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Shaw and McKay Part II Social Disorganization Theory

To learn more, view our Privacy Policy. Log In Sign Up. Unthinking images of time in organizations: 'The shopping centre keeps time with a rubato waltz'. Sideeq Mohammed. This article argues that research on time has a tendency to reproduce certain images and metaphors which indicate an unquestioned set of metaphysical assumptions about the nature of time that dictate how it can be understood. These habits of thinking time render organization studies unable to conceptualize or adequately describe the encounters that characterize ethnography as a mode of research inquiry. This work of unthinking time will be presented as a part of an account of ethnography as the tracing and parsing of the entanglements of many different concepts and field encounters.

Disorganization theory; explorations in alternative organizational analysis

Email: s. Time has always been a pressing concern for management and organization studies. Many of these analyses of the various forms, functions and effects of organizational time are con- textualized by the work of leading scholars like Hassard , , and Burrell, , who establish time as not only one of the most basic elements of human organization but which is underpinned by particular images e. They argue that while organiza- tional research is often related to time and the way it shapes contemporary work, few studies call into question the nature of time or, more accurately, the metaphysical assumptions that we make when discussing time.

Consequentially, sub- sequent research has sought to meaningfully theorize time as a complex socio-cultural phenomenon worthy of extensive philosophical investigation Chia, ; Dawson, However, there is scope for these conversations to be expanded and developed, particularly as regards what this arti- cle shall describe as a series of binary images and metaphors that dictate in advance what we might think time to be, how we might experience it and the ways in which we might theorize it.

Here, the writings of the French philosopher, Gilles Deleuze can prove invaluable to organiza- tional ethnographers. Concepts offer perspective and reshape how one thinks. What this article notes in particular is that for Deleuze and Guattari, concepts are not eternal or universal. Rather, they change and are reshaped through new connections and encounters, making the project of experimenting with con- cepts in the context of ethnographic work one that affords significant creative and novel possibili- ties for mapping how different concepts and lines of thought can become entangled.

This article proposes that this conceptualization of time is more apposite to the challenges of understanding it in the general context of the modern organization and particularly in the specific context of encounters in a shop- ping centre where time is best described as experienced as an ineffable sensory bombardment that this article terms a rubato waltz.

The article is divided into three sections. The time s of the shopping centre The shopping centre sits at the centre of a number of academic discourses that render it as a highly significant object of concern. What this article suggests is that the ways in which we think about the shopping centre can shed light on the images and presuppositions about the nature of time that are common throughout the academy. To wit, where time is explored within organization studies it is all too often with recourse to certain binaries or systems of metaphoric representation.

These systems of binary and metaphor are reflective of a taken-for-granted language that we use to describe time; one which also shapes the paradoxical ways in which the shopping centre as an organization is represented. On the surface it always seems to be clean, polished, conditioned and pristine, unchanging and constant, perpetually bustling and brightly lit. Indeed, a shopping centre might appear to encourage an experience of atemporality, not only through its design and its seem- ing resistance to either seasonal or diurnal change, but because, much like a casino, of the typical absence of visible clocks.

Saturated by images, most of us […] accept them as spectacle pure and simple, pleasing or annoying, evoking, prompting, comforting, upsetting, entertaining or irritating. Subsequently, scientific progress has allowed the development and refinement of our measure- ment of time to ever finer, more precise and accurate methods.

Understood as being organized by time, the shopping centre reflects this. This reflects what Hassard , building upon the work of the cognitive linguists, Lakoff and Johnson describes as the commodification of time. In considering time thus as a resource or fungible commodity, we remain constrained to discussions of time as something to be kept, spent, bought, made, taken, got, found, killed, allocated, divided, wasted, deserved, served, travelled through, looked at, lost, measured, used and misused. As Bluedorn and Denhardt note in discussion of previous Marxist-influenced research on time, this commodification of time sits at the core of the exploitative relationship between labour and capital which many understand the shopping cen- tre to represent.

Cross-disciplinary scholarship on time has long consid- ered the use of bodies solar and lunar, seasonal and supplicatory, to chart and measure time Ingold, Similar reckonings of time present it as something based in the cycles that accompany social ritual or entrenched routine Cohen and Taylor, ; Giddens, Shields , for example, paints the shopping centre as a site where new forms of time and space, empowering consumers with the freedom to produce new identifications, are created. Timeless, obsessively measured by clocks, alive with human rhythms, an a-historical non- place: this paradoxical continuum represents the taken-for-granted reality of time in the shop- ping centre.

The image of time as simultaneously absent and a pressing concern for working life, as irrelevant to a space that encourages you to wander and also as a disciplinary mecha- nism, as effaced by the very nature of the shopping centre and as ever-present in felt rhythms which are always already numerical understood is worth considering.

What this article sug- gests, following in the tradition of scholars like Hassard who have offered similar commentary, is that these paradoxical images time are all underscored by the same metaphysic. Bergson says, We involuntarily fix at a point in space each of the moments which we count […] No doubt it is possible, as we shall show later, to conceive the successive moments of time independently of space; but when we add to the present moment those which have preceded it, as is the case when we are adding up units, we are not dealing with these moments themselves, since they have vanished forever, but with the lasting traces which they seem to have left in space on their passage through it.


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And this spatialization of time is undoubtedly inseparable from science. Indeed, all of the aforementioned systems of binary and metaphor which organizational scholars use to describe time are, despite their status as useful heuristic tools, problematically resultant from the ways in which we think time in terms of space or movement through space c. Hodges, They are all predicated upon images of time as measurable, as quantifiable and as organizable.

It is thus that this article suggests that across disciplines and throughout the academy we are involved in the perpetuation of a set of taken-for-granted assumptions that reflect the spatialization of time. Despite the fact that previous scholarship see Cunha, notes that these binary dis- tinctions are often not only synthesizable but also transient, intertangled and dependent upon each other, there remains a noteworthy lack of alternative systems of conceptualizing time. It is here that this article sees its potential contribution for ethnographic work offers the possibility of unthinking time as space and thereby, understanding the shopping centre as an organization on its own terms, rather than those which are already part of our discourse — images of a late-capitalist hell-scape or a postmodern consumer paradise.

Indeed, when informed by an attention to concepts, the ethno- graphic experience of time in the shopping centre offers a glimpse into other ways of thinking time beyond the now all too familiar distinctions between subjective and objective, physical and philo- sophical, linear and cyclical, embodied and clock time.

Introductory Essay—Improvisation as a Mindset for Organizational Analysis

What this article suggests is that if we hope to continue to foster the growth of organizational ethnography as a unique method of inquiry, we need to find ways of thinking which are rooted in the unique entanglements of encounters and concepts that become available in the field rather than our own taken-for-granted habits of thinking. As such, this article is similarly compelled to suspend the preced- ing images of time as a spatialized phenomenon in order to apprehend the complexity of what might be termed time-in-itself, a time without image or, in the very least, time as it occurs uniquely in the shopping centre.

In the next section, this article will seek to develop a conceptual framework to articulate non-spatialized time as part of the ethnographic experience of the shopping centre. This synthesis contracts the successive independent instants into one another, thereby constituting the lived, or living, present. In both cases, there is no inherent or causal relation between any of the events of the series, but still there is an anticipation, an expectancy that B should follow A or that there should be a fourth A in the series after the third.

This expectancy is evidence for the passive synthesis; the series is contracted into a living present where the past is held and a sense of antici- pation for the future is born. There is only this expectancy by virtue of the fact that there is a pas- sive synthesis. In summary, one could suggest that the passive synthesis creates an ever-expanding present which reaches into both past and future by interweaving the repetition of instants such that one dismisses the notion of their independence, their separateness from each other as instants.

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The lived present thus becomes the core of the experience of time. In the most basic sense, the passive synthesis can be experienced saliently in some of the habits that emerge in the course of everyday life particularly in the ways in which temporal rhythms are understood. Williams uses the example of the habit of learning to extract water painlessly from a pump or illustrates expectancy in the sudden fright of walking up a flight of stairs and dis- covering that there were fewer than one expected Williams, Both illustrate the extension of the lived present into past and future and time thereby as an uncountable duration.

It is am. The sound of am is a low rumbling B that pervades, tickling the high ceilings and setting a trembling through the faux-marble floor. It is an aggregation of the murmuring of pre-caffeinated conversations, the high-pitched wails of security gates opening, the clatter of the unsteady wheels of cleaning carts and other early morning sounds of the shopping centre through which the cry of the watch pierces into pre-eminence. The subtle vibrations of sound pass up the arm, shivering under the skylights. This habitual noting produces little snapshots of the shopping centre that provide a general sense of what was taking place at that particular hour by chronicling general sights, smells, sounds and other sensations.

Others are, however, more specific: The watch beeps. It is pm. It is time to change the bins. Her movements are deft and dexterous as she moves along the deck. Pull, unclip, tie, lift, open, spread, secure, push to close. Over and over. Her eyes, however, do not show the disinterested glaze of one locked into a monotonous and mindless task, but attention to detail and care.

Each move seems calculated and precise, as though she was focussing her entire will upon conserving energy, or else was locked in a dance with an unseen partner and was not going to be the first one to lose the rhythm and break time. Taken in a surface analysis, these repeated patterns, observed over the course of ethnographic work, become the basis for an understanding of time — one that at once straddles the binary systems of its representation without being entirely subsumed to their spatialization by presenting time as at once habitual but also as uncountable duration.

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The first is that it is desubjectivated. In a general sense, as a process in the mind contracts the past into the present and expects the future, there is produced a need for a thing which exists through all three temporal periods by virtue of which there are the periods, that is, a subject which comes to exist as a by-product of time. For Deleuze, it is not the case that there is a constant or fixed subject who exists unchanged through time nor is there one who produces time in the interrelation to other subjects in the world e.

That is to say, the subject becomes readable as a body onto which various forms of habit or organization have agglom- erated, rather than a Cartesian cogito or a site of identity politics. Unlike the more familiar Foucault, however, Deleuze writes with a less overt and well-defined concern for the effects of power and a more stringent commitment to a metaphysics of difference rather than identity.

This is important because, considering the binaries discussed in the previous section, within organization studies time is either defined by the reification of the subject as the creator of time either by the mind, body or in the intersubjective ritual or by the seeming negation of the subject as impotently within time i. The second is that there is more to the first synthesis than simply a concern for habit. Mahler recounts a story of sitting in a kitchen with her interlocutors, listening to the radio and watching as they tended the fire; attentive to the rhythms of cooking, cutting the wood, stoking the fire and so on.

Consider, for example, another encounter, described in the same style of fieldnotes as above: The watch beeps.

What seems to be an enormous chasm is carved out within the context of the sondering routines of Tuesday afternoon by a sundering practice, casting tables and chairs aside; disrupting normal patterns of organizing, feeding and shopping. A twofold rotation. Revolutionary motions! The left foot crests outward and the right follows, gliding backwards in an unencumbered arc, with the left following swiftly behind it again.