Ambivalence of transgression: building on Michel Foucault's approach of power in organization
Fillol, Charlotte (2008-08), Ambivalence of transgression: building on Michel Foucault's approach of power in organization, Academy of management, 2008-08, Anaheim, États-Unis
TypeCommunication / Conférence
Conference titleAcademy of management
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Abstract (EN)The aim of this paper is to understand how rebellion is an ambivalent phenomenon in organization which alienates and liberate at the same time. Michel Foucault’s approach of power in organization is used to determine the distinctive characteristic of this special kind of rebellion. Two opposite conceptions of rule and transgression seem to dominate today. We argue that the work of Michel Foucault proposes another vision of compliance and rebellion causes and effects. Those characteristics are then confronted with our case study of a nuclear electricity plant. In our study we focus on a special kind of rebellion: rule transgression, that is to say action that contradicts the official rule (e.g., laws, internal rules, superior’s orders) or norms (often tacit meta-rules). We found evidence of transgression practices known by everyone (management and subordinates), tacitly tolerated, but not explicitly recognized. Those practices are freely realized by workers and motivated by the desire to accomplish the task. But at the same time, such practices may be interpreted as risk transfer devices luring workers into illusory freedom. Accomplishing daily transgressions, workers actually endorse all risks of failure and accident as official rule remains the reference. Rebellion is thus producing a surreptitious dependence of the workers from their superiors. To conclude, our paper seeks to complete the narrow critical approach of rebellion and compliance in organizations. Rebellion and compliance must not be seen as homogeneous devices of liberation or alienation, but as ambivalent political tools for actors in organizations.
Subjects / Keywordstransgression; power; transgression; pouvoir
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