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Postmodernism and Management

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Postmodernism and Management

Most faculty and philosophers do not like to call themselves postmodern; the term has received tremendous flak from critics; critiqued for being a subversive fashion. But, in the end of it, postmodernism with all its subversions has given rise to multiple thought processes:

• Feminist Studies/Gender Studies

• Postcolonial Studies

• Queer Studies

• Third World Studies

• Geo-Political Studies

• Film Studies

• Rock Music

• Jackson using Bharatnatyam and Orissi moves

• And above all Management Studies / interdisciplinary studies

It was in the 1960s that a whole bunch of people in their early twenties in different parts of the world individually resisted the "grand narratives" of Modernity due to tremendous disenchantment with political systems. So postmodernism was born out of political discontent, and all various movements that resisted the liberal views of Government policies came to be known as the postmodern vantage point.

The reason why postmodern is subversive is that they want to show how every political act has an agenda; more so, the agenda is to project such an act as "natural" or "progressive" or "good for humanity". Due to the nature of diagnosis of agenda, postmodern as an analytical system has implications for a subject that is so inter-disciplinary in nature and makes use of strategy for operations: management studies.

Now there are 4 main analytical models of postmodern philosophy itself:

Lyotard's Science vs. Narrative; how narrative has been used to legitimate "almost" everything! Hence, narrative forms of knowledge systems, which had been in the margins, have been resurrected for further understanding: phenomenon of branding has used the narrative style for communication.

Baudrillard: the symbolic world is the creator of knowledge systems; marketing and communication become paramount for reaching out to the consumer! System of empty referentials becomes the system of knowledges!

Foucault: the tricky one, but definitely the most influential. He would not like to be branded as a postmodernist, but he has aided in the flourishing of this philosophy.

Contribution of Foucault:

Earlier, thinkers looked at "ahistorical" meanings of subjects; that is, formal and intrinsic values of a topic: any form of grand narrative has an unquestionable essence of fixity; mythicisation. Fair & Lovely would make you fair (a grand narrative); fairness is a universally accepted notion; timeless. We had discussed this long back in the "myth" class, how "branding" is using the "ahistorical" aspect of myth; and the class vehemently argued, as usual?

Foucault introduced the notion of

(a) Archaeology and Genealogy

(b) Technologies

(c) Power

(d) Discourse

(a) Archaeology: From "archives" we trace the "shaping" of the notion of fairness; archives are past storehouses of ideas regarding fairness. To understand a popular idea; one had to understand what was marginalised for fairness to become prevalent; so how was "black" constituted as the "other" of fairness!

(b) Genealogy: we historicise "fairness" and see how different historical periods "constituted" different notions of fairness.

(c) Technologies: means or tools of mediation that governed the notions of fairness (disciplinary measures from institutions and from self)

(d) Power: relationship between legislators of taste (positions) and followers (no positions); it is this relationship that has problematised the position of the "oppressor" and the "Victim". Decentralization of power and authority (HR; OB; PPM) is one of the greatest antecedents of Foucault's power concept [or is it vice versa?]: power lies in the relationship! And if power lies in the relationship, one does not study positions as intrinsic entities any more in OB and HR; one studies relationships between hierarchies; power is in the negotiations; power can be circulated; it is not stagnant. Networking in MNCs!

Relationship between IIMC and the industry: IIMC has resisted use of PR, as compared to the other IIMs for years. Slowly the institute is coming to terms with the market, but very slowly! The industry behaves like the superstar; who wants academics to research as per industry demands (write specific scripts for them); the academicians like to be independent script writers who want actors from the industry to implement them; this negotiation between industry and management academia is an ongoing negotiation of what should be done! The power lies in this ongoing negotiation; not in the industry or in the academia per se (Marx would have said it is the market; Foucault does not; he says power lies in the negotiation process)!

Interestingly, most works in Caste issues have centred around the marginal "dalits" and not really about the Brahmins; most race issues have centred around the marginal "blacks", not really the whites. And these studies have been made by whom?

(a) Discourse: Discursive practice addresses the processes by which cultural meanings are produced and understood.

(b) Social realities are linguistically/discursively constructed.

(c) context-bound nature of discourse

(d) meaning is negotiated in interaction, rather than being present once-and-for-all in our utterances [something that is happening continuously in the AASCOM class)

Instead of focusing on how things "really" are or should be, we attend to how concepts [truth and morality, say] are established, negotiated, maintained, and challenged in discourse. So, for example, the question of whether morality is absolute or culturally relative is put aside in favour of an analysis of how morality is invoked and negotiated in discourse.

(a) Methodologically, such practices depend on observation (and, when possible, mechanical recording), rather than surveys, questionnaires, or experiments [ethnography in consumer research].

(b) It treats common sense as a topic for analysis rather than a taken-for-granted analyst's resource.

Derrida and Deconstruction:

Meaning-making: Fixing the play of binary opposites. Centres fix, freeze the play between binary opposites. What does this mean?

(a) Man/Woman

(b) Spirit/Matter

(c) Nature/Culture

(d) Caucasian/Black

(e) Christian/Pagan

According to Derrida, we have no access to Reality except through concepts, codes and categories, and human mind functions by forming conceptual pairs. Centres in structures privilege one side of a pair, and marginalise the other.

The face/candle picture: we see one side of the possibility; but if the play of the system is not arrested, we see another meaning emerging: the candle. But when a Centre takes over; the play is frozen or arrested!

Deconstruction is a way of reading, which makes us aware of the centrality of the system; then subverts the central term so that the marginalised becomes central.

How mournfully the wind of

Autumn pines

Upon the mountainside as day


For thousands of years, the only correct way of reading the poem is to read "pines" as a verb – pining

But what about:

How mournfully the wind of Autumn pines

Upon the mountain "side" [mountain – (if spoken) sighed] as day Declines

It completely changes the meaning!

Meaning making comes from "deferring" and "differing":

When Steve Jobs said: Think Different; grammatically he is wrong! Sprite has worked its tag lines and ads through subversion. A course that will float in the next term: corporate social irresponsibility is (as far as the name goes) subversive!

Derrida makes the biggest claim: subversion is a political act; so Sprite is political in its use of subversive language! And language by virtue of being language is naturally politically subversive.

See the deconstruction of Obama's commencement speech [very drastic, but you get an idea]:

Cyberpunk as subversion [I am sorry I did not do this in the class]



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