For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"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

Foucault’s dispositional analysis can be articulated as a history and a typology of connected social technologies, as well as a potent analytical approach to social reality. As an interconnecting, broad, and diversified analytical tool, the notion permits an alternative access to the circumstances under which organizing and organizations take place. Deferring attention from the organization as an entity to a larger social field, without reducing the former to a given, even more fundamental entity (e.g. society), dispositional analysis elucidates conditions for organizing and organizational processes, which managers and concrete organizations as well as organizational theory need to address and take into consideration. As the term ‘dispositive’ suggests, the dispositional analysis manages to do so by virtue of focusing on the appearance of certain social dispositions or inclinations and by articulating the way these arrangements affect social interaction and organizational behavior. Since it permits us to lay bare a social formation and transformation of the conditions for human agency, which have a determinate impact on how we think, feel, act, and imagine our future without determining what we do completely, dispositional analysis could lead the way beyond a number of recurring dualisms experienced as problematic in current organizational theory (Weiskopf and Loacker, 2006). For an organizational theory that is grappling with the decisive and close ‘relationship between agency and change, resistance and power in organizations and society’ (Caldwell, 2007: 769), dispositional analysis suggests a way to proceed. Shifting focus toward an analysis of the possibilities of agency and change, this approach avoids a mechanistic conception of organizations, even as it points beyond a received dichotomy between power and freedom in organization studies, implicitly suggesting a negative conception of power as restraint and repression of human freedom (Weiskopf and Loacker, 2006: 398). It questions the perception of organizations as closed entities that primarily limit and control behavior, even as it problematizes a sharp distinction between inside and outside the organization, and between the individual and the collective (Välikangas and Seeck, 2011). Articulating an ongoing modulation of our dispositions, dispositional analysis evades the ‘oscillation between determinism and counteraction’ (Caldwell, 2007: 779). Questioning well-known dichotomies, the analysis even permits confronting a conception of history as consisting of isolated phases and articulates ambivalences in the current organization of work, not as isolated, but as interconnected occurrences (Weiskopf and Loacker, 2006: 413–14). (p.274)


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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