The Agency of Organizing explains why the notion of agency is central to understanding what organizations are, how they come into existence, continue to exist, or fade away, and how they function. Written by leading organizational communication scholars, the chapters in this edited volume present seven different theoretical perspectives on agency in the dynamics of organizing. Authors discuss how they conceptualize agency from their own perspective and how they propose to investigate agency empirically in processes of organizing by using specific methods. Through insightful case studies, they demonstrate the value of these perspectives for organizational research and practice.
"This book presents an exciting and diverse set of approaches to agency. If we understand agency as ‘making a difference’ in the way situations unfold, this volume will certainly have agency in stimulating and shaping new lines of research in the field of organizational communication."
-Lars Thøger Christensen, Professor of Communication and Organization, Department of Management, Society and Communication, Copenhagen Business School
"This is a wonderfully edited volume of thought-provoking essays on the topic of agency in and around organizations. For some time, some of the best theorizing in organization studies has in my view been coming from the organizational communication field, and here once again the leading figures in this tradition unpack, challenge, critique, and extend established notions of agency and agency theory within management and organizational research. They push and refine our thinking on agency in many ways. If you have an interest in understanding organizations and organizational life, you simply must read this collection!"
-Joep Cornelissen, Professor of Corporate Communication and Management, Erasmus University and Associate Editor, Academy of Management Review
"Do we make our own future or are we pawns set in motion by forces we cannot control? This is an age-old question to be sure. Many of the most popular theoretical perspectives that have emerged over the past several decades to confront it have suggested that the answer is, 'both.' Clearly, that is not a very satisfactory answer. The contributors to this book dive deep into discussions of agency to begin mapping out new ways to understand our capacity to act – which often happens in conjunction with a network of other actors. Together, these insightful chapters provide us new ways to understand these old questions in an era of rapid change."
-Paul Leonardi, Duca Family Professor of Technology Management, University of California, Santa Barbara
"After reading this text, I came away impressed with the treatment of agency in all of its performative, material, constrained, individual, and collective aspects. Although the contributors are all organizational communication scholars, any organizational scientist interested in pushing the boundaries of what agency means for organizations and its members should find this book to be a valuable resource."
-Gail T. Fairhurst, Distinguished University Research Professor of Organizational Communication, University of Cincinnati
"Agency, seen in terms of this volume, helps us see how the context-bound present moment becomes real in the organization. The illustrations here allow us to envision how seeing agency differently can open up new ways of understanding the organization and its consequences."
-James R. Barker, Professor of Organizational Theory and Strategy and Herbert S. Lamb Chair in Business Education, Dalhousie University
"Theorizing is a risky business; creativity and courage are needed. The chapters in Professor Boris H. J. M. Brummans’s edited volume exhibit both at full tilt. I recommend the book for the advanced and serious student of organizational communication and organization studies."
-Ryan S. Bisel, Professor of Organizational Communication, University of Oklahoma
List of Illustrations
Foreword: Theorizing Agency by Making the Implicit Explicit
Linda L. Putnam
1. Introduction: Perspectives on the Agency of Organizing
Boris H. J. M. Brummans
2. The Distribution of Decision Rights at ICANN: A Luhmannian Perspective on Agency
3. Being Able to Act Otherwise: The Role of Agency in the Four Flows at 2-1-1 and Beyond
Joel O. Iverson, Robert D. McPhee, and Cade W. Spaulding
4. Agency in Structurational Divergence and Convergence: Insights from Nursing
Anne M. Nicotera
5. Targeting Alex: Brand as Agent in Communicative Capitalism
Dennis K. Mumby
6. Releasing/Translating Agency: A Postcolonial Disruption of the Master’s Voice among Liberian Market Women
Kirsten J. Broadfoot, Debashish Munshi, and Joëlle Cruz
7. Acting For, With, and Through: A Relational Perspective on Agency in MSF’s Organizing
8. Agential Encounters: Performativity and Affect Meet Communication in the Bathroom
Karen Lee Ashcraft and Timothy R. Kuhn
9. Conclusion: Further Theoretical and Practical Reflections on Agency
George Cheney and Dean Ritz
About the Contributors