Heterotopian Studies

I found an interesting Blog that is devoted to Foucault’s notion of heterotopia. The Blog-owner describes the site in the following way:

“The site is devoted to Michel Foucault’s ideas on heterotopia. Foucault outlines the notion of heterotopia on three occasions between 1966-67. A talk given to a group of architects is the most well-known explanation of the term. Overall, Foucault attempts to describe certain relational principles and features of a range of cultural, institutional and discursive spaces that are somehow ‘different’:  disturbing, intense, incompatible, contradictory or transforming. In a nutshell, heterotopias are worlds within worlds, mirroring and yet upsetting what is outside. Foucault provides examples: ships, cemeteries, brothels, prisons, gardens of antiquity, fairs, Turkish baths and many more.

Writers, artists, fim makers, performers, academics and many others have shown an interest in heterotopia. The web seems a particularly apt place to explore Foucault’s diverse notion of ‘different spaces’.  Rather than trying to draw together a definitive understanding of this curious spatial concept, the site will explore its possibilities, limitations and dangers.

The site offers thorough on-going bibliographies, background information and resources, which are updated through my blog, a selection of personal reflections and essays and some of my own specific studies of sites related to gardens and cemeteries.

Aiming to be the hub of a network of contributions, please add comments to individual pages and my blog and  send in your own text and suggested links. If you have written essays, dissertations or theses on different spaces, heterotopia or any linked concept and would like them published on the website, do send in a copy. It is a chance to get your work read by others with a similar interest and research focus.”

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Deconstructing the Organizational Behavior Text

“Although the pedagogy of organizational behavior (OB) has made some progress in addressing gender, racial, and cultural diversity in the past decade, it remains essentially noncritical-politically, economically, socially, and ecologically. It continues to uphold positivist conventions, reinforce modernistic illusions of objectivity, and resist reflexivity. This article advocates that OB pedagogy in method and content, in particular teaching that involves the textbook as a basis of instruction, becomes more reflexive and self-critical, more aware of its presuppositions, interests, and limitations. This article demonstrates a postmodernistic strategy to counter the overly totalizing and positivist currents in OB teaching and texts—the deconstruction of taken-for-granted assumptions and principles. To this end, one of the top-selling textbooks in OB is subjected to deconstruction. The case for deconstruction as a potentially powerful classroom tool, an active and inclusive learning strategy that encourages readers to engage in dialogue with OB teachers and the authors of OB texts, is made.”

Abstract from: Debra J. Summers, David M. Boje, Robert F. Dennehy, Grace Ann Rosile (1997) Deconstructing the Organizational Behavior Text. Journal of Management Education, Vol 21, Issue 3, pp. 343 – 360

I know that quite a few of you might think about this text as being a bit old and, hence, probably also outdated. However, I would argue: NO, IT ISN’T! Looking at the newer edition of the textbook that the authors deconstruct or on any other of the more traditional OB textbooks, I would say that these books continue to be “noncritical-politically, economically, socially, and ecologically”. Of course, OB textbooks nowadays write about gender, minorities (at least some of them do), environmental issues, or inequality. However, they subordinate these aspects under the premise to provide students with an overview of instrumental knowledge to be used to make capitalist for-profit organisations more efficient. Once the students become managers they should remember and apply this knowledge to promote the idea of capitalist production and managerial governance of corporations, thereby perhaps reinforcing students to uphold and strengthen the conditions that causes the social and environmental problems that we face nowadays. If this sounds too ‘leftist’ for you, let me put it differently. Traditional OB textbooks are not at the forefront of promoting alternative thinking among management students. Therefore, if these textbooks continue to be uncritical, how could we expect that our students would be able to address the problems that our planet currently faces?

Posted in capitalist economy, Change, Critical pedagogy, Critical thinking, Management, Teaching | Leave a comment

Speaking of Social Class…

Are you living in the UK and work as a cleaner, a caretaker, a retail cashier, or in a leisure and travel service occupation? If this is the case then according to the study of Savage et al. (2013) you may belong to the class of the precariat, the social class that is located at the bottom of their new model of social class.

From the abstract of their article we learn the following about the model: “We demonstrate the existence of an ‘elite’, whose wealth separates them from an established middle class, as well as a class of technical experts and a class of ‘new affluent’ workers. We also show that at the lower levels of the class structure, alongside an ageing traditional working class, there is a ‘precariat’ characterised by very low levels of capital, and a group of emergent service workers.” (p. 220)

Referring to my last blog entry and, hence, to Guy Standing’s thoughts on the precariat, being located at the bottom one might experiences challenges with regard to the development of an occupational identity, i.e. an identity that receives its meaning and value from the persons principle work. Due to the high degree of employment flexibility that is demanded from them, Standing argues, members of the precariat do not have the opportunity to belong to a community where norms and standards are developed and transmitted from generation to generation. Lack of community, however, prevents the development of feelings of social belonging in the present and for the future. Moreover, with the precariat we might see an instrumental employment orientation developing because the jobs that they have do not mean more to them than just a means to earn a living. As a consequence, a work-related identity may emerge that is grounded in self-interest and an instrumental (probably also opportunistic) orientation without much care for others or solidarity. This, however, is dangerous as in the long run, members of the precariat may turn into lone wolves, only fighting for themselves as individuals, as well as praising individualism and egoistic gains, what would lead into a future for our workplaces and our society that I certainly would not embrace.

Returning to Savage et al., the authors claim that 15 percent of the population in Britain belongs to the class of the precariat. “This is economically the poorest class, with a household income of only £8k, negligible savings, and they are likely to rent.” (p. 243). For these people, life means not only to be poor in economic terms but also to have very low scores on every other criterion, such as social contacts or highbrow cultural capital. I believe that hardly anyone of us would regard this to be a life to embrace. Moreover, if 15 percent of a country’s population has to life under such conditions this, and here I borrow again one of Standing’s arguments, cannot be sustainable in economic and social terms.

In turn, if you work as chief executive offices, marketing and sales director, judge, or financial managers, according to Savage et al.’s model, you may very well belong to the elite and therefore score very high on economic capital, high on social capital, and again very high on cultural capital. All these features, one can easily observe, can be translated in a number of further advantages, including a reasonable amount of economic, legal and social power. Therefore, as Savage et al. put it “Our findings thus clearly demonstrate the power of a relatively small, socially and spatially exclusive group at the apex of British society, whose economic wealth sets them apart from the great majority of the population.” (p. 235).

Savage, M. et al. (2013). A New Model of Social Class? Findings from the BBC’s Great British Class Survey Experiment. Sociology, 47(2), pp. 219-250.

Posted in human wealth, inequality, precariat, social class | Leave a comment

The Precariat. A New Dangerous Class

In this video clip, Guy Standing introduces what he believes constitutes a new class, the precariat. He argues that this class constitutes the new underclass in Western societies that is just above the poor but still  below the proletariat. He argues that the precariat, i.e. “people who are being habituated to internalize and accept a life of unstable labour and unstable living”, lacks  rights and labour security. However, he also sees potential in the precariat, once it will develop a self-consciousness as a class. In a nutshell: The precariat may have the potential to initiate societal change, which is the same potential that was ascribed to the  proletariat during the last century. Taking history into account, however, I am not sure to what extent the proletariat was able to realize this potential. Therefore, we will have to wait and see if the precariat will be able to do any better.



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Retention and re-integration of older workers into the labour market: What works?

I just found this study from Regina Konle-Seidl. She compares five countries – Germany, France, the Netherlands, Norway and Austria – pursuing the interest to identify what works best to retain employment for older workers and to re-introduce unemployed older workers to the labour market.

Her you can download the full text of her study: http://www.iab.de/en/publikationen/discussionpaper/publikationendetails-discussion-paper.aspx/Publikation/k170516301


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There is a cost when we care

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New Books on Gender Studies and Critical Social Theory

The other day I received a notification from Sage that there are two new books available, which – according to my opinion – could be interesting for critical OB teaching.

Posted in Critical thinking, gender | Leave a comment