The logic of the book is constructed according to two principles: first, a principle of programmatics, and second, a principle of analytics.Where we address pro- grammatics we are focused on practices of power, rather more than their extant the- orization. We justify this logic in terms of the fact that the practices in question have been either undertheorized or not theorized at all by organization analysts. Where we address analytics we are focused on theories of power. Because we seek to reframe the understanding of power in organizations we do not focus merely on that which has been constituted as part of the canon of organization theories of power. Instead, we cast our net wider, to incorporate social theories of power. We do this because we see organization and management theory as branches of the social sciences. As such, we do not believe that they can be hermetically sealed or cut off from wider analytic developments in these social sciences.
Although organization and management theories have developed their own tra-ditions of analysis, we argue that these have been inadequate in terms of what they address and more especially what they do not address – the programmatics of power – as well as inadequate in the means through which they have constructed their understanding – the analytics of power. Hence, our book is addressed to both the programmatics and the analytics of power, to both theory and practice, and to the practice and theory of both broader social theory and more restricted organi- zation and management theories.
When we were given the brief for this book by the series editor, David Whetten, he explained that the book should be the next best thing for the graduate students and researchers who use it to taking a seminar with the authors. We have borne this injunction in mind throughout the book and have used as many devices as we could think of – including writing style, diagrams, and tables – to make the mate- rials we provide as effortless as a large and complex field, interpreted in a radically different way, will allow.
Dialog stands at the heart of the book. There is, first, a dialog between the authors, two of whom must have despaired at times at the capacity of one of them to engage in endless conversations, expressed in redrafting, not only with himself but with the many others credited in the acknowledgements to the book; second, a dialog with the previous texts and traditions of research that are captured momentarily herein; third, a dialog with unfolding events that were shaping our sense of being in the world; fourth, a dialog with past accounts of power and organizations which we recovered through reflective glances, retro- spective gazes, and half-remembered fragments that drifted into cognition; and fifth, a dialog between our conception of what an analysis of organizations could aspire to and the actuality of so much of what it has achieved. Furthermore, we have realized that power is a constant attempt to impose different modes of being on disparate ways of becoming – which is why we have consistently stressed the importance of power relations in this book, and why we have stressed the action as well as the structuring aspects of power, because the process can only be grasped through an understanding of the constant dialectic between the two. We have understood that good conversations take place in a context in which there are, like it or not, barriers to agential creativeness and structural determination, just as in life. We have tried to maintain a degree of openness, while at the same time making clear our points of difference and dispute with other positions. And, as we conclude, what is essential to the whole conception of science that is artic- ulated in this book is that the dialog is ultimately with you, the reader and user, of the text produced. As one of us said a very long time ago, ‘The possibilities of your reading have been an ever present feature of my writing’ (Clegg 1975: 157). And that goes for this collective enterprise as much as it did for earlier singular ones.
Our book is designed to be different and to make a difference; hence in writing about power we seek to exercise power. We propose to change not only the knowl- edge of power relations in the field of organization studies but also the power rela- tions in the field itself. We want to reorient thinking from the present axes of concern to a new axis of power – not the axis of resource dependency theory or other orthodoxies that serve as much as ways of avoiding discussion of certain key elements of power, but a new genealogical axis reaching from bureaucracy to pol- yarchy (Dahl 1971). In accordance with the differences we have pinpointed in this introductory chapter, we suggest a framework that can function as a guiding thread to the book.
We emphasize five major differences with the orthodoxy of mainstream or simple organizational approaches:
- Power and efficiency are not two opposite sides of a continuum constituting the core problematic in organization studies. On the contrary, we claim power and efficiency should be simultaneously analyzed as fundamentally tangled up in the social fabric of power as both a concept and a set of practices.
- Power and discourses are equally intermingled in so far as they constitute the political structure of organizations through diverse circuits of power. Discourses shape structures and provide the means for ordering the political structure. Thus, organizations and individuals use discourses purposefully to shape the political situations in and through which they can act and perform.
- To understand power means deciphering various forms of political economy in organizations; that is, the means that organizational leaders use to perpetuate power and the structures of dominance they strive to create and legitimize. Only though the use of power can elites steer organizations through upheaval and turmoil as well as structure what gets taken for granted as Only through the use of power can others resist and challenge this steering. Organizations, above all, are means of constituting relations between people, ideas, and things that would not otherwise occur. Organizations are perfor- mances of various kinds and power relations constitute the essence of these performances.
- A very definite idea of sovereignty passed into organization theory from polit-ical theory. In political theory, sovereignty is ‘the highest power of command’. Of course, in political theory, as Foucault so famously expressed it (see the dis- cussion in Clegg 1989), the head has been chopped from this concept of sover- eignty. Rule based on popular will expressed through democratic systems, rather than solely and merely on elite preferences, is instilled as the normalcy of political theory. Increasingly, organizations are witness to the emergence of notions of popular rather than singular sovereignty. Hence, a subtheme of the book is the emergence of challenges to hierarchy as a guiding principle for organizations.
- Finally, we shall argue that power must be seen in its contemporary political context; it cannot be conceptualized as wholly abstracted from those contexts in which it is embedded. Thus, it is not only political economy which frames organizations but also the changing global context of politics, as we shall explore in the final chapter.
Running through these five major features of our approach is a stress on the com- bination of the idea of power and the idea of performance. Power is the major factor in organizational performance over the last century. Power accounts for most of the reasons why organizations embark upon programs of organization change. When new CEOs are appointed they invariably institute a change program.
Figure 1.1 Four types of political performance
The old regime’s schemes and favorites will languish; new elites will strive to be inducted. Whether the elites succeed or not in their relentless attempts to change, and keep up with, changes occurring everywhere in their relevant environments, will also be a matter of power. Power should be viewed as the basic ingredient rec- onciling the economic realm of performance and the social world of people’s actions, decisions and those fates they have to endure. Let us synthesize this frame- work in the diagram of power in Figure 1.1 – the first of many that will be used in the book.
While we would not want to go as far as to suggest a unilinear or evolution-ary logic to this schema, we argue that over the last one hundred or so years there has been a gradual movement of the cutting edge points of contestation in theory and practice from the left to the right side of the schema. Looked at in this way, it reveals a shift from organizational forms premised on the singular rule of hierarchies towards a realization of polyarchy. However, the histories of the present never eclipse or write over the histories of the past; thus, we should not see any one of these organization forms as an essential or universal princi- ple of social formation, for there are no such essential verities in matters of social construction, no essences that recurrently move history in deep but mys- terious ways. The sediments of history sludge around in the detritus of every present day, as we shall explore. A road map of our exploration is provided in Table 1.1.
Source: Clegg Stewart, Courpasson David, Phillips Nelson X. (2006), Power and Organizations, SAGE Publications Ltd; 1st edition.