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"Foucault’s dispositive: The perspicacity of dispositive analytics in organizational research"

by Raffnsøe, Sverre; Gudmand-Høyer, Marius; Thaning, Morten S (2016)


While Foucault’s work has had a crucial impact on organizational research, the analytical potential of the dispositive has not been sufficiently developed. The purpose of this article is to reconstruct the notion of the dispositive as a key conception in Foucault’s thought, particularly in his lectures at the Collège de France, and to develop dispositional analytics with specific reference to matters of organization. Foucault’s dispositional analysis articulates a history of interrelated social technologies that have been constructed to organize how we relate to each other. The article distinguishes various dispositional prototypes. It shows how dispositional analytics leads the way beyond general periodizations and established dichotomies such as the either-or of the discursive and non-discursive, power and freedom, determinism, and agency; and it demonstrates how dispositional analytics can contribute to a more complex understanding of organizational dynamics, power, strategy, resistance, and critique. Dispositional analytics allows for a new interpretation and use of Foucault in relation to organization studies.

Key Passage

As in many other fields of research, the legacy of Michel Foucault has become almost ubiquitous in management and organization studies (Carter et al., 2002; Rowlinson and Carter, 2002; McKinlay and Wilson, 2012; Välikangas and Seeck, 2011). This overarching presence appears to be especially marked within British organization studies (Carter, 2008) and within Critical Management Studies in particular (McKinlay and Wilson, 2012). Across this reception, one particular attraction to Foucault’s philosophical style has been its ability to push organizational analysis in new directions and beyond a preoccupation with already established categories. Foucault is regarded as a way to ‘reject the notion of perceiving the subject matter of organization theory exclusively as the bounded entity that commonly attracts the label “organization”’ (Knights, 2002: 576), but also to avoid returning to the contrary term and entity of the individual (Newton, 1998). Transgressing received dichotomies between such ‘dualistic categories’, a Foucauldian approach enables us to focus on ‘practices and processes of organizing […] rather than on entities’ (Weiskopf and Loacker, 2006: 397; see also Willmott, 2011). Rendering concrete modes of organization intelligible, this level of analysis similarly evades the risk of reducing the organization, the individual, and the practices and processes of these efforts to a mere effect of the restraints that an even more basic entity or unity, society, imposes upon us (Weiskopf and Loacker, 2006). This well-established line of thought has certainly produced important insights and new research perspectives, not only in the early reception (e.g. Burrell, 1988; Knights, 1992, 2002; McKinlay, 2002; McKinlay and Starkey, 1998; Newton, 1998; Starkey and Hatchuel, 2002; Townley, 1993, 1994, 1995, 2002) but recently as well (Ahonen and Tienari, 2009; Al-Amoudi, 2007; Bardon and Josserand, 2011; Barratt, 2008; Butler and Dunne, 2012; Caldwell, 2007; Carter, 2008; LeclercqVandelannoitte, 2011; McKinlay and Wilson, 2012). (p.272)


Foucault, Dispositive, Resistance, Dispositional Analytics, Surveillance, Power, Organisational Studies, Discipline, Power


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

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