"Revisiting Foucault through reading Agamben: implications for workplace subjectification, desubjectification and the dark side of organizations"
Questions of subjectivity have been a central concern in organization studies (OS) – and the subfield of critical management studies (CMS) – at least since the late 1980s. Despite differences, existing approaches to subjectivity have one thing in common: a theoretical interest in the construction and reproduction of subjectivity, that is, subjectification. However, to our knowledge, no study within OS and CMS has explicitly focused on desubjectification – processes of breaking free from subject positions. This is perhaps an effect of the lack of such research in general social sciences and philosophy. This paper aims to address this gap in OS and CMS by conceptualizing subjectivity as being produced through a dialectical process of subjectification and desubjectification. The theoretical discussion of the paper is particularly based on the works of Michel Foucault and Giorgio Agamben. Subjectivity here is seen as the result of both subjectification and desubjectification. The former refers to the subject positions that organizational actors move towards while the latter is understood as the subject positions they break free from. To us, the discourse/knowledge nexus frames these processes since it defines accepted and illegitimate subject positions (those one should strive towards and those one should break free from). In the paper, we first recapitulate the Foucauldian conceptualization of subjectivity and discuss Foucault’s marginal but nevertheless existing interest in desubjectification. Thereafter we introduce the work of Giorgio Agamben and contextualize his work within a biopolitical resurgence in the social sciences and humanities today. In a fourth section, a tentative conceptual framework of organizational subjectivity is laid out. We then turn to a discussion centering on how a reading of Agamben may contribute to the understanding of the dark side of organization. In the conclusion, possible implications for OS and the ‘reconnection’ of CMS are discussed.
KeywordsFoucault, Agamben, Workplace Subjectification, Desubjectification, Organisational Studies, Critical Management Studies
ThemesOn Foucault, Foucault, Organisation and Management Studies
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