For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Foucault, power and organizations"

by Clegg, Stewart (1998)

Key Passage

‘Obedience’ is central to an analysis of the production of power in organizations, an insight shared by major precursors such as Weber (1978) and Etzioni (1961). Moreover, it is a focus that has received historical endorsement not only through the corpus of Weberian research (Matheson, 1987) but also through that recent and related work on the origins of disciplined obedience through ‘disciplinary practices’ in monastic organizations (see Assad (1987); Keiser (1987)). The concept of ‘disciplinary practice’ derives, as we have seen, from Foucault (1977) but is implicit in Weber (1978). It renders those micro-techniques of power that inscribe and normalize not only individuals but also collective, organized bodies. Surveillance, whether personal, technical, bureaucratic or legal, is the central issue.Surveillance is not simply about direct control. It may range from cultural practices of moral endorsement, enablement and suasion, to more formalized technical knowledge. At one particular level of application these can include the use of new technologies such as computer monitoring of keyboard output and efficiency. At another more general level, one may be dealing with the development of disciplines of knowledge shaped almost wholly by the ‘disciplinary gaze’ of surveillance, as Foucault (1977) suggests was the case of much nineteenth-century social science, particularly branches of social welfare, statistics and administration. Organizationally, the twentieth-century development of the personnel function under the ‘human relations’ guidance of Mayo (1975) had a similar tutelary role with respect to organizationally dependent members (Rose, 1990). Through such mechanisms one discriminates individuals or bodies collectively, as well as abstract properties of goods and services, and categorizes them through diverse and localized tactics of ratiocination. At the more general level of discipline, this will form organizations into discursive locales of competing calculations.  (p.38)


Foucault, Power, Organisations, Meaning, Membership, Discursive Practice, Sociology, Organisational Theory, Surveillance


On Foucault, Foucault, Critical Management Studies



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