For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Foucault and creative resistance in organisations"

by Dalgliesh, Bregham (2009)


Purpose– There is a common misperception that Michel Foucault either had nothing constructive to contribute to the relationship between the subject and the other, or that at best he portrayed intersubjective relations as riddled with power that tends to domination and subjection. This paper aims to counter such a fallacy.Design/methodology/approach– The argument first highlights Foucault's concern with the status of the other, initially as a form of biopower that disciplines and regulates and, subsequent to the development of critical history, as a form of biopower that also constitutes the subject. It is then shown why this conception of the other in terms of relations of power/technoscience through which the subject is constructed is both an ethical and political question.Findings– For organisations seeking to balance control with creativity for the purposes of fostering innovation, it is demonstrated how reflection upon Foucault's as yet unexplored work on the other, which proffers a notion of a subject who practices freedom in the context of disciplinary and regulatory power, might serve as a toolkit for managers who exercise control but who also seek to foster creativity from those subject to them.Originality/value– A subject‐other relationship is put forth in terms of an account of how freedom that is agonistically articulated in the face of control is tantamount to creative resistance, which in turn is translated into a value to be fostered by organisations that pursue creative destruction.

Key Passage

Ironically, reading Foucault qua philosopher of a dominating and subjecting form of biopower is often the preferred interpretation of his partisans in organisation studies, too, who to some extent have followed fashion in introducing him to this academic field (Carter, 2008). Here, organisation theory is equated to a discourse on the disciplinary techniques and practices most likely to render employees docile (Clegg and Palmer, 1996), or to constitute individuals into objects of corporate control (McKinlay and Starkey, 1998) for whom Foucault offers no solace (Haunschild, 2003, pp. 56-7). However, there is a tendency underway to think critically about power and freedom within organisations (Kronfly, 2006), if not to conceive of “organizational analysis ... as a resistance” itself (Chan, 2000, p. 1060). And, insofar as bringing critical thought to bear on a field often depends on it acquiring a certain degree of maturity in the first place, these analytical ventures should not surprise us.  (p.46)


Foucault, Creative Resistance, Resistance, Freedom, Discipline, Disciplinary Power, Control, Regulatory Power, Creative Destruction


On Foucault, Foucault, Critical Management Studies

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