For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"A Curiously British Story: Foucault Goes to Business School"

by Carter, Chris (2008)


In this paper, an understanding is sought of how and why Foucault was to become such a major figure within UK organization studies. Setting the argument within a fashion frame, the text addresses the possible reasons behind Foucault's journey into organization studies. The key currents in Foucauldian thought within British business schools are summarized, and an understanding is sought of what it was about the context of the time that made Foucault so attractive to organization studies. Demonstrating the spread of Foucault into this field, the text highlights various means through which Foucault became institutionalized into organization studies. The translation of Foucault that happened when the French philosopher became fashionable in organization studies is discussed, and speculations are made about the retranslation to French organization studies. The paper concludes by speculating about the future of Foucault's thought within organization studies.

Key Passage

The story of the rise of Foucault in British organization studies is one of the remarkable stories in the discipline. Consecrated as one of the major thinkers in the field, promoted and debated by a number of key theorists, and routinely appearing in prestigious journals, the star of Foucault is one that has shone brightly over the past twenty years. It is perhaps interesting to speculate what organization studies might look like now had another philosopher, for instance, Baudrillard, Derrida, or Habermas, been adopted? Skeptics who see mere ornamentation when they read Foucauldian organizational analysis would argue that very little would be different. Others might suggest that, if we accept that Foucault has had a profound impact on organization studies, a similarly deep engagement with another theorist would have taken the British variant of the subject in a very different direction. What of the future? Will Foucault remain an important figure on the British organization studies scene? This is a very open question. (p.26)


Foucault, Organisation Studies, Fashion, Fashionable Ideas, Literature Review, Accounting Studies


On Foucault, Foucault, Critical Management Studies, Organisation and Management Studies, British History

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