The Foundations of Organization Power

S.R. Clegg

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I shall argue that the foundations of organization power were laid down in practice through theories of power – in the sense that they sought to explain power – but through quite pragmatic practices that were not necessarily regarded as embodying a theory of power, which i shall maintain they most assuredly did. Thus, in a second move, i shall argue that while these practices began with a focus on the body of the employee they moved on to consider their consciousness and soul. Third, i shall briefly consider the main themes in organization theories' treatment of power, organized around notions of system rationality and uncertainty. These have an implicit idealism attached to them, i shall suggest. Fourth, i shall switch focus to the broader canvass of social theory in the post-war era and suggest that this has also displayed a strongly idealist streak, focusing especially on the celebrated structuralist account of power as a matter of layered dimension that steven lukes (1974 lukes, s. 1974. Power: a radical view, london: macmillan. [crossref], , [google scholar], 2005 lukes, s. 2005. Power: a radical view. , 2nd ed, basingstoke: palgrave macmillan. [google scholar]) produced. Fifth, i shall contrast the idealism of this approach with a more pragmatic conception of power, one that can be found in the perspectives with which i opened the paper, perspectives that derive from more foucauldian-influenced currents of contemporary social theory. Drawing on these, i will suggest a different way of understanding lukes' radical third dimension of power as a means of organizing and rationalizing innovations in power relations, drawing on the literature of the ‘dominant ideology thesis’ (abercrombie et al. 1980 abercrombie, n., hill, s. And turner, b.s. 1980. The dominant ideology thesis, london: allen & unwin. [google scholar]) to do so. Finally, i shall suggest switching from the structuralist metaphors of dimensions to an imagery of flows as a more appropriate model for understanding power relations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-64
JournalThe journal of power
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2009

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