Journal Papers

Movements of theory and practice

Abstract: In spite of Lenin’s claim that “without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement” it has become increasingly fashionable to argue against theory and celebrate practice. This can be clearly observed in an academic field such as organisation studies which is characterised by increasing pressures to be less theoretically abstract and more practically relevant for private and public management. In this paper I will defend theory against the attacks from ‘common sense’ practice by developing the concept of theoretical practice, which highlights the close interconnectedness between theory and practice but also leaves room for their relative autonomy from each other. This theoretical conception is practiced by closely engaging with the so-called ‘movement’ of anti-capitalist protesters and globalisation critics whose most recent event was the European Social Forum (ESF) that took place in Florence, Italy, in November 2002. I will argue that in relation to theory and practice the ESF points towards three notions: first, protest for radical social change is a theoretical practice; second, the theoretical practice of radical collective protest can be the source of joy; and third, theoretical practice is characterised by movements between multiplicity and unity. Overall then this paper is a call for the practice of theory in organisation studies (and in life in general), a theory that aims at interrogating and concretely effecting social organisation and contributes to a project of radical change.

full text available on