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Theorizing contemporary control: Some post-structuralist responses to some critical realist questions

Willmott, Hugh 2005. Theorizing contemporary control: Some post-structuralist responses to some critical realist questions. Organization 12 (5) , pp. 747-780. 10.1177/1350508405055947

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The paper explores how control in organizations is analysed by counterposing a poststructuralist reading and critique against what is identified as a critical realist account of its nature and significance. Drawing primarily upon Laclau and Mouffe’s discourse theory, it argues that critical realist analysis exemplifies a position in which science is privileged and dualism is defended, in contrast to Laclau and Mouffe’s discourse theory where dualism is refused and there is a stronger commitment to emancipation. These differences between these versions of critical analysis are related to the more familiar terrain of organizational analysis examined in Burrell and Morgan’s (1979) Sociological Paradigms and Organizational Analysis; and, more specifically, in their discussion of the challenge posed by ethnomethodology to more established, commonsensical forms of analysis. The problematizing of commonsense found in ethnomethodological studies, it is suggested, has affinities with the deconstructive impulse of Laclau and Mouffe’s discourse theory but, crucially, the former lacks the latter’s politicoemancipatory intent (see also Pollner, 1991). In Burrell and Morgan’s terms, Laclau and Mouffe’s discourse theory is more radical than radical humanism (e.g. Critical Theory) in rejecting the latter’s ontology as well as refusing the sociological regulationism attributed to interpretivist analysis. The paper closes with a series of reflections upon the relevance of discourse theory for theorizing contemporary control.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Business (Including Economics)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
Uncontrolled Keywords: Control; critical realism; discourse; post-structuralism
Publisher: SAGE Publications
ISSN: 1350-5084
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 04:40

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