Analysis of the Effects of Modernism and Post-modernism on Management Practice Essay
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The concepts “modem” and “post-modern” have become common currency in intellectual debates regarding organizational theory. Within such debates, the postmodern is perceived as an epoch, a perspective, or an entirely new paradigm of thought (Callas 1999, p. 649). Such a conception of the aforementioned term stems from its rootedness in the conception of the modern. Chia (1995) notes that what distinguishes the postmodern from the modem is “a style of thinking which eschews the uncritical use of common organizational terms such as ‘organizations’, ‘individuals’, ‘environment’, ‘structure’, and ’culture’, etc” (p.
These terms refer to the existence of social entities and attributes within a modernist conception of organizational cultures. The rationale behind this lies in the ontological conception of being which privileges thinking in terms of discrete phenomenal states, static attributes and sequential events. As opposed to such an ontological conception of reality, the postmodern stands as the champion of weak forms of ontology that “emphasize a transient, ephemeral and emergent reality” (Chia 1995, p. 579).
If such is the case, it thereby follows that a postmodernist perspective of reality adheres to thought styles wherein reality is deemed to be continuously in flux and transformation and hence unrepresentable thereby impossible to situate within a static conception of reality. Within the sphere of organizational management, an adoption of a post-modernist perspective of reality thereby leads to a rethinking of the modern conceptions of organizations since adherence to postmodernist perspectives lead to the de-emphasis on organizations, organizational forms and organizational attributes.
Such a conception of reality, however tends to emphasize the importance of local forms of organizational methods, which collectively define a social reality. In a sense, the shift from a modern to a postmodern conception of organizations thereby leads to the re-definition of existing ontological conceptions of reality that determine the various forms of intellectual priorities as well as theoretical stipulations in the study and conception of organizations. In lieu of this, this paper’s will provide a contextualization of the implications of such perspectives within organizational structures.
The analysis of such will be determined through the analysis of the effects of such perspectives in relation to management practices. An example of the application of the postmodernist perspectives within the field of organizational theory is evident in the Foucauldian analysis of human resource systems. Edward Baratt (2003) notes that a Foucauldian conception of organizational structures has enabled the formation of “a conceptual architecture and a method for exploring and problematizing Human Resource Management” (p. 084).
Baratt notes, a Foucauldian conception of organizations has enabled the formation of conditions wherein all members of an organization may engage in “the practice of critical truth telling” (p. 1085). The importance of such may be fully understood if one considers its effects in relation to the two dominant paradigms that dictate Human Resource Management discourse: managerialist and critical evaluative positions.
Jacques (1999) notes, “Managerialist and critical evaluative positions in binary opposition to each other constitute the main sites from which we can speak academically about HRM” (p. 200). The distinction between the two positions are evident if one considers that in one line of argument has been an emphasis on the production of an enterprising subject dependent on practices designed to engage an employee’s psyche.
The possibility of such lies in the formation of managerial practices that opt for the continuous subjectification of the subject [in this sense the employee]. Within such managerial practices, the subject is placed within various forms of practices of subjectification that leads to the development of different form of competencies that further lead to the continuous embeddedness of the subject within the organization. The difficulty within such a managerial method lies in its creation of a fabricated subject.
The pragmatic aspect involved within such a method, however, may be traced to its ability to create productive subjects [productive employees]. As opposed to such a totalizing form of managerial methodologies, alternative arguments [of the postmodernist kind] emphasize the possibility of enabling the co-existence and interrelationships between human resource technologies of the self and other disciplinary practices specifically those situated within the grounds of technological and accounting controls (Baratt 2003, p. 1084).
A popular theme of such methodologies gives emphasis on the intensification and sophistication of surveillance and control method [through technological and accounting measures]. Within these method, management methods are thereby perceived as enabling the formation that determine the relationships within the workplace by taking control of indeterminate relationships [amongst the members of the workplace] through the imposition of increase surveillance methods that “impose order on the inherently undecidables” conditions of the workplace.
Such a methodology thereby adheres to a postmodernist conception of human relations and social reality as it opts to clarify the indeterminate variables within organizations through the use of “effective instruments for the formation and accumulation of knowledge-methods of observation, techniques of registration, procedures for investigation and research, apparatuses of control” (Foucault 1980, p. 102).
Within such a scheme, the function of management systems [and hence of managers] lies in ensuring the maintenance of “the precarious local orchestration of material, technical and social relationships which give rise to relatively stabilized configurations” (Chia 1995, p. 601). The heads of the management of organizations, in this sense, are thereby tasked with ensuring the implementation as well as the continuous development of more efficient production practices within the surveillance scheme of management systems.
Analytic evaluation schemes used in forming job evaluations will thereby be created so as to ensure the ordering of a population. Managerial positions, in this sense, may be seen as the roles that enable the implementation of the surveillance scheme that enables the continuous effectiveness of a human resource management system. In summary, the effects of the tenets of both modernism and postmodernism are evident within the workplace [or within organizational theories of management and hence management itself] as they influence the historical means of constructing the relations within the workplace.
The modernist conception, which perceives reality as bound by static relations, failed to account for the indeterminate variables resulting from the complexity of power relations within the workplace. Such a complexity, however, was accounted for by a postmodernist perspective of organizations due to its recognition of the fluidity of social relations as a result of their embeddedness within the discourse of power and knowledge that define the conditions within any sphere [in this context the public sphere].
Within the field of Human Resource Management, the construction of knowledge operates through rules of classification, ordering, and distribution evident in the definitions of activities and the formation of rules of procedure, which determines a particular institution’s management discourse. The importance of postmodernist perspectives lies in its promise of the possibility of autonomy within such a predefined and hence rigid sphere.
The possibility, in this sense, may be attained through enabling the co-existence and interrelationships between human resource technologies of the self and other disciplinary methods. In line with the postmodernist [specifically Foucauldian discourse], the postmodernist has thereby enabled the development of Human Resource Systems and hence Management systems that enable the formation of an understanding regarding the means in which various individuals may be formulated so as to create a system which allows the creation of objectivity amidst the grounds of subjective wills.