his images of organizations to include consideration of texts, teams, games, and, theatre. Strati (1999, p. 192) suggests the metaphor of organization as hypertext, rejecting the ‘strong ontology’ of organization as museum. Thomas (1994), elaborating upon his aesthetics of process in What Machines Can’t Do, suggests that repertory theatre offers useful insights. He states, ‘The
performance of a season of plays and the manufacture of a line of automobiles are not as dissimilar as they may seem’ (p. 259). These artistic images may embody our experiences of organizational life, just as the team, the maze, or the game might. Yet they are difficult to depict visually (except the maze) and therefore limited in their metaphorical power. As normative influences they are weak, weaker than the cage or maze. More importantly, these images, despite their beauty and attention to the embodied experience of organizational activity, do not necessarily
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depict justice. Aesthetic knowing can be empty without an explicit connection to the greater good; consequently, our sense-making as we live in organizations is limited if only aesthetic, whether ugly or beautiful. So the challenge is clear: we must take seriously the injustice of the iron cage AND the possibilities for beauty envisioned by the jazz group or orchestra, and reconcile justice and aesthetics in metaphors of organization. I have no images to suggest, though I am entranced by these touching hands (Plate 1).
Aesthetics of the brand
At this point I investigate the images that organizations create of themselves through their marketing efforts. Manufactured by their public relations machines, these manifestations of organizational identity call upon bodies, as well as social and aesthetic values, to create and sustain brand awareness. Consider the familiar representation of Benetton through its various campaigns. These (Benetton’s) are aesthetically appealing images that take a clear position on issues of social justice. Is there a way in which such exemplars of cause marketing and/or brand awareness could assist in the goal of reconciling aesthetics and justice in organizational life? Or, is reconciliation at the level of the brand too tarnished by the inherent injustices of capitalism? Art critic Herbert Muschamp (2000) posits: ‘In a consumer culture, beauty can be a smokescreen’ (p. 39). Yet, MUST beauty be a smokescreen when organizational image-makers craft their brands? To address these questions, I will assess several examples, and
refer to recent critical writing on brands and public relations. Benetton will be contrasted with Philip Morris as to the influence of product and the intent of the advertisement; then a NIKE instance will show how savvy activists have used the justice-claims of the brand advertisements to pressure for social change, presenting a hopeful alternative (Klein, 1999). I conclude that while ads are often aesthetic, and occasionally depict images of social justice, they serve multiple stakeholders and may be delegitimized as a consequence. In the case of Benetton, issues of social justice are addressed in an aesthetic manner, albeit for commercial purposes. These are embodied images, bodies valued as representative of an identity claim: young, old, white, black, Muslim, Catholic, gay, straight, male, female (Plate 2). All are beautiful, by the standards of Western culture, and represent not only identity but also the reconciliation of social conflict. While some of these
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images may be designed to shock, this shock is not violent, but rather gentle and bemused. Cultural critics may argue that the company has appropriated these social issues, and trivialized them through their connection with a brand and through their bright colours and pleasing images. I suggest that in the case of Benneton, beauty and justice may be advanced and reconciled, because the Benneton advertisements are not directly linked to a particular cause, nor is the product very controversial. This seems especially apparent when compared to the marketing efforts of Phillip Morris. This company uses art and its support of art organizations as well as social causes in order to deflect attention from social criticisms of its product. Their goal is obviously positive public approbation, as made apparent by the fact that they spent approximately $75 million per year on charitable activities, publicized by a $100 million corporate-image campaign (Levin, 1999). Here the ‘smokescreen’ is real. The company advertises its commitment to aesthetics and social activism, only to veil the personal and social injury brought about by its main product, cigarettes. The effectiveness of such a branding strategy cannot be assessed from an objective standpoint, but I would venture to say few are positively impressed by this effort at image
manipulation. These two examples are interested in what is not said: Benneton never mentions social issues in its visual materials, and makes no claim to justice or to acting upon the problems it depicts. Nor does it mention its main product, clothing. Phillip Morris does not mention its product either, but its claims to a greater good are visible and loud. If beauty is a smokescreen, it is veiling the product itself, in a new form of marketing strategy designed to increase brand awareness through indeterminate claims. Such vagueness may connect beauty and justice and thus enhance the brand; however, such vagueness may also allow less favourable interpretations. Certain efforts have backfired of late, as described by Naomi Klein (1999) in NO LOGO. She writes, using NIKE as her prime example, ‘The more successful this project (branding) is, the more vulnerable these companies become: if brands are indeed intimately entangled with our culture and our identities, when they do wrong, their crimes are not dismissed as merely the misdemeanors of another corporation trying to make a buck’ (p. 335). She describes how savvy activists are holding companies to their claims of social responsibility, thereby forcing the social change that is only implied by cause marketing campaigns. Building upon her analysis, it appears that aesthetics and justice may be reconciled as activists force advertising images to become reality. Another critical perspective on the apparatus of advertising and organizations’ images of themselves is set forth by Jackall and Hirota (2000) in
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Image Makers: Advertising, Public Relations, and the Ethos of Advocacy. The authors include both private and public sector organizations in their assessment of advocacy, and they argue that the ubiquity of advocacy has created an American culture of ‘fun-house mirrors’ that ‘refract, distort, or even invert reality … in complex, subtle, and unexpected ways’ ( Jackall and Hirota, 2000, p. 7). Asserting that visual images have gained ascendancy over verbal arguments, they state that simplification and unintended consequences result. Most importantly, they conclude that we, as a society, do not benefit from the ascendancy of the ‘image makers’, that we live in a make-believe world, where ‘presentation is all’ (p. 227), and the result is
social and experiential centrifugality. I suggest that aesthetics scholars should take seriously Jackall and Hirota’s caution about the oversimplification and ascendancy of the image – the field will not be legitimized if images are the publicly recognized artifact of aesthetic knowing, even as we rely upon such images to understand and judge not only products but organizations as a whole. In considering the aesthetics of the brand, the fun-house mirror seems all too apt a description: Benetton sells clothing via aesthetically pleasing yet conceptually jarring images addressing social issues; Philip Morris sells cigarettes by advertising its philanthropy to social justice and artistic causes. The image makers of these brands have appropriated cultural values and attempted to appease various stakeholders, including artists, activists, and consumers. Aesthetics and justice are joined, but only at the level of the image. If ‘presentation is all,’ then images are distorted and superficial. Going beyond the image, I suggest that aesthetic ways of knowing would add necessary complexity to the refracted reality and too-simple imagery currently in use. Moreover, reconciling aesthetics and social justice could circumvent superficiality by grounding the image-makers. A justice-informed aesthetic of the brand would transform it from a feel-good endeavour to a vehicle for social change. While organization theory has little to say about marketing and branding, the field could be advanced by recognizing the multiple stakeholders addressed by marketers and manipulated by image makers. An aesthetics of the brand, coupled with social justice tenets, could broaden organizational studies by asking scholars to consider organizational identity from the external perspective.
Conclusion: poetic justice?
As described above, the aesthetics of the labour process, aesthetics of the iron cage, and the aesthetics of the brand illuminate disparate areas of
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concern to organizational scholars: work, metaphor, and brand. The reconciliation of aesthetics and justice is accomplished differently at each of the three locations, yet, taken together, these three locations encompass
significant areas of concern. Thus the scope suggests an impact on organization studies as a whole. In the case of work, aesthetic knowing is proposed as a way to increase justice. The inequities found in current employment arrangements could be rectified if the processes of manufacturing and caring are considered from an aesthetic perspective, not just from the view of use-value and production. Practically, this means greater emphasis on the value of aesthetics for those who determine work arrangements. For example, Thomas (1994) suggests paying process engineers at the same level as designers; we can also envision paying childcare workers as well as accountants are paid. Taken at a theoretical level, adding aesthetics to the labour process literature would require a substantial reorientation, in order to stress the non-rational and subjective. While resistance is likely, it is also possible that the labour process literature could be revitalized by consideration of emotion via aesthetics, especially as labour process theorists struggle to fully conceptualize service work. The field of organizational aesthetics could gain in legitimacy by such an incursion into the well-established study of the labour process; moreover, connecting aesthetics in a positive way to a more just workplace challenges the core tenet of ‘beauty blindness,’ i.e. that the search for beauty hinders our concerns for social justice (Scarry, 1999). Beauty can enhance the pursuit of organizational justice, at the level of work as well as metaphor. With regard to metaphor, aesthetics and (in)justice are already evident in the dominant organizational metaphor of the cage: iron, velvet, or rubber. Hence, reconciliation is less necessary than a reorientation. I suggest that new metaphors are needed, metaphors that encapsulate aesthetic ways of knowing organizations and depict just social relations within organizations. This argument may be challenged on the grounds that the cage is ‘merely’ a metaphor, or by disagreeing with the normative power of current images of organizations. If metaphors are neutral, then alternatives such as hypertext, or repertory theatre, or clasped hands should not be threatening. Yet even as alternative metaphors are suggested, we must keep in mind one of the key arguments of the organizational aesthetics and cultural studies fields: images matter to many stakeholders, and even as images are open to multiple interpretations, their orientation towards humanity (or inhumanity, in the case of a cage) will be used by managers and policy makers to make
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decisions. Consequently, neutrality is not amoral, rather, it contributes to continued injustice. The field of organizational aesthetics would be legitimized and strengthened by rediscovering the potential for aesthetics to be a ‘handmaiden of the good’ and new metaphors are an important aspect of such a rediscovery (Gagnier, 2000). The connection of aesthetics and justice with regard to consumption poses thornier problems for the theorist and practitioner. Since brands actively use aesthetics and/or justice to sell a product, the questions that must be asked are the following: Do brands devalue aesthetics? Do brands contribute to or distract from social justice? Conversely, is beauty a smokescreen? Again the power of the images cannot be understated; what is interesting is that the power can be appropriated by various constituencies. Klein (1999) describes ‘brand bullies’ and the backlash, though the impact of the activists is still uncertain. Jackal and Hirota (2000) would argue that the visual images of the brands are the problem, since images deny complexity and suggest simple solutions. In this indictment of images (more accurately, the image makers of the title), they appear to be discounting the aesthetic way of knowing the world, in contrast to scholars of aesthetics and organizations who believe that aesthetic knowing allows the complexity and nuance missing from the ‘rational’ perspective. Yet brands and advertisements (as aspects of marketing in general) should be of interest to scholars, since these are the stories that organizations tell about themselves to the world, and these stories explicitly appeal to the non-rational, the sensory and the emotional. From the activists’ perspective, if corporations are to be held accountable for their contributions to injustice, then their ‘stories’ will have to be used as well as their balance sheets. To the theorist, the aesthetic of the brand remains contested ground, with the contest between aesthetics and justice just one tension among many. Neither reconciliation nor separation is the obvious winner, though it can be argued that organizational scholars should take this contest seriously, since the brand is the language of consumer capitalism and an emerging space for social
activism. More research is needed. Managers and policy-makers use aesthetic values (among others) in various ways: to create work arrangements that are more or less fair, to make organizations imaginable and thus meaningful, and to encourage consumption. Therefore, while aesthetic knowing may not be normative in intent, or in theory, it has normative and potentially unjust consequences. Aesthetics has cultural currency – and thus power. But this power has been limited by its purported disconnection from the important issue of social
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justice. I believe that beauty and the greater good need to be connected in order to establish the importance and legitimacy of aesthetics as a way of knowing organizations, and in order to create a more just society. Social justice has the political currency that can create the desired legitimacy, satisfying both the theorists and the activists amongst us. Ottensmeyer asks, ‘How might we bring art, artistry and beauty more explicitly into organization theories and management practices?’ (1996, pp. 190–1). I respond that we might be strengthened in this endeavour by adding consideration of social justice.
1. An earlier version of this chapter was presented as part of a symposium entitled ‘Organizational Aesthetics: Emerging Field or Passing Fad?’ at the Academy of Management Annual Meeting, Washington, DC, August 2001.
Part II Work as an Aesthetically Ordered Activity
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Work as an Aesthetically Ordered Activity: Introduction
Philip Hancock and Adrian Carr
Part II of this volume marks a shift away from the largely epistemological
issues that dominated section one, and towards a consideration of work and its organization as itself an aesthetically ordered activity. In doing so, it combines both a range of theoretically informed approaches, as well as a number of different sites of research and analysis, including organizational games, songs and the bodies of organizational members themselves. What is particularly significant about these contributions we would suggest, however, is that they challenge the traditional disregard for questions of aesthetics and sensuality that disciplines such as organizational studies and industrial sociology have traditionally shown. Instead, they demonstrate to us, with great clarity, the ways in which aesthetic experience pervades a range of organizational settings and practices. While this can often be experienced as a technology of control and authority, at other times, or in other instances, it can also facilitate patterns of resistance in both thought and activity or contribute to the processes of self-identification, both at the level of the individual and the organization. Considerations are of issues such as these are at the forefront of Chapter 6, entitled We’re All Partying Here: Target and Games, or Targets as Games in Call Centre Management. Here, Catrina Alferoff and David Knights combine a broadly post-structuralist-driven labour process analysis of organizational relations of power, with the role aesthetics play in structuring and facilitating both the exercise of managerial control, and the process of employee resistance within the setting of the contemporary call centre. Drawing on extensive empirical field research into activities within three UK-based call centres, the authors combine interview, observation and documentary data to provide a rich insight into several aspects of the everyday aestheticization of working practices and the tensions and conflicts this can give rise to. 67
68 Work as an Aesthetically Ordered Activity
Prominent amongst their findings is the role the strategic deployment of aestheticized artifacts and activities – particularly games – play in underpinning or reinforcing various managerial attempts to improve organizational efficiency and, in turn, productivity. These include anything from washing lines adorned with underwear, to various competitions that are
linked directly to improvements in performance and productivity. What appears to be central to such managerial interventions in the everyday experiences of their employees is an attempt not only to promote an aesthetic of fun – one that detracts from the relatively rigid nature of their work – but equally the generation of an impetus to higher levels of organizational commitment combined with the installation of a subtle, yet highly effective, technology of employee surveillance. Nevertheless, despite this, the authors are quick to note that the evidence also suggests such strategies are themselves rarely complete in their success and that employees, while often willing to go along with such practices and events, often display a deep-seated resentment towards them. This is itself interpreted by the authors as a form of aesthetic resistance, in that it tended to derive from what individual employees considered to be an invasion of their aesthetic space; that is their ability to control their own essentially aesthetic interactions with others, including their customers. From the realm of games and artifacts, we journey next, courtesy of Nick Nissley, Steven S. Taylor and Orville Butler in Chapter 7, into the sphere of organizational song and a consideration of its structuring effects on the action of both organizational employees and consumers. Reminding us that while the study of organization discourse has been extended to a range of areas, until now that of song – and particularly its lyrical content – has been largely overlooked. However, in their chapter, entitled The Power of Organizational Song: An Organizational Discourse and Aesthetic Expression of Organizational Culture, they demonstrate how song can provide significant insights into the relations of meaning that circulate within the workplace. Focusing particularly on the corporate songs of a major US home appliance manufacturer, the authors present us with what they term an archeological approach to the study of organizational life. That is, they set out to uncover and consider particular fragments of an organization’s activities, in this instance its songs, as a means of gaining insight into the culture of the whole. Illustrating extensively their descriptive passages with extracts from a range of songs, they go onto develop a theoretically informed analysis of the ways in which such songs can be understood both to reflect the actuality of the existing organizational
Philip Hancock and Adrian Carr 69
culture while, at the same time, function as a technology of organizational power that both enables and constrains its membership and those who come into contact with it. As such, songs can perhaps best be understood as technologies of mediation, operating at the interface between the subjective and objective dimensions of organizational experience. Finally, we turn our attention, through the work of Nancy Harding in Chapter 8, to the relationship between aesthetics and the ordering of the human body. Building on previous work concerned with what has been referred to as aesthetic labour (Hancock and Tyler, 2000; Warhurst and Nickson, in press), Harding takes a particular and unique look at the bodies of organizational managers, and the role aesthetic labour plays in the structuring of their own subordination to the imperatives of capitalist organization. This highly engaging chapter provides an extensive theoretical framework for its subsequent analysis drawing, in particular, on a Foucauldian tradition of critique directed at uncovering the simultaneous process of subjectification/objectification the managerial body experiences as it goes about its everyday organizational activities. This is founded on the proposition that it is not only the employee’s bodies that are sculpted and worked on so as to generate an organizationally appropriate embodied aesthetic, but also managers, who are both subjectified in that they are self-constituted as a symbol of ‘conformity, rigidity and obedience’, while at the same time embodying an objectified organizational aesthetic that is amenable to the gaze of the other. The embodied process of management is thus itself an aesthetically ordered activity, one that functions both as a symbol of organizational power and a technology of internalized control, acting back onto the manager who is trapped within his/her own corporeal ‘iron cage’.
We’re All Partying Here: Target and Games, or Targets as Games in Call Centre Management Catrina Alferoff and David Knights
It is easy to make parallels, as do Fernie and Metcalfe (1997), between the
organization of work in call centres and Foucault’s conceptualization of ‘heavy duty’ surveillance that occurs in prisons and other carceral organizations. An aesthetic reading of Discipline and Punish (Foucault, 1991) evokes almost the same shivers as a chilling fairy story. We empathize with the fate of the prisoner and other victims of internment, finding in their subjection and interrogation by the gaze analogies with bureau-corporate control in call centres where ‘the objective discharge of businesses is according to calculable rules and without regard for persons’ (Gerth and Mills, 1991, p. 215). In the typical call centre, serried ranks of mainly female workers donned in cumbersome telephone headphones are bent over their computers seeking to translate micro-electronic data into meaningful customer communication. Charged with providing high levels of customer service, there appear to be few opportunities for social interaction between work-mates. Behaviour is not only observable by managers dotted around the room in strategic positions, but also by the electronic panoptican that has the capacity to track the individual on a moment by moment basis and display their activities in hyper-real simulation (Baudrillard, 1983) as colours on a computer screen. Despite the fact that the pathos of this imagery is intuitively plausible, we think it more appropriate to characterize the organization of call centres as disciplinary, where the ‘disposal of space, [and] the meticulous regulations which govern their internal life constitute a block of capacity – communication’ (Foucault, 1986, p. 218). While related, these three elements of any organizational practice – space, regulation 70
Catrina Alferoff and David Knights 71
and communication are not to be confused or conflated, as sometimes occurs when surveillance systems are seen as wholly determined and totalizing in their control. Power relations are contingent; they may compete, contradict as well as reinforce one another. They may also, not only be re-aligned from above, but also be re-appropriated from below (Knights and Vurdubakis, 1994). There is no denying that many, if not most, call centres are workintensive environments where work is often repetitive and unrewarding for the heavily controlled individual. They can be places where too strict
an adherence to statistical performance evaluation can have the consequence of de-motivating staff. To avert this problem, call centres often use competitions as incentives to motivate and reward high performing staff (Collinson Grant Consultants, 1999; Knights and Odih, 1999). This management strategy can be taken to extremes, as was the case in one of the organizations researched here. Every available surface was plastered with a plethora of artefacts symbolizing individualized and team-based competitions, soft quality and customer-related images and hard site, team and individual performance statistics (see Plate 3). According to Gagliardi, artefacts are the most immediately perceptible of all the physical and symbolic bounds within which people move (1990b). At first glance, an immediate sensory perception of the colour, shapes and arrangement of these game and performance-related artefacts suggested party decorations and an aesthetic climate surrounding work. However, a closer scrutiny of the discursive materials confirmed the low level of permeability that is possible in the boundary between work and play (Dandridge, 1986). While managers are keen to ‘soften’ the harsh atmosphere of the work intensive conditions characteristic of call centre operations, the aesthetic trappings and trimmings rarely fooled staff in our case studies. Linstead and Höpfl (2000b, p. 1) argue that aesthetic approaches to organizational analysis ‘problematize the rational and analytical analysis of organizations’. We accept that such analyses remind us of how organizational life displays a multiplicity of rationalities and a complex interpenetration of reason and emotion and art and technique. What we have problematized, however, is aesthetics as a rational tool of management control. For in our own case study, there is little doubt that management sought to appropriate aesthetics for their own purposes of increasing productivity and controlling staff. It is also clear that this strategy was less than successful, even though we cannot know, counterfactually, what might have been the case had the aesthetics been absent. Our concern is less that of promoting an aesthetic analysis to
72 Targets as Games in Call Centre Management
challenge the so-called rational approach to organization studies as much as
understanding how aesthetics may be appropriated for a diverse range of purposes and used differentially by distinct groups in the exercise of their power and interests. Presumably, intellectual analysis is always in some ways rational, but it need not see one kind of rationality (e.g. linear or mathematical logic or economic rationality) as exhaustive of either the subjects/objects, or the agents, of research. In our research, we have found aesthetics deployed instrumentally for economic rational purposes and those same purposes being resisted for aesthetic reasons. We acknowledge the importance of aesthetic artefacts in both the mundaneity and the manipulation of organizational activities. Without adopting an ethnomethodological analysis, we subscribe to both Jeffcutt (1993, p. 47) and Silverman’s (2000, p. 130) view, where they both declare, that part of the organization theorist’s work is to explore and represent ‘the extraordinary qualities of the ordinary’ in everyday organizational life. Our concern in this paper, then, is to present some original case study material on call centres, where various aesthetic and/or playful material and symbolic artefacts were much in evidence. While recognizing that an inherent aspect of all forms of communication is the ambiguity of meaning, we seek to analyse the use of aesthetic materials within our case studies in terms of an analytic of power and resistance. Three possibilities are examined: (1) Aesthetic materials simply deployed as a management device for creating and sustaining the commitment and support of employees to the corporate objectives. (2) Aesthetics organized as a means of alleviating the monotony and intensity of work; a relaxation of control in order perhaps to regain it. (3) Bottom-up means of employee resistance to aesthetics as a smokescreen for work-intensification or the technical rationality of work. The chapter is organized as follows: first, a brief summary of the case studies and our method of research is provided. This is followed by an examination of organizational aesthetics as a form of direct or indirect management control within which new and more elaborate incentive schemes are discussed. A third section considers some of the resistant responses of staff to management controls notwithstanding their softened appearance as a result of aesthetic interventions. An analysis then follows where an attempt is made to understand the proliferation of aesthetic artefacts in these call centres and some of their failure to provide anything more than a
superficial softening of the work intensification
Catrina Alferoff and David Knights 73
experienced by customer service advisers. Resistance to the various controls is then analysed in terms of an aesthetic of the self whereupon we provide a brief conclusion that draws out the implications of the analysis for the study of service employment more generally.
The case studies
While broadly following a case study method of interviews, observations and documentary investigation, in this paper some of our data is illustrated through photographic evidence (Dougherty and Kunda, 1992) of the use of organizational artefacts. We were permitted to take photographs of some of the cultural artefacts in the telecommunications company. In the ‘noisiness’ of the environment, this organization certainly led in the ‘wow’ factor, though both of the other organizations referred to used similar images to a lesser degree. ‘While most analyses of organizational cultural artefacts use written, or verbal content’ (Dougherty and Kunda, 1992, p. 187), we draw on both verbal records and photographs as a way of displaying the lived experience of work in a managerially constructed ‘aesthetic’ environment. The data informing this paper was gathered from three call centres: Commsco, one of the Customer Service Centres for a national telecommunications company; Northern Finserv, one of the Customer Service Centres for a national financial services and banking company; and, ‘Big Book’ a retail and home shopping catalogue company. At the time of the research, all three companies were introducing quality or customer care programmes1 of differing depths and coverage, but generally involving elements of multiskilling, team-working, new human resource management and, most importantly for this chapter, changes in the incentivization of work for customer service advisors (CSAs). Brief details of the companies and workforces are given below. Commsco is a national telecommunications organization operating across a variety of fields both nationally and Commsco Customer Service Centre (CSC) is one of a number of sites that deal with inbound service calls and billing enquiries. There are 200 advisors employed full-time or
part-time, of whom 80 are agency staff. It is a predominantly female staff, 80 per cent of who are under 40 years of age. Team managers are responsible for teams of up to thirty mixed dual or single skilled Customer Service Advisors and report directly to the Centre Manager. As with the other two companies, the centre staff also includes a communications team and an operations or resources team. At the time we began the research at Commsco CSC it was in the first few weeks of a quality trial which we followed through the six months of its piloting.
74 Targets as Games in Call Centre Management
The Northern Finserv call centre is one of four customer service centres covering the telephone banking function of a medium-sized national financial services company. The Northern site deals with credit cards, loans, current accounts and insurance. The site takes overflow calls on mortgage and investment enquiries, but passes these on to other of the companies sites. There is somewhere between 250 and 280 full time equivalent positions at Northern Finserv, with approximately 75 per cent of staff working part-time. As is usual in this sector, the majority of employees are female (75 per cent) and aged between 18 and 40 years. The organization has a relatively flat structure with team leaders responsible for 18–20 Customer Service Advisors (CSAs) and reporting to one of the four Customer Service Managers (CSMs) who report directly to the Centre Manager. At the time of the research, six teams in the call centre were participating in a Customer Service Trial, similar in many ways to the quality pilot at the Telecommunications Company. Big Book, home shopping catalogue employs 1,400–1,500 call centre staff at the case study site, 250 in telemarketing and 1200 in phone ordering and financial services.2 The daytime staff is mainly women between 25 and 45 years with a younger workforce on the later shifts. Team leaders are responsible for 12–18 CSAs and report to shift managers who report to functional managers, but since this organization has a matrix structure, senior managers may be sited elsewhere. This organization has suffered from a severe downturn in sales and is presently contemplating moving to targeted telemarketing with dedicated selling teams to replace the present form of service and sales outgoing calls.
Organizational aesthetics as control
In this part of the chapter we examine workplace aesthetics as forms of direct or indirect control; that is, the first two of the three possibilities listed earlier. In the former, targets, incentives and comparative performances are shrouded in game-like competitions and contests that are intended to transform productivity pursuits into an exercise of fun. Indirect control usually involves the appearance of a relaxation of control through the introduction of aesthetic fun and games, but this is all in the name of improving performance. Call centres are highly performance driven workplaces. Targets may be around the number of calls taken per hour, the percentage of calls that are converted to sales, measures of customer satisfaction, adherence to procedures in the course of the customer advisor interaction. The digital displays on the electronic boards or computer screens are reminiscent of seaside or Christmas illuminations. But their messages are disciplinary; they convey the
Catrina Alferoff and David Knights 75
number of calls waiting, calls handled, average call handling time, level of service and number of sales and act as a constant reminder of the intense demands of the work. In the permanent features of their internal layout, the call centres resembled each other in many ways despite their differences in size. Generally they comprised one or more very large rooms with workstations arranged either in rows seating up to 12 call centre advisors, or smaller carousels seating four or five. In addition, a small number of (often) glass-fronted offices exist at one side, or both ends of the room(s), used mostly for one-to-one meetings or appraisals. In these large openplan offices, it is only senior managers that have individual offices. In these performance-driven settings, information on call handling, sales or customer service targets may be displayed as instructions, statistical charts, or in the form of games or competitions, making bright splashes of colour against the neutral background of the call centre. These artefacts are produced internally, either by members of the communications team, or by front-line management. They are a combination of computergenerated clip art,
hand-made signs, Christmas decorations, party gear and bits and pieces from individual or team games – archery targets, dartboards and football goals. Theme days are also popular managerial devices. One took the form of using the World Cup soccer tournament as an occasion for a competition and dressing up in the different national costumes of the participants. In Big Book the remains of the Christmas campaign, a fireplace, decorated tree and parcels were gently gathering dust in one corner, having been overtaken by the Spring campaign with yellow, green and white balloons and streamers. This company has a tradition of sociability and charitable giving and customer service advisors run Birthday clubs, trips out and various raffles and competitions to raise money for charities. On one visit we found the whole of telephone ordering festooned with washing lines of knickers for a charity campaign. This organization is traditionally paternalistic and fosters various money-raising activities by staff in work time. A closer scrutiny of the artefacts displayed in call centres reveals the ambiguity of the messages they carry. For instance, the festive imagery, ‘Spring Madness’ at Big Book, with balloons and ribbons was an incentive designed to arrest the drop in orders. Averaging the incentive at Northern Finserv incorporated more CSAs into winning roles than had been possible before the customer care programme, but imposed new responsibilities on self-governing individuals in delivering empathy rather than the hard sell. The Commsco CSC ‘World Cup’ had been devised to engender accuracy in the use of the structured call and
76 Targets as Games in Call Centre Management
involved acceptance of extra monitoring in the form of managers listening in to calls. Brilliant archery targets carried messages about targets on customer complaints and quality customer responses. Gifts of food and drink are designed to drive up sales, where managers feel that their team is falling behind in competition with their peers. This fragment of an interview with a substitute team coach (Ann) gives some indication of the tension between fun and control that underlies the use of targets as games in a work setting. The interview starts with an enquiry about some of the images around the Commsco call centre: A We usually have competitions on. At the moment we’ve got snakes and ladders. There’s some sort of competition
that they can win something. Last week we had ‘Fun in the Sun Day’, people came dressed as something funny, where we had people in sarongs and shorts and hats and things like that. Q What was the weather like? A It was Wednesday and it was horrible! [Ohh!] I know! People coming with flowers in their hair! But, you know, just a good feeling and then to remind them, certain things that they needed, like last week well it was route – path – go we dropped on. There’s lots of different things that they do – and trying to lift their spirits, if like they’ve dropped. Or, if morale is low for whatever reason, every few weeks we try, like, lift their spirits. Next week we’ve got, I think it’s next week I think it is something to do with football and each team on the site has chosen a football team and we down here are Holland [at the time the World Cup was going on] and we going to actually compete against each other, the teams. Q How? A I think it’s going to actually be your products and your services [the section of the structured call where CSAs attempt to resolve the enquiry and take the opportunity to promote a product or service while they have the customer on the line]. Q Those are your goals, are they? [They have portable soccer goal posts attached to pillars in the room.] A Yeah, and all things like that. And they’ll be encouraged to, like, have a match against each other by doing these things [using the correct structure for the call]. Who is going to be the overall winner and then next Friday there’s going to be on the teams do something to do with their country that they have actually chosen. Don’t know what they are going to do with Holland, probably have a windmill. My team
Catrina Alferoff and David Knights 77
(because I’m actually upstairs) we’ve chosen Italy, so I really don’t know what they are going to do up there. So, are most of these activities fairly around basically competition between teams on selling products and services? Yeah, they are about selling products and meeting targets, but they are not
usually against each other. But, I think next week just to do something different to encourage everybody. So there’s always something going on? What about the people who say, ‘I’m not going to bother?’ Well maybe they need individual coaching then, or discussion with the manager if they are not meeting – they’re not meeting their individual targets. You don’t often find that there’s that, because most people do what they are expected to do.
Here, the use of targets and games extends beyond their deployment as a simple management device to create and sustain the commitment and support of employees to the corporate objectives. They appear to be used as a means of alleviating the monotony and intensity of work – a relaxation of control in order to regain it3 – ‘lifting their spirits if like they’ve dropped’ (Ann, Team Coach, above). Much the same could be said of the latitude of Big Book management. They encouraged a sense of community by allowing call centre staff to organize charity fund-raising during work time and taking a hands-off approach to the Birthday Club where CSAs decorate the celebrant’s workstation and collect money for gifts. This organization has the reputation for paternalism towards its employees, who see the company as a good employer and are loyal to its objectives, while still resenting the targets for calls per shift. Visually, the layout of the call centre does not provide much in the way of clues as to the social relations of the work setting. Neither dress codes nor location give an indication of status, and there is no discrimination in the use of facilities (e.g. car park, canteen, wash rooms, etc.). However, it would be misguided to make the assumption that this implies fully autonomous working, since a central resources centre involves a team dedicated exclusively to monitoring all the activities of the call centre. Incoming and outgoing calls are checked, timed and analysed. The activities of all call centre staff are displayed on a computer screen as blocks of colour, whether waiting for calls, engaged in a call, going over the specified time for that particular call, logged-off, or logged-on to the system. Furthermore, through the technology this information is readily accessible to management at any time. Any unspecified behaviour is relayed back to managers who are expected to
78 Targets as Games in Call Centre Management
take corrective action. Information on the number of calls dealt with, products or services sold, calls abandoned and quality of service figures is captured and collated by management. It is then fed back to the floor in the form of digital displays hanging where they can be observed by all staff, and weekly statistics on individual or team performance presented to team members at the weekly team briefs, ‘buzz groups’, or ‘huddles’. The integration of two technologies, the telephone and the computer allows management to tap into all the activities of call staff, whether on the phone, or using the computer. Call centre staff are fully aware of the capacities of this ‘electronic panopticon’: Everything we do there’s a footmark left. It’s on everyone’s account, when we go into it – there’s a note to say that you’ve been in. So we’re getting – you’re followed, every step. Checked with the computer. If no one else is listening to you, the computer has got you marked. (CSA) This response suggests that a seemingly de-humanized and dehumanizing exercise of power is successful in engendering symbolically conditioned behaviour and in stimulating expected responses (Hatch, 1997a). Such an organization gives the opportunity for the: [p]erfect exercise of power that is efficient and effective in that it reduces the number of those who exercise power, while increasing the number on whom it is exercised and it makes it possible to intervene at any moment to prevent mistakes or misdemeanours, while increasing productivity. (Foucault, 1991, p. 206) Foucault was referring largely to carceral institutions, but early commentators on call centres have drawn direct parallels. They have centred attention on the heavy discipline and surveillance facilitated by the power of the technology to monitor and drive staff to ever increasing levels of production in these modern ‘sweatshops’ (see Fernie and Metcalfe, 1997). While this type of account has been criticized as overdeterministic (Taylor and Bain, 1999), our research found that such ‘heavy duty’ surveillance was accompanied and alleviated by attempts to present the work as fun. In common with other studies (see Knights and Odih, 2000), our case study companies recognized that by concentrating exclusively on output performance, there was a danger of undermining the quality of customer service. Accordingly, many call centres vacillate between the extremes of
Catrina Alferoff and David Knights 79
coercive control through time-discipline and its relaxation in the pursuit of a ‘better’ quality of customer service (Knights and Odih, 2000). This usually involves some loosening of time discipline or sales targets to better meet the customer’s needs, and therefore, mediating effective performance of the call with an affective component. An incorporation of both business and human elements into the space of the call is not always an easy accomplishment for either workers or managers. This is because organizational cultures have evolved where everyone tends to rate performance in terms of the quantification of results, and figures are seen as measures of personal success and achievement. A team leader in Northern Finserv describes the way it has changed her work: It’s changed from statistician and lugging pieces of paper around and calling on your customers all the time, and dealing with their queries all the time to the only time when I speak to customers is if it is a very, very involved query. It needs a decision that involves a lot of money or it’s a really strong complaint. It has to be a very serious complaint, because my staff are quite capable at answering these queries themselves, and the departments it has to go to, and it’s just changing the way I work. I am not having to supervise them all the time. [But letting go and relying on her team to deliver the required level is not always easy for her, as demonstrated in this comment]: And when I got the first week’s stats, I thought [deep intake of breath] oh! oh no! But then I looked at my friends in the corner and ‘show me yours from yesterday’. And then I thought, ‘fine’. It was a really bad day and we’d been taking about 4 calls an hour, ‘something is very wrong here’. No, I didn’t find it difficult to let go, but I do know that some of them are still finding it difficult not to come down on staff and say, ‘why have you been unavailable for so long’. I’m very laid back anyway providing my staff are happy, and the customers are happy, well that’s what we are here to do.
The uses of incentive schemes in call centres
As has been implied, aesthetics as an embellishment of management control usually requires some additional financial or other incentive for it to be
effective. Individual or team achievement in call centres is often related to incentive schemes in some or other form. Recent surveys have found that incentive bonus schemes play an integral role in many call centres. These may be linked either to individual performance or to targets set for teams, the group, or the whole company. The most typical
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method of payment is a lump sum, calculated as a percentage of salary and linked to targets set for the company (IDS, 1997, p. 29). Beyond these standard schemes, individual and team incentives in the form of games and competitions are also popular with call centre management. A recent survey found that between 59 and 66 per cent of call centres hold these events regularly (Collinson Grant Consultants, 1999). These competitions vary in length from short-term pushes for spot prizes such as bottles of wine, tickets for concerts, or pizzas to longer-term projects with holidays abroad or weekends in luxury hotels as the big prize. Two of our companies, Commsco and Northern Finserv were in the process of implementing customer service schemes covering all or a part of the call centre staff, alterations which made the former methods of assessing performance inappropriate. Whereas, performance had been judged according to the number of calls taken per hour and/or the number of calls that could be converted to a sale (bearing commission for the customer service advisor), the refocus to a customer driven ethos reduced the possibilities for making sales on as many calls as previously. At Commsco, management had compensated by introducing a variety of games and competitions to reward satisfactory customer service. Northern Finserv was, at the time of the study, trying to come up with an incentive scheme that would work across the call centre. One major problem was that the company wanted to abandon the ‘hard-sell’ that had existed with big incentives prior to the change to a customer care programme. But many of the pilot teams and their team managers were decidedly reluctant to lose these incentives and threatened to abandon the game if the benefits were not brought in line with their expectations: I don’t mind doing the customer [care] trial, but in terms of the staff being disadvantaged financially I can’t have the staff disadvantaged. Two things would happen; one they’d turn
around and say ‘I don’t want to do it, I’m not interested’ and take the bat and ball home and not play and, two, ‘I’m earning money by selling products, so, if the trial falls flat on its face, I’m still earning as much as possible.’ (Team Leader) His team had a certain status as the top selling team, but the rationale for the trial was to prevent just the activities that brought them £90–£100 per month in bonus payments. This CSA describes the thrill of the chase: [Y]ou could give people certain numbers to call, you could transfer people through to a different department – that meant that you
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could deal with calls quickly and select calls that were more profitable to you and if you thought you could sell them something. I still try to sell, but as I was saying, you’d select the people that you sold to, perhaps get 2 or 3 products out of them at a time. After the customer care trial had started, this excitement in the call was very much reduced: You do look now on the sales prompt, and yes, it might say, ‘offer them this product, or offer them that product’ and you’re looking at them and you might say to yourself, ‘well, they don’t really need anything, they’ve got Visas and everything and we’re not competitive and that’, and you’re thinking to yourself, ‘I’ve got to let this person go off, without selling them a product’. Some ways it’s good for the customer, because we did used to get quite a lot of – antagonize quite a lot of customers that we sold to. This team had managed to retain its prominent position as a top-selling team by strategic means, seeking out information on changes and keeping each other informed about products, which would yield incentive points. Members of other teams were less sanguine about their ability to beat a system they saw as skewed against them: But the incentive of sales is that they have no imagination to think about how to give incentive, saying, ‘OK you’ve offered good customer service and you’ve got a really good call technique, we’ll give you this’ but there’s no incentive, like you can get a really good call technique, and you get nothing. (CSA) Big Book has experienced a severe downturn in sales during the last two years. There have been redundancies at senior management level, and above, and feelings of insecurity amongst call
centre staff, with some leaving to find jobs elsewhere. Interviews with call centre staff revealed that they were concerned about the future of this part of the company and felt that they played a significant role in its future survival. The company worked on a site bonus and spot competitions in the inbound section of the call centre, seasonal and other campaigns and sales points in the telemarketing section. At the time of this case study, telemarketing management was contemplating introducing dedicated selling teams with a higher level of reward through incentive schemes.
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Some use has been made of incentives in the past – vouchers for staff discount on catalogue products, but recently there has been more consistent use of incentives. This started with a trial last year on retention particularly in relation to getting customers to extend the insurance they purchase on white goods, or electronics. CSAs were able to claim the incentive after passing on the call to the appropriate department. Although it was successful in terms of profitability for the company, it was not seen as fair since only one team of the 70 in phone ordering and telemarketing scooped the pool. The trial brought in £1.75–£2 m in the six weeks of the trial as opposed to the £300,000 on the same period the previous year. Financial services have now dedicated a sum for incentives this year. There are two schemes running at present, one for adding a sale on to an inbound phone order – to get rid of unsold stock and the second on retention – extending the extra care warranty. The ‘Spring Madness’ campaign at Big Book pays out prizes in three phases: £250 to the best team, phase one, £500 phase two and £750 for phase three, and a holiday as well. On the add-on, the incentive pays out 15 pence per item on 2 per cent above the 7 per cent of calls that offer a selling opportunity. Retention also has a spot the ball competition for selling points on retention; CSAs get one square for 250 points and may win up to £250. On retention, if CSAs pass on no more than 2.5 per cent of calls that could be passed on they are rewarded with chocolates and wine. The prizes then are similar to Commsco: luxury food, wine, holidays and also monetary reward. CSAs compete with games presented as seasonal, with the appropriate artefacts, or team games. One day time
shift manager asked how the incentives have gone down said that they were successful with new, younger staff, who had been recruited into an environment where they appeared to be established, but they are less successful with older staff, who didn’t see selling as part of their role. The shift manager thinks this means they need a change in culture and training in selling skills. This will be brought up at their quarterly reviews. Asked what older employees think of the incentives, a team leader said that they see it as ‘more of a panic measure’. This team leader tries to sell the benefits of the incentives by telling her team that selling and retention is what is keeping their jobs. But she did say that lots of people moan because ‘they don’t think that the prizes are very good’. In the next section of this chapter, we turn to the third of our list of possible ways of analysing our data in discussing the ‘bottom up’ practices of resisting the technical rationality of work even when the control has been modified or mediated by aesthetic artefacts.
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Resisting aesthetic control4
Before the trial customer care programme, Commsco had long suffered under a regime that prioritized time targets. This had resulted in CSAs feeling unable to deliver a satisfactory level of customer service and many deeply resented the intensity of their work. Once the trial was introduced, staff expected a degree of latitude and, in terms of time targets, a measure of relaxation did occur. There was also some relaxation of the call script in that staff were given more discretion and autonomy at the content stage of a previously highly rigid four-part call structure, involving scripted openings, specified content, recap and closure. However, these concessions were granted at the cost of vastly increased monitoring, a strategy designed to deliver general improvements in the level of customer service. Games and competitions were also developed and designed to deliver this change in strategy. Experienced CSAs were not convinced by a system of indirect control through competitive rewards, arguing that since they took pride in their work, extra incentives were unnecessary. When asked how he and his colleagues reacted to the instructional and competitions posters, one CSA
gave a fairly dismissive response: It’s all down to individual choice, because I possibly would need a little bit longer than the others and I don’t particularly enjoy that sort of element. I am usually successful in what I do, in selling and things like that, I don’t particularly enjoy that, and sometimes I see it as a bit trivial on what we do – so, I don’t particularly enjoy that. As long as my figures are A-Ok, sometimes figures you can use as a guideline, not as a carrot and stick sort of environment. I sometimes think they are. He indicated that he tends to opt out of the competitions for he sees them as divisive where a workforce is composed of people on a variety of full and part time contracts and often working in teams with differing opportunities to participate: Something that doesn’t seem to be coming out is, I look at these competitions – and the competitions for the teams and I ask people – how does the team get together and decide what to go for? And they say, ‘oh they don’t’. No, it’s fractions of the team, you’ve got your billers and your helpdesk, you got part-time, you got full-time staff and you’ve got, you know, everybody’s on different rosters. I’m, being one
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of the older ones, I’m on a 9–5, Monday to Friday and there’s others on a six-day roster. Sometimes you don’t see people – majority will be on leave or on some different shifts, or whatever. So, you do miss out. The fact that the competitions were shrouded in aesthetic wrappers seemed to have no effect on the level of his resistance. Similarly, the aesthetic environment did not prevent or minimize staff resistance to the increasing level of control over the structure of the call. As one operative put it: I could say, ‘thanks for calling’, that was, that come naturally to me. So when we got told to say that and the more we get scripted, the more I hated it, because, I was like ‘you know, I’m an individual and I take a call differently to my colleague would, because I’ve got a different personality, so I’d say different things automatically than I would to anyone else. We are all different’. So, at the beginning I was really, I don’t know, I was just put out because we couldn’t, I felt like they were trying to knock that it’s another personality. (Female CSA, Commsco CSC) Both of these CSAs
resented the way in which, regardless of the attempt by management to make work more fun, individual distinctiveness, choice or personality was being subordinated to a company standard and that everyone was expected to conform. This CSA had refused, in particular, to comply with the recap element in the call and was undergoing special training in a crèche created to deal with nonconformists. Asked about the recap and the scripting, she said: Umm, I feel it’s a little bit unnecessary, if we are doing the job correctly, which, hopefully we are doing, we go through it with the customer and tell them at the time how much it is going to be. I can understand the reason behind it – like cutting the conversation off, so you control the conversation, but it seems to be so strict about it that even calls that you’re not even giving the customer anything only information and you’ve got to recap, right, like that lady before wanted to know how long notice to give when she is moving. And, you know? We aren’t giving anything, only information. We aren’t telling her how much it’s going to cost, or anything like that and they’ll pull you up if you don’t recap.
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Her complaints extended to a criticism of management battering you into submission to their preferred stereotype: I feel now they don’t really – from that you were there doing your job, they don’t really know you as a person anymore, you’re just part of the trick in the box. As long as you conform to them they’re fine. There’s no, like, give and take from them. They want set, stereotype person – if you’re not that way they sort of battering into you. Elaborating this demand for conformity through the fun of participating in a football game, referred to earlier, with each team representing a World Cup nation neither improve matters nor was wholeheartedly endorsed by staff. The idea was for staff to dress up in the costume of different countries participating in the World Cup qualifying matches, but only four or five of the 200 employees appeared in fancy dress and one of those was a team coach. The game was designed to reward CSAs that stuck to the formal structure of the call and thus involved a marked increase in monitoring for the accuracy of the customer response. This was deeply disliked by many CSAs who could not bring themselves to use it: Now,
it’s the format, it’s ‘hi’, identify yourself, identify the customer, every aspect of the customer has to be identified for compliance reasons. Then you go into the situation with the customer. Again applying, what I thought was a natural thing anyway, but now it’s a lot more looked into, you’ve got to be nice to the customer. I always treat the customers as how I would like to be spoken to if I was ringing somewhere. But, obviously, it’s more looked into and there’s aspects of the call that you’ve got to introduce all the way through it. We’re a practice site at the moment. You’re being checked x number of times a day by the coaches, your manager is checking your phone calls and tells the coaches what you’re saying to the customers, it’s ex-sited by a remote team who are doing more checks on our calls than they would do on nationwide calls cos they’re checking the quality. And there’s also other remote places where the customers are called back by an independent bureau asking them what they thought of the call, how the call was handled, and then their view. Despite signs and posters about the correct use of the four elements of the call, CSAs continued to resist its correct delivery (see Plate 4). Signs all over the call centre in the form of clouds, crowns, clasped hands and waving human figures all dedicated to enforcing the correct
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opening, recap and closure for the call did not convince CSAs who complained that the format made them sound like robots, or counter staff at McDonald’s. Another CSA expresses her distaste for the structured call, which she as an experienced employee finds demeaning. As we have pointed out, relaxing the third content stage of the call seemed to push management into being much more rigid about the other three elements, and especially the detailed recap of what had been discussed: The ‘recap’, and at the moment there are quite a number of the older employees who feel that they are being harassed by it. It’s being pushed down their throats every sort of half hour, throughout the day. Wherever you look around the office, all you see is this notice with recap, recap. You’re continually being given pieces of paper throughout the day to remind you to recap, recap. As I say, the older people are feeling a little bit humiliated, these little signs all about something we’ve always
been trained to do. (Female CSA, Commsco CSC) At the time that conformance to the requirements of the quality initiative were in place, the site incentive scheme which awarded points for the sale of certain products and services was becoming less rewarding – with points available being scaled down. CSAs felt quite resentful about this. So, the froth or aesthetics of call centre work did not replace what had been to them a tangible incentive worth striving for. What appears to have been an important basis for resistance was the sense in which management seemed intent on squeezing out any staff individuality or autonomy. This could be seen as simply an unintended consequence of their preoccupation with management control – a feature that tends to be a reflection of the anxiety and insecurity that call centre managers suffer in having so few means of demonstrating their competence other than sales or service output.
Often introducing aspects of fun and games into work and changing the form of incentivization may be a part of a larger change in work organization, as was found by Kinnie, Hutchinson and Purcell (2000). Fun and games can give the impression of employee involvement and, in their case study, incentives were part of the wider ‘high commitment’ Human Resource Management package, including also training, multiskilling and team building (Kinnie et al., 2000). Such was also the case in Commsco where similar measures had been introduced and to
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a lesser extent in our other two organizations. However, the import of presenting work as ‘fun’ even when it is readily discernible as a form of control makes for ambiguity in both its use and interpretation and the changes to the use of targets had unforeseen consequences. As we have seen, call centre workers may be less than willing to play along for a variety of reasons: they may perceive the purposes of the game as inconsistent with their identity, they may find them unnecessary and demeaning. On the other hand, they may find status and rewards in being high performers and resist efforts to change the focus from sales to service, as occurred in Northern
Finserv. As noted, the regime of surveillance in our call centres was masked with elements of play, or games and incorporated a range of carnivallike features such as colourful decoration, spontaneous laughter and joking, especially in relation to the grotesque body image. At Finserv, Christmas 2001 was the opportunity for the male managers to pose for a call centre calendar in the nude, or near nude. Particularly entertaining was the December picture of a male manager playing ‘Santa’ at his desk wearing only boots and a hat with pom-pom.5 In playing the fool, the normal order and work leisure boundary is reversed and measured targets and organizational goals are given the gloss of aesthetic pleasure, in a quasi-party environment. The environment at the various call centres include many of the elements of popular festive forms: games and contests, a proliferation of colourful symbols, authority figures playing the role of the ‘fool’, feasting, seasonal imagery and celebration, humour, dressing up, and so on. Such imagery has a long tradition in popular culture: For thousands of years [the people] have used these festive images to express criticism, their deep distrust of official truth, and their highest hopes and aspirations. Freedom was not so much an exterior right as it was the inner content of these images. It was the thousand year-old language of fearlessness, a language with no reservations and omissions, about the world and about power. (Bakhtin, 1965/1968, p. 269) Bakhtin (1965/1994, p. 195) argues that carnival offers a completely non-traditional extra-ecclesiastical, extra-political aspect to the world and human relations. It has a sensuous character and a strong element of play. Carnival images resemble a certain aesthetic form – the spectacle, satirical symbolic dissonance, or poking fun at power. But the participants do not view the carnival externally; in its folkloric form, they
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are a part of the fun. Carnival has its own time that is outside of official time and is: [A] gap in the fabric of society and since the dominant ideology seeks to author the social order as a unified text, fixed, complete and forever, carnival is a threat – a minimally ritualised gap, or hole in all the mapping of the world laid out in systematic theologies, legal codes
normative poetics and class hierarchies. (Clark and Holquist, 1984, p. 300) Life, here is presented as a miniature play and draws the players out of the bounds of everyday life and (gives the pretence of ) liberating them from the usual laws and regulations (Bakhtin, 1965/1968, p. 235). In the call centres, then, work is presented as play and heroes and champions are winners in games of skill and dexterity. Seasons are celebrated with decorations. Masks and fancy dress are worn, managers can appear in the nude on calendars, thus reversing authoritative roles and playing the ‘fool’. Treats in the form of food and alcoholic drinks, weekend holidays and trips to concerts are to be won. Boxes of ‘party fun’ are stored on top of metal cupboards for the next celebration, or campaign. However, as has been argued, the carnival-like atmosphere in call centres is manufactured by management rather than being a spontaneous bottom up affair. This is not to say that the employees are immune to the excitement and frivolity, which is surely a welcome relief from the pressures of work. Nonetheless, they are fully conscious of the instrumental managerial objectives lying behind and providing the justification for the aesthetic artefacts and party atmosphere surrounding some of the activity. The link between organizational aesthetics, power and forms of resistance is not clear-cut. We found cases where call centre employees interpreted the symbolic environment as asynchronous with the avowed corporate objectives and, therefore, not legitimate. There were examples of individuals who perceived changes in the symbolic environment as a direct threat to their identity. Due to the atypical work patterns experienced by CSAs, rewards for achievement were often seen as unfairly distributed and some refused to engage with the game. Most common, however, was a response that objected to the discipline and controls underlying the apparent light-hearted character of the introduction of aesthetics into call centres. We detected, throughout our research, a resistance that might be interpreted as a claim for an aesthetic of the self rather than one imposed on the culture by management. Almost all the
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complaints from staff were about the way in which they felt unable to express their individuality because management insisted on conformity to set
standards that it believed facilitated its control over the work process. Caring for the self and making one’s life into a work of art was Foucault’s (1985, 1988) political response to the individualizing and totalizing effects of modern disciplinary regimes. It is at once an acceptance of the individualized resources that we acquire from a lifetime of disciplinary pressures to perform as individuals at home, in school, in sex, in sports, and at work and a resistance to the kind of subjugation of subjectivity that such regimes impose (Knights, 2002). Foucault (1980, 1986) saw modern regimes of power/knowledge as increasingly having the effect of transforming individuals into subjects that are turned in on themselves, self-regarding and, thereby, individualized. The constant and continuous processes of judging, measuring and grading individual performance, it can be argued, renders subjects extremely anxious, isolated and insecure and, therefore, highly vulnerable to the presumed safety of collective conformity. Becoming a member of a family, group, club, team, party, organization, nation state, or any other collective provides some partial relief and protection from the individualization and isolation that is the legacy of excessive judgmental power. But, collective attachments are often temporary, superficial and a smoke screen for a narcissistic elevation of self over ‘other’, members over non-members and/or a comparatively stable vehicle for securing identity (Knights and Willmott, 1999). It is possible to deploy the legacy of the Enlightenment, and the associated humanistic belief in self-development and self-improvement, against itself. Not in the way that it has, through psychiatry, psychoanalysis and the caring professions, been a means of normalizing and reintegrating individuals into society, thus rendering subjects docile (Knights, 2002). Rather, on the basis that resistance is most effective when it draws on knowledge and discourses that are already widely accepted, it is possible to turn in on the individualized sense of subjectivity the more to disrupt its subjectively self-disciplining effects in social conformity. This is what we believe that Foucault implies when he speaks of the uses the individualized focus on subjectivity to make of the ‘self’ an aesthetic project – ‘to relate the kind of relationship one has to oneself to a creative activity’ (Foucault, 1984, p. 351). By analogy with the artist in his/her garret, turning the self into a creative work of art would clearly disrupt those effects of individualization that ordinarily
render subjects isolated, preoccupied with identity and vulnerable to the disciplinary demands of power. Ethics are adopted that are contingent to
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the localized circumstances of their application and a transformation of the individualized to a subjectivized subjectivity – that is, one created by and responsible to the self. In detaching ‘truth’ from identity, the unproblematic relationship that power assumes over subjectivity and truth is disrupted. In other words, the effects of power/knowledge regimes to produce particular (individualized) subjectivities and ‘truths’, as part of what it is to secure the self in social relations, can no longer be taken for granted. In our case studies, the proliferation of aesthetic artefacts, denying employees an aesthetic self, undermined many of the efforts that management made to soften the workplace environment.
In this chapter we have sought to bring together arguments on the place of aesthetics in organizations with analysis of power and resistance. Through the use of case study material, the paper has focused upon the use of aesthetic artefacts around performance targets and games designed to improve output. Northern Finserv and Commsco had piloted very similar customer care programmes during the course of this research but they approached the problem of carrying the workforces with them in very different ways. In Commsco, the trial was presented to the workforce through the use of aesthetic artefacts, almost to saturation level. Like Commsco, Northern Finserv also used aesthetic artefacts to facilitate correct procedures in the delivery of good service. But, in contrast to Commsco, in Northern Finserv the use of graphs, performance tables, and other artefacts on team notice boards to stimulate competition was significantly reduced in favour of a prioritizing of Customer Service. In both organizations, surveillance had been vastly increased and figures on the correct use of the structured call were highlighted. Aiming to generate more sales and ordering, our third organization – Big Book telemarketing – was going in a totally different direction. Here a customer service focus was being reconfigured to be more
sales focused, with increased use of incentives. Some team leaders were uneasy as to the ethics of the ‘hard sell’ and the equity of splitting off team members who would gain extra benefits. We have demonstrated the ambiguity of the messages carried by artefacts that seek to camouflage the heavy-duty control and pressure of work by associating it with such non-work activities as parties, games and even the carnival. The relationship between targets and games is complex, so pursuing incentives, or winning game-like competitions, may or may not result in a compliance with the organization’s goals. Management may
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present the organization’s goals in ways that are inconsistent with the meanings attached to them by individual employees. This contributes to a loss of legitimacy for the organization and its management for individuals may seek to define themselves in an aesthetic way that is incompatible with the demand for rigid conformity to standardized procedures that they see as a kind of ‘MacDonaldization’ (Ritzer, 1997) of call centre work. Thus at Northern Finserv, individuals in hard selling teams resisted the change brought about by the customer care trial that threatened their status and income. At Commsco, by contrast, employees secured their aesthetic notion of the self by the exercise of formal and informal skills in interacting with customers (Strati, 1999). It is not that they are playing a game that is totally different from the game of ‘truth’ in their workplace, but they may be playing the game differently (Foucault, 1994). Much of the resistance was to work intensification, but especially to the demands on employees to conform to standardized practices and what staff felt were stereotyped images of themselves. It is not clear that the aesthetic artefacts and games deflected this resistance although counterfactually, it is impossible to know what might have happened in the absence of management’s attempts to soften the controls through such means. In our discussion section, we suggested some tentative ways of analysing the resistance of employees in terms of an aesthetic of the self. This is inspired but does not follow literally Foucault’s later work on ethics. But, in recognizing the individualizing effects of modern power regimes, it may be argued that any
radical transformation in society has to embrace the self without reinforcing the individualism that other discourses are inclined to reproduce. To avoid any charge that Foucault simply plays into the hands of an ideology of individualism, he indicates that social relations are intensified rather than undermined by a focus on the self. As he puts it: ‘The care of the self – or the attention one devotes to the care that others should take of themselves – appears then as an intensification of social relations’ (Foucault, 1986, p. 53). In presenting this research material, we find ourselves disagreeing with those that seek to promote an aesthetic approach to the study of organizations in order to undermine the domination of rational analytical perspectives on organizations. In our view, while an aesthetic approach may provide examples where linear logic or economic rationality do not always dominate emotional, moral or aesthetic concerns and practices in organizations, it will itself remain a rational enterprise. Nor, moreover, is the mere existence or recognition of aesthetic, ethical or emotional activities and artefacts in organizations a guarantee that linear logic and economic rationality will be eclipsed.
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What are the implications of this analysis of aesthetics for the study of call centres and perhaps service employment more generally? We believe that call centre work is likely to expand as organizations, whether in manufacturing or services, seek increasingly direct and immediate ways of communicating with their customers at lower costs than is possible through physical, face to face contact. This impetus to take out costs from service and product delivery systems, of course, is what reinforces the image and the reality of call centres as oppressive workplaces where work-intensification is supported by high levels of technological surveillance, time-measured discipline and performance management. Mediating this by aesthetic paraphernalia does not, from this study, appear to lessen the opposition to the managerial designs that have the effect of reducing the self to a robotic image of its own potential. Indeed it probably weakens the goodwill and customer commitment that our research and surveys confirm call centre staff exhibit. The demand of call centre staff seems to be for
the freedom to make of their work with customers something that could be called an aesthetic project of the self. Whether management is sufficiently sophisticated and secure to relax control is another question, but such a strategy could be a non-zero sum game.
1. Customer care programmes have a popular outcrop from the Quality movement (e.g. Quality Circles; Quality Control; TQM) that inspired new managerial interventions in the 1980s and 1990s (for a critical analysis see Wilkinson and Willmott, 1995). Making sure the customer secured a satisfactory service was seen as a way of creating competitive advantage that, unlike new technology or product differentiation, could not easily be imitated. 2. Obtaining accurate figures for staffing levels in the call centres proved difficult since temporary staff may be taken on to cover seasonal variations, the balance between agency, temporary staff and permanent staff changes according to demand, collective bargaining and the notoriously high level of staff turnover in this sector of employment. Companies are more likely to provide numbers of ‘seats’ as a measure of the size of the call centre. 3. This is paraphrasing Fox and Flanders’ (1969) managerial argument that managers need to share power in order to regain it. 4. In this section we only discuss two of our case studies because in the case of Northern Finserv staff did not resist the proliferation of controls so much as a revision of the incentive system that reduced their opportunities to make sales and hence affected their earnings negatively. In this sense they wanted to retain the incentivized status quo whereas in the other two cases, staff were insulted by the necessity to incentivize. 5. We were unable to obtain permission to use this photograph.
The Power of Organizational Song: An Organizational Discourse and Aesthetic Expression of Organizational Culture Nick Nissley, Steven S. Taylor and Orville Butler
In this chapter, the authors examine organizational songs, referring to songs
that are created and sung by members of an organization as an aesthetic expression of organizational culture. Specifically, the study examines the organizational songs of the Maytag Company (USA-based manufacturer of home appliances) sales organization, and is historically situated during the invention and development of the washing machine technology (the early 1900s). The research considers organizational songs as a relatively unexamined form of organizational discourse. More critically, the research considers organizational songs as an organizational discourse and aesthetic expression of organizational culture – with ‘power to’ shape the identity and actions of the Maytag sales organization, as well as ‘power over’ consumer and employee behaviour.
Introduction: framing organizational song as a form of organizational discourse Grant, Keenoy, and Oswick (1998) assert that organization ‘is articulated by and through the deployment of discursive resources’ (p. 12). With the emergence of social semiotics and postmodern semiotics, it has been argued that the definition of ‘text’ can be broadened even further, to include cultural artifacts such as art, architecture, and music (Hodge and Kress, 1988; Kress and Leeuwen, 1990; Gottdiener, 1995). We assert that organizational songs, similar to novels (e.g. Czarniawska-Joerges and 93
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Guillet de Monthoux, 1994; Brawer, 1998), poetry (e.g. Windle, 1994) and plays (e.g. Taylor, 2000) can be considered as a form of organizational discourse. Also, Barry and Elmes (1997) assert that while much of organizational discourse ends up as some form of print, that which is communicated verbally is often overlooked. We would extend this assertion, to say, that the verbal – sung – discourse is nearly ignored in organizational studies, aside from the emerging works that explore the organization–music relationship (e.g. Clegg, 2000; Nissley, 2002). To better understand this unique form of organizational discourse, we turn to the organizational aesthetics literature. First, we assert that the text of organizational song is rich with social meaning and can be analyzed in terms of what it reveals about a social context (e.g. the organizing of the
invention and development of the washing machine within the Maytag Company). This idea is most evident when one considers the lyrics of organizational songs that readily express memories, histories, emotions, and ideologies – thus, making organizational discourse theory appropriate as a means for analysis. However, as Mattern (1998) points out, ‘music provides a communicative medium that is not simply an alternative way to say the same things that humans say through speech. Music, like other art forms, can express meanings that are not accessible through words or express them in ways that give listeners more immediate access to emotions’ (p. 17). Similarly, Booth (1976, p. 242) asserts, ‘The words that go with music in songs live a life different from that of words written down for printed poetry’. Booth suggests that song lyrics are an oral art, thus making organizational aesthetics the most appropriate place from which to analyse what the organizational songs tell us about the social organization. Strati (1996) describes the history of aesthetic epistemology and the development of organizational aesthetics, noting that the German philosopher, Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten developed the field of inquiry we refer to as aesthetics, during the mid-18th century, in response to the emphasis on rationality and intellectual knowledge extending back to Descartes. Strati (1996, p. 216) notes: Baumgarten conceived of aesthetics as one of the two components of the theory of knowledge or gnoseology: on the one hand, logic, which investigates intellectual knowledge; on the other, aesthetics, as both the theory of the beautiful and of the arts, which investigate sense knowledge.
Nick Nissley, Steven S. Taylor and Orville Butler
Strati (1999) develops this idea of aesthetic epistemology within the organizational studies framework. According to Strati, aesthetics in organizational life ‘concerns a form of human knowledge; and specifically the knowledge yielded by the perceptive faculties’ (p. 2). Strati argues ‘that it is possible to gain aesthetic, rather than logico-rational, understanding of organizational life’ (p. 7). More specifically, Strati
(1992, p. 575) describes aesthetic discourse, and similarly Gagliardi (1996, p. 574) describes aesthetic communication. Nissley (2002) specifically considers organizational song as a form of aesthetic discourse/ aesthetic communication. Thus, according to Grant, Keenoy, and Oswick (1998), who assert that organization ‘is articulated by and through the deployment of discursive resources’ (p. 12), we assert that organizational song – if understood as a form of organizational discourse – may inform the inquiry of the organizational researcher. In this research we begin by simply seeking to examine what the organizational songs of the Maytag Company may inform us about that organization – to answer, what is articulated by and through this unique form of discursive resource.
Research methods: making sense of Maytag’s songs
This is a descriptive study – an exploration of organizational songs – of songs that are created by members of an organization as an expression of organizational culture. In this research we seek to examine what the organizational songs of the Maytag Company may inform us about that organization – to answer, what is articulated by and through this unique form of discursive resource. Methodologically, the study can be described as an ‘archaeological approach’ (Strati, 1999, p. 189) – the investigation of ‘fragments of organizational life’ (organizational artifacts) and of the organizational cultures that have generated these fragments of organizational discourse. Specifically, this research examines the organizational songs of the Maytag Company (USA-based manufacturer of household appliances), and is historically situated during the invention and development of the washing machine technology (the early 1900s). Due to the historical nature of the research and the inherent limitations, we do not claim to have listened to all the songs ever created. However, the research considers what is believed to be the most complete recording of Maytag songs,1 dating from the first half of the twentieth century. In addition, primary documents (e.g. company newsletters such as Profit News and Maytag News) are examined.
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Butler (1997) parenthetically notes that turn of the century home appliance advertising was rich with reflexive commentary. For example, Automatic Electric Washing Machine Company’s advertising slogan, ‘ten o’clock and the washing is done’, while appearing to promise housewives quick relief to washday blues, actually reflected the fact that banker/founder of the firm, O. B. Woodrow, no longer had to leave the bank at 10 o’clock on Mondays to crank his family’s hand powered washing machine. We shall start by uncritically telling the story of the organizational songs, inviting you, the reader, to make your own sense of it as you read; then, we present our analysis.
The historical context: the organizational songs of the Maytag Company The Maytag Company began in 1893 as Parsons Band Cutter and SelfFeeder Company. By 1900 it was one of the leading manufacturers of a dying product. Maytag and his partners expanded into other farm implements introducing a small hand powered washing machine in 1907 to extend its factory season in the farming community of Newton, Iowa. But washing machines remained a sideline operation. Not until 1915 did washing machine revenues equal farm implement revenues. However, by 1923 Maytag had abandoned the farm implement business. Maytag was not the first Newton factory to manufacture washing machines. Nor was it the largest washing machine manufacturer in Newton prior to the introduction of its aluminum tub gyrator washer in the early 1920s. One Minute Washing Machine Company peaked its production in 1911, manufacturing some forty thousand washing machines that year. At the end of the First World War, both the One Minute and the Automatic Electric Washing Machine Company manufactured more washing machines than did Maytag. Several other firms in Newton and the surrounding communities manufactured smaller numbers of washing machines – some as sidelines to other seasonal businesses.2 Yet Maytag had to transform its business and marketing plan for the ‘gyrafoam’ washer to succeed. When Maytag distributors demonstrated their first ‘Model 80’ washers, washing clothes as they had always washed them, the clothes came out badly torn. F. L. Maytag, the firm’s founder, and Howard Snyder, the firms design expert, rushed to Minneapolis to counter competitors’ claims that the new machine was an ‘ensilage cutter’ and ‘spaghetti machine’.3 It quickly became clear that if Maytag were to succeed with their
new washing machine they would have to rely upon direct sales and demonstrations to the consumer.4
Nick Nissley, Steven S. Taylor and Orville Butler
The 1920s were a period of growth for Newton’s major washing machine manufacturers, but Maytag, after the 1922 introduction of their aluminum ‘Model 80’ washing machine, outstripped its competitors. While industry sales improved by 68 per cent in 1922, Maytag’s improved by 361 per cent.5 Maytag would double in size every year between 1922 and 1927. Maytag struggled to maintain control of its innovative technology, but not until 1931 was it granted crucial patents on its ‘gyrafoam’ washer.6 By 1925 many of its competitors both in Newton and throughout the USA were adopting similar washing machine technologies.7 Maytag increased its advertising budget in the fall of 1924 to counter inroads made by competitors into the agitator washer market and sought new means to motivate its sales force. New advertising included sponsorship of the ‘Maytag Troubadours’ who composed and sang songs such as ‘The Aluminum Blues’, ‘The Rack Bar Rag’, ‘The Wringer Rings’, and ‘The Gyrafoam Waltz’ on the new Des Moines radio station WHO.8 At the next annual sales meeting, in January 1925, songs were introduced as a motivational tool for Maytag’s sales force. Maytag began the meeting facing several problems. The company had just finished paying off its debts incurred during the First World War, in developing the aluminum washer and had established a $1.5 million dollar recapitalization program. Maytag was king of the washing machine industry, but king in a capital community. Iowa produced 60 per cent of washing machines manufactured in the USA in 1924. Maytag produced about 20 per cent of the nations washing machines, Newton’s remaining three plants produced about another 25 per cent, and the rest of Iowa produced another 15 per cent of the nation’s washing machines. National competitors like General Electric, had between a 10–20 per cent decline in business the previous year, while the four Newton firms, Maytag, Automatic Electric, One Minute, and Woodrow, all had substantial increases. Maytag’s serious competition lay just across the
street, and the annual sales conventions, complete with slogans and special entertainment became a mechanism not only for boosting enthusiasm among the sales force, but for intimidating the competition. Maytag had long held sales conventions for its branch managers, expanding them to include the newly developed sales force in 1923. Maytag’s sales conventions would typically follow the week after the much smaller sales conventions of Automatic Electric, One Minute and Woodrow. The conventions were lavish affairs. Entertainment alone for the 1924 convention, hosting 200 salesmen, cost $20,000.9 The typical convention would consist of several sales meetings, evening movies or
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live entertainment culminating in a sales banquet the last night of the convention. Each company would try to out do their local competitors’ convention. Maytag would begin 1925 facing problems common to many successful companies. They had just redesigned their ‘Model 80’ washer to eliminate leaks through the agitator mechanism – a problem which had enabled competitors to start cutting into Maytag’s agitator washer market. Numerous competitors were contesting Maytag’s gyrator patent application and potentially infringing machines had been introduced to the market. While Maytag and its three Newton-based competitors continued to increase sales, other national firms had sales declines the previous year.10 By June of the previous year, Newton’s three largest firms, Maytag, Automatic and One Minute manufactured 47 per cent of America’s washing machines. Both Automatic and One Minute had introduced new washer lines. Maytag was successful but faced new and increasingly viable competition. It had substantially increased its newspaper advertising to counter the growing competition. At its annual convention held on 8–10 January 1925, Maytag turned to songs to help motivate its sales force. On 9 January Newton Rotary Club appeared at a sales convention meeting, marching in singing ‘My Maytag Gyrafoam’ to the tune of ‘My Irish Rose’. The next night salesmen from the various divisions spread enthusiasm at the banquet held in Des Moines’ Savery hotel by singing parodies of popular songs. ‘How do you do, Mr Maytag’, ‘Good Ol’ Maytag’ and ‘Yes, We Have No Excuses’ became the
standards of the evening.11 Sales conventions quickly became more than an annual affair. In 1926 Paul Scott, manager of Maytag’s Eastern Branch sales force, held a series of ‘It’s a Great Gang that Sells the Maytag’ banquets where Maytag songs became the order of the day.12 Other branches would reward top salesmen with trips to the Maytag factory for a branch convention. Again, focusing on songs to whip up enthusiasm for both the branch and the company. Even the Lockhardt–Walker evangelistic services joined in. On ‘Maytag Night’ Maytag employees and their families would be invited to sit in reserved seats and the singing evangelist led the congregation in singing: Maytag, Maytag, Maytag Cleanest Name I Know. Maytag, Maytag, Maytag Washes Clothes as White as Snow.13
Nick Nissley, Steven S. Taylor and Orville Butler
In Newton the local band would pipe trainload shipments of Maytag washers out of town to the tunes ‘That’s Where the Tall Corn Grows’ and ‘The Gang’s All Here’.14 On 12 July 1927, Maytag factory workers dressed in white, and wearing Maytag fezzes, assembled at the factory before marching to the community picnic grounds – singing Maytag songs. This picnic celebrated the founder’s seventieth birthday, 14 July 1927, and saw the publication of the first Maytag songbook.15 This initial songbook, included songs not only promoting the sales of Maytag washer, but also songs to shape the dreams of young consumers. As Maytag songbooks became a common script at sales meetings, Maytag expanded the use of music to shape the culture of the sales organization. In the fall of 1927, Automatic Washer Company, taking its clue from the earlier Maytag Troubadors, began sponsoring the Apollo Quartet singing under the name ‘Automatic Agitators’ over WHO radio.16 Within a year, the Apollo Quartet was singing at Maytag sales meetings.17 In November 1927 Maytag test marketed a radio programme over Chicago’s WHT.18 The programme was expanded the following month to six clear channel stations across the United States. A trio from the Chicago Philharmonic became the ‘Maytag Ramblers’ and the 1927 ‘most popular disk jockey’ Pat Barnes, of WHT served as master of ceremonies.19 The network would eventually expand to 50
stations. Drawing on leading radio personalities and performers, the show’s theme song became ‘Let a Smile be Your Umbrella and a Maytag Your Washer’20 as Maytag spent nearly $450,000 on its radio budget. Maytag developed a programme of specially written dramas, utilizing popular tunes performed by such bands as Ted Fiorito and his Edgewater Hotel Orchestra, Coon-Sanders and the Original Kansas City Nighthawks, Fred Hamm and his Recording Orchestra, Art Kassel and his Castles in the Air Orchestra, and Dan Russo’s Oriole Orchestra. The half-hour long ‘Maytag Radio Hour’ would expand and go through several transformations before it closed in 1932.21 For a brief period it broadcast stories about salesmen or others who solved a family or life crisis frequently with the use of a Maytag washer or with salesmen qualities that made them uniquely Maytag.22 By 1930 the ‘Maytag Happiness Hour’ was delivered weekly over NBC’s blue network. While Ted Fiorito initially conducted the Maytag Orchestra,23 in an effort to cut costs the show was frequently reorganized, not allowing for a stable conductor. In 1930 Maytag cut it’s radio budget by 25 per cent and the growing depression forced further cuts.24 By 1932, the well-known performers were
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gone, the Maytag Orchestra had gone through four directors,25 and the ‘Maytag Happiness Hour’ played light music. The theme song ‘Let me Call You Sweetheart’ no longer made a direct connection to Maytag.26 Maytag songbooks, however, continued to produce evangelistic fervour at Maytag sales meetings. In the 1930s Maytag sales organizations rewarded salesmen for songs extolling their performance.27 Maytag songbooks in numerous editions were sold to dealers and salesmen for 2.5 cents a copy until the beginning of the Second World War. Maytag’s sales organization was shut down for the duration of the war as the company’s plants manufactured airplane parts and other military equipment. But Maytag remained a part of song lore. During the war, small Piper Cub aircraft were used to spot enemy gunfire and report range data to allied guns below. Known as the Grasshopper Artillery, their battle hymn chorus concluded: So we’ll give the Axis fits With our Maytag Messerschmitts We’re the Grasshopper Artillery.28 After the war one new edition of the Maytag Song book incorporated new songs about Maytag’s
expanded line of ovens, freezers and refrigerators. But times had changed. Maytag found it difficult to recruit doorto-door salesmen and the sellers’ market for much of the remainder of the 1940s made them unnecessary. Sales returned to the showroom floor and the workforce of Maytag trained and paid salesmen declined. Store salesmen sold more than Maytag products. Maytag advertising developed new techniques for attracting consumers to its products. The Maytag songbooks of the 1920s and 1930s played a powerful role in uniting and motivating a sales force, unparalleled in the home appliance industry. Through song, they learned the features of their product line and the techniques that enabled them to sell it. Salesmen also developed camaraderie, among one another and with their customers who heard Maytag songs over the radio. Even when the decline of Maytag’s ‘Happiness Hour’ resulted in ‘Let Me Call You Sweetheart’ for the show’s theme song, every salesman undoubtedly heard, the following, instead of the traditional words: Let me have a Maytag For I love you true, Let me have a Maytag Then I’ll wash for you
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If you buy that Maytag I will love you so, Let me hear you whisper I bought it for you. Maytag songs defined for the salesmen, their role in the company, their relationship to the customer and their product’s role in society. It shaped the organizational culture and the identity of the Maytag sales organization – extending from the factory to the salesman to the consumer – it bound them to the Maytag product and to each other. After considering these organizational songs from the Maytag Company, we assert that Mangham (1986) is right to point out that ‘organizations are created, sustained, and changed through talk’ (p. 82) – or, more specifically, through song. But, where there is light, there is also shadow, so we now turn to a more critical analysis of organizational song at Maytag.
A more critical examination of the use of organizational song as organizational discourse and an aesthetic expression of organizational
culture While the organizational studies literature is expanding, to include novels (e.g. Brawer, 1998; Czarniawska-Joerges and Guillet de Monthoux, 1994), poetry (e.g. Windle, 1994) and plays (e.g. Taylor, 2000) as forms of organizational discourse, organization and management theorists have made few contributions (e.g. Clegg, 2000; Sicca, 2000; Nissley, 2002) to the literature of music and organizations, aside from the intense interest in the relationship of jazz to organizational studies (e.g. Bastien and Hostagier, 1988, 1992; Weick, 1990; Perry, 1991; Hatch, 1997b, 1998, 1999; Organization Science, 1998; Barrett, 2000). Also, while critical perspectives on music have been undertaken (e.g. Conrad, 1988; Mondak, 1988; Cary, 1990; Lewis, 1991), a more specific, critical management studies reading of organizational song is still unexplored in the organizational studies and organizational aesthetics literature. Similar to Barker’s (1999) research, our story of the Maytag Company sales organization’s use of songs has a rhetorical character and a critical character. By rhetorical, we mean focused on how the Maytag organization ‘used’ discourse – specifically, the aesthetic discourse of organizational song, to do things as an organization – especially, to create shared meaning among the sales organization, or in other words to sing their culture and sense of identity. In this section we also turn to what Barker (1999) refers to as the critical character. Barker describes the critical
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character as an ‘analysis of how patterns of discourse or language use create oppressive or overly constrained systems in organizations’ (p. 23). Thus, we consider the use of organizational song at Maytag through the lens of critical management studies. By applying the critical management studies lens to our ‘archaeological approach’ – we consider a way the Maytag organization ‘used’ the organizational songs as an organizational discourse. Here we will describe how the power of organizational song – as an organizational discourse – was used to shape the Maytag Company sales organization. We use the metaphor of ‘acting in concert’ to describe this power-ful discourse – the power of organizational song to shape the culture, identity, and image of the Maytag sales organization. Mattern (1998, p. 32)
describes music in relation to power, differentiating ‘power over’ and ‘power to’, referring to a sense of power as domination, on the one hand, and power as a positive capacity on the other hand (e.g. power over the consumer, versus power to develop a community of salesmen). First, we will consider the Maytag company’s organizational songs as a discourse with ‘power to’ develop a community of salesmen. Second, we will also consider those songs as a discourse with ‘power over’ the salesmen and consumers.
Acting in concert: organizational song and the ‘power to’ John Dewey (1934, p. 81) wrote: Works of art that are not remote from common life, that are widely enjoyed in a community, are signs of a unified collective life. But, they are also marvelous aids in the creation of such a life. The remaking of the material of experience in the act of expression is not an isolated event confined to the artist and to a person here and there who happens to enjoy the work. In the degree in which art exercises its office, it is also a remaking of the experience of the community in the direction of greater order and unity. Like Dewey, we assert that organizational song can act as both, a ‘sign of community’ and as an ‘aid in the creation of community.’ As a sign, organizational song reveals an aesthetic discourse that explains the culture of the organization. As an aid in the creation of community, organizational song acts as a form of communication through which the commonalities of community are created and discovered. Thus, the communicative capacity of organizational song supports the development of organizational culture by enabling and shaping the sharing of experience.
Nick Nissley, Steven S. Taylor and Orville Butler
One reading, a more functionalist reading, reveals the organizational songs as an expressive strategy (Gagliardi, 1986) – a means of creating shared meaning among the Maytag organization. Certainly F. L. Maytag, the company’s founder, also strategically expressed the values described in these songs. Consider, in a 1928 article in the Maytag Profit News,29 he asserted that the first rule he developed in his business life ‘was to keep on regardless,
even blindly when some particular discouragement was hanging over me’. He continued, ‘Many discouraging situations needed only one thing to make them turn out right – work, and because of this many complications disappeared before work like mist before the morning sun.’ However, a critical management studies perspective offers another reading of the songs. Salesman and workers, not management and its agents, in the main, composed the subject Maytag songs. From this perspective, critical management studies reveals the songs as a form of cultural pedagogy and cultural hegemony (Lears, 1985), or as Altman (1990) states, a discursive constitution of ideology. Similarly, to Altman’s concept of the discursive constitution of ideology, Mattern (1998) uses the phrase ‘acting in concert’ as a metaphor for community-based political action through music. He describes ‘acting in concert’ as taking three main forms – each representing a distinctly different kind of community-based political action through music. The form which he labels as ‘pragmatic’ (p. 30) describes how the Maytag sales organization used organizational songs. According to Mattern (1998, p. 30), the pragmatic form of acting in concert ‘occurs when members of one or more communities use music to promote awareness of shared interests’. We borrow this metaphor to describe how organizational song, functioning as a form of aesthetic discourse, may have acted as a means of organizing and controlling organizational actions – specifically, the development of organizational identity (the identity of the Maytag sales organization), the organizational culture of the sales organization, and the actions of these employees. It appears that organizational song served as a record of a community, by capturing the human experience of the salesmen and rendering it meaningful in the context of the Maytag Company, ‘creating a window into the identity of a community’ (Mattern, 1998, p. 18). One may also consider the songs as a sort of organizational autobiography (Czarniawska-Joerges, 1996). Consider the following examples that offer a window into the identity of the Maytag sales organization: It’s a great gang that sells the Maytag, It’s a great gang to know;
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They are full of pep and ginger, And their watchword is ‘Let’s Go!’ Always on
the level Always fair and square, It’s a great old gang that sells the Maytag, And my heart’s right there!30 This discourse is a very straightforward expression of a set of espoused values – asserting that the Maytag salesman is energetic and honest. We hear similar values about ‘working hard’ expressed in the following song: Gone are the days, when I laid in bed till nine, Gone are the days, when I wasted hours so fine, Gone and fore aye, for I wakened with a jerk, I heard the prospect loudly calling; Work, work, work.31 Also, consider the following song, sung to the tune of ‘Carolina in the Morning’. Similarly, this song speaks to the values of the sales culture – the importance of ‘making the sale’ (‘get an order signer’): Nothing can be finer than to be a real headliner, with the Maytag. Each day I take a flyer and my sales go climbing higher, with the Maytag. I meet the smiling ladies as I approach the door I call back again some evening and bask in their smiles once more, Oh! popper, I can’t stop ‘er, she is cleaning clothes proper, with the Maytag. She’s going to sing more sweetly as she does here washing weekly, with the Maytag. If I get a chicken’s wishbone any old day, I’ll make a wish, and here’s what I’ll say: Nothing could be finer, than to be a real headliner, with the Maytag Nothing could be finer than to get an order signer every morning. Nothing could be sweeter than a prospect when you meet her in the morning.
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When the Monday’s washing has her good and sore And she is almost weeping, I pound upon the door. Strolling in to demonstrate a good old ‘Maytag’ washer, in the morning. Start the motor humming and a smile will soon be coming in the morning. When she sees it wash the clothes she can’t help but say: ‘I’ll take that “Maytag,” what must I pay?’ Nothing could be finer than to get an order signer every morning.32 Certainly a critical view must include some consideration of the context. These songs were from the 1920s – a decade of incredible prosperity and economic expansion in the US. However, it was also a decade of overnight paper millionaires – created in the bull stock market that preceded the stock market collapse of 1929 and the Great Depression.
Mattern (1998, p. 31) asserts that acting in concert may ‘occur in many different social settings and situations, including social spaces traditionally viewed as political, such as town halls and party headquarters on election night; but they may also include less traditional forms of political arenas … In short, acting in concert can occur wherever music is produced and consumed’. Thus, our research reveals the business organization as one more such social space. In the Maytag Company, organizational songs were recorded in song books, sung at sales meetings/conventions, and sung on radio shows by groups like the ‘Maytag Troubadors’, ‘Automatic Agitators’, ‘Maytag Orchestra’, and the ‘Maytag Ramblers’. Mattern (1998, p. 19) notes that as an audience listens to music (like the Maytag sales organization audience), ‘they may begin to internalize some of its meaning, and it becomes part of their identity’. He continues, ‘By expressing common experiences’, music helps create and solidify a fund of shared memories and a sense of ‘who we are’. These organizational songs appear to have created a sense of ‘who we are’ for the Maytag Company sales organization. Barker (1999) uses the language of ‘concertive control’ when discussing self-managing teams and how ‘a self-managing system creates an environment that controls worker activity in ways quite different from the bureaucratic (hierarchical, rules-based) forms of control found in traditional organizational structures’ (p. 3). We suggest that these organizational songs may be thought of as an earlier form of the selfmanaging technology of concertive control found in modern
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management. That is to say, singing these songs embodied the structure of culture and identity that salesmen had created for themselves, reminding them of rules of behaviour that went with that culture and identity. There is a particular power in organizational songs because songs are enjoyable. Enjoyment produces two effects. The first is engagement. The more we enjoy the song, the more we are drawn into the moment and the more the aesthetic experience dominates the instrumental concerns of the moment. As the aesthetic experience dominates the individual’s critical functions and filters become less active, the felt meaning of the story is allowed to be
accepted uncritically and unquestioned. The second effect is repetition. A song that is enjoyed for its own sake is more memorable and gets repeated (Taylor, Fisher and Dufresne, 2002). Barker (1999) explains control in relation to organizational culture, using the concept of ‘generative discipline,’ referring to ‘the mechanism through which an organization’s discursive formations and system of control … become manifest in actual day-to-day organizational activity’ (p. 42). He continues, describing generative discipline as a ‘method for “teaching” us how to do good work in the organization’ (p. 45). We found organizational song acting in such a way – a ‘rough draft’ methodology for how to live in the organization (Barker, 1999, p. 47) – a form of cultural pedagogy and cultural hegemony (Lears, 1985). Consider this song about persistence: When things are looking blue And your volume’s slipping too, Turn new door-knobs. If your profit shows in red, There’s no need to lose your head; Turn new door-knobs. Selling knows no regular season. Look around and find the reason. Turn new door-knobs. If you find you’re in a rut, Getting dead as old King Tut, Turn new door-knobs.33 This song tells a simple lesson about how to do good work in the Maytag organization, and that is to never give up – just keep making sales calls. There is no room for failure, just keep trying. The following piece is even clearer about the cultural expectations for a Maytag salesman.
Nick Nissley, Steven S. Taylor and Orville Butler
This jumble of words is very plain, yet you’ll find them true, And they don’t apply to anyone else, anymore than me and you, Your life is what you make it, you can be your own Devil or God, Remember as you go through life, you fashion the paths you trod, You can build yourself to the highest peaks or drag yourself down, Your name can be sung as a man among men or you can be a clown, If other fellows get out and make good, then you can do the same, Keep on your toes and do your stuff, it’s all in playing the game, Always be one of the pushers and don’t let your feet ever drag, For nothing goes but builders, in the gang that sells the MAYTAG.34 This song clearly communicates, there is no room for dreamers, for failures of any form – only
success through hard work is acceptable. If we take seriously the idea that songs created and reinforced cultural hegemony, we might then turn to the question, why did the songs fade away? The story we told suggested that after the Second World War, it was difficult to find salesmen and Maytag shifted to selling through retail stores. The implication is that the songs were only tied to the direct sales force culture and not connected to any broader Maytag culture. A more critical reading might be the hypothesis that the songs stopped working as way of creating and enforcing cultural hegemony. We have no data that provides any insight into this question, but we do have a possible story that is based on our ideas of how songs work as a form of aesthetic discourse. We suggest that the post-Second World War workforce may have become sophisticated consumers of organizational songs. Eco (1990) describes naïve consumers of aesthetic forms as being carried along by the song, unaware of what is happening. Sophisticated audiences are carried along as well, but are aware of the technique and methods used as well as being aware that the song is carrying them along. This sophisticated consumer can then be critical of the song while they enjoy it. This addition of criticality strikes directly at the power of songs
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we described above. It reengages the intellectual, critical filters and brings the nature of the song into question. Workers did not need to see the songs as a form of cultural hegemony, it may have been enough to simply see the blatant idealism of the songs and the contrast with the world they knew from their experience of the Second World War. We suggest that somehow the experience of the Second World War, both for individuals and for the nation, may have transformed workers from naïve consumers of organizational songs to more sophisticated consumers, and that may be part of why the songs faded from use in Maytag. Next, we shift our focus from the sales organization to the customer of the Maytag washing machine (from identity development of the sales organization, to image development of the Maytag Company and its products), considering the relationship between the Maytag product, the consumer, and the organizational song.
Composing a consumer culture: organizational song and the ‘power over’ Let us now turn to the other use of the Maytag songs, as sales tools with power over the customers. Consider this sales song that was sung to a popular tune of the time: Maytag Smile35 [Sung to tune of ‘Pack Up Your Troubles’] Put out your washing with the new Maytag And Smile, Smile, Smile While you are working with the New Maytag Smile boys that’s the style What’s the use of worrying Never was worth while So put out your washing with the New Maytag and Smile, Smile, Smile. The message is simple and clear – buy a Maytag and you’ll be smiling. It takes only the simplest of critical readings to see the song as pure propaganda (e.g. Altman, 1990, p. 287), and it is hard to imagine the song having any great effect on a potential customer. That is, there would be no effect if we assume a process of rational reasoning. However, aesthetic forms bypass rational reasoning processes, relying directly on felt meaning. The strength of the song is enhanced by playing on any positive felt meaning already associated with the original song ‘Pack up Your
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Troubles’. As a modern example, think of English football fans singing their team song. The feeling from tens of thousands of Liverpool fans singing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, cannot be ignored, even though the lyrics hardly make a compelling rational case. Maytag clearly designed its Monday night ‘Maytag Radio Hour’ to influence consumers. ‘The Maytag Radio Hour’, the Company informed its dealers and salesmen, ‘is more than mere entertainment; it is a well designed advertisement that keeps pounding away at the old theme, “A Maytag is the Washer for You to Buy” ’. In its musical selections, the Company asserted, ‘we try to make love to the housewives of America. We play soft soothing music and sing love songs to take her back to her happiest days, days of courtship, carefree and bright’.36 Many of Maytag’s songs did hearken back to courtship relationships or promise youthful beauty through the purchase of a Maytag washer. Consider the following, sung to ‘Too Many Parties’: Too many washboards and too many tubs May break your
back some day; Too many wristbands that have to be rubbed Bring sorrow to you on washday. But just get a Maytag and we have no fear You will look younger in less than a year; Maytags wash faster and cleaner we say, So let’s put a Maytag in your home today.37 Let’s turn to some additional examples. The Maytag Company introduced the washing machine to replace the washboard technology. Some of the organizational songs spoke to the consumer and why they should replace the washboard in their homes with the newer washing machine technology. Consider the following example, sung to the tune of ‘Bye-Bye Blackbird’: Bye-Bye Wash-Board38 Pack up all your cares and woes I don’t care where you go. Bye-bye wash-board. If somebody asks for you I’ll just say ‘Went Keflue’ Bye-Bye wash-board. I have always found you mighty handy, But that ‘Maytag’ surely is a dandy.
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It washes clothes, ladies hose, Press the lever and away it goes Wash-board bye-bye. This is an example of how salesmen used a discourse that marginalized the washboard technology (e.g. ‘bye-bye wash-board’) – a discourse that could be understood as creating ‘power over’ the consumers’ ideas of the value of old technology (e.g. washboard) versus new technology (e.g. washing machine). Other songs served as a similar type of discourse. These did not marginalize the low-technology washboard; but, rather exalted the product benefits of the new washing machine technology. Consider the following example: Queen for a Day39 Would you hear the tale of a weekly fear changed to a happy sphere By one who serves? Washday now has lost blue Monday look. Maytag days have made the whole world talk. Washday is a dream; Clothes supremely clean When done Maytag way Have that joyous satisfaction; Clothes cleaned to perfection Done with gyrafoam action, Time for happiness and play. Be the happy one When your wash is done, You’re queen for the day. Let the Maytag solve your troubles With ‘White King’ bubbles, Notice how your play time doubles, You’re queen for the day. These Maytag Company songs are examples of discourses framed by the sales organization and directed at consumers, seeking to exert ‘power over’ consumer behaviour. These discourses spoke to the inferiority of the previous technology (washboards) versus the superiority of the new washing machine technology. As well, these
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exalted the product benefits of the washing machine technology; but, not at the expense of the previous technology. Here we assert that these songs, sung by the Maytag Company sales organization, not only had ‘power to’ shape the identity, culture, and actions of the sales organization; but the songs may have had ‘power over’ consumer behaviour (or, one may posit that this is the desire of the sales organization). We draw a parallel between the Maytag Company sales organization’s use of song to compose a consumer culture (a culture predicated on the value of owning and using a Maytag washing machine product) and Altman’s (1990) analysis of the Better Homes in America (BHA) Campaign, and what she named the ‘discursive constitution of ideology’ (p. 286). Altman describes how BHA, ‘a national reform campaign during the 1920s, mobilized institutions with diverse interests in defining the modern American home and in addressing the American public as consumers’ (p. 286). She continues, ‘BHA constructed a modern ideology of home ownership, housework, and consumption’ (p. 280). This formation of consumer culture was realized through multiple rhetorical strategies, such as: dedication speeches; homemaking articles; fiction; and, non-fiction. Our research suggests that organizational song may have acted as a similar rhetorical strategy, and one may understand the Maytag Company sales organization’s performance of organizational songs as the ‘composing of a consumer culture’. How much these songs were a factor in Maytag’s sales is impossible to quantify. Certainly many other factors, from product design to the overall socio-economic environment also played a role. But we believe that the songs, as a form of aesthetic discourse played an important and often undervalued role. There is a power in aesthetic discourse that is subtle and does not fit well in most conventional theories of power. It is a power that is not based in the properties of the individuals involved, it is not based in the authority and legitimacy structures of the social situation, nor even in the relationship of those involved. It is a power based in the form (not
the content) of the discourse. It is this idea of power based in form that is the unique focus of critical engagement with aesthetic discourse such as these organizational songs. And it is through this power, that songs are able to play a unique part in forming and maintaining aspects of organizations such as culture, identity, and image.
This study is not definitive; it is exploratory and intended to provoke thinking and ideas regarding organizational song as an organizational
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discourse and aesthetic expression of organizational culture. We recognize that much additional research is possible. However, we assert the following. First, while Strati (1992) and Gagliardi (1996) have generally discussed aesthetic discourse and aesthetic communication, respectively, this research identifies organizational song as a unique organizational discourse – an aesthetic discourse. Second, Hazen (1993) posits, ‘Are organizations sound?’ (pp. 20–1), asserting ‘As we hear what goes on in them, we learn something different from what we see’ (p. 21). This study suggests, more specifically, that organizations may be sung; and, indeed we may learn something about the organization if we listen to the songs that are sung in organizations. Third, and similarly, O’Donnell (1985, p. 10) asserts a pedagogical significance of songs performed by workers. Thus, songs may teach us, organizational researchers, about organizational life, and such songs may teach workers about organizational life. Fourth, Barry and Elmes (1997) ask, ‘what form will strategic narratives take next?’ This research suggests that a new form may be the organizational song, given its power to shape identity and image. Finally, the critical management studies lens allows us to consider that organizational songs not only have the ‘power to’ teach us about organizational life, but they may also have ‘power over’ our organizational lives – shaping those that participate in the song of organizational life.
1. Compiled by Orville Butler in the early 1990s, who was then affiliated with Iowa State University’s Centre for the Historical Studies of Technology and Science. 2. As many as seven different firms manufactured washing machines in Newton, at least briefly, between 1900 and 1930. Most manufactured them as sideline operations to other product lines. However, four – Maytag, One Minute Washing Machine Company, Automatic Electric Washing Machine Company, and Woodrow Washing Machine Company focused on washing machine manufacturing. The neighbouring communities of Grinnell and Pella also had manufacturers devoted to washing machines (Swisher, 1940). 3. Bones, W. (1933). Testimony: Maytag v. Easy and Maytag v. Hurley and Electric Household Utilities. Maytag Archives. 4. ‘High Lights of the Philadelphia Meeting of October 7th’, Maytag Profit News, Easterner Edition, 1(11) (December 1927), 17. 5. Newton Daily News, 5 January 1923, 1. 6. A 1939 Supreme Court ruling overturned those patents, but that story lies outside the purview of this chapter. 7. As late as the 1940s there were still four washboard (the manual alternative to washing machines) manufacturers in the US, and at the start of the twentyfirst century only the Columbus Washboard Company remained, which up until 1998, was owned by Steve Taylor’s (this chapter’s author) family.
Nick Nissley, Steven S. Taylor and Orville Butler
8. ‘The Maytag Troubadours’, Maytag Profit News, Southern Leader Edition, 1(1) (February 1927), 15. 9. Newton Daily News, 2 January 1924, 1; Newton Daily News, 3 January 1924, 1; Newton Daily News, 4 January 1924, 1; Newton Daily News, 7 January 1924, 1. 10. Newton Daily News, 29 December 1924. 11. Newton Daily News, 9 January 1925, 1; Maytag Profit News, 4(6) (January 1925), 1. 12. ‘Ten Years … A Review and a Prophecy’, Maytag Profit News, Easterner Edition, 4(4) (May 1930), 25–6, 54. 13. Newton Daily News, 6 October 1926, 1; Newton Daily News, 7 October 1926, 1. 14. Newton Daily News, 11 October 1926, 1; Newton Daily News, 12 October 1926, 1; Maytag Profit News, Southern Leader Edition, 1(3) (April 1927), 18. 15. Newton Daily News, 12 July 1927. 16. Newton Daily News, 24 September 1927, 1;
Newton Daily News, 3 October 1927, 6. Newton Daily News, 11 October 1927, 1; Newton Daily News, 8 November 1927, 1. 17. ‘Division “A” Marches on Newton’, Maytag Profit News, Kansas City Spotlight Edition, 2(9) (October 1928), 28–9, 33. 18. Newton Daily News, 9 November 1927, 1. ‘WHT Radio Programs Continue’, Maytag Profit News, Western and General Edition, 1(12) ( January 1928), 39; Bones Booster Edition, 1(12) ( January 1928), 55; Easterner Edition, 1(12) ( January 1928), 47; Southern Leader Edition, 1(12) ( January 1928), 47; Kansas City Spotlight Edition, 1(12) ( January 1928), 47; White Lightning Edition, 1(12) (January 1928), 63. 19. ‘Radio’s Best Now Entertains Maytag Audience. Premier Maytag Talent Now Broadcasts From WHT, Chicago, and Five other Super-Power Stations’, Maytag Profit News, Western and General Edition, 2(1) (February 1928), 7, 36–7; Bones Booster Edition, 2(1) (February 1928), 7–8, 36–7; Easterner Edition, 2(1) (February 1928), 7–8, 52; Southern Leader Edition, 2(1) (February 1928), 7–8, 36–7, 52; White Lightning Edition, 2(1) (February 1928), 7–8, 92. 20. Maytag Profit News, Western and General Edition, 2(8) (September 1928), 37. 21. ‘Maytag Adds two More Stations to Radio List. Maytag Programs Now Reach Average of More Than 14,000,000 Persons Every Week’, Maytag Profit News, Western and General Edition, 2(2) (March 1928), 4; Bones Booster Edition, 2(2) (March 1928), 4; Easterner Edition, 2(2) (March 1928), 4; Southern Leader Edition, 2(2) (March 1928), 4; Kansas City Spotlight Edition, 2(2) (March 1928), 4; White Lightning Edition, 2(2) (March 1928), 4. ‘Maytag Adds WBZ to Broadcasting Units. Boston Station Starts Programs April 6th to Cover Eastern States’, Maytag Profit News, Western and General Edition, 2(3) (April 1928), 6; Bones Booster Edition, 2(3) (April 1928), 6; Easterner Edition, 2(3) (April 1928), 6; Southern Leader Edition, 2(3) (April 1928), 6; Kansas City Spotlight Edition, 2(3) (April 1928), 6; White Lightning Edition, 2(3) (April 1928), 6. ‘Notice’, Maytag Profit News, White Lightning Edition, 2(4) (May 1928), 79. 22. ‘Maytag Sponsors New Type Radio Programs to on to Large Number Stations Expected to Revolutionize Our Radio Entertainment’, Maytag Profit News, Western and General Edition, 2(12) ( January 1929), 22–3, 40; Kansas City Spotlight Edition, 2(12) ( January 1929), 22–3, 56; Bones Booster Edition,
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2(12) ( January 1929), 22–3, 64; Easterner Edition, 2(12) ( January 1929), 22–3, 64; White Lightning Edition, 2(12) ( January 1929), 22–3, 104. ‘Maytag Goes On Chain. Hook-Up with Coast-to-Coast Spread. First Program Meets with Enthusiastic Audience. Ted Fiorito and His Maytag Orchestra Prove to be Outstanding Radio Feature’, Maytag Profit News, Western and General Edition, 4(2) (March 1930), 18–19, 36; Bones Booster Edition, 4(2) (March 1930), 18–19, 52; Easterner Edition, 4(2) (March 1930), 18–19, 76; Kansas City Spotlight Edition, 4(2) (March 1930), 18–19, 52, photocopy of Western Union Cablegram, F. L. Maytag to Roy C. Witmer, 27 January 1930. ‘Ten Years … A Review and a Prophecy’, Maytag Profit News, Easterner Edition, 4(4) (May 1930), 25–6, 54. Ted Pearson replaced Fiorito in March 1930. Roy Bargey in turn, replaced him in May 1931, who was replaced by Clarence Wheeler early in 1932. ‘New Conductor of the Maytag Radio Orchestra’, Maytag News, 6(2) (March 1932), 6. ‘Song Contest!!!’, Maytag Profit News, Bones Booster Edition, 4(5) ( June 1930), 26. ‘Maytag Included in Song of Flying Artillerymen’, Maytag News 17(4) (May 1943), 12. Maytag Profit News (February 1928), inside cover. ‘Convention Songs’, The Profit News, 4(6) ( January 1925), 2. Maytag Profit News, Easterner Edition, 1(4) (May 1927), 23. ‘Convention Songs’, The Profit News, 4(6) ( January 1925), 2. Maytag Profit News, White Lightning Edition, 1(2) (September 1926), 31. Maytag Profit News, Easterner Edition, 1(4) (May 1927), 30–1. Maytag Profit News, White Lightning Edition, 1(8) (March 1927), 12; Maytag Profit News, Bones Booster Edition, 1(2) (March 1927), 12; Maytag Profit News, Western and General Edition, 1(2) (March 1927), 12; Maytag Profit News, Easterner Edition, 1(6) (March 1927), 12; Maytag Profit News, Southern Leader Edition, 1(2) (March 1927), 12. Maytag Profit News ( July 1931), 8. Maytag Profit News, Easterner Edition ( January–February 1926), 7. Maytag Profit News, White Lightning Edition, 1(5) ( June 1927), 41. Maytag Profit News, Western and General Edition, 3(3) (April 1929), 24; Kansas City Spotlight Edition, 3(3) (April 1929), 40; Bones Booster Edition, 3(3) (April 1929), 40.
24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35.
36. 37. 38. 39.
On the Manager’s Body as an Aesthetics of Control
This chapter stems from a larger project which aims at developing an understanding of the ways in which managers are subordinated to the organizations in which they work. Managers make up a large percentage of the students I teach, and I meet them often as part of my research: it seems to me that their jobs are unappealing, their amenity to being exploited is huge, but they are in the best position in which to organize some form of revolt against the conditions of their work. That they remain utterly subordinated to working lives that have little to recommend them is a source of curiosity for me. To suggest that it is their salaries or other perks of their jobs which guarantees their quiescence is, I think, crass and presumptuous. In this chapter I explore one of the reasons for their continued subordination, which I find in the aesthetics of the managerial body. The aestheticization of their bodies has been shown to be forms of control over workers (Hancock and Tyler, 2000; Warhurst and Nickson, in press): here I will develop those arguments to show how managers are similarly controlled. I am, in this chapter, drawing upon an earlier suggestion made by Hancock and Tyler (2000) that combining Foucault and Marx could provide a powerful mode of understanding, but I am drawing in large part upon theorists who have developed the works of Foucault or Marx, principally Judith Butler and Fredric Jameson, to develop my arguments.
The ubiquity of embodiedness
Although we are only now consciously recognizing the inescapable ubiquity of bodies in organizations, the trace of the embodiedness of 115
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managers has been evident throughout classical management literature.
Mintzberg’s famous study (1973) emphasizes visibility; the empirical studies of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s into the ‘reality’ of management, continued into the 1980s and 1990s in the work of Rosemary Stewart (1983, 1994), reveals it; and the injunction to managers to ‘walk the talk’ embodies it. In the research I have undertaken with colleagues (Ford and Harding, 1999; Alimo-Metcalfe and Lawler, 2001) this embodiedness was encapsulated in the concept of the manager as someone who is ‘seen’. For example, when researching concepts of leadership in organizations in 2000, we asked a senior manager in a large pharmaceutical company whether there were role models for leaders in his organization. He answered: If you looked at our CEO [name], I think everybody would perceive him as a leader. I am not sure everybody would think his style was the best in the world, but nevertheless they see him as a leader. He is very clear. He is out there. He is very visible. He champions the organization. I think people perceive him as a leader. In another study of an organizational merger, we asked the chief executive of the newly merged NHS Trust, now one of the largest such organizations in the UK, how he spent his time. He first gave us a long list of the meetings he holds regularly with the senior management team, and then he turned his attention to the staff of the Trust: I spend quite a lot of time speaking to large groups of people, larger groups of staff and managers, … open staff meetings have been a continuing need the way that we’re trying to lead the organization. I’m doing one of those today at [outlying] Hospital, I did one yesterday at [even more distant] Hospital. We started to do that quarterly and we’re now doing it … twice a year, and one of those occasions is at the time we published the annual report. And that’s about visible leadership and about being prepared to be accountable to the staff if you like. His words are echoed throughout interviews with other members of the senior and middle management team. Personnel or HRM policies within this organization of 14,000 employees, the interviewees tell, revolve around the visibility of the management team and its desire to achieve emulation through the managerial exemplar. Yet bodies remain an ‘absent presence’ within studies of organizations (Ball, 2001). I will bring them into this chapter by, firstly, defining the
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way in which I am using the concept of aesthetics. I will then explore the manager’s body, showing how it can be seen as an anankastic1 aesthetic which seemingly attempts through unspoken appeals to mimesis to function as a mode of control over workers, one that my model of aesthetics suggests can be easily rejected. However, by drawing upon post-modernist and Marxist perspectives, I will show how the manager’s body is both produced and consumed by the manager; that it is both subjectified and objectified; and that it thus stands both outside and inside a manager whose agentive capacity lies largely in this production of a commodity which consumes its producer.
‘Aesthetics’ as a term is used somewhat broadly, so I will start by developing the model which will be used in this chapter. The collection of papers in The Aesthetics of Organizations (Linstead and Höpfl, 2000a) illustrates the very looseness of the concept, with authors defining aesthetics as: ● ●
Artworks within, or the physical environment of, organizations The study of organizations involved in the development of aesthetic objects A research method A form of knowledge based on the senses.
In this chapter, I use the last of the above definitions: aesthetics as a form of knowledge based upon the senses. Here, I follow Strati (2000a), and Carter and Jackson (2000), who distinguish usefully between two senses of ‘aesthetic’: one which refers to judgements about taste, where the aesthetics are a property of some object and thus are external to the individual; and the other which refers to the emotional response experienced by an individual in relation to some externality, where the aesthetics are a property of the individual rather than the externality. It is this latter sense I use to inform this chapter, which sees aesthetics as a process of knowing through tacit knowledge, and understanding achieved through empathy,
which allows a contamination of the verbal by the visual and all the other senses (Strati, 2000a). The aesthetic works through processes of mimesis which involve ‘imitating, then bricolating and innovating with the behavior and symbols of others’ (Linstead, 2000, p. 63), so that an aesthetic response of subject to object involves an opening up to the object so that it works upon us, unselfconsciously, without the usual comprehensions of significance, meaning, interest or
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cause and effect, resulting in responses which are pre-conscious, beyond words, and therefore can clash with conscious, logical apprehensions. But, this definition lacks a critical edge, a shortcoming partially made good by Carter and Jackson (2000) who argue that ‘all organization(s) produce(s) an aesthetic which is “designed” to elicit positive responses from all those with whom transactions, of whatever kind, take place’. The function of aesthetics is to mask and deny the experienced reality of organization, through a structuring of form and content in such a way as to elicit positive responses. It is an aesthetic, they say, which induces, sustains and rewards compliance, and works by appealing to the ‘shared language’ of a community and the unconscious responses and intersubjective recognitions of a particular culture. To accept it without demur is to dull awareness, so ‘ironically, organizational aesthetics an-aesthetize’ (Carter and Jackson, 2000, p. 195). Aesthetic understanding can therefore be seen as a model of knowing which adds the sensory to discursive processes, and which can serve to mask, negate, demean and diminish. Embedded within cultures, aesthetics works upon the psyche and, carefully manipulated, can achieve subordination. Yet there remains something amiss here, for these definitions suggest an ideology that presumes what Pollock (2001) criticizes as a ‘pure realm of vision that exists before gender, race, class and all other social influences have their effects’ (p. 23). It suggests a subject who, although playful, is incapable of agency or of resistance to this single, shared aesthetic language. Eagleton would demur, for his work suggests that the language of the aesthetics is shared within but not between classes. He writes that: the category of the aesthetic assumes the importance it does in
modern Europe because in speaking of art it speaks of … matters … which are at the heart of the middle class’s struggle for political hegemony. The construction of the modern notion of the aesthetic artefact is thus inseparable from the construction of the dominant ideological forms of modern class-society, and indeed from a whole new form of human subjectivity appropriate to that social order. (1990, p. 3; emphasis added) For Eagleton, therefore, aesthetics helps provide understanding of a subjectivity that is peculiar to the middle class. His work warns of the necessity of avoiding the presumption that an aesthetics which is a projection of a middle class subjectivity is easily incorporated into the sensibilities of other classes. Indeed, a homogeneous middle class subjectivity cannot be presumed.
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The specular foundations of aesthetics, too, cannot be ignored. Whether in play, poetry, whatever, the role of the eye in the aesthetics of organizations, the eye as the royal road to the psyche, is dominant. The field of vision thus brought into play is imbued through and through with sexual difference, so that all acts of vision and visual representation involve sexuality and sexual difference (Rose, 1986; Pollock, 2001). Here, sexuality and sexual difference does not refer to ‘woman’ (Pollock, p. 38, warns against the ‘bourgeois fiction that woman is “the sex” above which man rises in his transcendent universality’) but to the fluidity of sexualities and the multiplicity of genders, the understanding given to us by gender studies and queer theory. An exploration of aesthetics must be informed by gendered susceptabilities. This raises such questions of the visual as who is looking and who is looked at, why and how and with what effects (Pollock, 2001, p. 27). When we as researchers step into organizations, whose imagined worlds are we allowed to see? In the wider definition of the aesthetic, we must therefore ask questions not only of the visual but of the other senses. Thus, Strati’s (2000a, pp. 20ff.) listing of aesthetic categories in this perspective should be qualified by a series of questions. When exploring Beauty – who defines what is Beauty? With regard to the Sublime, which ‘evinces the pathos of the material and nonmaterial organizational artefacts that embodies the organization’s memories’ (Strati, 2000a, p. 21): who
decides what should be archived or canonized into memory? The Ugly – who is looking and who looked at? The Comic – who is laughing and whose laughter is suppressed? The Gracious – who is allowed to be gracious and who condemned to unnatural positions? The Picturesque or game-playing – who sets the rules, and who is allowed to break them? The Agogic, grounded in movement and rhythm – who plays the tune and who states what the steps should be? The Tragic – who gives themselves the role of hero? The Sacred, or imaginary territories such as professional competence, on which no-one must trespass – in whose interests are definitions of what is sacred maintained? Who are the high priests and who the sacrificial victims? Furthermore, I would suggest that post-modernism has taught us that communication takes place in ways which are unintended, unconscious, accidental, etc. Thus the deliberate act of manipulation of the aesthetic which is implied in many applications of an aesthetic understanding to organizations may tell only part of the story: as we are inevitably surrounded by aesthetic objects, aesthetic forms of knowing may occur from communicating with organizational artefacts wherein no conscious attempt at instrumentalization has taken place, and where little appreciation of what has been communicated to us occurs at a conscious level.
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Thus, the model of aesthetics I use in this chapter is one which agrees that organizations assail us with sensory forms of knowing and being. We may be subordinated, demeaned and controlled by them, but there is no direct relationship between aesthetic object and subjectivity. The route to the psyche has many turnings and byways; indeed perhaps it is the very playfulness of an aesthetic knowing (humour, poetics, rhythm) that allows resistance to an aesthetics the individual perceives as ugly or clashing. So although organizations, or rather their managers, increasingly seek to instrumentalize the aesthetic (Strati, 1999), resulting in gross examples of attempts at ‘colonizations of the idea of the beautiful as an instrument of corporate managerialism’ (Hancock and Tyler, 2000, p. 109), the attempts may backfire, or perhaps fire off in all directions, for there is no simple causal relationship between aesthetic and its reception. Much aesthetic
communication in organizations will arise without conscious intent.
The manager’s body: an anankastic aesthetic
Hancock and Tyler (2000) have shown how managers may use the bodies of workers to achieve, through the use of the aesthetic of (in this case air stewardesses’) bodies, organizational ends. In this section I will suggest that managers’ bodies too ‘embody the desired aesthetic of the company’ (2000, p. 117), for they signify, using the discursive shorthand of the aesthetic, the behaviour that is expected of employees. I will be focusing largely upon male managers, for they set the norms to which women managers must aspire if they are to succeed within the organization, and indeed it is possible to suggest, drawing upon ideas from queer theory, that female managers must ‘re-gender’ themselves. I will here argue that the emphasis upon managers’ visibility, upon their being seen to ‘walk the talk’, includes within it an inchoate desire that workers gaze upon the fleshly envelopes that are paraded before them, and through gazing absorb the message contained within that envelope. The invocation inherent in the managers’ bodies, a mute appeal to emulate their ‘leaders’, is a wish that workers become rational, logical, emotionless, utterly devoted to the ends of the organization. The aesthetic way of knowing suggests that the manager’s body is an aesthetic code which attempts to insert managers into the minds of employees (Alvesson and Deetz, 1999). The code is to be found in the suit, the tie, and the enforced removal of as many references as possible to the fleshly materiality of the manager’s body. Managers’ bodies are denuded, so far as is humanly possible, of all references to flesh and to nature. Clean-shaven, as much flesh as possible
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is hidden by the suit. The hands, perforce, must be visible, but otherwise only the head protrudes above the collar and tie. The tie has little if any practical value, but its aesthetics is Cartesian at its most profound: it sharply divides the ‘head’ from the (negated) body; seemingly cutting off the thinking part of the body from the flesh upon which it relies only, it would seem, for locomotion and visibility. The tie is a phallolinear mark
(Reichert, 1992, p. 87) that divides nature from culture. Managers are clean-shaven. Hair is an ideological symbol (Synott, 1993). Rosabeth Kanter noted in 1977 that: Managers at Indsco had to look the part. They were not exactly cut out of the same mold like paper dolls, but the similarities in appearance were striking. Even this relatively trivial matter revealed the extent of conformity pressures on managers … The norms were unmistakable, after a visitor saw enough managers, invariably white and male, with a certain shiny, clean-cut look. The only beards, even after beards became merely rather daring rather than radical, were the results of vacation-time experiments on camping trips, except (it was said), for a few in R & D – ‘but we know that scientists do strange things’, a sales manager commented. (Quoted in Synnott, 1993, p. 112) Since the Second World War beards have signified either rebellion or the foreign other: a clean shaven appearance signifies conformity and the conservative. Beards represent too a masculine nature that can be untamed and uncontrolled: the male is revealed as close to nature by the evidence of bodily hair that threatens to become uncontrolled if not rigidly removed at regular periods. A clean shaven chin demonstrates the suppression of nature and its elision from the controlled managerial world.2 The manager’s body is encased in a suit. The suit, J. C. Flugel noted in 1930 in The Psychology of Clothes, allows masculine allegiance to the larger social order and man’s privileged position therein. The consequence of this, Flugel writes, is that ‘modern man’s clothing abounds in features which symbolize his devotion to the principles of duty, of renunciation, and of self-control. The whole relatively “fixed” system of his clothing is, in fact, an outward sign of the strictness of his adherence to the social code (though at the same time, due to its phallic attributes, it symbolizes the most fundamental features of his sexual nature)’ (Flugel, 1930, p. 113, quoted in Silverman, 1988, p. 25). In this, Silverman (1988) indicates, Flugel is highlighting the contradiction between a male clothing that allows the detachment of the male body more and more from sexuality,
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and at the same time its construction of masculine sexuality through its phallic representation. This ambivalence is important. The be-suited,
clean-shaven managerial body represents a political desire for the abstract and largely unrealizable ideal that culture and society designates as its masculine norm, expressed in this be-suited cultural production (Solomon-Godeau, 1997, p. 29). Yet, as Silverman (1988) reminds us, the references to sexuality and thus to nature are always there, never totally subliminated or suppressed. It is however too easy to do what SolomonGodeau does, and argue that the continued presence of signs of ‘nature’ represent ‘the more powerful bonds that unite men to one another and which collectively operate to secure the subordinate position of women’ (1997, p. 86), for that ignores Pollock’s (2001) warning, noted above, that sexuality and sexual difference does not refer to ‘woman’, but to ‘gender’, and ‘man’ is not a homogeneous category. Rather I suggest that the suit and tie, in demonstrating at once both rigid control and signs of a sexuality which always threatens to break through, can allow the manager to claim the potential for rampant sexuality (look at the size of that tie!!) and, importantly, the ability to rigidly subordinate and control it. Were these signs of potency totally absent, the aesthetic would lack its power. What I will call the ‘social semiotics of the managerial body’ (based upon a discussion in Pritchard, 2000) thus signals to workers the type of body and thus of embodied behaviour to which they should aspire – ascetic, neat, disciplined, controlled, leak-proof – but always masculine and always potent. From body to mind, and here we see the power of the aesthetic – the mind that is in these bodies ( Johnson, 1987) should similarly be ascetic, neat, disciplined, organized, rational, masculine. Thus the above-noted emphasis upon the need for visibility of managers and ‘leaders’ signals the way in which managers’ bodies enter the discourses of the organization and thus communicate with staff. They signify an organizational aesthetic associated with the powerful discourse of masculinity (Kerfoot, 2000), i.e. imbued with ‘masculine’ reason rather than ‘feminine’ nature (Seidler, 1994). ‘At all times’, Kerfoot writes (2000, p. 231), ‘managers must be concerned with the effort to prove that they, as managerial bodies, are trustworthy and reliable; for in the accomplishment of managing their own body (sic), managers display the ability to manage others’, and in occupying the ‘privileged bodily designations’ of the manager, the ‘competent’ manager’s mark is an ‘ability to display the body in a manner that is
culturally acceptable to their organization’s bodily code’. The suit is thus contrasted with other uniforms, other modes of organizational dress: the suit speaks of power and authority, of its wearer being the person who gets others to do the work.
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This be-suited body is the culturally acceptable Western, Cartesian body that has well organized structures, boundaries and organs. It is a male body, one that does not leak (Shildrick, 1997). That is the message given to the senses by the manager’s body. It is an anankastic aesthetic which shows that all feelings should be rigidly controlled, an excessive conscientiousness should be maintained, and a constant checking for perfectionism and meticulous accuracy should be undertaken. This then appears to be the aesthetic of the managerial body: it (literally) embodies a shorthand version of managerial discourse, which signals to employees their encultured, commodified, objectified, subjectified status. However, I have warned above against supposing a straightforward reception of aesthetic messages. The assumption that all communications are performative, bringing into being the desired practices, is to be found in policy documents and textbooks, but agents’ apprehensions of the messages are multiple, complex and variable. Eagleton’s (1990) perspective suggests that workers looking at the besuited managerial body will react not with compliance and a desire for mimesis, but with blindness and deafness to an aesthetic that speaks a class-based language. Indeed, rejecting such an aesthetic may represent one form of resistance. There is however one actor who cannot escape from the aesthetic of the managerial body – the manager himself. The manager looks in the mirror and sees a reflection of himself as manager. This, I suggest, is where we can see the aesthetic of the manager’s body working successfully to achieve conformity, rigidity and obedience, for the manager in looking at his own reflection is the most eager recipient of its aesthetic message. This, most obviously in this Foucauldian-informed age, is a body that has been manufactured, or worked on, by the manager. In what follows I will draw upon Foucauldian theories of the body to show how the managerial body is produced as a subjectified body, and then will turn to Marx and Jameson to
show that it is also an objectified body.
The managerial body as subjectified product
Implicit in the foregoing is the concept that the manager’s body is not a lived body, but one dissolved materially into discourse and sign. Whilst it is important not to lose the materiality of the body (Casey, 2000), in the case of the manager’s body what we see is the subordination of flesh to aesthetics, so that this lived body becomes, within organizational time and space, one constituted beyond the material. In such a constitution it becomes a subjectified body, that is a Foucauldian body
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whereby the material body is revealed to be a ‘thought body’ whose particular locale in a technical, cultural and scientific history provides it with the ideas through which it is thought into being. Deleuze and Guatarri’s work famously tells of a body-without-organs, a body that is experienced as a non-organic concept, not in terms of its biological organization but rather as a surface (Lash, 1991). This is a ‘body of inscription’ and it is not the organic, anatomical body of medicine but the ‘non-organic, political surface’. This is a social body, the body which one ‘does’, as distinct from the body one ‘has’ or ‘is’ (Turner, 1992). Judith Butler (1990, 1993) has developed these ideas powerfully. Combining Foucault with Freud and drawing upon a range of philosophical thinkers, she shows that the body is both a construction and also constitutive in that we could not operate, could not be an ‘I’, without it, so that construction is constitutive constraint. She says we must ask how such constraints ‘produce the domain of intelligible bodies’ (Butler, 1993, p. xi) and, following Foucault, replies that materiality must be ‘rethought as the effect of power, as power’s most productive effect’ (Butler, 1993, p. 2), whereby ‘sex’ is one of the norms by which the body is qualified for a life within the domain of cultural intelligibility. Thus ‘the matter of bodies will be indissociable from the regulatory norms that govern their materialization and the signification of those material effects’ (Butler, 1993, p. 2). Dealing with the unavoidable materiality of the body, Butler argues that this materiality is bound up,
from its start, with signification, through the ‘materiality of the signifier’ (Butler, 1993, p. 30). This materiality of the signifier is related, Butler argues, to a ‘body posited as prior to the sign’ which is ‘always posited or signified as prior. This signification produces as an effect of its own procedure the very body that it nevertheless and simultaneously claims to discover as that which precedes its own actions’ (Butler, 1993, p. 30). Here we have an analogy with the scientist in the laboratory who, the sociology of scientific knowledge has shown, claims to uncover that which was already waiting there, in nature, to be discovered, but who in effect brings nature into being through the constitutive power of scientific language. The body that Butler sees is thus brought into being through the constitutive and performative powers of language – the materiality of the body is prior to language, but our comprehension of that matter is achieved through signification. Here we have the familiar argument, in somewhat less familiar language, that language constitutes that which it articulates, that there is a material world but it is only comprehensible to us through language, but Butler goes beyond the familiar in demonstrating how the physical matter of bodies, which prior to Butler
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had been seen as beyond the reach of signification, are inevitably discursive productions. Rose (1998), drawing upon Deleuze and psychoanalytical theory, complements this perspective of the body as both construction and constitutive restraint. The Deleuzian body, like that of Foucault and Butler, is not a ‘bounded envelope’ containing within it a depth, but a channel of ‘processes, organs, flows, connections, the alignment of one aspect with another’ that form a ‘particular body-regime’ (Rose, 1998, p. 184). Rose suggests that the ways in which we understand our selves and our bodies at any time, indeed any distinction between the two, is because of ‘the ways in which particular relations of the exterior have been invaginated, folded, to form an inside to which it appears an outside must always make reference’ (Rose, 1998, p. 188). This argument is similar in some respects to Linstead’s (2000) understanding of how aesthetics operates. Linstead (2000) argues that we have become psychological creatures because
of ‘the ways in which, in so many locales and practices, psy vectors have come to traverse and link up these machinations’ (p. 185). The metaphor of the fold, which calls to mind the further metaphor of the amoeba, ‘describes a figure in which the inside, the subjective, is itself no more than a moment, or a series of moments, through which a “depth” has been constituted within human being. The depth and its singularity, then, is no more than that which has been drawn in to create a space or series of cavities, pleats, and fields, which exist only in relation to those very forces, lines, techniques, and inventions that sustain them’ (Linstead, 2000, p. 188). A configuration of forces, bodies, buildings and techniques hold in place that which has been folded inside and stabilized. For Butler, such folding includes the physical materiality of bodies; for Rose it includes those things that at any time have authority. With regard to managers, I suggest that what is folded within the manager’s body is the organization ‘itself’, for the mimetic relationship between the human body and organization theory cannot be missed. The urge of physiologists to define and delineate is replicated by organizational theorists. This anthropomorphization, this ‘elision between organization and organism’ (Dale and Burrell, 2000, p. 21) goes far beyond the status of metaphor claimed for it by Døving (1996), for the organization-as-body is not enfleshed, it is an ‘organ without bodies’ (Dale and Burrell, 2000, p. 21), without emotions, perhaps even a non-human cyborg or human machine system (Parker, 2000a). Importantly, the other of organization is chaos: the organization is order, harmony, control – it is not-chaos. The mimetic relationship between organization and body is prefigured in Mary Douglas’ (1966) analysis of ‘dirt’. The boundaries of the body,
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she suggests, anticipating post-modern theories by more than two decades, are drawn not by the material but by the limits of the social. So great is the necessity for controlling the body that the transcendence of its boundaries is for Douglas the quintessential metaphor of social disorder and chaos. Douglas writes ‘each culture must have its own notions of dirt and defilement which are contrasted with its notions of the positive structure
which must not be negated’ (1966, p. 159). Furthermore, Butler (1993) suggests that a post-structuralist appropriation of Douglas’ view might well understand the boundaries of the body as the limits of the socially hegemonic. From this perspective the manager’s body can be seen as synecdochal for the social system per se, as a site in which open systems converge, so any kind of unregulated permeability constitutes a site of pollution and endangerment. In societies dominated by organizations, therefore, notions of ‘dirt and defilement’ resolve themselves around notions of chaos: cleanliness signifies order; dirt its other. The be-suited managerial body, hiding away all flesh save for face and hands, clean-shaven and strictly barbered, can be seen as rigorously sweeping away all signs of ‘dirt’ and elevating the ‘cleanliness’ of order over the ‘dirt’ of chaos. So, I am arguing, the manager’s body speaks of the fear of unregulated workers who, if they united, could endanger the organization. However, I have suggested that workers are more or less impervious to this message, so which ‘unregulated worker’ is to be feared? Let me introduce at this point Foucault’s concept of dressage, as used by Jackson and Carter (1998). They link two themes from the work of Foucault: governmentality and labour as dressage. Governmentality, of course, concerns the management of a population at both an aggregate and a micro level, while dressage is one of three functions of labour identified by Foucault (the other two being the productive and the symbolic). Dressage means both discipline and taming, and generally refers to the mastering of a horse in deportment and response to controls. It means ‘making horses perform unnatural movements and obey control which is for control’s sake, for the gratification of the controller’ ( Jackson and Carter, 1998, p. 54). Labour thus, in its dressage sense, is ‘non-productive, non-utilitarian and unnatural behavior for the satisfaction of the controller and as a public display of compliance, obedience to discipline’ ( Jackson and Carter, 1998, p. 54). Management, charged with controlling workers but in the absence of any evidence that they need control, instigates labour as dressage, where work is subject to control, not for functional reasons but for the sake of control itself. I suggest that managers too are subject to their labour as dressage, where they must be controlled for the sake of control itself. For who manages the
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managers? Do we not have here the internalized Panopticon, with managers managing their selves? The manager, putting on his tie in front of the mirror every morning, dressing himself up as manager, inscribing upon this be-suited body the aesthetic of order, thus becomes inscribed within a discourse of self-control, symbolized aesthetically through the peculiar artwork of the managerial body. This is an artwork that the manager appears to have fashioned himself, but in putting on his suit each weekday morning he follows a century-long fashion, seen in management textbooks in photographs of F. W. Taylor, Max Weber, Frank Gilbreth and the other ‘classical’ managerial theorists. The perpetuation of this one fashion says much: in Derrida’s (1995) terms, we see here the power of the archive. In Archive Fever (1995) he interweaves a complex relationship between the archive of the library or museum and that of the psyche. The archive is built through a ‘power of consignation’ (Derrida, 1995, p. 3), where consignation refers to not only a putting in reserve but also ‘the act of consigning through gathering together signs’ (Derrida, 1995, p. 3). Those things, not always discursive writings, stored in archives are kept and so classified by virtue of a privileged topology, ‘a place of election where law and singularity intersect in privilege. At the intersection of the topological and the nomological, of the place and the law, of the substrate and the authority, a scene of domiciliation becomes at once visible and invisible’ (Derrida, 1995, p. 3). The signs consigned to the archive of the library imbricate the signs consigned to the archive of the psyche, and vice versa. The archive of the organization, from this Derridean perspective, is one which contains laws which work upon the psyche, which suppress and repress as they form and reform. In this light, the archive of the organizational aesthetic is written upon the clean shaven, be-suited managerial body, a representation that has remained largely unchanged through a century of managerial history. The imprint of the organization’s history is stored and embodied in the manager’s physical appearance. The aesthetic of control represented in that suit and that clean-shaven body is an aesthetic of control over managers; the manager is imprisoned within a conservative aesthetic that locks him within the ever-recycled rules and the
cultures of early twentieth century organizations.
The managerial body as objectified product
That then, I suggest, is the subjectified body of the manager, one which states to the manager, every time he looks in the mirror, ‘this is who you are; this is what you have [literally] made of yourself’. In Butler’s terms, it is a performative body achieved within citational practices which both
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enable and discipline subjects. But this is where Butler’s analysis fails us, for the constitutive constraints of the gendered body differ from those operating within organizations. Nowhere in her account is there space for exploring how capitalism both constitutes and constrains. It is time therefore to take up Hancock and Tyler’s (2000) hint of the possible fruitfulness of combining Foucault with Marx. Stronger hints of the utility of such a combination are now emerging within critical management literature (O’Doherty and Willmott, 2001), and in theories of the body in lived space (Harvey, 1998; Smith and Doel, 2001). Fredric Jameson has however been arguing the merits of such a combination for more than a decade, and it is to his theoretical perspective that I will turn in order to introduce a Marxist analysis of the objectified body.3 Jameson’s analysis does not explore issues relating to embodiment, so I will incorporate ideas from the sociology of the body into a Jamesonian perspective, to explore how bodies are produced under capitalism. This allows a reconciliation of the producer/consumer binary, and facilitates the re-introduction of Marx’s theory of alienation, so leading to a more nuanced understanding of the aesthetic of the subjectified/objectified manager’s body. Postmodernism, for Jameson (1991, p. xii), is ‘not the cultural dominant of a wholly new social order …, but only the reflex and the concomitant of yet another systemic modification of capitalism itself’. This modification has resulted in post-modern capitalism, in Jameson’s view the purest form of capital yet to emerge. Everything now has become a commodity, and by its transformation into a commodity, a thing of whatever type has been reduced to a means for its own consumption, so that ‘immanent intrinsic satisfactions’ ( Jameson,
1992, p. 11) from activities are lost as everything becomes means to an end. Here, where modernism could ‘critique the commodity and the effort to make it transcend itself’ ( Jameson, 1991, p. 1), postmodernism is the ‘consumption of sheer commodification as a process’ ( Jameson, 1991, p. 1). The reach of this form of capitalism is vastly extended: it is globalized so that it reaches outwards, but it has also, crucially, moved into previously uncommodified areas including a colonization of the unconscious, whereby everything in our social lives is penetrated by capitalism. Significantly for this current analysis, this stage of capitalism is essentially aesthetic and located within the ‘single protean sense’ ( Jameson, 1992, p. 1) of the visual, so much so that were an ontology of this ‘artificial, person-produced universe’ ( Jameson, 1992, p. 1) still possible, it would have to be an ‘ontology of the visual, of being as the visible first and foremost, with the other senses draining off it; all the fights about power and desire have to take place here, between the mastery of the
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gaze and the illimitable richness of the visual object’ ( Jameson, 1992, p. 1). It is thus through the visual that post-modern capitalism is able to penetrate into the psyche, and it is the psyche which is the locus where individuals transform themselves into commodities designed for their own consumption. There are no references to the aesthetics of the body in Jameson’s work, but writers within the sociology of the body have developed similarly Baudrillardian-inspired ideas to show how the body is achieved through commodification and consumption. Falk (1994), for example, argues that the body is profoundly connected with the sense of self – ‘I consume therefore I am’. It has become an outward sign of inward moral standing (Lupton, 1995) and, most influentially, a bearer of symbolic value (Shilling, 1993). The body within consumer culture, Shilling proposes in an argument which complements Jameson’s, is increasingly central to self-identity, related to reflexively, and a project to be worked on, constructed, and consumed. The sociology of the body lacks the vital political dimension added by Jameson, but the overlap between the objects of their analysis, cultural products and the psyche in Jameson’s case, the
commodified, constituted body within sociology of the body, suggests the two perspectives can be fruitfully united. This union produces a body that is (a) constructed and consumed within a capitalist economy whereby bodies are used in the undertaking of the role of worker in the production of goods and services and so contribute to surplus value, and (b) as consumer of capitalist goods which maintain and constitute the commodified body, and so contribute to profits. In the organization we thus have the conflation of consumption and production of managerial bodies, for as I have shown, the production of his/her managerial body is one of the manager’s major tasks. This provides the opening whereby we can introduce Marx’s theory of alienation. Was Marx’s account of the estranged labourer as potent when written as it is now, when the lens of psychological discourses (Rose, 1989) predispose our reading towards the construction of a particular type of narrative? Certainly, object-relations theory (Bollas, 1993, 1995) powerfully buttresses Marx’s assertion (1986) that the product of one’s labour is part of one’s ‘essential being’, a being that is confirmed by one’s work. For Marx, capitalism estranges the product of one’s labour, and thus both commodifies and alienates the worker: [The] object which – labor’s product – confronts it as something alien, as a power independent of the producer. The product of labor is labor
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which has been embodied in an object, which has become material: it is the objectification of labor. Labor’s realization is its objectification. Under these economic conditions this realization of labor appears as loss of realization for the workers; objectification as loss of the object and bondage to it, appropriation as estrangement, as alienation. (Marx, 1986, p. 38; emphasis in the original) The worker ‘places his life in the object’, but the estrangement of the object results in the alienation of the worker: The alienation of the worker in his product means not only that his labor becomes an object, an external existence, but that it exists outside him, independently, as something alien to him, and that it becomes a power on its own confronting him. It means that the life which he has conferred on the object confronts him as something hostile and alien. (Marx, 1986, p. 38;
emphasis in the original) Compare this with Bollas’ (1993, 1995) theory of the self, located within a post-modernist object-relations theory which sees the self as a set of idiomatic selves which depend upon significant objects for their elaboration. In Bollas’ words, the self is an ‘internal object’ that is ‘fashioned from several sources: from an inner feel of the authorizing aesthetic that gives polysemous (not unitary) shape to one’s being; from an inner feel of internal objects which are the outcome of the other’s effect upon one’s self; from the shape of discrete episodes of self experience’ (Bollas, 1995, p. 173). This ‘internal object’, this ‘phenomenon of the real’, is, he argues, the result of our moving through our lives as a unique set of evolving theories that generate insights and new perspectives about ourselves (Bollas, 1995, p. 69). The theories arise from the effect of objects upon us: people, music, artworks, artefacts, whatever, they ‘move through’ us like ghosts, inhabiting our minds, and conjured up when we evoke their names (Bollas, 1993, pp. 56–7) as we may do in the conscious or unconscious thought processes through which we dream ourselves into being. Thoughts of objects indeed form countless trains, thousands of ideational routes, leading to an explosive creation of meanings which meet up with new units of life experience (Bollas, 1995, p. 55). There is potential in Bollas’ work to develop a ‘bodily real’ (Campbell, 2000), and there is also the potential to turn his work towards more critical ends. Bollas’ version of object-relations theory can bring Marx’s theory of alienation into an epoch where psychoanalytical theories form dominant constitutive discourses, and Marxist theories can radicalize
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Bollas’ perspective. The workplace can, indeed must, contribute to those highly condensed psychic textures which allow us to be ‘substantially metamorphosed by the structure of objects; internally transformed by objects that leave their traces within us’ (Bollas, 1993, p. 59). Thus what we produce in the world of work becomes part of those ‘objects’ which form any core sense of who we are. This core sense, Marx tells us, is alienated from us so as to achieve the ends of capitalism. Such a concept of a ‘core’ self seemingly contradicts post-modernist ideas about the self, and indeed
Jameson notes that Marx’s alienated self has been replaced by a post-modernist fragmented self which has no ‘core’ from which to be alienated. However, the trace of the cohesive, modernist self remains, and so there is the possibility of a self that is alienated from that trace. Indeed perhaps this is the inevitable outcome of the consuming society of post-modern capitalism: rather than the modernist core self we have today fragmented, post-modernist, embodied selves which include within their ‘fragments’ a self which will stand ‘outside’, observe and control us. To return to the manager – we see here an employee who spends much time and effort in perfecting the managerial body, a body symbiotic with and symbolic of the organization and thus different from other workers’ bodies. This managerial body is the product of the manager’s labour, an object for the specular consumption of others in the organization. This is a body bound up with concepts of the self of the manager, and devoted to the ends of the organization and thus to capitalism. This is a body/self, in Marx’s terms, that stands ‘outside’ the producer, to confront and oppress him/her. This, I would suggest, is utter alienation, for here it is my body which I, the manager, have constituted, and which now stands before me and controls me.
Conclusion: the aesthetic of the subjectified-objectified body For Butler it is not the matter of bodies that matters, but how we constitute that matter. Where capitalism enchants managers into fashioning the matter of their bodies to capitalism’s own ends, where those bodies both work in capitalism’s workplaces as objectified bodies and constitute and consume themselves as subjectified bodies, those bodies become, in Marx’s terms, alienated and thus capable of standing ‘outside’ the manager and controlling him/her. These subjectified/objectified bodies serve a particular role in the highly aestheticized world of postmodern capitalism. Where others have argued that capitalism uses beautiful bodies as part of the tools of the workplace, I argue that capitalism also uses the
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power of the aesthetic to render bodies into internalized forms of control. Where many workers may perhaps refuse to conform to such modes of control,
managers are unable to resist. Stepping into the subject position of manager means putting on the suit, the tie and the organization, and subjecting the managerial self to the utter subjection of being controlled by that very body which, we traditionally assume, is the locus of the self.
1. The anankastic personality disorder is the medical name for anal retention. It is a personality disorder characterized by feelings of personal insecurity, doubt and incompleteness leading to excessive conscientiousness, checking, stubbornness and caution. There may be insistent and unwelcome thoughts or impulses which do not attain the severity of an obsessional neurosis. There is perfectionism and meticulous accuracy and a need to check repeatedly in an attempt to ensure this. Rigidity and excessive doubt may be conspicuous (Royal College of Psychiatrists, A Glossary of Mental Disorders and Mental Health Legislation, London: Royal College of Psychiatrists, 1980). 2. In the above-mentioned study of one of the NHS’ largest trusts, none of the 26 managers interviewed has worn facial hair, but about 20 per cent of the doctors have done (one also wears his hair in a pony tail). Other doctors distinguish themselves from managers by wearing bow ties or other flamboyant signifiers of an authority that allows them to refuse to be controlled. The last resort is, of course, the stethoscope. 3. Jameson was dismissive of Foucault and preferred a Baudrillardian explication of post-modernism, a perspective which does not contradict the arguments of this chapter, but rather assists in their development.
Part III Critical Engagements with Aesthetics at Work
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Critical Engagements with Aesthetics at Work: Introduction
Philip Hancock and Adrian Carr
In Part III of this volume, the focus shifts towards a series of self-avowed
critical engagements with the role aesthetics play in the structuring of relations of power and control both within, and through, work and its organization. While sympathetic to the desire for a more aesthetically rich environment, what unites these authors is a critical distance that leads them to question the origins, and potential consequences, of the current fascination with the practice of organizational aestheticization surfacing within the field of management and organization studies. As such, underpinning all three of the following chapters is a normative commitment to the preservation of a mode of critique that places at the centre of its endeavours a concern for the preservation of the human potential for autonomy within a range of structured regimes of power and subjectification. The opening example of this approach is Astrid Kersten and Ronald Gilardi’s Chapter 10, The Barren Landscape: Reading US Corporate Architecture, which, as the title suggests, presents a critical examination of modernist corporate architecture in the United States. Taking its inspiration from Guillén’s (1997) exploration of the impact of Taylor’s scientific management on modernist architecture, what primarily concerns the authors here is the apparent chasm between the image of neutral efficiency that accompanies such architecture, and what they consider to be the reality of control and order it generates. Drawing on a number of case study examples of such architecture, ranging from the corporate headquarters of a Pittsburgh-based plate glass manufacturer to a building within their own university, the authors deploy a critically driven semiological analysis to illustrate their central argument that pursuing the aesthetic of efficiency, via the principles of a Taylorist inspired modernism, serves merely to further dehumanize such 135
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workspaces, reducing them to little more than abstract spaces of corporate control. This, in turn however, also generates the potential for critique on the part of those who are required to inhabit such spaces, thus providing both an awareness of the need, and a site of opportunity for, emergent strategies of resistance to the proliferation of such ‘barren landscapes’. Next, and in a chapter equally concerned with the question of organizational
architecture, Karen Dale and Gibson Burrell (Chapter 11) address critically the relationship between corporate architecture, alienation and identity. Grounded in the emerging field of critical management studies, and its somewhat eclectic mix of influences, they bring both Benjamin’s notion of the dazzle and Welsch’s particular conceptualization of the process of anaestheticization into play as they probe the organizational sensorium, and its relationship to the built environment of experience. Beginning with an interrogation of the polysemetic character of the aesthetic, and drawing out from this the concept of anesthetization, the authors lead us on a journey from the imagery of Huxley’s Brave New World, via Benjamin’s Parisian experience of phantasmagoria, to the dazzling realm of modernist organizational architecture. Here, they stop to reflect upon the politics of such architecture, noting the political emasculation that the modernist style underwent during its cultural transplantation from the cultural context of European avant-gardism to the rational requirements of American cultural and material mass production. In doing so, they expose the functioning of an alternative political agenda, one driven by the urge to simultaneously dazzle, and anesthetize its spatial captives. This can be achieved by the over-stimulation of one sense (most likely the ocular sense) at the cost of the de-sensitization of the accompanying senses, thus limiting the range of the individual human sensorium. However, it is also noted how it is not only those who encounter such organizations that potentially undergo such a de-sensitization or anestheticization process. Those who labour in, and build and design such places are drawn into relations of economic and political subservience that also anesthetizes their relationship with the world they, in large part, create. Management, the authors note therefore, is not simply concerned with the management of minds and hearts, but equally, the management of the senses – and it is this realization that critical management studies must arrive at if it is to pursue, reflexively, its challenge to the alienating consequences of contemporary organizational activity. The final chapter of Part III, and indeed of the volume, is Philip Hancock’s Chapter 12, entitled Aestheticizing the World of Organization – Creating Beautiful Untrue Things. While representing a departure from
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the theme of architecture found in the previous two chapters, it continues their critical tenor reflecting on what the author considers to be the negative implications of the emergence of a highly managerialist genre of texts concerned with the appropriation and management of organizational aesthetics; or as the title of this collection suggests, the act of putting ‘aesthetics to work’. Driven empirically by a critical analysis of several examples of such texts, and theoretically informed by the work of Theodor Adorno, Wolfgang Welsch and Sjtepan Mestrovic, amongst others, at the heart of this chapter is a spirited defence of what the author considers to be the unique role aesthetic experience and judgment is capable of contributing to the process of human emancipation, and the threat this faces from the subsequent imposition of an organizational logic. Referring to the possible emergence of a condition of post-aestheticism such a concern revolves around a theme similar to that discussed by Dale and Burrell, namely that by adorning the world in corporate imagery, and thus reducing aesthetic experience to ‘little more than just another repository of mechanically produced, instrumentally oriented codes and symbols’, it threatens both a process of cultural anesthetization, as well as a neutralization of the critical, and thus emancipatory, potential of aesthetic experience. The chapter concludes with a clear assertion of distrust of those who champion the incorporation of aesthetic values and practices into the organizational realm. Locating the potential struggle between the nonconceptual nature of aesthetic experience and the rigidly conceptual, and inevitably instrumental character of managerial planning and activity within the broader struggle between modernist rationality and the sensual, corporeal dynamic of Being, Hancock bemoans such developments as yet a further example of the disenchantment of the modern world. A world that while increasingly spectacular, adorned as it is in its corporate livery, is simultaneously rendered sterile, as aesthetic experience is reduced to a value identical to that generated through the reception of the standardized and rationalized aesthetics of corporate organization.
The Barren Landscape: Reading US Corporate Architecture
Astrid Kersten and Ronald Gilardi
Architecture is traditionally seen as an expression or embodiment of cultural values and constructs, either existing or aspired to in a given society. Architecture can also be seen as political practice, however, as an explicit attempt to change those values, to create new constructs, or as a reflection of social relations of domination and resistance. In this chapter, we examine modern corporate architecture in America, initially from the first perspective, ‘reading’ corporate architecture as a material embodiment of corporate values, constructs and culture. In doing so, we follow and elaborate on Guillén’s (1997) discussion of Taylorism, aesthetics and architecture. Guillén argues that Taylorism found an aesthetic expression in the European modernist architecture of the 1890–1930 period. He demonstrates that Taylorism was reflected not only in the adoption of scientific management methods and principles to architectural projects and methods, but also in the development of a new ‘technocratic ideological approach to problem solving that highlighted neutrality, efficiency and planning’ (Guillén, 1997, p. 687). Most importantly, Guillén argues, European modernist architects developed an aesthetic interpretation of scientific management that emphasized ‘regularity, continuity, and speed at the expense of symmetry, ornamentation, and solidity’ (p. 691), expressed in an architecture that glorifies monotony and standardization as the new ideals of beauty. While modernist architecture was not adopted in the United States until the 1930s, it has dominated the landscape ever since. In fact, the imposing, monotonous, homogenized and mechanized buildings that form the skyline of American cities have become emblematic of the ‘modern age’, of corporate life and of the American capitalist identity itself. At the cultural level, this architectural 138
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style expresses the dominant values of US corporate life, centring on Taylorist preoccupations with order, regularity, control and efficiency. At the political level, the architecture becomes instrumental in maintaining this order and control. Two issues are central here. The first deals with the role and place of human beings in the organization, whether as building or as culture. We argue that corporate design in either form has no place for humans, except in their fixed, engineered position. The modern organization, in its idealized aesthetic form, is barren – devoid of human emotion, human clutter, human irregularity, and human ‘messiness’ in any form. Thus, the preferred portrayal of corporate buildings is one that is clean, organized, impersonal, silent and above all, empty. While justified under the rationale of efficiency, this barren landscape rarely accomplishes efficiency. Instead, we argue, it is the image of efficiency that is a central element in both the architectural form and in the maintenance of the structural and ideological relations of control inhabiting the form. We conclude the chapter with a brief examination of a second element of political practice, namely issues of resistance and control. Here we explore the implications of modernist architecture for organizations that seek to change their culture and practices and look at the relation between physical, organizational and informational architecture. Finally, we explore different ways in which the occupants of organizational spaces can and do resist the imposed meaning of organizational architectural design, thus highlighting the politics of reception (Barris, 1999) as well as the politics of change.
Reading corporate architecture
As was suggested above, our first priority is to establish and describe the parameters by which one can ‘read’ corporate architecture in America. We use for this purpose a model proposed by Guillén (1997). He suggests that Taylorism – commonly known as scientific management, a very mechanistic approach to the design of workplace productivity1 – had a profound and long-lasting impact on the development of European modernist architecture of the 1890–1930 period. Taylorism, Guillén (1997) argues, shaped not only the professional reconstruction of the discipline, but also the key aesthetic tenets underlying modernist design, ‘producing an unlikely synthesis between
art and the mechanical world’ (p. 683). Using an impressive array of examples and sources, Guillén (1997) demonstrates that European avant-garde modernist architects were drawn to Taylorism in part because of economic considerations of cost
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and efficiency. Taylorism was reflected first in the adoption of scientific management methods and principles to architectural projects and methods. It was reflected also in the development of a new ‘technocratic ideological approach to problem solving that highlighted neutrality, efficiency and planning’ (p. 687). He notes, however (p. 684), that while ‘cost and efficiency were socially and politically constructed as important concerns … the romance of modernism with scientific organizational ideas and methods went well beyond immediate economic considerations, leading to the formulation of an aesthetic based on the efficiency of the machine and of scientific management’: By applying a mechanical metaphor to the design of houses, public buildings, schools, factories, and everyday objects, European modernism magnified the impact of scientific management, extending it into new realms. If scientific management argued that organizations and people in organizations worked, or were supposed to work, like machines, European modernism insisted on the aesthetic potential of efficiency, precision, simplicity, regularity, and functionality; on producing useful and beautiful objects; on designing buildings and artifacts that would look like machines and be used like machines. (Guillén, 1997, p. 685) The aesthetic order that emerged from this, Guillén argues, uses the modernist trinity of unity, order and purity, and is defined by three main principles: ‘Emphasis upon volume – space enclosed by thin planes or surfaces as opposed to the suggestion of mass and solidity; regularity as opposed to symmetry or other kinds of obvious balance; and lastly, dependence upon the intrinsic elegance of materials, technical perfection, and fine proportions, as opposed to applied ornament’ (Barr, 1995, p. 29, quoted in Guillén, 1997, p. 685). Thus, European modernist architects developed an aesthetic interpretation of management that emphasized ‘regularity, continuity, and speed at the expense of symmetry, ornamentation, and solidity’ (Guillén, 1997, p. 691), reflected
in an architectural style that glorifies monotony and standardization as ideals of beauty. Modernist architecture was not adopted in the United States until the 1930s. While American engineering was far ahead of Europe at the turn of the century, American architecture maintained a loyalty to classical, often highly ornamental design well into the twentieth century, in spite of the earlier efforts of the Chicago architects. Since that time, however, modernist architecture has come to dominate the US corporate landscape. In fact, to many people the imposing, monotonous, homogenized
Astrid Kersten and Ronald Gilardi
and mechanized buildings that form the skyline of American cities are emblematic of the ‘modern age’, of corporate life, and indeed, of the American capitalist identity itself. At one level, we will argue, this architectural style provides a cultural expression of the dominant values of American corporate life, which centre on Tayloristic preoccupations with order, regularity and efficiency. At another level, the architecture fulfills a political and ideological function by becoming instrumental in maintaining this order and control. The use of space, spatial arrangements, architectural style, colours and furniture choices are all factors that influence and shape human interaction and people’s sense of self and identity. Just as the imposing size of the old cathedrals sought to remind the visitor of the nature of his/her relation to God, Tayloristic architecture informs the corporate occupant of his/her place in the corporation, a place that is not only small, but also designated, fixed and controlled.
Taylorism and the ‘culture’ of efficiency
What is interesting about Guillén’s understanding of a Tayloristic aesthetic as applied to the corporate landscape, is that it may itself be ideological. At one level, it is correct in that it reflects and expresses what we have come to know as a Tayloristic reality in corporate life. That is, corporate culture in the US consistently professes an adherence to the central
principles of Taylorism, whether in their original or revised form.2 At the same time, however, it misinterprets and distorts the philosophy and teachings of Frederick Winslow Taylor himself in a number of ways. The first of these is that, in our reading of Taylor, aesthetics of any kind would not be considered important or relevant. Taylor, who was born in 1856 and who died in 1915, was to have an enormous impact upon American corporate culture. He managed in an industrial setting, devised schemes by which work and work protocols could be measured and even invented a process by which steel could be tempered. He described in his various writings and in his now famous speeches the ‘one best way’ to run an organization. Taylor, both during his life and for decades after his death, generated an enormous amount of interest in and controversy concerning his practices and teachings. As Guillén and many others have noted, Taylor was obsessed with order, productivity and efficiency and argued that ultimately, the only thing that would ensure the well-being of a firm and its employees was a managerial reality that was based on those principles. In that sense, to Taylor, aesthetics were not an important consideration. In fact, to the extent that organizational architecture is understood today as representing corporate
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culture, values and/or aesthetics, it is quite likely that Taylor himself would have objected to such contentions as being irrelevant and unimportant to the internal workings of a firm,3 even if that aesthetic was ‘Tayloristic’ in nature. Some may argue that the architecture of a firm influences employee productivity, and hence, architectural design is or should be an important factor in corporate decision-making. Taylor, however, believed that employees were motivated by only one thing which was money (Banta, 1993). His views on this matter were single-minded and unshakable. Employees, as Taylor understood them, were simple, teachable and exclusively motivated by economic self-interest. The primary task of management was to design a system that would allow for optimally efficient work design, mitigate workers’ ‘natural’ tendency towards soldiering and tradition, train workers in the use of this system, and motivate them towards cooperation
through linking compensation with output, through a piece-work system. In Taylor’s view, not only are aesthetics, values and cultures not relevant in encouraging efficiency, increasing control or enhancing productivity. They are also irrelevant to his conception of how to motivate people. Finally, Taylor and his adherents believed that it was possible and advisable to fashion an organizational system that was logical, structured and neutral as to the quality of employees, and not dependent upon individual initiative or creativity.4 Thus, Taylor (1941, p. 47) in his now famous work on scientific management, has this to say about how organizations and the people who work in them are to be viewed: Scientific Management requires the establishment of many rules, laws and formulae which replace the judgment of the individual and which can be effectively used only after having been recorded, indexed, etc. (Emphasis added) As noted earlier, Taylor advocated the development of a managerial system that was based on scientific research, fixed and objective standards, management control and cooperation. If Taylor were to have been interested in architecture of any kind, it would have been the architecture of managerial decision-making, not the building where such decision-making took place. Furthermore, such architecture would probably more closely resemble the contemporary architecture of organizational information systems, subject to clear-cut rules and principles. Modernist architecture, in spite of Guillén’s argument, remains variable, changeable, unpredictable, artistic and individual and in that sense, ultimately, non-Tayloristic.
Astrid Kersten and Ronald Gilardi
We have argued, then, that the very notion of a Tayloristic aesthetic may itself be incompatible with Taylor’s view of the workplace. Taylor’s personal views on the matters discussed above are important. Even more important, however, is the collective understanding of what we think Taylor’s teachings are. While this understanding does not necessarily square with Taylor’s actual pre-dispositions, in day-to-day practice, it is these understandings – what we think Taylor meant – that count. And according to
these understandings, Taylorism, teaches that an organization must be efficient, orderly, and most certainly controlled. To the extent that this is true, scientific management has severely influenced corporate culture, both in its subjective forms and in its physical expression, in the way architectural space is displayed, used and modeled. These elements provide us with the tools by which we can critically ‘read’ and understand American corporate architecture and provide us with a way to understand its stereotypically lifeless, neutral, monolithic, in short, its barren form.
Taylor, efficiency and control
Taylorism has been severely criticized over the years (see, for example, Etzioni, 1964; Morgan, 1986; Scott, 1995). Nonetheless, many observers believe, that Taylorism has left an indelible mark upon the American corporate landscape. It is unlikely that Taylor or his adherents were or are psychopaths, dedicated to the mindless domination and manipulation of a firm’s employees.5 Taylor himself was quite explicit on the matter of control, arguing that control of employees was a necessary element in making a firm efficient. Efficiency, however, was the ultimately purpose and the essential element in making a firm profitable and successful. The guiding principle was and is this simple and straightforward. But has Tayloristic architecture in fact assisted us to achieve control, efficiency and, ultimately, success? We think not! Nor do we think that those who are responsible for the design of organizational space actually believe this either. What we do propose is that modern architectural spaces create the illusion of efficiency and the reality of control. Organizations have a physical presence. They are housed in buildings, which are designed and decorated usually with some explicit aesthetic or informational purpose in mind. The literature on the organizational physical environment is rather limited, however. Some of this literature suggests simply that the architecture of the organization expresses (or seeks to express) the organizational culture, vision or symbolic image of
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itself (see, for example, Steele, 1973; Schein, 1984). Thus, a bank will
usually select a very different style of architecture than a design firm for instance. Furthermore, the relative allocation of space and resources across organizational participants usually says something about hierarchical relations in the organization, while the overall layout of the space may express its organization’s openness to the outside. Depending on the organizational image and the nature of their relationships with clients, organizations may also want to present themselves as prosperous (or not), progressive (or not), and high tech (or not). In this sense, physical form has a rhetorical as well as an expressive function. Finally, the nature of the physical environment is said to influence organizational behaviour in that factors such as lighting, furniture, layout and space can impact productivity and communication. While the above perspective is obviously concerned with physical form, it is difficult to see any independent aesthetic concern or consideration. First, the need for the organization to ‘look good’ appears justified only instrumentally: it expresses the existing culture (or preferred images thereof), it impresses the clients and it advances the need for enhanced production. Organizations spend money in order to look good but looking good is not important in and of it self. It needs to accomplish something else: establish an image, impress clients, and so forth. Gagliardi (1990b, 1996) touches on the instrumental role of the physical environment in noting that we should not view artifacts are mere reflections of the culture. Rather, we should see them as ‘primary cultural phenomena’ in and of themselves. Artifacts ‘influence corporate life from two distinct points of view: a) artefacts make materially possible, help, hinder or even prescribe organizational action; b) more generally, artefacts influence our perception of reality, to the point of subtly shaping beliefs, norms and cultural values’ (1996, p. 568). Obvious examples of the instrumental role of artifacts – in this case, architecture – are the ones mentioned earlier, where the organization attempts to projects a favourable or preferred image through selecting a particular style of architecture and design, thereby impressing its identity on people inside as well as outside the organization. Modernist architecture is expressive, in this sense, of Taylorism, but not in a direct sense. The architecture expresses Tayloristic thinking not by creating efficiency itself (as Taylor would have advocated), but rather by creating an image or an illusion of efficiency. It is this
image that appears to dominate architectural choices more than its actual impact on organizational work needs and processes.
Astrid Kersten and Ronald Gilardi
As a case in point, we will briefly describe the corporate headquarters for Pittsburgh Plate Glass (PPG) Industries, shown in Plate 5. Located in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, this complex of buildings sits on a five-acre site and includes six glass-sheathed buildings: one forty-storey tower at 635 feet, four smaller buildings at six storeys each and another at fourteen storeys. The buildings enclose a stone plaza, which is totally empty save for a 14-foot rose granite obelisk in the centre. The entire complex was designed by architect Philip Johnson. As a visitor to the complex, one is usually struck by several impressions. One is that the architectural design is very unusual and striking. It has faint reminiscences of palaces and gothic cathedrals, impressions that are counteracted by its very dark and modern appearance. The complex is also very overwhelming – its size, colour, reflectiveness and height dwarf not only the person standing before it but also the buildings around it. Finally, the overall impression is one of starkness and barrenness. While the complex sits in downtown Pittsburgh, a very heavily populated area during working hours, the large plaza appears, and often is, empty. Most of this is by design as neither the plaza nor the buildings around it have any place where people could possibly sit. It is also by impact though – the place diminishes people to the extent that one does not want to sit there, even if one could. It is easy to look at the PPG building and see it as an expression of the corporation, reflecting first and foremost its product – glass – and also the corporate size and prosperity. The building also expresses, however, in an almost idealized form, the image of the barren landscape, the corporate space that exists for itself only and takes pride in its order, its regularity, its structure, its ideal-typical appearance of the modern and efficient organization. If people are not featured in the external landscape of PPG, the internal landscape provides an interesting
additional commentary.6 Imagine having an office at the 38th floor of the main building, looking out over the city at a height of 600 feet, through walls that are barely visible, consisting of floor to ceiling sheets of glass. While this may appeal to some people, we have been told by others that it is in fact frightening, disturbing and distracting and that people work with furniture placement and other devices to shield themselves from the view and that meetings held high up in the buildings result in people huddling in the centre of the room. Whether this is a conscious or unconscious response is not clear but the evident lack of comfort is readily apparent. The PPG building in this sense is an interesting example, in that its modernist architecture is very expressive of the corporate image and
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product. It is also an interesting example because it illustrates the ‘disconnect’ between the image of order and efficiency and the reality of life inside the image. True Tayloristic architecture, if we can conceive of such a thing, would place work needs and efficiency needs as primary, not a corporate image or projection of identity. While Taylor may not have been interested in people’s sense of comfort, to the extent that a lack of comfort interferes with productivity, such design becomes antithetical to Taylor’s teachings. This raises a related issue, namely the question of audience. Unlike Taylor advocated, it often seems that organizations spend more money and resources on external than internal concerns. To many organizations, it is more important to have an architecture that looks good – that is, projects the proper image to the outside or makes a particular statement to the inside, than one that feels good for the employees to live and work in. One example here is the College Centre in our own educational institution. This is a building that most people would argue looks very nice: it appears modern with lots of open space, a progressive feel, high ceilings, and tasteful colours and usually it elicits many compliments from those who visit the campus. For the people that inhabit the space, the story is very different though. Wide hallways, staircases and a huge public square are set against tiny faculty offices, limited restrooms, lack of noise barriers, permanently sealed windows, horrible acoustics and shared spaces
that dwarf the people in it. The light and delicate colours and materials require constant retouching and repair and have not withstood the general damage inflicted by young people using any space. It is a space that looks good but feels bad. It reflects the preferred image of the College but not the actual culture or practices of the people in it. People if anything, are considered incidental to it at best, and distracting and destructive of it, at worst. Does it provide an image of an effective, efficiently functioning organization? Yes, it does. Does it actually promote, enhance, make more efficient or facilitate work process in the organization? No, it does not. In fact, in its relative space allocation it makes an interesting statement about the importance of appearance versus the importance of work and often interferes with the effective accomplishment of work. A third issue is the question of whose interests are expressed in the physical form of the organization. Taylor talked endlessly about the need for cooperation and the presumably shared interests on employers and employees in the corporate enterprise. Is this reflected in corporate architecture? Certainly in the above example it was not. At a more general level, decisions about architecture and design are usually made by
Astrid Kersten and Ronald Gilardi
a small and selective group of people in the organization whose priorities may not be shared by everyone. Hatch (1990, 1997a) adds that this may result in differential responses on the part of organizational groups: For example, an exquisite new corporate headquarters building may favorably impress investors (‘they must be generating great wealth to afford such a wonderful facility’), customers (‘this kind of opulence indicates real staying power’), and community leaders (‘what a marvelous aesthetic complement to the community’), while simultaneously being viewed as irresponsible by union leaders (‘that money could have gone into better wage packets’) and environmentalists (‘a little less squandering on executive perks and more environmental projects might have been possible’). (Hatch, 1997a, p. 257) Strati (1990) similarly reports a study at an Italian university in which
the mathematicians for whom the new building was designed felt that its modernist and rational design was antithetical to their aesthetic image of themselves as free mathematician-artists and therefore interfered with their effective functioning. The harmony that Taylor advocated was of course dependent upon individual subordination to the general interests and US organizations often go to great length to ensure such subordination, among others by limiting individual expression of interests and taste in the organization. At the personal level, organizations specify dress code, hairstyles, jewelry, professional demeanour and proper styles of speech. At the design level, they specify the kinds of decorations that are and are not appropriate to individual offices. An interesting additional example is the recent move on the part of many corporations in downtown Pittsburgh to prohibit employees from smoking in front of the very buildings from which they were banned, on account of the fact that ‘it looked unattractive’. Efficiency is hardly a consideration in this, of course. Employees now take smoke breaks that involve a long trip away from the office, the office floor, and the office building to get to the back alley where smoking is allowed, and tend to linger there, if for no other reason than that it is a long way back! What is suggested in the above three examples is that Tayloristic concerns with efficiency and productivity are not realized in modernist architecture. The predominant concern is with an image of efficiency that is more illusory than real, and grounded more in rhetorical, ideological concerns than in the work-based reality of the organization. Ultimately, of course, the image is a very important one. Modern organizations are
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heavily vested in appearing efficient, orderly, rational and controlled for it is this ideological image that conceals the underlying reality of the organization – a reality that is often non-rational, chaotic, arbitrary, political and exploitative. As long as the organization appears to meet our Tayloristic conceptions of ‘proper’ organizational life, however, that reality is concealed and control is accomplished. Control is of course also accomplished in many other ways, including the economic and political
relations that exist in the workplace. A Tayloristic aesthetic aids these relations, we argue, by neutralizing and concealing the nature of the organizational structure. A final important consideration deals with the ideological impact of organizational architecture and design on people’s sense of self and identity, whether as employees or as clients. Barley’s (1991) excellent semiotic study of funeral parlors serves as an interesting example here. Barley points out that the heavily ritualized and aestheticized culture of funeral parlours is designed not as a way for people to confront the pain associated in our culture with the death of loved ones. Instead, it is designed to contain and restrict emotional expression by making death appear like sleep and by presenting an aesthetically pleasant physical image, both through interior design and through bodily manipulation of the dead person. The aestheticizing of the process in this case fulfills an anesthetizing function, placing the real, emotional, and often unregulated process of grieving outside the organizational context. This allows the organization to manage and control the process and to appear orderly and efficient, thereby meeting its own needs rather than those of the client. Another example of this is the kind of interior design we usually see in US health care facilities where women get mammograms. The waiting rooms – and one spends a lot of time waiting in these places – are designed in ways that are considered tasteful and pleasant by conventional standards: soft colours, rounded shapes, soft carpets and fabrics, soothing images of flowers and other things of nature, all with heavy ‘feminine’ overtones. The overall impression is complemented by small, caring touches such as the availability of herbal teas and decaffeinated coffee. The softness and blandness of the design stands in sharp contrast to the stark appearance of the examination rooms, which of course are designed to convey the traditional scientific, objective, and hence reliable image of the medical profession, thereby creating its own ideological positioning of the subject. The waiting room design also stands in sharp contrast to the mental and physical agony often experienced by women in the examination process. In this sense, the room serves not
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only to sooth women and to give some affirmation of the ‘shared feminine’, even though it may be hard for some to relate to the way in which the feminine is presented there. It also serves to deny the much more unpleasant reality that is at the heart of the visit itself. It is an interesting exercise to imagine these spaces redesigned in a way that would more openly and honestly connect to the reality of the experience, at least from the client’s perspective. One of our colleagues recently underwent a radical mastectomy and built an art exhibit around the graphic art she produced in the time period dealing with the cancer and the operation, and before and after pictures (Lampe, 2001). Imagining such an exhibit in the waiting room would create a very different aesthetic picture and also afford art a different role in the process. The argument, of course, is made though that the organization’s purpose may not be to confront women that directly with the reality that constitutes the very reason for their visit, namely the possibility that they may have breast cancer. The organization’s purpose is a more controlling one that seeks to minimize both the realization and the expression of emotional pain within the situation – a purpose that is accomplished both by the waiting room design and by the examination room design, albeit it very differently. Modern organizations do not ‘do’ emotion, especially not uncontrolled, unpleasant emotion and go to great length to mask, structure, suppress and manipulate emotional expression (see, for example, Fineman, 1993). Architectural design enhances this control through creating the image of efficiency and through the impact of this image on employees and clients. In short, organizational architecture fulfills an instrumental function by the way in which the image of efficiency controls people: the way it defines, places, controls and contains them, physically as well as symbolically. This is not only an external impact process – people become complicitous in that they internalize the images around them. Thus, Gagliardi notes that organizations through artifacts educate and shape our perceptive faculties, our ‘sense of taste, of smell, of touch, of hearing, as well as sight’ (1996, p. 573) developing in us a particular sense of what is appropriate, aesthetically and otherwise.
Resisting the barren landscape
The previous section of the chapter argued that a critical reading of corporate architecture reveals its ideological function of control. While the dominant image is portrayed as one of order and efficiency, rooted historically in Tayloristic thinking, its actual functioning is much less
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concerned with efficiency and much more with control. The dominant image thus produces a view of the organization as orderly, structured, predictable, routinized and fixed, whether or not this is appropriate to workplace needs, actual organizational processes or the human experience. In this sense, Tayloristic architecture and design not only distorts Taylor’s original pre-occupation with structuring individual and organizational processes to accomplish optimal efficiency and productivity. It also distorts and masks the ‘experienced reality of organization which operates to provide a comforting sense of security and, at the same time, to defer action which may threaten the status quo’ (Carter and Jackson, 2000, p. 180). Ideological and political practices, however, are never simple or singular. Forces of maintenance and control are always connected to forces of change and resistance and we will briefly outline some of the key factors of this connection in this last section. First, we will explore the implications of modernist architecture for organizations that seek to change their culture and practices. Here we will look at the relation between physical, organizational and informational practices. Second, we will explore different ways in which the occupants of organizational spaces can and do resist the imposed meaning of architectural design. Organizations and the theories we develop for studying them undergo continuous changes. Thus, Guillén (1997) wonders if other organization theories will have a similar potential for aesthetic impact and interpretation as scientific management. There have been some efforts and developments in that direction. Steele for instance (1973) argued, quite some time ago, that efforts towards organizational development that did not also encompass changes in the physical structure of the organization were doomed to failure. Also, we have
some examples of innovative corporate architecture that seek to express a different organizational reality. Some local examples in Pittsburgh include the Alcoa building that was designed to reflect a flat, open, learning organization type of environment, with equal space assignments for all employees, regardless of position or level, and moveable, flexible walls (The Design Alliance Architects, 2001) to a ForeSystems (now Marconi) building that through its slanted shape sought to reflect the organization’s non-conventional, non-linear, forward looking view of the world. Whether or not these architectural efforts are successful in creating or reinforcing an alternative reality remains to be seen though. The ‘open office’ or office landscaping movement of the 1970s for instance was originally heralded as a physical expression of the importance of openness, communication, egalitarianism and connectedness.
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Its implementation, however, has produced very mixed results. The open office proved to be very susceptible to enhanced surveillance and control motivations on the part of management. Empirical studies did not consistently demonstrate enhanced communication on the part of occupants of open offices. Also, the actual use of the space often led to a reinstituting of hierarchical relations and consistent attempts on the part of employees to recreate a sense of privacy and containment that opposed the open office ideal (see Hatch, 1990, for an extensive discussion of the factors and variables involved in open office space negotiation). One of the variables that would seem to be essential here is the extent to which the architecture is an actual rather than a rhetorical or ideological expression of the organizational culture. While many companies may profess an acceptance of or adherence to the principles of the learning organization, for example, the structural reality of the organization rarely conforms to this type of thinking. And even within learning organization theory, we find many contradictory and unresolved problems related to organizational hierarchy that are bound to result in cultural and architectural contradictions (Sidky
and Kersten, 2000). At the individual level, one of the key ideological impacts of organizational aesthetics lies in the process of subjectification, the ways in which it defines, shapes and controls individual identity to be small, regular, predictable and substitutable. Ideological subjectification also functions to silence other identities and existences. As Carter and Jackson (2000) note, the extent which organizational members ‘accept the created aesthetic as a definition of the appropriate response to an organization’ is also ‘the extent to which we abdicate or deny our own ability to formulate a response. Acceptance, intentional or unintentional, means that, as individuals, we accept anaesthetization’ (p. 195). Here it is tempting to view the organizational employee solely in the role of aesthetic consumer, who both absorbs and is absorbed by a completed and reified product that is the organizational architecture. However, even organizational culture is a potential battleground ‘where various political and ideological causes engage one another’ (Said, 1994, p. xxii). Employees and others participating directly or indirectly in the organization must be seen as (potentially) engaged spectators, active participants in the construction of organizational reality – a view that highlights the politics of reception (Barris, 1999). Mazumdar and Mazumdar (1997) provides an interesting ethnographic study of the politics of reception in relation to Iranian architecture. They
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examine the way in which architectural design enacts power, status and conflict, but also how architectural features can aid in the survival and preservation of a group’s cultural identity and thus be symbolic of resistance. In terms of US corporate office behaviour, much less is known about this process. Several things are worth mentioning though, just in terms of our own personal experiences. First, different groups of people tend to respond differently to different spaces. The visitor to campus ‘feels’ the space differently than its occupant. Some occupants are in control of their spaces while other organizations have elaborate rules and restrictions on the ways in which they may and may not alter the space they inhabit. While employees may attempt to personalize the space, making it
feel and look less barren, erecting barriers for privacy, blocking up windows and doors and so forth, organizations often regulate those attempts under an ‘aesthetic’ heading. This highlights not only the differential way in which the aesthetic is perceived but also the politics of reception. Furthermore, it illustrates the centrality of control rather than efficiency. Employees rarely resist management attempts at change that they can understand and see as rational enhancements of efficiency and productivity. However, they often resist management changes that appear at whim, irrational or only there for personal or corporate control needs. A related area has to do with political perception of space. This is probably the one issue that has been researched fairly extensively, particularly as it pertains to the political meaning and usage of space, space as a power symbol, and architecture as a potential expression of the hierarchical structure of the organization. The role of resistance in this process is less clear though, confined mostly to horizontal in-fighting for space and desire for vertical mobility. Different stakeholders also provide differential politics of reception. One of the large health insurance agencies in Pittsburgh opened a new office building downtown a few years ago. From the perspective of the company management and its employees, the building was a testimony to the company’s stability and well-being, expressing prosperity, modernism and ‘good taste’ in all its large and small features. To the average person participating in the company’s health plans, however, it was a statement about exploitation and waste that flew directly in the face of the company’s rhetorical statements about the need for cost-cutting devices. Just as consumer activism has shaped US corporate awareness around issues of safety, greater activism on the part of different stakeholders around corporate architecture may also prove to be an effective resistance to organizational expressions of control.
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Guillén (1997) notes that ‘people seem to yearn for beauty as intensely as
they pursue instrumental methods and morally acceptable conditions’ (p. 700). In this chapter, we have suggested that Guillén may well be right, but that corporate architecture, as it has evolved in America, is not responsive to this yearning. Scientific management, or at least what we believe is scientific management, has left a residue of sterile work places. These places model space so as to create the illusion of efficiency and the reality of control. In either case, the result is a barren landscape. Landscapes, however, can and should be challenged, by the people that create them, the people that inhabit them and the people that study them. It is hoped that this chapter makes a contribution to this challenge by providing a critical reading of US corporate architecture that highlights text and subtext, appearance and reality, present and possibility.
Earlier in this chapter, we suggested that the exterior of PPG headquarters could be considered as an archetype of a sterile, barren architectural setting in corporate America. Since presenting this chapter in July 2001, a radical and pertinent change to this same architectural space has taken place. In late August 2001, the owners of the PPG Plaza announced that this same exterior space would be converted into a massive ice skating rink in the winter months and a computer-choreographed fountain during the rest of the year, retaining the obelisk in the centre of both features. When the ice rink was opened in December 2001, the general public response was favourable, even though a number of people commented on the irony of placing an ice rink in front of a building that is popularly referred to as the ‘ice palace’ and plans still do not contain either seating or planting arrangements. Clearly though, the changes are intended to ‘humanize’ the feel and look of an otherwise featureless and stark place. While the extent to which this effort succeeds is yet to be determined, it is interesting to note that apparently others ‘read’ this space in much the same way as did the authors.
1. For our purposes, the terms ‘Taylorism’ and scientific management will be used interchangeably to refer to a commonly held set of beliefs that pervade
American corporate culture, dominated primarily by notions of efficiency, productivity and rationality. While this set of beliefs originated with Frederick
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Winslow Taylor, we will argue that it has been altered significantly in practice. The term scientific management was not coined by Taylor, but was actually introduced into the corporate and popular lexicon by Louis Brandeis in 1910 who used this term in a court proceeding regarding the introduction of Taylorism into the workplace and the subsequent conflict and violence that erupted in the factories and other work sites. Brandeis was to become, in later years, a member of the United States Supreme Court. Taylorism can be summarized in the following principles: 1. ‘The cornerstone of scientific management is prosperity for the employer and employee. The principal object of management should be to secure the maximum prosperity for the employer, coupled with the maximum prosperity for each employee’ (Taylor, 1895, p. 9, quoted in Freeman, 1996); 2. Management should take on new responsibilities, including first, developing ‘a science for each element of a man’s work, which replaces the old rule-of thumb method’. Second, they ‘scientifically select and then train, teach, and develop the workman’. Third, they ‘heartily cooperate with the men so as to insure all of the work being done in accordance with the principles of the science which has been developed’. Finally, there ‘is an almost equal division of the work and the responsibility between the management and the workmen. The management take over all work for which they are better fitted than the workmen, while in the past almost all of the work and the greater part of the responsibility were thrown upon the men ‘ (Taylor, 1895, pp. 36–7, quoted in Freeman, 1996, p. 37). The Taylor Society revised these principles in 1929 to allow them to be applied to a broader context, emphasizing: management research as the only sound basis for the solution of management problems; management standards to ‘replace chance and variable factors by constants’; management control, based on systematic procedures and defined standards; and cooperation including the ‘recognition and capitalization of human differences, motives, desires and capacities in the promotion of a common purpose’ (Taylor Society, 1972, pp. 10–11; Freeman, 1996). Taylor was not
much interested in the way in which the external world interacted with, influenced, or was influenced by an organization. He represents, in this regard, the archetypal proponent of ‘closed’ systems approach to management. Employees, in such schemes, are interchangeable; it is, after all, the system that counts. If properly implemented, the organizational system anticipates the generic skills and limitations of an individual and corrects for his or her deficiencies and/or idiosyncratic tendencies. In a very real sense, such a scheme resembles closely a computer-based algorithm. Outputs are predictable and engineered and errors are anticipated and handled. Actually, some have in fact argued that Taylor’s pre-occupation with order and structure was a reflection of psychological imbalances and problems, but for our purposes Taylor’s psychological health is less of a concern than the impact of his teachings on the functioning of organizations. Part of the complex is rented out to external shops and restaurants and is not part of the corporate space. Another part is dedicated to what is called the Wintergarden and provides an atrium-like space for botanical, cultural and art exhibits.
An-Aesthetics and Architecture
Karen Dale and Gibson Burrell
Labour produces works of wonder for the rich, but nakedness for the worker. It produces palaces, but only hovels for the worker; it produces beauty, but cripples the worker; it replaces labour by machines but throws a part of the
worker back to a barbaric labour and turns the other part into machines. It produces culture, but also imbecility and cretinism for the worker. (Marx, 1844/1972)
We consider it important to look at the built environment from the standpoint of critical management studies and ask how buildings contribute to the ideological, political and economic structures of domination. The chapter begins by asking what is meant by ‘aesthetics’. Using the work of Wolfgang Welsch (1997) and acknowledging his dependence on Theodor Adorno (1991/2001) we can see how polysemous the concept is. But hidden away in Welsch are a very few yet suggestive references to ‘anaesthetics’. The chapter, in part, seeks to develop this notion. Using Huxley’s Brave New World we can detect within the Foreword what is tantamount to an ironic manifesto for anaesthetization. We compare aesthetics with anaesthetics in the context of architecture and attempt to show how the ‘dazzle’ (Benjamin, circa 1930s/1999d) of buildings is often accompanied by desensitization of those who live and work within them. This is to say that almost every aesthetic development is matched with an anaesthetizing one. Sometimes this is only at the level of the individual sensorium but often those who designed the dazzle, those who produced the dazzle and those who provided the raw materials for the dazzle face intense desensitization in order to produce the ‘phantasmagoria’ of 155
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which Walter Benjamin (circa 1930s/1999d) spoke. The chapter critiques an article by Mauro Guillén (1997) who sees Taylorism as an aesthetic and in so doing gives brief consideration to the ‘zero architecture’ (Banham, 1986) of Albert Kahn’s factories and the work of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill whom are seen as the ‘utilitarian heirs’ to Kahn, in the realm of office design for corporate capitalism. Whilst corporate owners may well see these buildings as ‘phantasmagoria’, for those who work in them all that is offered is anaesthesia.
What is aesthetics?
Wolfgang Welsch (1997) maintains that ‘the aesthetic’ is a polysemy in that there is a wide variety of usages of the term circulating which, although inter-related, do give one quite distinct perspectives on the topic. Some of these are as follows: The measurement and appreciation of the beautiful – callistics; The appreciation of good design and that which provides good form, i.e. cosmetics; The ability to makes a harmonious appealing whole from disparate elements; The ability to perceive contrasts between contiguous elements, e.g. colour; The appreciation of the sensuous – that which appeals to all the senses; The appreciation of that which requires the higher cultivated senses; That which requires perceptiveness rather than sensateness; That which requires time to appreciate and is beyond the immediacy of the moment; That which concerns itself with phenomenological appearance and not substance, and The ability to draw all the above elements into one piece of artistic creation. We find this helpful as a way of gaining purchase on the slipperiness of the term ‘aesthetics’, but what we find even more useful is a very minor point hidden away within the book. Welsch goes on, in one or two isolated spots within the text (1997, pp. 25, 72, 83), to raise the issue of the ‘double figure’ of aesthetics and anaesthestics. Is he suggesting then that the opposite of aesthetics is anaesthetics? Partly. This point is also made in part by Antonio Strati (1999, p. 81). Aesthetics, says Strati,
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is the knowledge given to us by our sensory organs and is related to the stem of the Greek verb ‘aisth-’ which means ‘to feel’. It is thus very different from theological disputation about meaning. It can be seen, says Strati (1999), as ‘the sensibilities activated to help humans observe, just as anaesthetics … is the means whereby the sensory facilities are blunted, and one of these means may be art’. In other words, art may stimulate sensibility into insensibility by transforming the ‘everyday’ into the ‘special’ by decoration, hedonism and the creation of illusion. ‘These are ways to “anaethetize” organizational actors and thereby render them insensitive and entirely unable to comprehend organizational life’ (1999).
So, for Strati, ‘whilst aesthetics sharpens the sensory faculties [sic], anaesthetics dulls them [sic]’. Welsch (1997) too, says that continued excitement leads to indifference. Over-stimulus gives way to the nervous system shutting down, nothing seems beautiful anymore and the sensuous gives way to desensitization. The globalization of the aesthetic means that ubiquitous beauty loses its appeal and its meaning. If beauty is everywhere it can even become terrifying. But at this point Welsch differs from Strati. For, to the extent that one or more of the senses is stimulated through an aesthetized stimulus it is implied that one or more of the remaining senses is anaesthetized. Welsch sees the human sensorium as a bundle of different senses undergoing differing levels of sensory stimulation whilst Strati rolls them all in together. The privileging of the visual, we might infer from this, can lead to the terror of loss of perceptive feeling in the auditory or the olfactory senses. Anaesthetization thus can become one way of surviving the terror of partial stimulation or overstimulation of the senses and of perception. We would like to take the concept of anaesthetization somewhat further and infuse it with more of a political flavour than one finds in Welsch and with a non-Stratian conception of the human sensorium as being heterogenous in form. In this, we take the force of the argument developed in the sixteenth century by Loyola in appealing to all the five the senses of the whole population in encouraging those Catholics, through excitation of their whole sensorium (at different times) to attend Church and thus reject the Reformation because it was so depleted in its sensateness. We hope you will bear with us as we engage in this thought experiment, taking as our focal centre, the practice of architecture. First however, it may be useful to have anaesthetization described for us in graphic form. Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932/1997) has within it clear and shocking descriptions of buildings and their functions. Indeed, the
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book begins with an architectural reference. It establishes the modernity of the future in which it is set by announcing ‘A squat grey building of only thirty-four storeys’ (p. 1). In the Foreword of the 1946 edition, Huxley
presciently sees the great significance of Los Alamos to the postwar world. He says (Huxley, 1946/1994): The most important Manhatten Projects of the future will be vast government-sponsored inquiries into what the politicians and the participating scientists will call ‘the problem of happiness’ – in other words, the problem of making people love their servitude. The problem of happiness will be solved, he argues, by better techniques of conditioning, the assignment of human beings into their proper position, a more pleasurable and less harmful drug than gin or heroin through which people may take holidays from reality and a foolproof system of eugenics. We take this to be an ironic manifesto for anaesthetization. Below, Huxley describes a conditioning process in which khaki dressed, delta class infants learn to turn away from aesthetic experiences: the babies at once fell silent, then began to crawl towards those clusters of sleek colours, those shapes so gay and brilliant on the white pages. As they approached, the sun came out of a momentary eclipse behind a cloud. The roses flamed up as though with a sudden passion from within: a new and profound significance seemed to suffuse the shining pages of the books. From the ranks of the crawling babies came little squeals of excitement, gurgles and twitterings of pleasure. (Huxley, 1932/1994, p. 17) Then ‘there was a violent explosion. Shriller and ever shriller, a siren shrieked. Alarm bells maddeningly sounded. The children started, screamed: their faces were distorted with terror’ (1932/1994, p. 17): ‘Offer them the flowers and books again.’ The nurses obeyed: but at the approach of the roses, at the mere sight of those gaily-coloured images of pussy and cock-a-doodle doo and baa-baa black sheep, the infants shrank away in horror. (Huxley, 1932/1994, p. 18) And while, of course, Huxley was describing a world of the future from within the context of the early 1930s there must be a real sense in which
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the anaesthetizing process within our schools and universities today attempts to distort with terror the faces of those exposed to the ‘hardships’ of reading difficult books and of appreciating the non-human world as if it was of equal significance to the human one. Even Alphas and Alpha pluses within Brave New World require regular escapes into an anaethesized existence
through the taking of a gramme of stupefying ‘soma’. So what Huxley offers us is a description of a dystopian world in which anaesthetization is literally ‘the order of the day’. He sees important connections between the architecture of this dystopian world and its attempts to make people love their servitude. And the culture of the society (based largely on imagery drawn from Fordist America) is one in which most of the aesthetic pleasures of the world cease to be on offer and are replaced by the anodyne anaesthetization of the populace through class-based indoctrination and the biochemistry of management. Clearly, in common understanding, being ‘anaetheticized’ means no longer being sensate to the world around. It is a form of extreme desensitization to external and internal stimuli. And this distinction between inner and outer world is important. For are we talking here of the individual’s capacity for interest in and ability to seek out the aesthetic being impaired by some form of ‘soma’? Or does it mean that the ‘anaesthetic’ social order does not knowingly provide any aesthetics for the population to enjoy? Is this then an individual or collective issue? Now the reader may see this as a false dichotomy, but the questions asked and answers given depend in large measure on the level of analysis that one begins from. Thus anaesthetics might imply a condition in which beauty could not be appreciated or that there was nothing beautiful in the environment to actually appreciate. Thus the equivalent of an individual, phenomenologically based analysis would produce workers, let us say, who could not appreciate beauty, sought no underlying form or wholeness in what they did, whose senses were dulled and whose higher senses were not developed, whose perceptiveness was dulled by lack of time and whose interest in the external was very low. The materially based equivalent of a social condition such as alienation and the attendant masking of reality would produce a picture of anaesthetization as there being nothing beautiful to appreciate, no sense could be made because of the organization of non-integrated parts, which also rendered cosmeticization futile, that perceptions were artificially lowered by ideological control mechanisms and workers were time starved in order to deprive them of the opportunity to think. In Brave New World gammas and epsilons are portrayed as precisely this: anaesthetized drones.
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This does not exhaust the range of possibilities, of course, for there is always the possibility that what passes for aesthetics and anaesthetics is predicated upon particular class-based power maintaining common understandings of what is meant by the ‘cultural’. Does anyone ask the gammas and epsilons what they find beautiful? A rejection of the problematique of aesthetics may be the most constructive way forward for large sections of the population. But nevertheless it is significant to recognize that the aesthetics/anaesthetics dualism does raise many relevant questions for critical management studies. Elsewhere (Burrell and Dale, in press) we have argued that critical management studies needs to be much more aware of the significance of the built environment and the ways in which management is involved in the building of power, the building of consumption, the building of manufacture and the building of administration. This does not mean that we are interested solely in the buildings of buildings, but rather in the building of the social through buildings. In the present paper, we shall focus on that cultural product known as architecture and ask in what circumstances does the aesthetic/anaesthetic dualism come into play? When do buildings produce an aesthetic experience of the kind Benjamin describes in his Arcades Project (Passagenwerk, circa 1930s/1999d) as phantasmagoria? And when do they produce a form of anaesthesia? If anaesthesia, put simply, is about the suppression of the sensate, phantasmagoria are about the excitation of the senses through the surface lustres of beautiful aesthetics used to encourage consumption. The original phantasmagoria in the nineteenth century were back-lit projections (and, it is important to note, were not mere reflections) of ghostly images, onto a screen, that the audience could not detect the provenance thereof. They were bright attractive projections that entertained and amazed audiences. They had and have (for we shall argue that they are still to be found) an aesthetic impact on the crowds for which they were designed. The term becomes generalized in Walter Benjamin’s work to mean any deceptive image designed to dazzle (Burrell and Dale, in press). How then, specifically in the realm of architecture, does Benjamin’s notion of phantasmagoria relate to a form of Welsch’s anaesthetics? How does the
encouragement of a brightly lit dazzle square with desensitization of the subject? First, we must note the emphasis on the visible. The primacy of the visual in the human sensorium is an important part of Benjamin’s approach. As Welsch notes, to over-stimulate one part of the sensorium is to under-stimulate the other senses. Thus it is quite easy to see that
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dazzle and desensitization can go together in terms of human sensateness. In the presence of bright lights one hears less. But we must note that we are talking here of the single sentient human being. There is more to this than that single point. Second, it may well be that certain social beings are dazzled and pleased by an aesthetic experience. But at the cost of the desensitization of those who serve them in the same space. One needs only to consider aesthetic labour (e.g. Hancock and Tyler, 2000) and emotional labour (Hochschild, 1983) to see that the aesthetic experience of flying or entering Disneyfied spaces is at the cost of the self-anaesthetized labour of others. Here we are suggesting that one form of anaesthetic used is by staff supposed to engage in emotional labour but who wish to switch off during work (Hochschild, 1983; Fineman, 1993). Third, the possibility exists that dazzling ‘glass-roofed, marble-lined elegance’ is a form of aesthetic experience that is predicated in one way or another on the desensitization of those acting at a distance from the lights, those who provide the labour power to achieve the materials for this aesthetic experience. In other words, perhaps the glass factory workers are only offered anaesthetized labour, for sensory deprivation is an integral part of their building and the technological processes that go on within it. And so too of the back-breaking work at the quarry where the marble is hewn. Fourth, the professionals who aim to produce phantasmagoria (and in this case we refer to architects) must seek to act as dazzlers. However, they are constrained in their art by economics, politics and the power of the client. Only signature architects who engage in Art Architecture may come close to producing beautiful lustres, but for them, some of the time, and for the journeymen and women of the profession, most of the time, compromises have to be made. Professional architects desensitize themselves from not being
able to deliver what they want as a full aesthetic experience. Every architect-designed space is, to a greater or lesser extent, a compromise with cost and context in which the aesthetic ideal is lost. Thus architecture is a profession that is anaesthetized, as well as aestheticized, from the outset. Architects cannot seek the full achievement of beauty. Rather, they may have to follow fashion set for them by their clients, who themselves have different and dynamic desires associated with the human sensorium. Therefore, to dazzle requires desensitization of the individual who is dazzled, desensitization of those who labour to produce the dazzle in the same place, desensitization of those who produce the material to dazzle many miles away and desensitization of those who produce the
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designs for the dazzle. Aesthetic labour must also have anaesthetic labour. And this is where, at long last, management comes in. Aesthetics and anaesthetics are both a matter of the management of the senses. When Chester Barnard said in 1939 that management was as much an issue of aesthetics as it was of rationality, he participated in a process of the managerialization of aesthetics. The separation of mind from the senses, of critical reason from practical reason, of sense from sensibility may appear to be a progressive splitting off, for it presents a world in which there are legitimate alternative readings to that derived from reason and rationality. In an issue of the journal Organization (1996), on aesthetics and organization, the authors seemed to share a belief that aesthetics offered a parallel interpretation to that derived from managerial rationality and that this should be analysed as an alternative to managerialism. What is amazing, of course, (to us at least) is that the range of human senses supposedly being used in aesthetics – the sensorium – could be seen as remaining untainted by – as independent from – managerial control. The body-in-space is a target for control, discipline, dressage and indoctrination. To assume that it remains a free spirit, outside of the pull of capitalistic rationality, is a triumph of optimism. The interiorisation of power flows and the manipulation of the sensorium are totally ignored in much treatment
of aesthetics and organization. The current fashion for, and accompanying valorisation of, transparent openness in organizational life is reliant upon an obvious manipulation of the human senses and what is to be welcomed by them. The visible is ‘seen’ [sic] as the valued. Organizational life, then, is undertaken inside a built environment in which the human body and the sensorium are placed. But we know that the notion that space is empty and is filled by the human physique is not a very social one. It is much better to see the space we inhabit as created by us and by the needs of our enfleshed skeleton. In order to demonstrate this social construction of space, we want to spend a little time discussing an article from Administrative Science Quarterly (Guillén, 1997) that attempts to widen the debate on Taylorism by suggesting that Taylorism was an aesthetic ideal that spread around the world. We wish to argue that it may well have been an aesthetic for the capitalist classes since it offered to them a wonderful bright phantasmagoria of what could be achieved by efficient mass production, but for the labouring classes it represented anaesthetization by dulling the senses of those who worked in factories using such principles. The buildings of Albert Kahn, for example, allowed for worker desensitization to the presence of ‘zero architecture’ inside and outside his factories, factories in which Taylorism and Fordism were to gather apace.
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Mauro Guillén (1997) had an article published in Administrative Science Quarterly entitled ‘Scientific Management’s Lost Aesthetic: Architecture, Organization And The Taylorized Beauty Of The Mechanical’. It is worth considering this piece, we would maintain, for it throws into relief the ‘an-aesthetic’ stance we are to take on the relationship between space, architecture and organization. In many ways it is an exemplary article, sophisticated in its understanding of Europe, historically aware and interested in cultural issues. He seeks to show that the aesthetic ‘modernists’ in European architecture were highly influenced by Taylorism and saw in it a beauty that latter-day critics, particularly in the social sciences, have not. Guillén (1997) claims that these modernists, such as Gropius, Mies van de Rohe and Le Corbusier, saw in Taylorism and Fordism
‘beauty with technical, economic and social efficiency’ (p. 683). Here, immediately, the reader confronts several problems. Nowhere in the article is aesthetics defined. The level of complexity in defining the term with which we began this chapter is totally absent in Guillén. He only looks at ‘architects and other artists’ who combine ‘beauty with technical, economic and social efficiency’. There is, therefore, a certain tendentiousness in the approach that he takes from the outset! He claims that European architects of a modernist persuasion found an aesthetic message in what was going on in the reorganization of production in the USA. Nowhere does Guillén reveal that the European modernists waxed lyrical about the future on what they had seen of Scientific Management’s concretization within factory walls, solely on the basis of a dozen or so grainy photographs. What he fails to realize is that they seldom visited the USA in this period and much of what they thought they knew was derived from poor quality snapshots. Gropius published North American photos in 1913, but only visited the USA in 1928; Le Corbusier borrowed these images in 1919 and went to the USA in 1935 (Banham, 1986, p. 9). It is very surprising that Guillén does not pick up on this because he certainly references A Concrete Atlantis by Reyner Banham (1986) who claims that the work of the European architects in the modernist tradition did copy from American industrial prototypes and models but that: ‘it must be the first architectural movement in the history of the art based almost exclusively on photographic evidence rather than on the ancient and previously unavoidable techniques of personal inspection and measured drawing’ (Banham, 1986, p. 18). It is a strange aesthetics, perhaps, that is based on grainy photographs rather than first hand impressions. These aesthetics, we might surmise, were actually in the eye of the (non-) beholder. From the distance conveyed through the photographic medium, not only did the European
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architects not have material knowledge of the design and construction (discussed in Banham, 1986, p. 18), but they also had no social knowledge of the arrangements and relations of production that actually guided the development of such architectural forms. It was a curiously ‘externalist’
appropriation that was facilitated by the distancing, singular vision of an optocentric aesthetics. Venturi, Scott-Brown and Izenour (1972, pp. 92–3, discussed in Banham) emphasize that Le Corbusier ‘claimed the steamship and the grain elevator for their forms rather than their associations, for their simple geometry rather than their industrial lineage’. Banham adds that this adoption of the industrial ‘style’ was symbolic: these buildings appeared to fit the values of the modernist credo with their functional honesty, structural economy and being up to date yet hinting of a futuristic technological utopia. This abstract and abstracted aesthetics highlights the controversial nature of Guillén’s notion that the ‘outcomes’ of scientific management might not all have been seamy and unpleasant. Clearly if one was an industrialist then this might well be true. Even some scientific managers may have welcomed and embraced the new managerial regimes. Nowhere, however, is the elision between Taylorism, Fordism and Scientific Management confronted. If they were and are separate entities then one has to treat them accordingly. Homogenising them into one category serves little purpose if one wishes to understand their dynamics (Littler, 1982). As with the European modernists, Guillén also seems to be using aesthetics to justify the avoidance of an understanding of the social relations of production. Elsewhere too, Guillén (1997, p. 688) seems to find difficulty in the notion that these great architects were only too well aware of the needs of corporate clients. The possession of avant-garde credentials does not necessarily mean that these talented individuals would take sides against individualistic, mechanistic and engineering based models. After all, these models were sweeping Wilhelmine Germany with their promise of military and industrial success. Why, we might ask, does Guillén find this consanguinity of the avant-garde with capitalism so troubling? It is only to set up the discussion that follows. There is a nonquestion to which he provides an answer. He is right to say that we have neglected aesthetic issues in Organization Theory but he brings his discussion into being by dissembling about an obvious politico-economic explanation for the motivation of these leading ‘Art-Architects’. They sought clients who could and would willingly support their work. Most importantly, however, the problem of Guillén’s focus on the leading figures of architecture, these ‘Art-Architects’ (Upton, 1998,
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pp. 262–4), means that he completely ignores the ‘journeymen’ of the architectural profession who, whilst they do not have artistic pretensions nor abilities, are yet well served by the Art-Architects in the day to day business of making a living. He asserts that things that may be seen as beautiful are aesthetic in some objective sense and therefore the ArtArchitects themselves legitimize these forms of cheap industrial building by finding beauty in them. Upton (1998), however, observes that ‘the conspicuous minority of art-architects bolsters the position of the majority of ordinary practitioners by generating new forms to resupply the professional’s visual stock … imbuing the entire profession with the cultural prestige … of art’ (p. 263). Thus our argument is that Guillén’s piece is to be welcomed for introducing the debate on aesthetics in architecture into the mainstream of organization theory but that it fails to understand the specific differences between particular clients for projects and ultimately opts for a view which privileges that of elite culture and elite capital in its assumptions about aesthetics. From a worker perspective we might hazard a guess that the factories devoted to Taylorism and Fordism, as built according to Kahnism, were places of anaesthetization and zeroes: zero stimulation; zero time for contemplation; zero encouragement of perceptiveness; and, zero architecture. And therefore we turn from the ‘externalist’ point of view of the aesthetics of modern industrial building, to consider the ‘internal’ dynamics of the production of these key spaces of twentieth century capitalism. Born in Germany in 1869, Albert Kahn excelled in the design of buildings for mass production. The construction of single storey buildings covering many acres, illuminated by saw tooth roofs was his trademark. What he developed through his firm was no more and no less than a new paradigm of factory construction. Large factories with their mass production technologies and a workforce used to the rhythms of the industrial day are associated of course with Ford and with Taylor but rarely with Kahn. Yet it is Kahn’s development of the ‘daylight factory’ that produced the spaces in which such efficient mass production work could take place. Beginning with contracts with the Packard Motor Co. in 1903 and
thence working for Ford and GM, Kahn established a huge reputation for meeting corporate needs. Most (in)famously, Building Ten of the Packard Motor Company’s site in Detroit, is seen by some as a defining moment in twentieth century architecture. The building has been described as ‘zero architecture’ (cf. Banham, 1986, p. 86). Culture was thus to disappear into the rapacious cost-sensitive maw of administration. And as this zero-architecture took hold, so too did
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Kahn take his firm increasingly in the direction of looking more and more like the large firms and state departments with whom he interacted. His huge drawing offices resembled ever more closely the very designs of the buildings upon their drawing boards. One of his contributions then and a key to his success was to develop the large-scale architectural firm that mirrored the large-scale industrial conglomerate. His company grew then by responding to the changes in the USA and Soviet economies in the inter-war period and even more so as a result of the Second World War itself. The design principles in his architecture themselves reflected the growth of large-scale bureaucracies. His plans emphasized linearity and hierarchy, with Detroit as the centre of his architectural practice in the same way as it was the centre of medium engineering. Michigan was the gravitational point for his work and it reflected the huge development of the car industry at this time. Also related to this, although not in Kahn’s hands, were the public housing programme at Leavittown and the Liberty ship construction programme. Whilst these were and are seen as cheap, low quality and massproduced architectural activities perhaps these are the very things in which we should be interested. It is not the great figures of architecture in terms of their creative originality of whom we should speak but the utilitarian forces at work which drive forward capital’s aims.
The international style
The intellectual property rights involved in assigning ownership to ‘The International Style’ are complex and contested. What Guillén has done is to reverse the usually accepted flow of ideas in which architectural aesthetics
are seen as running westward. For him, Taylorism moves into Europe in the 1920s as reflective of a new work process in which architects become interested because of its ‘elegant’ rationalistic forms. For Europeans and most American architects, the lines of influence run the other way in that the USA takes on board the International Style which originates in Europe in the late 1920s. But in the same way as Le Corbusier touched up pictures of Canadian and Argentinian grain silos and called them American, Americans transformed European modernism and air brushed out all the social criticism. Therefore, the transatlantic flows are indubitably both ways. In 1931, the year in which Brave New World was in the production stage of being published, automobile production in the USA was at about 20 per cent of its 1929 output. Employment in the building industry was less than half of its 1929 level and 85 per cent of all the
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architects in New York city were out of work (Handlin, 1997, p. 197). The unemployed looked elsewhere. A new architecture based on a new aesthetic appeared to be developing in Europe. It preached austerity, broke its connections to the older traditions of architecture and made prophetic statements about the new social order based on industrial production. In 1932 an exhibition took place of the ‘modern architecture’ at the Museum of Modern Art and thereafter this became known as the ‘International Style’. According to Hancock and Johnson who organized the exhibition, the new style’s aesthetic concerns were with volume not mass (meaning what went into the building was now much more unconstrained), the appearance of a building should reflect its purpose and finally that external decoration served no useful function at all. What this set of principles does, of course, is to strip out any formal discussion of issues of ideology, politics and social relevance. In the European tradition such issues were paramount but once European ideas entered the USA there was a tendency for them to be seen without any sense of context from which they originated. Colin Rowe (quoted in Curtis, 1996, p. 403) says that ‘European modern architecture, even when it operated within the cracks and crannies of the capitalist system, existed within an ultimately Socialist ambience. American modern architecture did
not’. For in America, European architecture ‘was introduced simply as a new approach to building – and not much more. That is, it was introduced largely purged of its ideological or societal content’. Thus, the transformation into some neutered form of those avant garde political aspirations for and of art-architecture, took place very easily indeed within the USA. Housing, for example, was given a very low status in the USA’s appropriation of the International Style and while the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) (studied by Selznick in 1947 as one of the classic pieces of organizational analysis) did represent Governmentsponsored attempts to raise the profile of such social planning, it failed dismally to achieve this objective. Somewhat perplexingly, Kahn despised the International Style when he may well have been seen as engaging in precisely the same sort of aesthetic. But he saw it as the lowest form of architecture. Architecture in its proper sense was about ceremonial purpose. Functionality (in which most of his practice specialized) was the least important in the hierarchy of the discipline. Of Gropius’s work he asked ‘Is it architecture at all?’ and that of Le Corbusier was ‘utterly stupid’ (Handlin, 1997, p. 209). This is why he could be sanguine about his own buildings being ‘zero architecture’ for he saw such a condition all around him in the new European style. It was not proper architecture. This stance came
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from a visit he made in 1881 to various European cities, with Henry Bacon, a colleague, who was later to design the Lincoln Memorial. They were both influenced by the classicism of the Beaux Arts movement in France and thereafter saw ‘real’ buildings as being necessarily monumental, with a clear architectural hierarchy existing from ceremonial buildings at the top and functional buildings way down at the bottom. Harvey Wiley Corbett (1873–1954) argued that ‘advertising, exploitation and publicity were the animating agents behind the commercial age’ (1924, quoted in Handlin, 1997, p. 183). The architect, according to Corbett, had to give expression to these forces and the skyscraper, the architectural form with which he is associated, must have a distinct physiognomy which would really identify the company who paid for it to be built. Skidmore Owings and Merrill (SOM) were
just such a company who were able and willing to provide corporate identity through monumental buildings. Influenced by Ludwig Mies van de Rohe (1886–1969) with his image of the tall building by which to set agendas, they opened their office in Chicago in 1936 but immediately also placed themselves in New York. Thus SOM were the heirs to Kahn’s ‘utilitarian boxes’; they were the firm who took this aesthetic of function and fully stripped out any sense of left wing confrontation within it. Beginning with their successful bid to the US Army for the design for the facilities of the Manhattan Project in Tennessee (and their ultra sensitivity to reflecting military hierarchy that this necessitated), SOM went on to develop their version of the International Style into the house style of corporate capitalism. Office buildings became great phantasmagoria in the sky. They were phallic symbols of the potency of their Chief Executive Officers and, through their glass curtain walls, spoke to the audiences, paraded before them in the streets of the metropolitan centres, of their brightness and powers of illumination made possible by their amassed dollars. The appeal to corporate owners comes from their phantasmagoric capabilities to dazzle. These office blocks conventionally represented ‘sky-scrapers’ but offered more symbolically, penetration of the clouds. Yet, as within the factories of Kahn, they relied upon anaesthesized bureaucrats labouring within. The buildings of SOM which came to dominate office building in the latter half of the twentieth century were also places of anaesthetics and zeroes. But, of course, it would be foolish to think that politics had been stripped out of the International Style completely. SOM reflected a politics which was anti-union, anti-‘liberal’ and anti-craft ethic (one of the ways in which they achieved these goals was the widespread use of mass produced, prefabricated components, factory-built and then shipped to
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the site – a commonplace activity now but initially a radical move). The aesthetics of Hancock and Johnson were supposedly outside of politics but what this masked was the capture of left leaning socially aware architecture by American corporate architects whose politics, were they to win business for their offices, had to be inclined to the right. So, in America or
elsewhere is it possible even to envisage architectures that do not anaesthetize and that do not represent a phantasmagorian dazzle designed to simultaneously desensitize?
Architectures of emancipation?
Rather than a rationalist view of the aesthetics of architecture which posits that the structure and form of a building reflects its functions, and that these functions are hierarchically arranged – with of course the architecture of industry at the bottom – we have sought to argue a more complex relationship between aesthetics and organization. Art has often been seen as somehow autonomous from the social and political relations in which it has been produced. Through this relative autonomy it could stand outside and protest against the ‘petrified relations’ of bourgeois society. Theodor Adorno was keen to assert in his aesthetic theory that art had an emancipatory potential, through its presenting of a vision of an alternative world. Art which required the engagement of the observer and was not merely an entertainment or distraction had this potential to liberate (Leach, 1997, pp. 17–19). Following Adorno, who here prefigures much of what Welsch has to say in his tour of the meanings of aesthetics, Architecture as Art may be assumed to be where every detail/part is central to the totality of the enterprise; themes and detail are highly interwoven and the latter cannot be changed without affecting the whole; a high level of technical competence is required. The audience for the building or edifice which is high art have to experience all of it, they have to concentrate on it very hard for it is like no other piece and ultimately it is disruptive of the continuum of everyday life (cf. Held, 1980, pp. 101, 103). Architecture devoid of art (in a sense ‘zero architecture’) reflects the opposite tendencies. The piece uses familiar and cliched frameworks; it is repetitive, rigid and underdeveloped thematically. Stress is on individual effects not the totality and therefore detail can be substituted at will. The conventional norms are unchallengingly supported by such edifices. Audiences react to such artless buildings by responding to the parts not the whole. The piece is standardized and already known and predictable; little effort is required to understand it and there is manipulation of the form and content so
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that they appear familiar. This sense of pre-existing recognition produces pleasure for the observer and the quality of the building is measured by how often it is repeated. Thus it reinforces a sense of continuity with everyday life and renders the process of thinking unnecessary. The problem with such an analysis is that one cannot assume that difficult and disruptive buildings which challenge the status quo are necessarily going to rely on an aesthetics which are sympathetic to the workforce! Surely it might be possible for aesthetically challenging edifices to be erected which are antagonistic to subordinate value systems and quality of life. Adorno thought that ‘authentic art’ would succumb to ‘the culture industry’ where its consumers, the workforce, were at their weakest and most ill-informed. He saw Benjamin as having embraced ‘the anarchistic romanticism of blind confidence in the spontaneous power of the proletariat’ (quoted in Held, 1980, p. 88) and instead of this he advocated the merits of work which both rejects market requirements and nineteenth century philosophies and embraces the dissonant character of the twentieth century. For him, that authentic art which was revolutionary in a Left wing sense was likely to be under real threat. What he did not fully address was art which is revolutionary in a right wing sense. However, Adorno did recognize that the inaccessibility of high art would reduce its revolutionary effectiveness for the Left. The relationship between architecture, aesthetics and high art on one hand and the power of the workforce, spontaneous or not, on the other, therefore does merit further investigation and is more complex than Adorno recognized. High culture in the form of Art Architecture can be authentically autonomous from what has gone before but nevertheless culturally emiserate large sections of the populace. Indeed, revolutionary new buildings derived from the domain of Art Architects can be just like the buildings of popular culture: profoundly enslaving. So, in concluding this chapter, we seek not to find and analyse architecture which is only left-leaning high art on one hand or an architecture of popular culture which reinforces the existing structures of domination on the other. Rather, for us, architecture is a practice which can be conceptualized as being other things. First, it might be revolutionary from the point of view of the interests of Capital and with
aesthetic content from the phenomenological standpoint of the organizational subordinate. Bel Geddes’ design for the General Motors stand ‘Futurama’, in Los Angeles in 1939, seems to have some of these features. In what prefigures a lot of Disney type rides, visitors (sometimes GM car workers) were placed in a travelling vehicle from which they
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were meant to see the freeways of 1960 and the ameliorating effects these was to have on city life. By all accounts, visitors were amazed and delighted by this diarama. It can be seen as a phantasmagoria which dazzled the consumer and allowed GM to press ahead for freeway expansion on a massive scale. But it moved almost all who saw it. Second, architecture is possible which is revolutionary in the interests of Capital without aesthetic interest from the viewpoint of the subordinate. The interpretation of the subordinate is important but it may well be that he/she sees an architectural aesthetic (or not) because of manipulation of their sensorium. This is the sort of position we think that Huxley is adopting in Brave New World. Most crucially, however, for us is that third case where an architecture may be devoid of aesthetic intentions or interpretations on the parts of the architect, perhaps even the client and certainly their subordinates, yet it may be truly revolutionary. It may be the architectural soma which induces anaesthetization. This description perhaps is what fits the factory design work of Albert Kahn. One final contemporary example may serve to bring these themes upto-date. This is the headquarters building of PowerGen in Coventry, constructed in the mid-1990s and receiving a number of awards for its innovation. Despite this we are not selecting it because of its uniqueness but its typification of the an-aesthetics in organizational aesthetics. The building is constructed as one large space, around an atrium at its centre which allows all three floors to be observed at a glance. However, the effect of such a large space on the senses is surprisingly deadened. The noise levels of up to 600 workers in this open space would be expected to be deafening, but the sound is flattened through the pumping of ‘white-noise’ which removes the highs and the lows upon the ear of the listener. The atmosphere is also constant and consistent – kept so by a computerized
building management system. Visually, the experience of the architecture is one of levelling, transparency and consistency: there are few contrasts or surprises, and a lack of variation in colour and texture. The overall impression, then, is one of calm control of the environment: a fitting setting for professional bureaucratized man and woman?
Saskia Sassen (2000, pp. 168–9) has argued that: ‘the emphasis on hypermobility, global communications and the neutralisation of place and distance needs to be balanced with a focus on the work behind command functions, on the actual production process in the leading information industries, finance and specialized services and on global
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marketplaces’ (emphasis in original). In this chapter we have tried to take these notions of material conditions, sites of production and place boundedness very seriously indeed. Harry Braverman (1974), a figure whose influence on our subject has been enormous, in his discussion of the Labour Process writes almost nothing on space and place. Whilst it is clear that he did discuss the importance of production processes and was incisive about the materiality of this process, in his sections about Taylorism and Human Relations, about factory and office, these notions are ‘deterritorialized’ so that they appear to be universal and placeless. What we have sought to argue is that architecture played a key role in the twentieth century’s development of management practice and the labour process and that our understandings of space and the place of the human body within it are highly influenced by our architectural confinements. Following Merleau-Ponty, Harvey and more importantly Henri Lefebvre, however, the space we inhabit with our bodies is not to be seen as abstract space, nor is it formal space. It is lived space and has to be seen phenomenologically. We are not looking here for space for the body but at the-bodyin-space. Human interpretations of the significance of this lived space must be placed at the forefront of our analysis rather than being conveniently forgotten. In seeking to portray the body-in-space from more of a phenomenological perspective, our encounter
with aesthetics raises several issues. Is the desire to find an independent aesthetics across the full range of the human sensorium capable of being fulfilled? And is the search for authentic architecture capable of being realized? Or, is aesthetics merely a hand-maiden of management? And, is any piece of authentic art able to withstand this pressure to accommodate and comply? Sassen’s encouragement in the face of acres of ‘virtuality’ to remember material conditions, production sites and place boundedness struck us as important. Office blocks and factories have an ontological depth which confronts the phenomenological world of the body-in-space. We have not space here to explore the philosophical implications of the architecture we inhabit. The opening offered here is one centred on placed, material, sites of production. Frampton (1992) has argued that ‘Productivism’ is a dominant force in architecture. The central tenet of this style is that architecture is nothing more than elegant engineering and is the product of industrial design on a gigantic scale. The task should be accommodated as far as possible in an undecorated shed that should be as flexible and as open as possible. Openness and flexibility are best served by the services to and within the building being treated in an integrated way and finally
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the building itself should represent the unimpeded manifestation of production. In their own ways and in different halves of the twentieth century the designs of Kahn and of SOM represent forms of productivism. These two companies have produced buildings all around the world which are cheap to construct, are destructive of craft skills, comfortably meet the symbolic and material needs of capital, and, in their different ways, build upon anaesthetics more than aesthetics. Their success depends also on their incorporation into the dominant social institutions and norms of their time. Thus we emphasize the significance of the everyday architect and architectural practices, and their relationship with business. However, it is perhaps not the architects, great or otherwise, nor the capitalist class that we should focus on but the effects on our very selves of the anaesthetics and the aesthetics of our built environment. It is important that issues of space, building and design, very often taken-for-granted in
our experience of everyday life, are incorporated into our understanding of alienation and identity. A critical management studies must be critical, first and foremost, of its own production and consumption of knowledge. Thus, in our discussions of aesthetics and organization, we must be careful not to depoliticize the nature of the material, embodied relations of production of which we write, in favour of more romanticized, beautiful – but, perhaps anaestheticizing – versions of organizational life.
Aestheticizing the World of Organization – Creating Beautiful Untrue Things Philip Hancock
The final revelation is that lying, the telling of beautiful untrue things, is the proper aim of art. (Oscar Wilde, The Decay of Lying, 1905/1913, p. 54)
The aesthetic has long endured an uneasy relationship with institutions of power and authority. For Plato (trans. 1955/1987), the subversive potential he detected in the practice of art, and the aesthetic it engendered, was sufficient for him to call for poets and performers to be banned from his ideal Republic, lest they should corrupt his guardians and future philosopher kings. For the great minds of the Enlightenment the aesthetic, something unwieldy and corporeal in its nature, threatened their equally idealized realm of mind and led Kant (1790/1952) to construct his elaborate philosophical system to ensure its subservience to the exercise of reason and judgement. More recently, during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as modernity witnessed art and aesthetic practice emerge as a radical political and cultural force, the Janusfaced character of the age became increasingly apparent as the creations of the avant-garde rapidly became the sole preserve of the rich and powerful in society to accumulate and enjoy. Today, however, in these so-called postmodern times, it would seem that the aesthetic has finally been liberated. Freed by the democratizing forces of market capitalism and no longer formally restricted to the domain of art, aestheticized experience is available everywhere and to everyone: in the local high street, through the media and even, in the 174
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workplace. We consume on the basis of style, symbolism and fashion. Our bodies have become aesthetic projects to be adorned, toned and displayed.1 Even the organizations we work for are now, or so it would seem, getting in on this particular act. Not only is the value of corporate art collections on the increase (see Jacobson, 1993, 1996), but, in the wake of the corporate culture movement (Deal and Kennedy, 1982) and calls for more managed emotion in the workplace (Cooper and Sawaf, 1998), it would now seem that organizations are themselves becoming increasingly sensitive to aesthetic values. In the UK, for example, the mainstream business press has started to run stories and articles on the recognized importance of aesthetics to ‘efficient’ office design (Gardner, 2001) and the role artistic activities can play in motivating and retaining staff (Pollock, 2000), while radio and television programmes have discussed issues ranging from the impact of the aesthetics of PowerPoint presentations on organizational thinking, to the aesthetic of organized religion and how big business can and should learn from it. Furthermore, this is not simply an organizational issue in the narrow sense of the term. From designer outlets to glossy and stylized public relations documents, vehicle livery to the training of staff in self-presentation, corporate organizations are also increasingly playing a major role in the landscaping of our everyday aesthetic environment. Issues of organizational aesthetics are also, therefore, increasingly socio-cultural issues as the modern distinction between formal organization and culture is rendered increasingly meaningless. So how are critical theorists of organization and society to interpret such developments? Do they take them to represent a possible desublimation of the sensuality of society, or rather, should they look upon them as yet a further example of the ever-encroaching tide of rationalization that continues to haunt and undermine the emancipatory vision of critical social theory? In this chapter, what I seek to do is approach such questions through the critical textual scrutiny of some of the work that has recently emerged to champion such developments, particularly that which exults organizational managers to take seriously the need to make
strategic interventions into the realm of organizational aesthetics. In doing so, and by drawing on a range of theoretical resources including those to be found in the work of Theodor Adorno, Stjepan Mestrovic and Wolfgang Welsch, I then attempt to draw some critical conclusions regarding what I argue here is a process of organizational aestheticization, maintaining that rather than representing the emancipation of the aesthetic, such developments can be more accurately understood to represent the potential negation of the unique, and possibly emancipatory qualities of the aesthetic as a realm of non-conceptual experience.
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The problem of everyday aestheticization
We are, as Wolfgang Welsch (1997, p. 1) has noted, ‘without doubt currently experiencing an aesthetics boom’. While a multi-faceted process, integral to this ‘boom’ is what he refers to as a process of surface aestheticization – the embellishment and sensualization of everyday objects, environments and experiences. Yet despite the initial impressions [sic], the term surface may give, we should not necessarily take it to imply something trivial or inconsequential. For to refer to the surface in this context is to refer, I would suggest, to the conceptual and physical space within which our everyday experiences and understandings of the world around us are negotiated and reproduced. That is, a constantly contested space within which human subjects are able to exercise their potential for subjective understanding and inter-subjective communication based on the autonomous realization of will, and the practice of undistorted communication (Habermas, 1981/1984). Yet, as the term ‘contested’ suggests, this everyday realm is one within which a multitude of forces and interests play themselves out, each both potentially threatening and facilitating the possibility of human relations based on the values and practice of autonomy, creativity and respect. The potential aestheticization of this everyday space has, perhaps not surprisingly therefore, encountered somewhat mixed reactions. For Featherstone (1991), for example, this aestheticization of the mundane is taken as the positive outcome of a consumer culture that actually promotes the asetheticization of the rational and instrumental
components of consumer capitalism. Thus, socio-cultural aestheticization is taken to represent a celebration of human creativity in a world of people who ‘have a sense of adventure and take risks to explore life’s options to the full, who are conscious they have only one life to live and must work hard to enjoy, experience and express it’ (p. 59). Posited against such optimism, however, sits an alternative perspective, one more critical and wary of the origins, and potential implications, of such an aestheticization process. Drawing in particular on the legacy of the Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School in general, and the work of Adorno, Horkheimer and Marcuse in particular, this perspective challenges the relationship outlined above between aestheticization and rationality in that it considers it to be a rationalization and instrumentalization of the aesthetic that in fact underpins such developments. A process that, in turn, rather than valorizing the aesthetic dimension of everyday life, signifies the negation of aesthetic experience as a unique and potentially emancipatory mode of apprehending the world.2
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Yet while normatively and politically divergent, what evidently unites these perspectives is a shared awareness of the economic basis of such a process. Now of course, for Featherstone, while proving a useful starting point for his theorization, ultimately the primacy of economic analysis is rendered somewhat obsolete by what he considers to be the elevated prominence of cultural determinism within contemporary societies. However, for the more Marxist inspired tradition of Critical Theory it is the economic dimension that provides, in large part, the basis for its critique of what is considered to be the debasement of western art and culture by the reductionist and instrumentalist logic of commodity capitalism (Adorno and Horkheimer, 1944/1979). This assault on the value of aesthetic experience is viewed, therefore, as essentially a colonization process whereby, as Welsch (1997, p. 3) notes, aesthetic values can even be employed to rehabilitate and promote, for instance, commodities that have otherwise become ‘increasingly unusable on moral or health grounds’. The main concern here then is not simply that contemporary aestheticization processes render us
increasingly vulnerable to the practices of advertisers and marketeers. Rather, as I have intimated above, what may also be at stake is the quality of the aesthetic as an integral aspect of human culture and experience, facing as it does the onslaught of a rationalization process that reduces it to little more than yet another quantifiable variable, devoid not only of the unique qualities of sensuality, but that emancipatory potential which, as Marcuse (1978/1979, p. 69) notes, has for so long deferred its promise of ‘freedom and happiness for the individual’. What is particularly interesting in the context of this collection, however, is that for those concerned with developing a critical approach to the ideas and practices underpinning contemporary organizational activity,3 such debates are also coming to take on a newly invigorated importance. For organizations, as Berg and Kreiner (1990) observed over a decade ago, have been no less seduced by the aestheticization processes apparently availing the rest of society resulting, in turn, in the emergence of a sizeable body of literature both extolling, and warily acknowledging, the implications of aesthetics for the contemporary organizational endeavour. In relation to this latter genre, along with Strati’s (1990, 1992, 1996, 1999, 2000a,b) sizeable contribution to the development of an aesthetically driven approach to organization studies itself, several authors have subsequently addressed what they consider to be a range of negative manifestations of the purposeful manipulation and management of aesthetics within the organizational domain. Drawing on Gagliardi’s (1990a, 1996) re-formulation of the
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aesthetic capacity of the organizational artifact, for example, Larsen and Schultz’s (1990) study of a Danish bureaucracy addresses the ways in which material artifacts ranging from office furnishings to the physical posturing of individual bodies, can be manipulated to maintain the perceived legitimacy of asymmetrical organizational power relations, and thus function as pervasive technologies of unconscious control. Other examples of this more critical approach to the aestheticization of organizational life can also be found in recent work, such as that by Hancock and Tyler (2000), Höpfl (2000), and Thompson, Warhurst and Callaghan (2000), all of whom have
focused on how the management of both environmental and embodied aesthetics can be understood to operate as a mechanism of employee control through what Witkin (1990, p. 332) has referred to as the ‘positive cultivation of certain sensuous values that directly express or realize the organizational presence demanded’. However, as the work of Carter and Jackson (2000) suggests, the capacity for organizational aesthetics to influence and cultivate the sensuous is not necessarily restricted to the interior of the organizational domain. As their study of the work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission illustrates, the aestheticization of organizational activities can serve an important function in terms of reinforcing far wider socio-cultural belief systems. For while the formal role of the Commission is the ‘care and maintenance of cemeteries and memorials for military war dead’ (Carter and Jackson, 2000, p. 184), underpinning this responsibility, they argue, is the material generation of an aesthetic designed to invoke, through the orderly and dignified design of such facilities, a ‘feeling of solace and peace and not of depression’ (Gibson and Ward, cited in Carter and Jackson, 2000, p. 184). While at first sight this could be taken to represent simply an attempt to generate an appropriate sense of dignity and respect for the deceased, the account put forward by the authors is somewhat more critical, and perhaps rather more insightful. For by locating the interpretation of such physical spaces within the context of a broader critical theory of the relationship between authority and the portrayal of war, they somewhat convincingly suggest that what they actually represent are aesthetically engineered spaces designed to deny their relationship to the experience of war, death, destruction and chaos. Of equal importance, however, is that in doing so they also actively favour the values of universal order and reason that, in turn, obscures both the irrationality of modern warfare and the irrationality of a social and political order which so often perpetrates or justifies such acts of destruction. Organizational aesthetics, in this instance at least, can therefore be said to transcend the particular realm of the organization itself, and
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function to reinforce the more general cultural regime characteristic of
modernity and its unapologetic adherence to the formality of postenlightenment rationality; whatever the human cost incurred. Yet as I noted earlier, not all literature is so critically inclined. While the imperative in the material I have considered above is the identification and critique of a process of instrumental appropriation directed towards the aesthetic dimension of experience, an alternative body of literature has also recently emerged which presents itself in very different terms. For in contrast to say the work of Carter and Jackson, its authors consider the organizational appropriation, and manipulation, of the aesthetic dimension to be not only a positive development in traditional business terms, but also to offer a potentially liberating experience for society as a whole. Such material, therefore, extols the virtue of the aesthetic and its capacity to both stimulate organizational competitiveness and efficiency while, at one and the same time, fostering the capacity of contemporary work organizations to enhance the quality of the aesthetic experience of society as a whole. Yet despite such apparently noble intent, what I propose in the remainder of this chapter, and drawing on the critical tradition alluded to above, is that such literature in fact does little more than to further reduce the aesthetic to the status of an instrumentalized carrier of a very particular organizational ideology. Furthermore, to achieve this, it would seem that even despite the literatures acknowledgement of the uniqueness of the aesthetic as a mode of commercial, if not social engagement, it must still be stripped of its intangible or ineffable qualities, as well as any notion of experiential autonomy, reducing it to the level of yet another quantifiable variable within the design of a broader organizational system. As such, the aesthetic as a critical mode of experience and cognition is itself emasculated, reduced to the status of yet another heteronymous ordered component within the organized environment of contemporary consumer capitalism – and like Carter and Jackson’s cemeteries – left to function as an engineered legitimation of the dominance of an instrumentalized and dehumanized culture.
Designing the beautiful organization
Before proceeding any further, it is perhaps worth stating one important caveat, namely, that in no way should it be taken that I am suggesting that
an instrumental attitude towards the aesthetic and its relationship to the pursuit of commercial gain or organizational productivity is, in itself, entirely novel. From the requirement for aesthetic labour, to the
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use of designers, architects and artists to generate brand or corporate identities, the relationship between them is as old as capitalism itself.4 For example, architecture, as Olins (1989) observes referring to the great London railway stations built during the nineteenth century and, more latterly, the imposing City headquarters of the Midland Bank which, when it was built in 1924, was the wealthiest such institution in the world, provides a striking illustration of this fact. Today, the felt need to express one’s corporate power and position through the design and scale of one’s public buildings is no less diminished of course. Structures such as the Chrysler Building in New York, the Bank of China tower in Hong Kong, or the recently completed Citigroup Building on London’s Canary Wharf function not simply as containers, but, as Berg and Kreiner (1990, p. 43) would have it, ‘impelling symbols of corporate virtues and managerial intentions’. However, what is perhaps increasingly significant today is the potential for organizations to generate, project and sustain an aestheticized relationship between themselves and their increasingly diverse range of stakeholders via a far greater range of media than simply buildings and product advertising. Now while in part this is a consequence of technological developments and the increased primacy of information and knowledge management within society as a whole, what is also significant is the requirement for organizations to able to communicate a commercially attractive and publicly memorable identity, largely in response to the pressures of intensified global competition, at each and every opportunity that presents itself. Thus, from product advertisements to annual reports, internal newsletters to recruitment brochures and mission statements to web sites, increasingly the emphasis is being placed on taking the opportunity to ‘get across the right image’, ‘look good’ and ‘make a strong impression’ in order to maintain or achieve even the slightest of market advantages. Yet it is not so much the quantitative increase in the amount of aestheticized material being produced
by contemporary organizations that is of primary concern here, but rather the qualitative shift this may have generated in terms of how the category of the aesthetic is experienced within contemporary organizational circles and society at large. What I am suggesting by this, is not simply that aesthetic experience is increasingly coming to serve the economic interests of the corporate sphere – a somewhat inevitable process – but the idea that in doing so, it is in fact becoming identical with, or reduced to it. By this I mean that we are facing a potential situation whereby aesthetic experience no longer simply serves the requirements of the corporate sphere, but where corporate style and beauty becomes style and beauty per se, and aesthetic
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experience is valued at naught unless it is formally sanctioned though organizational affiliation or corporate association: a world where the sanitized, plastic beauty of organizational aesthetics provides the only credible, or indeed legitimate, source of aesthetic gratification. Certainly, there are others who share a concern that such a shift in our cultural sensibilities may already be taking place. As I indicated earlier Welsch (1997, p. 3), for example, notes how it is evident that the ongoing surface aestheticization of contemporary western societies is, in large part, driven by the increasingly aestheticized nature of marketable commodities. This is occurring, he goes on to argue, and clearly drawing on the work of Baudrillard (1981), to the extent whereby even the exchange value of commodities is supplanted by their ‘aesthetic aura’ which itself becomes the consumer’s ‘primary acquisition, with the article merely incidental’. Equally, in her polemical account of the continuing expansion of the corporate brand into almost every facet of our everyday lives, Klein (1999/2001) provides a not dissimilar set of observations. For instance, she notes how it is becoming not merely accepted, but culturally expected that major leisure and arts events should be accompanied by sponsorship relations that ensure that every aspect of the experience is stamped and adorned with the aestheticized identity of the sponsor themselves. Thus, every kind of aesthetic event, from popular music tours, to art exhibitions, television
drama and theatrical productions are, in Klein’s view, on the verge of becoming indistinguishable from the aestheticized experience of the corporate sponsorship upon which such events now rely. Perhaps more telling, however, is the work I referred to nearer the beginning of this chapter, that which is directly concerned with promoting the systematic process of organizational aestheticization and the benefits it can bring, and to which I now want to turn my attentions. It is in the work of Bernd Schmitt and what he terms his Corporate Aesthetics Management (CAM) Framework that the drive to establish a systematic approach to the planning and design of an aestheticized organizational environment is probably best exemplified. Schmitt, author of a number of single-authored and collaborative works (Schmitt, 2000; Schmitt, Simonson and Marcus, 1995; Schmitt and Simonson, 1997), first outlined his strategic approach to management of organizational aesthetics in a journal article entitled Managing Corporate Image and Identity (Schmitt, Simonson and Marcus, 1995). While he acknowledges that, generally speaking, organizational managers have tended to sidestep discussions on aesthetics due to the somewhat esoteric and generally subjective nature of the topic, for Schmitt
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the solution to this ‘problem’ is simply to reduce the language of the aesthetic to a ‘style’ [sic] more ‘familiar’ to managers, thus allowing it to be more easily comprehended and deployed as the basis for a ‘comprehensive and strategic approach … to [managing] a corporations aesthetic image’ (Schmitt et al., 1995, p. 83). The path that Schmitt and his colleagues take in this respect commences, perhaps not surprisingly, with the act of definition. That is, by defining the object of their attentions, namely corporate aesthetics, they are able provide a readily digestible reduction of a complex concept while, at the same time, establishing important socially grounded relations as somehow natural or almost inevitable, such as the very conjunction of the two terms or the relationship between corporate imagery and the possibility of ‘gratification’: the term ‘corporate aesthetics’ is used in its broadest sense to refer to a company’s visual (and otherwise aesthetic) output in the
form of packaging, logos, trade names, business cards, company uniforms, buildings, advertisements and other corporate elements that have the potential of providing aesthetic gratification. (Schmitt et al., 1995, p. 83) The focus of their strategy, it should also be noted, is then placed firmly on the evaluation of material artifacts as the aesthetic components of the organization. Thus, the subjective dimension of aesthetic experience is, or so it appears, carefully excluded, further reducing potential obstacles to the construction of a systematic framework within which the aesthetic may be reduced to a series of variables, subject to manipulation over both time and space. Thus having now reduced the aesthetic to a discursively knowable and materially quantifiable entity, it is then possible to ‘slot’ it into the CAM framework and articulate the necessary categorizations, procedures and assessment criteria which, we are informed, provide an approach to the management of aesthetics that is ‘systematic’, ‘comprehensive’ and ‘strategic’ (Schmitt et al., 1995, p. 83). So, like the architectural projects associated with high modernism, for example, aesthetic concerns are determined by the principles of order, calculability and replicability that already underpin the organizational logic familiar to individuals like Schmitt. Indeed, its own aesthetic is that of the machine, which then almost inevitably descends into the formulaic management-speak of systems, sub-systems and strategies as managers are counselled in the need to undertake careful and systematic analyses, calculations and evaluations as
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part of their aesthetics management strategies. Take, for example, the following passage describing the structure of an aesthetics situation analysis: The situation analysis encompasses four distinct sub-stages, each reflecting a separate goal … The first sub-stage consists of a thorough status quo analysis of every aspect of a company’s image. Without proper identification of all image-related elements, the comprehensive, systematic and strategic qualities are compromised. (Schmitt et al., 1995, p. 84) Notably, a central component of this situation analysis are what the authors describe as the four ‘P categories’ of aesthetics management, ‘properties, products, presentations and publications’, all of which must be carefully
evaluated (although we are warned that the initial subdivisions may require the use of ‘subjective judgements’) to ensure a sound knowledge base is provided with regard to the aesthetics of the existing corporate image. Further stages then follow; the design of a corporate aesthetics strategy, the building of design elements, and finally a process for aesthetic quality control through which consistency of image and style may be maintained and necessary updates and upgrades undertaken. In the more substantial text, Marketing Aesthetics (Schmitt and Simonson, 1997), not only is the CAM framework refined, but the emphasis shifts to the presentation of a fully blown ‘self-help’ or ‘how to’ manual for budding aesthetics managers. Here, everything from style to various architectural and geometric forms is identified, defined and then illustrated in their specific application. Perhaps more significant, however, are the examples the authors provide of what they consider to be particularly successful attempts at generating very specific aestheticized identities by several leading companies. Starbucks, IBM and GAP all provide case studies of organizations whose approach to the management of aesthetics has led the way in the use of images, sounds, smells and textures as tools to achieve ‘tangible value for the organization’ (Schmitt and Simonson, 1997, p. 21) including ‘increased consumer loyalty, the ability to charge higher prices for similar products and increased employee productivity’. So while such organizations increasingly contribute to the aesthetic landscape of contemporary western culture, the aesthetic is itself, or so it would seem, contemporaneously reduced to an equivalent value, one identical to the value such organizations place upon it as a resource for the maximization of profit and the marginalization of potential competition.
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Now it has to be admitted that in many respects the work of Schmitt and his colleagues offers something of an obvious target for the kind of criticism I have mentioned earlier. For despite their allusions to the generation of cultural value and the like, they do not, after all, entirely shy away from articulating the priorities underpinning their efforts, namely to ensure corporate leaders recognize the aesthetic dimension as a potential resource,
which, as with any other resource, exists to be exploited. As such, the aesthetic, as the realm of sensory apprehension, is clearly conceptualized and articulated as a site of strategic managerial intervention, amenable to qualification and quantification, analysis, appropriation and finally, purposeful commodification, while the potential wider consequences of this are not, at the end of the day, overly concerning to them. However, the same cannot be so straightforwardly said of the work of Dickinson and Svensen (2000), whose Beautiful Corporations: Corporate Style in Action signifies a very different approach to the issue at hand. Unlike Schmitt and Simonson’s offering, this appears to be no work of sensible scientism and fathomable frameworks. Indeed, one’s very first encounter with this particular artifact is itself – like an increasing number of new-wave management texts – profoundly material and aestheticized. The dust cover, striking in design, verges on the fluorescent. The inside combines paper that is silky to the touch with full-page glossy photos and engaging montages while the text is organized in short, punchy paragraphs laid out with plenty of space to spare and punctuated with ‘stylish’ images and MTVesque soundbites. Certainly more corporate coffee table than corporate boardroom, more pop culture than intellectual treatise, its aesthetic is one of fun, accessibility, and the feeling that business can be cool, slick and stylish. Even when one ventures beyond (or below) this level of engagement, the narrative is apparently equally different in content to Schmitt and Simonson’s. Rather than a technical manual, this is a direct evocation to a more attractive world through organizational aesthetics and the creation of truly beautiful corporations. That is, a world in which corporate activity should constitute ‘style, beauty, a positive attitude and pleasing experiences’ (Dickinson and Svenson, 2000, p. 3) not only for its members but society as a whole. This holistic vision is summed up well be Sean Blair, Design Director of the UK Design Council (cited in Dickinson and Svenson, 2000, p. xii) who describes the beautiful corporation as one that will: seek people not as human resources, but as human talents, aiming to realize potential not control it. [That] will touch the earth lightly,
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not using physical resources unnecessarily, but will use resources in new and more efficient ways. The corporation that will dominate tomorrow’s business landscape will pursue the social as well as the financial agenda. The aesthetic at work here then, is perhaps more ‘post’ than ‘high’ modern. This is a vision of contemporary corporations similar to that of Prince Charles’ vision for modern architecture; one where design is sensitive to human scale of need, rather than dictated to by abstract principles such as those of ‘the one best way’ or ‘form follows function’. Nevertheless, there is much here that remains deeply unsettling. What, for example, constitutes this ‘style’ that Dickinson and Svensen constantly refer to both in their subtitle and throughout the work itself? For Schmitt and Simonson (1997, p. 85) style is the albeit sensitively constructed combination of ‘color, shape, line and pattern [or] volume, pitch and meter’, ultimately quantifiable and certainly marketable. However, for Dickinson and Svensen, style appears to represent a far more metaphysical organizational quality. Style, they acknowledge is in fact an intrinsic quality that cannot simply be invented or acquired – you either have it or you don’t. But this does not mean that corporations cannot act in a stylish way, however. For to be stylish is to be attractive, and to be attractive corporations must learn to act with ‘integrity and honesty’, characteristics that the authors view as ‘prerequisites for success’ (Dickinson and Svensen, 2000, p. 4). Style is also portrayed in terms of corporate ‘individuality and personality’ (Dickinson and Svensen, 2000, p. 30); it is a way of doing things that can differ between businesses and the contexts within which they operate. So, while the concept of style itself remains esoteric, accessible to those who ‘know’, illusive for the rest, it also represents the primary ingredient for corporate success. Yet despite the fact that such apparent mystification may sit well with the ineffable quality of the aesthetic previously disregarded by Schmitt and Simonson, it still appears, however, to serve a very particular function. That being, the placing of the authors and the text itself into a position of power and authority – leaving them relatively free to present their vision of the beautiful corporation free from any need to ground their propositions in anything other than the self-referentiality of their own assertions. Certainly, there is little to convince one that the example of the so-called beautiful corporations they offer up as
illustrations of their vision represent anything other than a combination of slick design and the valorization of material aspiration. While the graphic design associated with organizations such as Shell, Mercedes-Benz and UK cable
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television company On Digital certainly demonstrate a high degree of corporate aestheticization, there is little evidence to suggest the necessary shift in underlying values and practices that would qualify them, by Dickinson and Svensen’s criteria, for the status of a ‘beautiful corporation’. Hence, despite their allusions to something beyond a simple surface aestheticization of organizational activities and presentation, it would seem that Dickinson and Svensen’s approach is, on closer inspection, not so different from the one taken by Schmitt and Simonson whereby surface aestheticization qualifies as aestheticization per se, and corporate presence exists as the preeminent motivation and goal. Certainly, when one compares the two approaches, there remains the important common denominator that prevails throughout – their overriding concern with the economic utility of aesthetics for corporate performance within the global marketplace. Design, for example, is championed as the new buzzword for those truly interested in corporate success, replacing now defunct managerial fashions such as TQM and JIT (Dickinson and Svenson, 2000, p. 41). And, while bottom line and humanistic concerns are combined in the claim that aesthetics can generate both what they term ‘cultural currency’ (Dickinson and Svenson, 2000, p. 38) and a more humane and productive environment for employees to work in, it is often quite difficult to unravel the distinctions that are made between the pursuit of profit and the professed nurturing of corporate responsibility. Referring, for example, to the thoughts of Jamie Anley, a founder of the design and communication group ‘JAM’, the pursuit of organizational identity through aesthetics is reflected, they suggest, in the belief that it is more admirable for companies to invest in ‘beautifully designed and made’ staff uniforms than it is to spend even more of television advertising (Dickinson and Svenson, 2000, p. 40). The prioritizing of such activities, while perhaps at first
sight a reference to the intrinsic value of providing a more comfortable and stylish working environment for employees, quickly retreats as, on further reading, its impetus derives clearly from the tradition of various ‘soft’, yet instrumentally focused, employee management strategies associated with other movements and fads such as Human Resource Management (see Legge, 1995) or corporate culturalism (see Parker, 2000b). Furthermore, the opportunities offered by aesthetic management to nurture patterns of normative compliance and ethical attachment by employees is one not lost on those that the authors associate with the popularization of the aesthetics of organizing. Resonating with Featherstone’s (1991, p. 126) comment on contemporary value systems
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that tend to draw ‘on tendencies in consumer culture that favour the aestheticization of life, [and] the assumption that the aesthetic life is the ethically good life’, the proposition that a clear aesthetic identity can help produce employees that ‘would have such confidence and satisfaction in the organization that they would, if you met them at a party on a Saturday night, want to press a business card in your hand’ (Anley, cited in Dickinson and Svenson, 2000, p. 41) conflates aesthetic attraction with social value and personal achievement in a way consistent once again with ideas frequently expressed throughout the genre of corporate culturalist ‘how to’ manuals. Furthermore, despite the talk of participation, fluidity and innovative design, the authors requirements that corporate managers learn to ‘police’ the corporate image, to impose ‘pre-set templates that cannot be changed’, undertake the removal ‘from computer networks all but approved typefaces and introduce publications management systems’ (Dickinson and Svenson, 2000, p. 94) to ensure levels of ‘standardization and control’ in all aesthetic activities, further reinforces the realization that corporate beauty comes at a price. That price, or so it would seem, being the regimentation, standardization and creative closure of the meaning making process as expressed at that very level of organizational practice they so passionately seek to champion.
Aesthetics, modernity and the culture industry
These two particular examples of managerialist literature concerned with the relationship between contemporary organizational life and the aesthetic realm should not, I must stress, be taken as yet to represent anything like a coherent movement within the sphere of contemporary managerial thought. As I have noted, the majority of work that has engaged with the relationship between the aesthetic and the organizational has tended to adopt a far less instrumental orientation, focusing instead on predominantly epistemological or critical issues. Nevertheless, such literature remains significant. For despite the relatively limited level of debate regarding the role of aesthetics management in contemporary work organizations, the practices championed in this literature certainly appear to be increasingly important to the day-to-day operation of a notable range of organizational forms. As I have already suggested, this, in large part, can be accounted for by the proliferation of opportunities for organizations to present themselves to the outside world via material that requires constant attention to be paid to its design and presentation. Mission statements, recruitment brochures, web sites, multi-media advertising and the competition that exists around such media all require the
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closest attention be paid to issues of style, presentation and above all, ‘feel’. It also reflects, however, what I have alluded to as a more general response to our aestheticized culture, one that valorizes above almost all else the qualities of spectacle and display (Urry, 1990). Hence, in what is an increasingly media-saturated environment with its proliferation of sounds and images, organizations involved in the global struggle for market recognition are required to compete in what is an increasingly stimulus rich environment. As such they must seek to pay increasing attention to how the aesthetic qualities of everything from their products to their invoice sheets, from their outlets to their office designs contribute to the pursuit of that imperative if they are to make an impact on potential stakeholders at each and every opportunity. Accompanying such a quantitative shift, however, we must, as I also urged earlier, consider the potential
qualitative implications of such literature and the developments it both encourages and reflects. In particular, we have to ask just what might it suggest about the nature of contemporary aesthetic experience both within the organizational domain, and the socio-cultural environment more generally. Well, in many respects, it perhaps raises issues similar to those I have explored elsewhere in relation to the question of organizational emotionality (Hancock and Tyler, 2001). This work drew in particular on the ideas of Mestrovic (1997) and his view that we are currently experiencing the dawn of what he terms a postemotional society; one in which emotion as an authentically lived experience is being gradually eroded by our constant exposure to mechanized, rationalized and ultimately commodified emotional stimuli. Such postemotionalism is, for Mestrovic (1997, p. xi) at least, the direct outcome of what he terms the ‘authenticity industry’, consisting largely of a combination of the service and culture industries, and their never ending pursuit of new markets and those mechanisms by which potential consumers may be drawn to them through the generation and then apparent fulfilling of their newly ‘discovered’ emotional needs. Mestrovic’s analysis draws together, therefore, a series of apparent developments between the sphere of contemporary work organizations and broader patterns of socio-cultural change, in an attempt to establish a fuller picture of the status of emotion in contemporary society. Now, the similarities between this particular analysis of contemporary emotion and that which is suggested by the material concerned with the management of aesthetics are, I would argue, potentially informative. For whether or not one could convincingly describe the works of the likes of Schmitt and Simonson as part of an authenticity industry per se,
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certainly their work shares many of the attributes described by Mestrovic, particularly those which he derives from his own analysis of the work of Adorno and Horkheimer (1944/1979) and their critical account of the ‘culture industry’. Their particular thesis is premised on the view that post-Enlightenment societies can be characterized by the predominance of a mode of rationality that is itself grounded in a drive to domination and
control. As such, human activity is considered to be increasingly organized in relation to means, not the consideration of ends, until, as Adorno (1991/2001, p. 93) notes, ‘to speak even of culture is to speak of administration whose task is to “assemble, distribute, evaluate and organize” ’. This is not to suggest that for Adorno culture and administration are identical in themselves. Rather, he argues that they ideally exist in a state of tension whereby culture serves to celebrate the particular features of life over its generalization, while administration in order to control life, seeks the reverse. Yet the requirements of modern society, and in particular those of capitalism, have unbalanced this tension, increasingly debasing the lived activity of culture, and reducing it to a standardized, replicable quantity, which is both easily producible and unquestionably consumable. While Adorno and Horkheimer’s critique of the instrumentalization of culture is perhaps informative in itself in relation to the general incorporation of the ‘problem of culture’ into the field of organizational management, when it comes to the realm of aesthetics it is, I would suggest, particularly pertinent. This is in large part due to the fundamentally emancipatory potential Adorno (1991/2001) ascribed to art in particular, and aesthetic experience in general, due to both its inherent impracticality and non-conceptual structure; a structure that enables it to articulate the world in a way that is non-reducible to the instrumental categories that contemporary rationality has sought to impose upon it. Yet even in the midst of his attempt to theorize the aesthetic as an enduring realm of critical possibility, he was aware of the ever-encroaching influence of organizational rationality. So while Adorno deliberately opposed culture, as the realm inhabited by art and the aesthetic sensibility, to that of administration and organization he was forced to admit that despite its non-conceptual character, art had not entirely resisted the onslaught of the instrumentalized rationality of modernity: Today manifestations of extreme artistry can be fostered, produced and presented by official institutions; indeed art is dependent upon such support if it is to be produced at all and find its way to an audience. Yet, at the same time, art denounces everything institutional
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and official. This gives some evidence of the neutralization of culture and of the irreconcilability with administration of what has been neutralized. Through the sacrifice of its possible relation to praxis, the cultural concept itself becomes an instance of organization; that which is so provokingly useless in culture is transformed into tolerated negativity or even into something negatively useful – into a lubricant for the system, into something which exists for something else, into untruth, or into goods of the culture industry calculated for the consumer. (Adorno, 1991/2001, p. 102; emphasis added) Like Mestrovic’s post-emotional society then, what Adorno appears to lament here is the emergence of a form of post-aestheticism, whereby aesthetic experience is itself little more than the experience of the untruth of the culture industry, albeit one of ‘beautiful untrue things’ (Wilde, 1913, p. 54). Extrapolating out from this, it could be argued therefore that in creating its systems and frameworks for aesthetic management, in adorning the world in stunning livery, dazzling logos and even, where appropriate, the imagery, sounds and sensations of what may have once been considered the highest of art and culture, the corporate world is equally guilty of reducing aesthetic experience to little more than just another repository of mechanically produced, instrumentally orientated codes and symbols. Having colonized the cognitive and affective realms of both their employees and consumers, it would seem then, that the next assault is to be on the realm of the sensual, albeit in the name of a more beautiful world – naturally.
Now, to criticize the aesthetics of the everyday may, in many respects, appear to be something of a reactionary activity. After all, if human beings cannot enjoy the mundane sensuality of their surroundings and everyday interactions, what hope is there? Does Featherstone’s celebration of the opportunities presented by the commodification of the aesthetic for novel experience, idiosyncratic experimentation and self-expression not deserve to be embraced, rather than dismissed as, at best naive and at worst complicit? Equally, should we not welcome the call for more beautiful corporations from the likes of Dickinson and Svenson, and indeed hope that organizations will
embrace the values of design and presentation as their contribution to a more sensually pleasing world? Well, in many respects, this is a well-rehearsed argument,
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resonating as it does with the schism within cultural studies between the critique of mass culture by the Frankfurt School and its followers and the defenders of what they consider to be the value of the popular (see Fiske, 1989a,b). For the champions of the latter, the resources provided by the culture industry are there to be re-appropriated by the masses – who more often than not succeed in shaping them to their own desires and intentions. However, for the former this remains merely an illusion, determined as it is by the imperatives of mass production and the reductionist logic of cultural commodification. It is, moreover, a debate that appears to show little sign of reaching a satisfactory resolution, with both sides wedded to their respective metatheoretical and normative positions. However, the prior existence of such debates should not, I would argue, deter us from continuing to ask those questions which we may feel are of importance to generating a critical understanding of the implications of social change, whatever side of this particular divide they fall on. In this instance that question is, for me at least, what do we take to be the nature of such aestheticization processes that seem to confront us at both at work and leisure, and what effect, if any, might they have on our capacity for aesthetic experience and judgement? Certainly what such a question does not require, as Adorno and Horkheimer remind us, is a simple finger pointing exercise, seeking out particular individuals for making the world a somehow less authentic place. But perhaps it is a case of following Adorno and Horkheimer’s lead, by trying to come to terms with the ways in which ‘the power of society’ as they refer to it (Adorno and Horkheimer, 1944/1979, p. 124), underwrites a rolling aestheticization of the world. A process by which the ever accelerating demands of a consumer-driven market appears to obliterate the need for substance and, in turn, replaces it with a requirement for instant gratification or experience accompanied by the ‘predominance of the effect, the obvious touch and the technical detail over
the work itself’ (Adorno and Horkheimer, 1947/1979, p. 125). For what this suggests is the fundamentally ontological problem of more image and less substance, the experience of an over aestheticization of the world, an explosion of sensuality grounded in large part in the expansion of corporate marketing and organizational aestheticization. Now while this is perhaps something we may initially welcome, for as I suggested above, who would not wish to live in a more aesthetically stimulating world, we should also be sensitive to its potential dangers. Perhaps the most immediate of these being the danger of an over-stimulation of the aesthetic5 – which in turn numbs our faculty of experience and judgement – a fear
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echoed by Welsch (1997, p. 25) recognizing as he does that: our perception needs not only invigoration and stimulation, but delays, quiet areas and interruptions too … Total aestheticization results in its own opposite. Where everything becomes beautiful, nothing is beautiful any more; continued excitement leads to indifference; aestheticization breaks into anaesthetization. Thus, once again in a similar vein to Baudrillard’s musings over the implications of an over-meditated society on the purposeful nature of the subject (see Hancock, 1999) Welsch counsels us on the dangers of a world made ‘too beautiful’, one in which the primary danger is the loss of our faculty for aesthetic experience and judgement in the face of an over-aestheticized world. This may not simply be an issue of the potential anesthetization of society however. For it also has important implications for the likes of Adorno’s view of the aesthetic as a potentially emancipatory force in contemporary society. For reduced to what appears to be an omnipresent dimension of the everyday in general, and the corporate in particular, the diminution of aesthetic experience can only neutralize its unique mimetic character – its ability to conceive of the world in non-conceptual terms – and in turn witness what is left of it resurrected as little more than a mechanism of conceptual identification, relating stimulus to brand, experience to company or organization. It is not then perhaps a question solely of anesthetization, but rather the political implications of an aestheticized environment increasingly driven by the standardized
corporate aesthetic; one that embraces our everyday lives telling us its beautiful but untrue things and, in doing so reducing the aesthetic to little more than yet another instrumental carrier of reified ‘reality’ over utopian possibility.
I mistrust all systematizers and avoid them. The will to a system is a lack of integrity. (Nietzsche, 1889/1990, p. 35) Human history has been characterized by a fundamental struggle between the forces of abstract order and embodied, sensual experience. Yet modernity has witnessed, in large part, the triumph of the former, ushering in an age of reason, of systems and ultimately the dominion of production6. So when Wilde observed that for art to have aesthetic value it must tell beautiful untrue things he was, in part, correct. For he
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recognized that reality, as we experience it, has lost its beauty. Rather, what we have now is a world of order and identity in which what is taken as beauty, or indeed any other facet of authentic aesthetic experience, is merely an ‘appendage of the process of production, without autonomy or substance of its own’ (Adorno, 1951/1978, p. 15). Of course what he forgot was that it does not necessarily mean that what art reveals to us is untrue; merely that it is lacks truth in a world of even greater falsehood. Perhaps it is rather more useful to realize that it is the drive to systematically aestheticize organizational life that is in fact the realm of the beautiful untrue things. For rather than providing the expressive and conceptual space for aesthetic experience to bloom and to flourish in whatever way it might, it in fact intensifies the Enlightenment project of incorporation, seeking to reintegrate the aesthetic into the realm of calculable knowledge and practical utility. Yet in doing so, it not only debases the aesthetic, depriving it of that which is genuinely identical to it, but also potentially renders it useless in its own cause as well as depriving humanity of its radical potential, its potential to allow us to experience things other than they are. Reduced to yet another tool of the
organizational technocrat, the neutralization of the aesthetic risks becoming absolute, rendering it indistinguishable in a world where aesthetic experience is reduced to nothing more than the deadened apprehension of the sterile landscape of society, and judgement the association of a contrived meaning with a fashionable corporate livery.
1. An informative consideration of this particular proposition can be found in the work of both Elizabeth Jagger (2000) and Rachel Russell (2000) in Hancock et al. (2000), on the subjects of the consumer and the ethical body respectively. 2. While this chapter focuses, in particular, on the work of Adorno and Marcuse as advocates of the aesthetic as a realm of negation and potential liberation, it is a theme that features strongly within both Nietzschian and other examples of post-Nietzchian philosophy apart from that of the Frankfurt School. While in The Gay Science (1882/1974), Nietzsche himself declared that the aesthetic life represented the highest expression of the ‘will to power’ more recently, for example, Jean-François Lyotard (1979/1984) has declared, in a rather similar vein to Adorno, that it is perhaps only through the experience of the sublime that we are able to experience the world non-conceptually, and thus free from what he considers to be the totalizing tyranny of modernity. 3. For those unfamiliar with the emergence of a self-conscious critical school of thought within the field of organization studies, a range of informative resources exists. Today, perhaps the two most significant strands of thinking in
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this field belong to what are commonly termed Labour Process Theory and, more recently, Critical Management Studies. The former is represented well by Thompson (1983/1989), while the emergence of Critical Management Studies is charted in an informative if critical article by Fournier and Grey (2000). 4. Indeed, this relationship, one could argue, is far far older than capitalism. Since antiquity, organizational power has, on innumerable occasion, been symbolized and buttressed through grand architectural design, flamboyance of grab and the aesthetics of rite and ritual. One need only consider the architectural marvels of Ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, or the
iconography of the royal courts and religious institutions of the Middle Ages for a stark illustration of this. 5. Adrian Carr (2002) and Russell Meares (1992) have warned that, at a more general level, there are psychological consequences of an environment that is overstimulating. A phenomenon dubbed ‘stimulus entrapment’ may ensue. Stimulus entrapment is a notion that through continual external hyper-attentiveness, a person fails to develop an ‘inner self voice’ and, as a result, experiences feelings of ‘emptiness’. A lack of an ability to self reflect, makes these individuals prone to external locus of control and/or to a false self that is often one dimensional. ‘They live as if at the mercy of the environment, in a hypertrophy of the “real” ’ (Meares and Coombes, 1994, p. 66). Further, Carr (2002) argues that the increasing pace of our capitalist society, that demands the instantaneous, has itself demanded and sustained a state of external hyper-attentiveness, maintaining a need for societal personas while simultaneously mitigating against individuality. 6. A point acknowledged by Adorno (1944/1979, p. 231) when he observed how ‘Europe has two histories: a well known, written history and an underground history. The latter consists in the fate of the human instincts and passions which are displaced and distorted by civilization … The relationship with the body is maimed from the outset.’
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Benjamin, W., 3, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17, 26, 30, 33, 34, 35, 136, 155, 156, 160, 170 Berg, P., and Kreiner, K., 177, 180 Berger, P., and Luckman, T., 39 body, 55, 69, 115–32, 162, 172, 193–4 aestheticization of, 115–32 consuming body, 54, 129, 193 labouring body, 54, 56, 123 managerial body, 69, 115–32 sense-making body, 54 without-organs, 124 Bollas, C., 130, 131 Booth, M., 94 Bourdieu, P., 52 Brave New World, 136, 155, 157, 159, 166, 171 Braverman, H., 55, 172 Brawer, R., 94, 101 Brecht, B., 15, 28 Breton, A., 13, 14, 15, 24, 25, 32, 34 Burrell, G., 20, 21, 22, 23, 25, 26, 30, 31 Burrell, G., and Dale, K., 160 Burrell, G., and Morgan, G., 21 Butler, J., 115, 124, 125, 126, 127, 128, 131 Butler, O., 93, 96, 112 call centres, 67, 70–5, 78–80, 87–8, 92 Campbell, J., 130 capitalism, 18–19, 36, 55, 59, 63, 128–9, 131, 156, 164–5, 168, 174, 176–7, 179–80, 189, 194 carnival, 87–90 Carr, A., viii, x, 3, 4, 8, 9, 20, 22, 23, 28, 29, 30, 37 Carr, A., and
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Held, D., 12, 18, 19, 33, 169, 170 Hill, V., and Every, P., 44 Hitchcock, A., 4, 5, 38, 39, 41, 43, 44, 46, 48 Hockney, D., 4, 5, 38, 40, 43, 48, 49 Hochschild, A., 55, 161 Hodge, R., and Kress, G., 93 Höpfl, H., 178 Hohendahl, P., 33 Homer, 36, 37 Honderich, T., 35 Hughes, R., 40 Human Relations, viii human relations theory, 172 human resource management 73, 86, 186 Huxley, A., 136, 155, 157, 158, 159, 171 ideology, 88, 91, 118, 167, 179 discursive constitution of, 103, 111 incentive schemes, 90, 92 ‘iron cage’, 55, 57–60, 69 Jackall, R., 58 Jackall, R., and Hirota, J., 55, 60, 61 Jackson, N., and Carter, P., 126 Jacobson, M., 175 Jameson, F., 34, 123, 128, 129, 130, 131, 132 Jay, M., 10, 33 Jeffcutt, P., 72 Johnson, M., 122 justice, 5–6, 51–64 Kahn, A., 156, 162, 165, 166, 167, 168, 171, 173 Kant, I., 12, 19, 30, 174 Kerfoot, D., 122 Kinnie, N., Hutchinson, S., and
Purcell, J., 86 kitsch, 17, 34–5 Klein, N., 59, 60, 63, 181 Knights, D., 89 Knights, D., and Odih, P., 71, 78, 79
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meaning, 12, 24, 26, 32, 38–41, 43–4, 46–7, 50, 53, 68, 72, 94, 101, 103, 105, 106, 108, 117, 130, 139, 150, 152, 157, 169, 187 superimposed upon research subjects, 4–5, 38 Meares, R., and Coombes, T., 194 Mestrovic, S., 137, 175, 188, 189, 190 metaphor, 4–6, 14, 26, 32, 38–8, 44–5, 47, 49, 51, 56–9, 62–3, 102–3, 125–6, 140 metonymy, 5 Mies van de Rohe, L., 163, 168 mimetic, 4, 10–13, 17–18, 125, 192 as a human faculty, 7, 10, 11 Mintzberg, H., 116 Mondak, J., 101 Montuori, A., 49 Morgan, G., 55, 57, 58, 143 Muschamp, H., 59 Nicholsen, S., 10, 11, 12, 33 Nietzsche, F., 9, 25, 39, 44, 47, 48, 49, 192, 193 nihilism, 25, 37, 44, 48 Nike, 59, 60 Nissley, N., 101 Noddings, N., 55 object–relations theory, 129–31 O’Doherty, D., and Willmott, H., 128 O’Donnell, J., 112 Odysseus, 36 Olins, W., viii, 180 one-dimensionality, 15 optocentric/optocentrism, 164 Organization, viii, 162 Organization Science, 101 organization studies, viii, 3–4, 6, 53, 62, 94, 95, 101, 177, 193 as a culture industry, 21 organizational songs, 68, 93–114 Osborne, T., 52 Ottensmeyer, E., 64
Parker, M., 125, 186 pathos, 70, 119 Perry, L., 101 perspectivist approach, 49 phantasmagoria, 136, 155–6, 160–2, 168–9, 171 Philip Morris, 59, 61 photography, 40, 44 Pirsig, R., 43 Plato, 174 play, 39, 44, 46, 48, 71, 87, 119–20 playfulness, 25–6 Pollock, G., 118, 119, 122 Pollock, L., 175 postemotional society, 190 postmodernism, ix, 23, 25, 27, 126, 128–31 affinity with work and techniques of surrealists, 20, 23, 26, 31 death-of-the-subject/author, 23 it’s all in the text, 23 power, 9, 18–19, 52, 56–7, 63, 67, 69, 71–2, 78, 87–8, 90–2, 93–114, 115–32, 152, 160, 178, 185 different forms of, 71, 102 power to, 102–8 power over, 90, 102, 108–11 power/knowledge, 89, 90 Pringle, H., and Thompson, M., 55 Pritchard, C., 122 ‘profane illumination’, 16, 27 Ramirez, R., 52 Rand, A., 49 Rasmussen, D., 10, 22 rationality, 13–15, 19, 23, 25, 27, 29, 31–2, 33–5, 47, 72, 83, 91, 94–5, 153, 162, 189 and non-rational, 22 Rear Window, 4–5, 41, 43, 45–8 reconciliation of aesthetics and justice, 5–6, 51–2, 55, 62–3 Reichert, D., 121 relativism, 10
representation, 5, 9, 24, 28, 36, 38, 40, 43–4, 47, 49, 119, 122, 127 researcher, 43, 47–9 as exhibitionist 5 as voyeur, 5 resistance and control, 62, 73, 84, 118, 120, 123, 139 Ritzer G., 55, 58, 91 Rocco, C., 18 Rochlitz, R., 8, 9 Rose, J., 119 Rose, N., 125, 129 Rosenau, P., 24 Rustead, B., viii, 53 Said, E., 52, 151 Scarry, E., 51, 52, 62 Sarup, M., 24 Sassen, S., 171 Sawin, M., 27 Schein, E., 144 Schmitt, B., 181, 183, 184 Schmitt, B. and Simonson, A., 181, 183, 184, 185, 186, 188 Schmitt, B., Simonson, A., and Marcus, J., 181, 182, 183 scientific management, 135, 138–40, 142–3, 150, 153, 154, 163–4 Scott, W., 143 Seidler, V., 122 self, 7, 10–11, 24, 33, 90–2, 129–32, 141 as an aesthetic project, 73, 88, 89, 91 Selznick, P., 167 semiotics, 93, 122, 135 sensorium, 136, 155, 157, 160–2, 171, 172 sensual, ix, 190, 192 Shildrick, M., 123 Shilling, C., 129 Sicca, L., 101 Sidky, M., and Kersten, A., 151 Silverman, D., viii, 72 Silverman, K., 121, 122 Sim, S., 44
Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM), 156, 168, 173 Smith, R., and Doel, M., 128 social amnesia, 15, 19 sociology, x, 51, 54, 124 of the body, 124, 128–9 Solomon-Godeau, A., 122 Spector, J., 29 specular consumption, 131 Steele, F., 140, 150 Stewart, R., 116 Stewart, R., Barsoux, J., Kieser, A., Ganter, H., and Walgenbach, P., 116 stimulus entrapment, 194 Strati, A., viii, 39, 53, 54, 57, 58, 91, 94, 95, 112, 117, 119, 120, 147, 156, 155, 177 subject/object dichotomy, 19, 48, 50, 117 subjectification, 69, 115–32, 151 sublime, the, 119, 193 surrealism, 4, 8, 13–17, 22, 25, 27, 33–5 dreams, 14 estrangement-effect, 15–16, 27 management and organization studies, 22 techniques, 23, 25–6 surveillance, 68, 70–1, 78, 87, 90, 92, 151 Swisher, J., 112 synecdoche, 5 Synott, A., 121 Taylor, F., 141, 142, 143, 146, 147, 150, 154, 165 Taylorism, 135, 138–43, 146, 148–50, 153, 156, 162–6, 172 Taylor, P., and Bain, P., 78 Taylor, S., 94, 101, 112 Taylor, S., Fisher, D., and Dufresne, R., 106 Third International Conference on Organizational Symbolism, viii Thomas, R., 54, 56, 58, 62 Thompson, P., 194
Thompson, P., Warhurst, C., and Callaghan, G., viii, 178 Trodd, C., 44 Turner, B., viii, 124 ugliness, 57 Upton, D., 164, 165 Urry, J., 188 Venturi, R., Scott-Brown, D., and Izenour, S., 164 Waldberg, P., 31 Warhurst, C., and Nickson, D., 69, 115 Weber, M., 55, 57
Weick, K., viii, 101 Welsch, W., viii, 136, 137, 155, 156, 157, 160, 169, 175, 176, 177, 181, 192 Wiggershaus, R., 35, 36 Wilde, O., 174, 190, 192 Wilkinson A., and Willmott, H., 92 Windle, R., 94, 101 Winnicott, D., 10 Witkin, R., 178 Wolin, R., 33 work, 53–5, 72, 87–9, 141, 142, 146, 154, 161 as an aesthetically ordered activity, x, 67