For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"The later Foucault in organization and management studies"

by Barratt, Edward (2008)


This article reviews the use of the later Foucault in organization and management studies. Offering an evaluation of readings of the later writing, we comment on arguments for re-focusing on genealogical criticism, for an alternative Foucauldian politics of the workplace and a form of practical criticism sometimes derived from the later writing. A key aim is to attempt to open up new directions for critical inquiry drawing on other ways of reading Foucault. If genealogy is to be installed as a vital resource for critique, there appears to be a need for renewal. On the question of political alternatives, we comment on the ambiguities and silences ? especially the historical silences ? of the later Foucault's interpreters. A style of practical criticism inferred from readings of the later writing should not, we suggest, be accepted without qualification.

Key Passage

The reception of Foucault has nonetheless tended to bifurcate between narrow readings (Knights, 2002) in which the metaphor of the panopticon has been widely – some might argue excessively – deployed, as a way of characterizing practices of control in the contemporary workplace and broader readings which draw more extensively on the familiar power, knowledge, subjectivity triad, commonly put to use in exploring the practical dynamics of power and resistance through ethnographic enquiry. More recently Foucauldianism has taken another turn, with an increasing interest in the later writing and particularly Foucault’s interest in the ethics of pagan antiquity (Chan & Garrick, 2002; Jack, 2004; Starkey & Hatchuel, 2002; Townley, 1994a, 1995; Wray Bliss, 2002). A variety of developments in his thought and new themes emerge in what we can roughly call the later Foucault. Such developments include an increasing interest in the active role that the human subject plays in his or her own subordination, self-creation and self-fashioning, a new interest in the diverse arts of ‘government’ and a clarification of the analytic of power relations. For our purposes, a key change is the way in which Foucault’s interests turn from the analysis and exposure of disciplinary or governmental limits to a concern with the contemporary conditions and possibilities for our freedom. (p.516)


Foucault, Management Studies, Management Studies, Social Science, Politics Of The Workplace, Genealogy, Genealogical Criticism


On Foucault, Foucault, Critical Management Studies

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