Locked into the present or transforming the future: flexible organisations and Identities?
Occupational Research, Occupational Sociology
sociology of work
Full recordShow full item record
Abstract"The paper explores current theoretical debates and seeks to examine empirically how subjects position themselves in relation to organisational change. To do this, it suggests some theoretical additions to critical management theory from the tradition of pragmatism and social differentiation theory. In current debates in critical management theory and in the sociology of work and organisation as well, identity and subjectivity are being (re)discovered both as sources of value and objects of far-reaching changes through the flexibilisation of organisations and the expansion of markets. Theories of subjectivity addressing organisational change may be roughly grouped into theories of subsumtion/subjection, of ‘empowerment’ and of differentiation. I argue that both the theories of ‘subjection’/subsumtion and of ‘empowerment’ frequently fail to address the complexity of the relations between the demands of markets and organisations and the subjective processing of these demands. Consequently, subjectivity tends to be misunderstood as the mere fulfilment of such demands. Contradictions, ambiguities and differentiations thus are underrated. (Re-)Introducing pragmatist concepts of subjectivity and agency here may help to address the multiplicity of ways in which subjects react to and act upon organisational demands. Subjects then enact and process organisational demands like other social expectations and relations of domination, and these shape subjectivity and identities in a variety of ways best addressed empirically. Empirical studies of subjects in organisations, their biographies, careers and interpretations reveal that even and especially under conditions of flexibilisation and marketisation workers do not unilaterally develop the entrepreneurial and/or fragmented identities the theories would expect. Drawing on contrasting studies in both “old” and “new” organisations in the field of new information and communication technologies,1 the paper presents an empirically grounded typology of subjective involvements in and detachments from processes of organisational change. It allows to modify the questions of subjection or empowerment along the lines of the distribution of chances and options, the social possibilities of emancipation and their prerequisites." [author's abstract]