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5 Power, ideology and the dynamics of inclusion–exclusion

5 Power, ideology and the dynamics of inclusion–exclusion

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Chapter 15  The emergence of organisational strategy in local communicative interaction   403

of both others and themselves. To carry on participating in the communicative interaction upon which an individual’s very life depends, that individual has to rely on

the enabling co-operation of others. At the same time that individual has to respect

the wishes of others and those wishes will frequently conflict with his or her own.

Communicative interaction is, thus, power relating as the patterning of enabling and

conflicting constraints.

Elias explores how people, because of their interdependence and the way their

actions intermesh, form figurations while those figurations form them. To illustrate

this he uses a number of game models to demonstrate the relational character of

power in a simplified form (see also Dopson, 2001). These are game contests in

which the relative power of the contestants is explored to bring out the features of

various power figurations. He starts with a game in which two groups of antagonists

face each other in an all-out struggle in which there are no rules. For example, two

groups might struggle with each other for limited food resources. When one group

does something – say, raids the territory of the other group to steal their cattle – then

that other group will have to respond to this, perhaps by mounting a counter-raid

or building better fortifications, or entering into an alliance with a third group. It

is because of this continuing need on the part of all groups to respond to what the

others are doing that they obviously depend on each other – there can be no cattle

raiders if there are no farmers who possess cattle, and farmers who possess cattle

would not have to build fortifications if there were no cattle raiders. Groups perform

a function for each other, even if such a functional relationship is not desired, and

the way each group is internally organised reflects their expectation of what they will

need to do next. One group, the raiders, will probably organise themselves into a

pattern of a fierce leader commanding warriors, while the other, intent on improving

fortifications, will probably show greater functional differentiation with soldiers

­distinguished from builders and both distinguished from ruling groups. Each group

then is serving a function for the other even in patterns of hostility – they need each

other as enemies if they are to conduct skirmishes. ‘It is not possible to explain the

actions, plans and aims of either of the two groups if they are conceptualized as the

freely chosen decisions, plans and aims of each group considered on its own, independently of the other group’ (Elias, 1970, p. 77).

The central question relates to how people have come to be able to regulate their

interdependence so that they need not resort to all-out struggle as a regular pattern

of interaction. This can be explored by comparing a number of games in which the

strength differential between two playing groups diminishes. As the power ratio

declines, the possibility of either of the groups controlling both the other group and

the course of the game diminishes. This game becomes more like social processes and

as this happens it resembles less and less the implementation of individual plans: ‘to

the extent that the inequality in the strengths of the two players diminishes, there

will result from the interweaving of moves of two individual people a game process

which neither of them has planned’ (Elias, 1970, p. 82, original italics). The social

cannot be reduced to the individual, and it is because of this that no one in the game

can control its evolution. The explanation has to do with the constraints they place

on each other and the unpredictability of their responses to each other.

As the number of players in each playing group increases, some groups of players

might disintegrate, splintering into a number of smaller groups, which move further

404  Part 3  Complex responsive processes as a way of thinking about strategy and organisational dynamics

and further apart from each other, playing the game without trying to co-operate or

compete with each other. For example the weaker groups might migrate to new territories where they can live independently of other groups, at least for a time. On the

other hand, the splinter groups could carry on playing with each other, but in doing

so they will develop a new power figuration of interdependent groups, in which

each may have some autonomy but will also have to develop forms of ­co-operation

as they compete with each other for certain resources. If this happens, it becomes

even less helpful to try to understand the evolution of the game in terms of individual plans – it will be even less possible for any grouping to control the course

of the game. It is also possible, of course, that as the number of players in a group

increases, they could choose to remain together but this will require a much more

complex figuration in which a two-tier group might develop with one subgroup

being rulers, say, while the other becomes the common people, so that a specialisation develops. Special functionaries now co-ordinate the game: representatives,

delegates, leaders and governments which together form a smaller group, playing

directly with and against each other. However, they are also bound together in some

way with the mass of players, the second tier. Both levels depend on each other, but

the distribution of power between them can vary. Elias then explores what happens

when the power differentials decline.

Even in a game with no more than two tiers, the figuration of game and players

already possesses a degree of complexity which prevents any one individual from

using his superiority to guide the game in the direction of his own goals and

wishes. He makes his moves both out of the network and into the network of

interdependent players, where there are alliances and enmities, cooperation and

rivalry at different levels.

(Elias, 1970, p. 86)

This game analogy demonstrates the evolving effects of interdependence on power

figurations and the ability to control the game and, in so doing, points to explanations of the kinds of processes in which the functions of upper and lower classes in,

say, Western Europe changed as the power differential diminished, or as the relations

between colonisers and the colonised changed after the Second World War. The

game analogy also points to explanations of the processes in which the financial sectors of most countries have become increasingly differentiated and interdependent

over the last few decades, making it impossible for any group of players – financial

institutions, borrowers and lenders, regulators and governments – to control the

evolution of the global financial game. Despite this, however, we continue to blame

one or other of the groups of players for what happened so that they can be punished, and we also continue to ascribe the problem to the system, calling for it to

be re-designed so that it all ‘never happens again’. In their explanations of what is

happening people use metaphors

which oscillate constantly between the idea that the course of the game can be

reduced to the actions of the individual players and the other idea that it is of a

supra-personal nature. Because the game cannot be controlled by the players, it

is easily perceived as a kind of superhuman entity. For a long time it is especially

difficult for the players to comprehend that their inability to control the game

derives from their mutual dependence and positioning as players, and from the

tension and conflicts inherent in this interweaving network. (Elias, 1970, p. 92)

Chapter 15  The emergence of organisational strategy in local communicative interaction   405

The game analogy shows clearly how social evolution is an emergent change in

patterns of relationships across a population arising in many local interactions, but

this insight is clouded by the persistent tendency of the dominant discourse, particularly of managerialism, to either locate the cause of change in an individual or

in some ‘whole’ outside the direct experience of interaction. Increasingly elaborate

chains of connections between people produce shifting power figurations leading

to processes and outcomes which are more and more difficult to understand and

intend, but which may tend in a particular direction for a number of years and may


It is important to point out that although social evolution tends in a particular

direction over time and can come to be talked about as though this is just the way

the world is, which is how previously we have described the function of ideology,

this process is not deterministic. That is to say, social processes may come to be

accounted for ideologically without reference to the process of historical development and without acknowledging that things could have turned out differently. But

Elias argues that there is no inevitability to social processes, and sometime they can

go into reverse – his treatise The Germans is a good example of how he tries to

account for how the civilising process, the longer and longer chains of interdependence which develop in highly complex behaviour which also produce psychological

changes, can also produce barbarism. In The Society of Individuals he argues that

the functionalisation of particular trends demands the perspective of the swimmer,

where we are caught up in the strong currents of social evolution at a point in time

but nonetheless still have the ability to make particular choices which can change

the course of history. Meanwhile, in order to understand how we have evolved over

time demands the perspective of the airman, which is the perspective to view social

developments and with a greater detachment. Only by combining the two perspectives, the airman and the swimmer, will we be able to participate more fully in the

game with perhaps a greater ability to influence how things evolve.

Newton (1999, 2001, 2010) also points out how organisations can usefully be

thought about in terms of Elias’ game of power and the effects it has on agency. It

­follows from the nature of the game that no one agent or group thereof can determine

history over the long term, because their intentions and actions are always moderated

by those of others on whom they depend. There is, thus, no simple relationship between

strategy and outcome, because the outcome results from the interweaving of intentions and outcomes. Something comes into being that was not intended or planned

by anyone but nevertheless emerges from the interweaving of their actions. Organisational change is change in interdependency networks, and human subjectivity,

self, identity and agency are intimately tied up with historical changes in interdependency networks. So, the way we express emotions and our emotional self-control

are all the result of the historical evolution of patterns of power relations that flowed

from increased interdependence and the monopolisation of violence. Power relations

are built into subjectivity as we learn how to behave as children, where such subjectivity is tacit and unthinking. This is different from the taken-for-granted, ahistorical

view of subjectivity in organisational theory which reflects the notion of atomistic

individuals. Newton argues that writers on corporate culture (for example, Deal and

Kennedy, 1988) promote individualism and a Romantic view of collectivism as teams

in an attempt to artificially engineer a sense of shared mission and values. This may be

a response to the demise of a sense of the collective – if it existed why manufacture it?

406  Part 3  Complex responsive processes as a way of thinking about strategy and organisational dynamics

Individualism becomes a sham, since members must adhere to corporate values as a

cover for hierarchy. ­Newton claims that Eliasian analysis also suggests that there is

no separation between ­micro-analytical concern with emotion and subjectivity and

macro-analytical concerns with power figurations. Emotional expressions are interwoven with patterns of power relations. Increasing interdependence causes emotional

control. Elias stresses the unplanned nature of ordering and change where strategic

outcomes flow from interweaving of actions of numerous players.

Mowles (2015b) compares and contrasts Elias’s processual sociology in particular

with scholars from the process organisation studies tradition which we critiqued in

Chapter 13. In contrast to scholars from weak and strong process perspectives, he

points out that Elias would have had little sympathy with abstract discussions about

what ‘process’ is, separate from the activities of figurations of interdependent human

bodies. Mowles notes that even in recent scholarship claiming an interest in process,

and which looks at the way that strategy has evolved over time in conditions of

complexity (for example, see Garud et al., 2011, for an account of the way that the

3M Corporation developed over a number of decades and socialised its workers into

the ‘3M way’ of constant innovation), there is still little account of who wins and

who loses, who is included and excluded and the day-to-day disruptions and conflicts which must have ensued. Mowles appreciates the difficulty of doing this, but to

leave it out of the account of the development of strategy is in danger of presenting

an overly-ordered narrative which suggests that innovation is something which can

be designed by managers.

Other writers (van Iterson et al., 2001) suggest that Eliasian analysis shows the

intricate connection between macro-societal developments such as state formation

and micro-level changes in morals, manners and mentalities. They suggest that we

can only understand strategy and change in the light of this interconnection, and

they call for greater exploration of Eliasian analysis in understanding organisations

in the light of changing figurations of power. So consider some further important

implications of the figurational view.

The dynamics of inclusion and exclusion

Power differences establish groupings in which some people are ‘included’ and

others are ‘excluded’. Power is thus felt as the dynamics of inclusion and exclusion.

These dynamics feature prominently in Elias’s process sociology.

Elias and Scotson ([1965] 1994) studied events following the influx of a working-­

class group into a new housing estate in the UK, adjacent to an older estate that

was also occupied by working-class people. Although there was no recognisable

difference between the two groups, hostility soon appeared, and persisted for a very

long time, in which the older, established inhabitants denigrated the newer ones.

The simple fact of having been there longer meant that the established group had

a degree of group cohesion and collective identification that the newcomers lacked.

The established community had developed norms and values that gave them the

gratifying consciousness of belonging to a group of higher value with the accompanying contempt for the other groups. The established group had come to think of

themselves as a ‘we’, a group with common attachments, likes, dislikes and attributes

and this had emerged simply because of their being together over a period of time.

They had developed an identity, and, drawing on our definition above, an ideology.

Chapter 15  The emergence of organisational strategy in local communicative interaction   407

The new arrivals lacked this cohesive identity, because they had no history of being

together and this made them more vulnerable. The more cohesive group therefore

found it easy to ‘name’ the newcomers, to categorise them, and ascribe to them hateful attributes such as being dirty or liable to commit crimes. The two groups were

unconsciously bound to each other in such a way that the members of one of them

felt impelled, and had sufficient power resources, to treat those of another group

collectively with a measure of contempt, and the other group accepted it because

they lacked cohesion.

So, although there was no obvious difference between the two groups, one group

unconsciously used the fact that the other was newly arrived to generate hatred and

so maintain a power difference. Furthermore, this was, in a sense, ‘accepted’ by

the newcomers who took up the role of the disadvantaged. The established group

ascribed the ‘bad’ characteristics of the newcomer group’s ‘worst’ section to the

group as a whole while ascribing to themselves the characteristics of their ‘best’ section. Population-wide ideological patterns had emerged in the conversation within

and between both the established and the newcomer groups, and this ideology established, and continued to reinforce, membership categories and differences between

those categories.

One of the principal ways that power differentials are preserved, then, is the use

of even trivial differences to establish different membership categories. It is not the

difference itself but rather the ideological form that stirs up hatred in the interests

of sustaining power positions in a dynamic of inclusion and exclusion. Dalal (1998)

points out how the hatred between groups emerges as an unconscious process and in

local interaction patterns that no one is really aware of or actually intends. It should

also be noted that what we have been describing is an everyday occurrence in less

dramatic ways in all organisations. For example, when we debate differences in our

theories, or when we talk in particular ways in ordinary, everyday life, we are often

using differences to sustain power relations.

There are other aspects of ideological themes that also serve to preserve power

differentials in essentially unconscious ways in local interactions. A key aspect of

ideology is the binary oppositions that characterise it and the most basic of these

is the distinction between ‘them’ and ‘us’. Ideology is thus a form of communication that preserves the current order by making that current order seem natural,

as MacIntyre argued. In this way, ideological themes organise the communicative

interactions, the conversation, of individuals and groups. As a form of communication, as an aspect of the power relations in the group, ideology is taken up in that

private role-play, that silent conversation, which is mind in individuals. So, diversity

is essential for the evolution of novelty. However, it is nowadays frequently publicly

adopted in organisations in the form of diversity programmes which call for valuing

and embracing diversity. Behind these public programmes there are often private

conversations which sustain an ideology which enables people to act in way which

appear to support ‘diversity’ in organisations while at the same time actually seeking

to suppress it, so blocking the emergence of novel patterns of relating.

Note that ideology here is thought of as being mutually reproduced in ongoing

communicative action rather than anything shared or stored. Here, ideology is not

some fundamental hidden cause located somewhere. It is not stored anywhere,

transmitted and then shared. Rather, it is patterning processes – that is, narrative

themes of inclusion and exclusion organising people’s experience of being together in

408  Part 3  Complex responsive processes as a way of thinking about strategy and organisational dynamics

perpetual reproduction and potential transformation. Ideology, as population-wide

pattern, exists only in the speaking and acting of it in local situations.

The processes so far described in this section are ubiquitous in organisations and

are key aspects of local interactions of managing and strategising. People working

in, say, the finance department of an organisation experience themselves as a ‘we’,

and may regard those who work in, say, the public relations department as ‘them’,

ascribing lesser value to what they do. People working in an operating subsidiary

of a large corporation regard themselves as ‘we’ who earn profits, while ‘them’ at

the head office are pen-pushing parasites. When people are reorganised into new

departments or subsidiaries, they normally experience feelings of loss of identity,

which can lead to resistance, even sabotage. When a large corporation makes an

acquisition, the ‘them’ and ‘us’ dynamics become very powerful and often constitute

the main reason for the failure of attempts at integration. The power dynamics of

inclusion–exclusion and the ideological processes underlying them thus have a profound impact on emerging population-wide patterns of realised strategy.

It becomes important, then, to understand how ideological themes and the power

relations they justify are created and sustained in organisations. How this happens is

a crucial aspect of the local interactions of strategising. Gossip is a potent means of

sustaining ideological patterns and power relations in organisations.


Elias and Scotson pointed to how ideology emerges in local interactive processes

of gossip. Streams of gossip stigmatise and blame the outsider group while similar streams of gossip praise the insider group. The gossip builds layers upon layer

of value-laden binary pairs such as clean–dirty, good–bad, honest–dishonest,

­energetic–lazy, and so on. Gossip plays a significant role in maintaining identity. The

same point applies to the ‘inclusion–exclusion’ dynamic created by particular ways

of talking – for example, talking in terms of complexity, in terms of psychoanalysis,

in terms of making profit, and so on which we dealt with in the last chapter when

we explained the importance of rhetoric. Such gossip and other ways of talking and

persuading others attribute ‘charisma’ to the powerful and ‘stigma’ to the weak,

so reinforcing power differences. In established, cohesive groups, streams of gossip

flow along well-established channels that are lacking for newly arrived groups. The

stigmatisation, however, only sticks where there is already a sufficiently large power

difference. Again, these are social relations that are reflected in the private role-play

of individual minds, conferring feelings of superiority on the powerful and feelings

of inferiority on the weak. Eventually, however, the weak or marginalised groups

will probably retaliate with what may be thought by others to be unreasonable


Elias stresses the importance of streams of gossip in sustaining the group fantasy,

showing how closely praise–gossip and blame–gossip are interlinked. A close-knit

group, with its high power ratio, has more opportunities for effective gossip, and the

more people feel threatened or insecure, the more gossip becomes fantasy of a rigid

kind. Thus, gossip of praise for the charismatic and blame for the disgraced becomes

part of the individual personality structures of both groups.

We are drawing attention to Elias’s explanation of gossip as the means by which

people sustain ideologies, which in turn sustain relations of power and patterns of

Chapter 15  The emergence of organisational strategy in local communicative interaction   409

inclusion–exclusion, because gossip is an essential feature of local interactions in all

organisations. Many managers tend to dismiss gossip as ‘idle chatter’ that has no

connection with the activities of strategising. They think gossip is only harmful and

steps ought to be taken to minimise it. Gossip is often harmful but it is not always so,

because it serves a purpose in organisations. It can never be removed from human

relating. It is in activities of gossiping that ideologies and figurations of power relation are sustained but also potentially transformed, in making sense of strategising

activities and how these play a part in the emergence of population-wide patterns

of realised strategy, it is important to understand the effect that gossiping is having

on what is happening in an organisation in terms of patterns of inclusion–exclusion

which powerfully affect local activities of strategising. The dynamics of inclusion

and exclusion are accompanied by powerful emotions that also impact on local

strategising activities.

Emotional aspects of inclusion and exclusion

Any change in the processes of communicative interaction must at the same time

constitute a shift in power relations and, therefore, a change in the pattern of who

is ‘included’ and who is ‘excluded’ and so shifts in ideology. Such shifts generate

intense anxiety and communicative interaction is recruited in some way to deal with

this anxiety. These ways may be highly destructive of effective joint action and may

even completely disrupt the reproduction and creative transformation of coherent

communication. From a complex responsive processes perspective, it is essential

that managers engaged in strategising activities understand that inevitably they will

be evoking anxious responses in those with whom they are working.

Elias and Scotson argued that inclusion–exclusion processes are expressed as

differentials of cohesion and integration, which are sources of power differentials.

There is a complementarity between one group’s charisma and another’s disgrace

and this sets up emotional barriers on the part of the former to any contact with the

latter, as well as processes within each group, as follows. All belonging to an established group participate in its charisma in return for which they have to conform or

else suffer the humiliation of exclusion. The charismatic group uses language that

deeply hurts the members of the disgraced group and this has a paralysing effect

on the latter’s members. Stigmatisation involves a person’s image of his/her group’s

standing amongst others and therefore of his/her own standing. The silent voices of

members of the disgraced operate as the ally of the dominant group, because the

disgraced have come to believe what is said about them.

The power differential with which the disgraced comply, even agree, is essential to

enable the stigma to be driven in. The disgraced often act out the aspersion cast upon

them, such as being dirty and noisy, because they know they can annoy the established in this way. Power confers on a group much more than economic advantage,

because the struggle is about the satisfaction of needs to do with esteem and identity.

The outsiders suffer deprivation of identity and of meaning. Elias talks about the

peculiar helplessness of groups unconsciously bound together in these dynamics of

inclusion and exclusion. The processes that keep the disgraced in place are those of

humiliation and shame.

It is not inevitable that groups enduring stigmatisation, shame and humiliation

remain so excluded. Building on his reading of Hegel’s early works and Mead’s

410  Part 3  Complex responsive processes as a way of thinking about strategy and organisational dynamics

theories of the social development of the self, the German sociologist Axel Honneth

(1996, 2012) has developed an argument that social evolution is partly driven precisely by the struggle for recognition particularly of oppressed groups in society who

feel unrecognised, or misrecognised. Over time, he argues, they agitate to become

more fully recognised, and recognised in the way they recognise themselves as fully

moral beings, with a view to bringing about a more positive relation to self, and to

others. This may mean arguing for more rights, for changes in the law and for a

sense of solidarity with others similarly excluded. The struggle for recognition may

be one way of understanding the evolution of attitudes towards gay men and lesbians in Western society, which has resulted first in the decriminalisation of sexual

acts between consenting gay people and ultimately in the passing of laws recognising

same-sex marriage on an equal footing with heterosexual marriage. Such laws do

not so easily do away with centuries of stigmatisation and shaming however, as most

gay people will still attest.

Shame, panic and anxiety

According to Elias (Smith, 2001) the roots of civilisation are firmly planted in the

soil of shame, which includes self-disgust, inhibition, isolation and fear. Shame is

produced by any kind of transgression against the rules of society that others can

‘see’. As people become more self-disciplined and self-aware, their thresholds of

repugnance rise. Shame is in turn rooted in the body and, because human metabolism cannot be easily controlled (blushing, sweating), people feel vulnerable in a

civilised society, which pushes such bodily expressions behind the scenes of social

life so that when the body plays its tricks the person gets blamed for infringing

norms. Ironically, feelings of shame trigger many of the bodily responses that cause

shame in the first place. Threats of exposure and exclusion involved in organisational surveillance techniques and in organisational change trigger feelings of insecurity and shame that can have a big impact on what people do in organisations.

Aram (2001) links shame with panic, which is a response to the fear of potential

embarrassment. She argues that panic is simultaneously relationally constructed and

individually experienced, and may be thought of as a response to anxiety that serves

the purpose of not dealing with the situations provoking that anxiety. The fear of the

fear is translated into panic. She also links panic to waiting for something to happen,

dreading it and avoiding it until it ‘arrives’. Panic is, then, an investment of energy

into not feeling and not knowing that leads to exactly that which is being avoided.

Panic is associated with strong desires to be with others, with avoiding being alone

and ascribing great importance to what others think, so that withdrawing from

interaction with others is experienced as particularly difficult. The fear of being on

one’s own, out of control and in constant need of support makes it extremely difficult

to relax. It is not necessarily any change itself that leads to panic, because when that

which is being unconsciously avoided does happen, the panic symptoms diminish

and the capacity to manage is found. It is the phase before a change – namely, the

waiting period – which is experienced as panic. This waiting is felt to be an unconscious immobilising fear that past experiences are about to recur. People who suffer

panic usually end up feeling exactly that which they are actively trying to avoid.

They are highly invested in trying to maintain a strong, ‘in control’ sense of self

and they feel humiliated when they realise how affected they are by others and how

Chapter 15  The emergence of organisational strategy in local communicative interaction   411

important others are in helping them maintain a sense of self. They fear dependence,

yet are highly dependent. They long for relationships yet are often intimidated by

them and tend to have fractious and unsuccessful ones.

Aram regards this interlinked process of panic and shame as a response to deeprooted fears to do with inclusion and exclusion and the consequent potential for

being humiliated and shamed. Panic arouses feelings of shame and humiliation

because it is taken as a sign of weakness and immaturity. Anxiety generated by

endlessly waiting and preparing to be abandoned and rejected, reflecting past experience, is replaced with panic, anger, rivalry and fear of closeness.

The points about the emotional aspects of power relations and i­ nclusion–­exclusion

dynamics and the role that gossip plays in them are highly relevant to the local

interaction of strategising. These processes are ubiquitous and are rarely paid much

attention. They become particularly relevant during reorganisations, mergers and

acquisition but they feature in all processes of decision making.

15.6  Complex responsive processes perspectives on decision making

This section will consider how the dynamics of power and ideology affect decision-­

making processes in organisations. First consider the key arguments presented so

far in this chapter.

Earlier in this chapter, we referred to Elias’s understanding of power as a central

characteristic of every human relationship which flows from the fact that people are

interdependent and so need each other, some more than others. Power, therefore,

arises in the relative difference of need, in an irremovable inequality between people.

More specifically, power is those aspects of human activities through which people

are continually enabling and constraining each other’s actions. Drawing together the

discussion in this chapter on power and its ideological basis, we could identify the

nature of this enabling–constraining activity in the following terms:

• Forming and continuing to belong to groups are essentially activities of including

some people and excluding others and much of this activity is unconsciously

motivated. Such activity is experienced by people as feelings of inclusion and

exclusion. Accompanying and inseparable from these activities are the activities,

primarily gossiping and otherwise creative persuasive narratives of difference, of

labelling groups of people in terms of polarised attributes so as to differentiate

‘us’ and ‘them’. These differentiating activities express ideological themes that

organise the experience of being together, so defining the ‘we’ identities of all. All

of these activities are enabling in that they create feelings of belonging that make

it possible for people to co-operate more easily with each other within a particular

group. At the same time these activities are constraining in that, to continue to

belong to a particular group, it is necessary for members to conform to the group

ideology. Activities of inclusion and exclusion also enable competition between

groups while at the same time constraining co-operation between them. These

­activities are emotionally highly charged. The experience of inclusion and belonging

generates feelings of affection and loyalty towards other members of the ‘in’

group and any criticism or threat to one’s group quickly arouses aggression. The

mere threat of exclusion, and so loss of identity, arouses feelings of shame and

412  Part 3  Complex responsive processes as a way of thinking about strategy and organisational dynamics

humiliation, anxiety and even panic. People unconsciously defend themselves,

individually and collectively, in the mostly unconscious manoeuvres of what psychoanalysts have referred to as basic assumption behaviour, scapegoating and

other forms of fantasy-driven behaviour (see Chapter 6).

• The activities of enabling and constraining can also be described in terms of

co-operation and competition and this immediately directs attention to human

motivations of altruism, empathy, compassion and acceptance, on the one hand,

and self-centredness, envy, jealousy and rivalry, on the other hand. Some emotions and motivations are enabling of co-operation and others constrain interaction into competitive forms. There can be no pure form of enabling co-operation

with its attendant emotions or of competition with its attendant emotions. Both

are always present at the same time and which is more evident fluctuates over

time. Of particular importance in organisational terms is the co-operation and

competition around which discourse, and the ideology it reflects, is to dominate,

because such ideology is the largely unconscious basis of power figurations.

• Other aspects of enabling activities are fantasising and imagination, while acting

and thinking in defensive ways may well be constraining.

• Activities of enabling and constraining are inevitably conflictual activities. Explorative conflict may well be enabling, while polarised conflict may be constraining.

In making these distinctions it is necessary to stress that each describes a p

­ aradox.

Human relationships are enabling and constraining, including and excluding,

co-operative and competitive, imaginative and defensive, at the same time. This

chapter has also argued that enabling and constraining activities always reflect some

ideology, some interplay of norms and values. Enabling and constraining activities

also always reflect the choices people are continually making as they select one action

rather than another in response to the actions of others. They make these choices,

often unconsciously, on the basis of evaluative criteria provided by ideology. Such

evaluative choice is simply another term for decision making.

From the perspective of complex responsive processes, then, decision making

is understood primarily in terms of the ideological, power, emotional and social

processes briefly summarised in the points above. This way of thinking about

­decision making stands in contrast to that of the dominant discourse as described

in Part 1. In the dominant discourse, a decision is normally thought of as preceding

an action and the making of a decision is usually thought of in terms of the

step-by-step thinking activities of rational, autonomous individuals. Despite the

continuing critique of rationality in the dominant discourse, decision making

continues to be described as a programmatic activity. There are stages leading

to the making of a decision that can be identified with a specific point in time.

Action then follows. From the complex responsive processes perspective, choices,

decisions and intentions are inseparable from other forms of action. Indeed they

continually emerge in response to all forms of action in ongoing ways that make it

arbitrary to select a particular point in time when the decision was actually made.

A particular point in time when the decision is legitimised by some authority in the

hierarchy can, of course, be identified, but this is not the same as deciding, which

is an ongoing emotional, conversational activity of enabling and constraining

reflective of ideology.

Chapter 15  The emergence of organisational strategy in local communicative interaction   413

15.7  Summary

Ideology can be thought of in paradoxical terms as the simultaneous voluntary compulsion of value and the obligatory restriction of norm. Ideology provides criteria

for choosing one action rather than another – decision making – and it serves as the

largely unconscious basis of power relations, making it feel natural to include some

and exclude others from particular groups, thereby sustaining the power difference

between those groups. Ideology is the ideal made functional in specific situations

always involving conflict.

We start from the position that humans are fundamentally social beings where

this means that they survive and get done whatever they need or wish to get done in

relation to each other. To relate to others is to communicate with others. By social,

then, we essentially mean ongoing activities of communication between bodies in

which they together accomplish whatever they accomplish. The social is the patterning of communicative interaction. To understand communication we turn to

Mead and his notion of the conversation of gestures. Human communication takes

the form of gestures calling forth responses from others and at the same time calling

forth similar responses from oneself. In other words, communication takes place

in significant symbols. Furthermore, in communicating, people take not only the

attitude of the other but also always the attitude of the generalised other (group or

game) and of the ‘me’, all encapsulated in the concept of social object as generalisation which is only to be found in the activity of particularising. This amounts to

saying that consciousness and self-consciousness are social phenomena. Here communication, consciousness and self-consciousness are all social activities rather than

individual representations. This is so in another sense too: namely, the tendency to

idealise collectives, ideas, concepts, theories, physical objects, other people, etc. This

leads to the notion of cult values which must be functionalised. The generalisation

(social object)/idealisation (cult value) are major aspects of the consciousness and

self-consciousness of everyone so that mind and self are patterned as social processes while they pattern social processes at the same time. Another way of talking

about the enabling/constraining nature of social object and cult value is to talk about

power. Elias points out that power is a characteristic of all human relating and is

felt as the dynamics of inclusion and exclusion in which identity is formed. Ideology

sustains patterns of power relations. Ideology, power relations, inclusion–exclusion

forming identities and processes of gossip and persuasion are all essential features of

the local interaction of strategising and decision making.

Further reading

Joas (2000), Griffin (2002), Stacey (2003) and Griffin and Stacey (2005) provide more detailed

treatment of the points made in this chapter. Elias and Scotson ([1965] 1994) is important

reading. Also look at Dopson (2001) and Newton (1999, 2001, 2010) and Mowles (2015b)

for the connection between Elias and organisational studies. Willmott (1993, 2003) argues

that linking leadership and culture amounts to an extension of control which is masked by

high-sounding language. Williams (2005) writes about leadership, power and problems of

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