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Studying practice: Situating Talking About Machines

Contu, Alessia and Willmott, Hugh 2006. Studying practice: Situating Talking About Machines. Organization Studies 27 (12) , pp. 1769-1782. 10.1177/0170840606071895

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Julian Orr’s Talking About Machines (TAM) is celebrated for communicating something of the richness and complexity of work practices. Our endeavour is to connect the current wave of interest in practice with Orr’s focal attentiveness to the practices of photocopier-repair technicians. More specifically, we revisit how, in TAM, a careful examination of work practice is commended by Orr as a way of ‘deepen[ing] our under-standings’—for example, about ‘the relations of employment and the role of work in the constitution of workers’ identity’. This central theme of TAM, we contend, provides illuminating insights into, and poses interesting questions for students of, the politics of work organization. The novelty of our reading of TAM stems from a mobilization of some Marxist and Lacanian ideas, as developed in theorizations of hegemony, that enable us to problematize both the self-identification of the technicians as heroic, and the distancing of their practices from the corporation’s bureaucratic prescriptions. Our particular interest lies in unpicking the politico-economic significance of the technicians’ practices; and, more specifically, their relevance for understanding the reproduction of capitalist work relations.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Business (Including Economics)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
Uncontrolled Keywords: Social practice; ideological fantasy; identification; community of practice; Žižek
Publisher: Sage
ISSN: 0170-8406
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 04:38

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