Steffen Böhm is Director of the Essex Sustainability Institute and Professor in Management and Sustainability at the University of Essex. His research focuses on political economies and ecologies of organization, management and the environment. He was a co-founder of the open-access journal ephemera: theory & politics in organization, and is co-founder and co-editor of the new open-access publishing press MayFlyBooks as well as Interface: A Journal for and about Social Movements. He has published three books: Repositioning Organization Theory, Against Automobility, and Upsetting the Offset: The Political Economy of Carbon Markets. Continue reading →
Abstract: The main purpose of this paper is to explore the possibility of articulating Political Discourse Theory(PDT) together with Organizational Studies (OS), while using the opportunity to introduce PDT to thoseOS scholars who have not yet come across it. The bulk of this paper introduces the main concepts ofPDT, discussing how they have been applied to concrete, empirical studies of resistance movements.In recent years, PDT has been increasingly appropriated by OS scholars to problematize and analyzeresistances and other forms of social antagonisms within organizational settings, taking the relationaland contingent aspects of struggles into consideration. While the paper supports the idea of a jointarticulation of PDT and OS, it raises a number of critical questions of how PDT concepts have beenempirically used to explain the organization of resistance movements. The paper sets out a researchagenda for how both PDT and OS can together contribute to our understanding of new, emerging or- ganizational forms of resistance movements.
Abstract: Multi-stakeholder governance forums have become a vital part of corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs. In this article we explore the political dynamics of multi-stakeholder governance forums. To do this we draw on an in-depth case study based on secondary sources of an exemplary multi-stakeholder governance forum–the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
Abstract: In this article we ask how ‘civil society’ actors and organizations can become constructed and treated as ‘uncivil society’. We contest the notion that ‘uncivil’ necessarily equates with the dark qualities of violence and organized criminality. Instead, we take a Gramscian perspective in suggesting that what becomes ‘uncivil’ is any practice and organization that substantially contests the structuring enclosures of hegemonic order, of which civil society is a necessary part. To trace this, we consider ways in which a global grass-roots media network called Indymedia has established and maintained itself as a counter-hegemonic media-producing organization. In this case, a conscious positioning and self-identification as counter-hegemonic has been accompanied by the framing and sometimes violent policing of nodes and practices of this network as ‘uncivil’ by cooperating state authorities. This is in the absence of association of this network with organized violence or crime. We intend our reflections to contribute to a deepening theorization of the terms ‘civil’ and ‘uncivil’ as they are becoming used in social movement and globalization studies.
Abstract: In this paper we interrogate the demand and practice of autonomy in social movements. We begin by identifying three main conceptions of autonomy: (1) autonomous practices vis-à-vis capital; (2) self-determination and independence from the state; and (3) alternatives to hegemonic discourses of development. We then point to limits associated with autonomy and discuss how demands for autonomy are tied up with contemporary re-organizations of: (1) the capitalist workplace, characterized by discourses of autonomy, creativity and self-management; (2) the state, which increasingly outsources public services to independent, autonomous providers, which often have a more radical, social movement history; and (3) regimes of development, which today often emphasize local practices, participation and self-determination. This capturing of autonomy reminds us that autonomy can never be fixed. Instead, social movements’ demands for autonomy are embedded in specific social, economic, political and cultural contexts, giving rise to possibilities as well as impossibilities of autonomous practices.
Abstract: This paper contributes to critical understandings of how international business is resisted. It develops a Neo-Gramscian approach that emphasizes the importance of informal or ‘infra-political’ processes. Current conceptualizations demonstrate how international business is challenged via formal and organized political strategies in the firm, the state and civil society. The infra-political dimension is understated. This paper develops a theory of ‘articulation’ that broadens our understandings of how international business is resisted in both formal and informal ways.
Abstract: In this paper we analyze the role of marketing in the construction of what can be called the hegemony of development. Through an investigation of the marketing practices of the pulp and paper industry in South America and the resistances that are articulated by a range of civil society actors against the expansion of this industry, we problematize marketing as a political and contested discourse and practice. By using Laclau and Mouffe’s (1985, 2001) theoretical framework, which is centered on the concept of ‘hegemony’, we highlight the crucial role marketing plays in the social and cultural legitimation of the highly controversial development of the pulp and paper industry – regarded as one of the most polluting industries in the world – in South America. We build on existing ‘critical marketing’ literatures to critique marketing’s role in spreading ‘development’ practices around the world, and we introduce Laclau and Mouffe’s theories to the marketing field in order to understand better the way marketing helps to produce ‘development’ as a hegemonic discourse in a particular social and cultural field. In this way we contribute to a growing understanding that critical marketing research is not only about exposing and analyzing the discourses and practices that drive consumption. Rather, we see marketing as an ontological discourse and practice that is crucial for the cultural and social legitimation of the development of entire industries and economic spheres.
Abstract: In this paper we engage with the liberalist project in organization and management studies. The first ‘face’ of organizational liberalism is expressed through post-bureaucratic discourses which very much define the mainstream of management thought today, highlighting the need for organizational openness which can only come through a liberation of management from the closed structures of the bureaucracy. The second face of organizational liberalism defends the bureaucratic ethos of liberal democratic institutions and points to the Popperian concept of the ‘open society’ that requires rational, procedural laws to reconcile conflicting values in societies and organizations, thus ensuring the existence of a plurality of ways of life. We point to the limitations of both ‘faces’ of organizational liberalism by discussing key aspects of Slavoj Žižek’s work. Žižek displaces the liberal conception of institutionally sanctioned ‘openness’ by claiming this actually constitutes a closure and puts a challenge to us. How can we create real openness? How is a real difference possible?
Abstract: How do groups resist the apparently all-encompassing discourse of management? Rejecting current theories of resistance as ‘re-appropriation’ or ‘micro-politics’, we argue that resistance may be thought about as hegemonic struggle undertaken by social movements. We identify four major resistance movements that engage with management: unions, organizational misbehaviour, civic movements and civic movement organizations. We argue that these forms of resistance differ in terms of location (civil society or workplace) and strategy (political or infra-political). We chart out the possible interconnections between these different modes of resistance and detail how these interconnections are established. By doing this, the paper provides a framework for understanding the many forms of resistance movements that seek to disrupt the hegemonic discourse of management.
Abstract: “Despite its promise of freedom and autonomy, the ubiquity of the automobile has influenced unforeseen ecological, social, and political change. In Against Automobility, a panel of distinguished scholars take a critical look at the contradiction of the automobile.
- A critical account of the impact of the car on society, which is both liberated by and reliant upon motor vehicles.
- Written by a panel of distinguished scholars from varying disciplines in the humanities and social sciences.
- Examines automobility’s effect on environmental, social, and political issues.
- Will be of interest to those whose research focuses on geography, politics, consumption and cultural studies, critical theory, and the sociology of objects and everyday life.”