Judith Butler and Organization Theory
2020 will mark thirty years since the first publication of Judith Butler’s ground-breaking book, Gender Trouble. Here, and in subsequent work, Butler argues that gender and other forms of identity can best be understood as performative acts. These acts are what bring our subjectivities into existence, enabling us to be recognized as viable employable social beings, worthy of rights, responsibilities and respect. The three decades since the publication of Gender Trouble have witnessed Butler become one of the most widely cited and controversial figures in contemporary feminist thinking. While it is only in her most recent work that Butler has engaged directly with themes such as work and organization, her writing has profound implications for thinking, and acting, on the relationship between power, recognition and organization. Whilst her ideas have made important in-roads into work, organization and gender studies that are discussed here, there is considerable scope to explore further avenues that her concepts and theories open up. These inroads and avenues are the focus of this book.
Judith Butler and Organization Theory makes a substantial contribution to the analysis of gender, work and organization. It not only covers central issues in Butler’s work, it also offers a close reading of the complexities and nuances in her thought. It does so by ‘reading’ Butler as a theorist of organization, whose work resonates with scholars, practitioners and activists concerned to understand and engage with organizational life, organization and organizing. Drawing from a range of illustrative examples, the book examines key texts or ‘moments’ in the development of Butler’s writing to date, positing her as a thinker concerned to understand and address the ways in which our most basic desire for recognition comes to be organized within the context of contemporary labour markets and workplaces. It examines insights from Butler’s work, and the philosophical ideas she draws on, considering the impact of these on work, organization and management studies thus far; it also explores some of the many ways in which her thinking might be mobilized in future, considering what scope there is for a non-violent ethics of organization, and for a (re)assembling of the relationship between vulnerability and resistance within and through organizational politics.
1) Making trouble: Organizational performativity and parody
2) The organizational ‘matter’ of bodies at work
3) Un/doing organization - Coherence at the cost of complexity
4) Accounting for/in organization: Giving and working an account of one’s self
5) Organized dispossession: The organizational politics of precarity
6) Organizational (re)assemblage: Towards a plural performativity
Postscript - Organizing a/as non-violent ethics and politics
"Given the extensive referencing of Judith Butler in Organization Studies and not just within the sphere of gender, this book is long overdue and there could not have been an author more qualified to write it. Melissa provides an extensive analysis, guided not only by a lengthy engagement with Butler’s writings but also an understanding that benefits from her knowledge of authors such as Hegel, Foucault and Merleau-Ponty and their impact on Butler’s thinking. The book is framed around the distinction between the ontology of organizations that ground empirical studies (e.g., processual studies of organizations) and the organizing of ontologies wherein a whole range of conceptions of what it is to be human are organized to close off alternatives (e.g., the heterosexual matrix in the organization of social life and the foundation of the gendered organization). While every chapter in this book is a delight and extremely informative, I found particular value in the postscript which examines the developing ethics of vulnerability where it can be seen as a mode of collective resistance and solidarity. This is an essential read for social science scholars in general but especially for students of gender, work, and organization" —David Knights, Lancaster University Management School, UK.
"Organizations are not merely places where people go to work, but theatres for love and hate, identity and desire, cruelty and repetition. In this extraordinary and beautifully written book, Melissa Tyler takes on one of the most influential thinkers of the past few decades and shows why Judith Butler matters. Together, these authors make organizations into microcosms of the wider world, and propel us to think and act differently." —Martin Parker, Bristol University, UK.