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Critique in the name of what? Postmodernism and critical approaches to organization.

`Good old Baudrillard! For that I think he should be sent there. With a toothbrush and a can of Evian, or whatever it is he drinks.' (Edward Said's response to being told that Baudrillard felt the gulf war was a hyper-real non-event, Radical Philosophy 1993: 32)


The aim of this paper is to assess the contribution of the debates stimulated by postmodernism to the development of a critical theory of organizations. I will argue that postmodernism is a dangerous, and potentially disabling set of ideas for critical organization theorists to adopt. This is because I believe that any emancipatory project is not well served by giving up entirely on notions of `truth' and `progress'. This is a polemical paper and I am aware that many of the assertions made require development, more extensive reference and qualification. This brief intervention is intended to stimulate debate and consequently if readers are provoked into a response, this will be welcomed.

In what follows I will be broadly assuming an understanding of the epistemological issues raised within writings concerned with postmodernism and organization (see Cooper and Burrell 1988; Burrell 1988; Cooper 1989; Power 1990; Gergen 1992; and Hassard and Parker 1993). That being said, I must first sketch my 'ideal type' of postmodernism very briefly. I suggest that the key problem raised by postmodernists is the impossibility of having certain knowledge about 'the Other' (person, organization, culture, society). If it is accepted that there are no stable foundations for analyzing slippery language and shifting symbols, which is the only `data' we ever have, then there is no guarantee of the certainty of anything at all. This is much like the Cartesian reduction to `I think therefore I am' as the only foundation -- all else. may be delusion by an evil demon (Williams 1978). However, unlike Descartes, postmodernists go on to argue that this means that `knowledge' is not a grail which is really worth searching for since `people', `organizations' and so on are only ever flickering phantoms which will inevitably melt away under the harsh gaze of any arrogant theorist. Hence `truth' (about organizations, or anything else) is a modernist conceit that should be replaced with more modest knowledge claims and descriptions. Put like this, I think that the issues raised for a theory of organizations boil down to one 'simple' question. Do you/we ever want to claim that you/we could ever have all the answers about organizations and organizing? If you answer yes, then you are a comprehensive or systematic modernist, a species given a fairly thorough critique by many organization theorists as well as much of twentieth century philosophy and social science. If you answer no, then you are either (following Lyotard et al.) a postmodernist or (following Habermas) a `critical modernist' -- neither claim that truth is a grail that can be reached -- though they differ greatly about whether the quest is worthwhile. In this paper I am going to argue, contra Cooper and Burrell (1988), that you do not need the postmodern label to be humble about your truth claims -- versions of modernism will do fine. Further to this, I am going to argue that critical modernism provides a far more powerful reason to write about organizations at all, a political intent that seeks to continually interrogate the means and ends of organizing for defined ethical-political purposes. Postmodernists might be correct about the dangers of assuming that I write the truth, but they do not give me a clear reason for wanting to write at all -- and I do.

My intent is to establish clear theoretical grounds for critical-radical studies of organization, most clearly represented in the United Kingdom at the moment by the labour process and related debates. Yet the labour process 'tradition' is, for me, simply one (neo-Marxian) element in a strand of theory and analysis that focuses on inequalities and injustices in organizations and society with the intent to understand and change them. The fact that Bravermanian versions of the labour process tend to privilege socio-economic class over gender, age, sexuality, disability and so on is a shortcoming that points to the need for a wider conception of critique. Indeed this is an implicit stance of many more recent labour process and critical theory writings, particularly those that look at the relation between subjectivities, agencies and structural constraint (Thompson and McHugh 1990; Knights and Willmott 1990; Reed 1990; Knights and Morgan 1991; Alvesson and Willmott 1992a). My intent in this paper is to begin to provide the theoretical clarity which will allow critical-radical studies of organization to negotiate or avoid the subjectivist and relativist quagmire of postmodernism without falling into the trap of naive positivism or empiricism.

Two caveats are necessary before I continue. The first is that my targets in this piece are Lyotard, Baudrillard and self-avowed postmodernists and not post-structuralist writers such as Derrida and Foucault. This is an important point to make because, as I note below, postmodernists have a tendency to appropriate other thinkers who might be better understood and used in other ways. The conflation of post-structuralism and postmodernism is just one example of this and one that tends to conceal the sophisticated defence of critical affirmation contained within Derrida's writings in particular (see Norris 1990 and Bernstein 1991 on this point). My paper is hence aimed at those writers who express incredulity towards any narratives and not those who seek to make our critique more reflexive. I will, of course, be accused of totalizing postmodernism as if it were one school or set of ideas. My response is to note that I have consciously constructed an 'ideal type' of postmodernism as a model to guide my thought. If the reader recognizes the ideal type then it has served its purpose, if they do not then I solicit explanation of the grounds of their disagreement. The second caveat is that I do not engage directly with the ontological assertion that postmodern forms of decentred, flexible, culturally managed organizations are replacing modernist bureaucracies (Heydebrand 1989; Clegg 1990; Crook, Pakulski and Waters 1992). I am sceptical about such claims but do not develop my critique in this paper.


The twentieth century post-Wittgensteinian linguistic turn has established that naive positivism or empiricism has clear limits for the social sciences. We can never know all there is to know, we cannot predict with any accuracy and we have no special claims to knowledge over and above that of the participants themselves (Winch 1958; Feyerabend 1975; Hollis and Lukes 1982). As Rorty puts it, the mind is not the mirror of nature, there are no privileged representations and what we call truth is no more than a name for a historically located practice of justification (1979). Any student of interpretive social science from the 1960s onwards learnt the critique of naive empiricism and the game of exposing the hidden ideological position, semiotic code or hermeneutic closure. The contemporary version of this relativist social constructionism is postmodernism, a position that is premised on continually exposing the contradictions at the heart of any grand narrative claims to foundations for truth (Lyotard 1984). But what is the point of this highly sophisticated unmasking and where does it take us? Gregory Elliott acidly parodies the 'crippling performative contradictions' of postmodernism.

`Today, to assign class an explanatory status is to invite the charge of "classism"; to posit a social totality (never mind a global system) with organising principles, that of "essentialism" ("economism", should -- ultimate sin -- one of them be economic); to assign causal priority (misconstrued as exclusivity) to anything, that of "reductionism"; to invoke history, that of "historicism"; to mention science -- without scare quotes -- that of "scientism"; and as far as objective knowledge, well, it is known to be passe (undesirable, even were it attainable).' (1993: 4)

Following the implications of Elliott's polemic, and as I have suggested elsewhere (Parker 1992a), if we decide that all matters are relative it seems incumbent on us to either stop writing, on the grounds that nothing we say has any particular importance, or re-establish new grounds from which to pursue our practice if we still believe it to be valuable.

First, however, it seems necessary to briefly assess the hard social constructionist claim that nothing but language, metaphor and discourse shapes our world -- a central, if rarely explicit, element in postmodern epistemologies. Unlike my ideal type postmodernist I will argue that social constructionism is not an entirely adequate account. I suggest that there are limits to the power of human definition -- just because someone claims that this journal is made of green cheese does not mean that it is. This is, of course, an assertion that I cannot support. It is a metaphysical proposition that I have made with a leap of faith and involves many assumptions about the meaning of words and things like `cheese' and `journal'. I simply state it because, to me, it seems a sensible reflection of my own beliefs and experience. Stating this thesis more generally, I do not believe that the world is infinitely pliable and would want to assert that physical, biological and social constraints exist in a real sense outside of whether I want them to or not. Samuel Johnson's response to Bishop Berkeley's arguments was to kick a stone and exclaim 'I refute it thus' (Hospers 1990: 64), and I am attracted to such brazen dismissals of subjectivism even if they are full of philosophical holes. Whilst solipsism is rarely explicitly argued, it clearly underwrites much of postmodernism and seems to me to be counterintuitive. However, we must also accept that there are lots of different ways of describing stones depending on where you are standing, who you are describing them for and why you are doing it in the first place. Whilst the choice between these descriptions can never be absolute -- the final word is never possible -- that does not disqualify us from attempting to argue for the most convincing explanation for a particular purpose or from suggesting that the stone exists in some metaobservational sense.

However, organizations are not like stones. As every critic of Frederick Taylor knows, the organizational world is not like the natural world and cannot be kicked, tested or measured in an uncomplicated way. Yet to suggest that organizations exist only as shifting and indeterminate webs of meaning also seems to be counter-intuitive. The organization that I work for has a physical and temporal solidity for me and, I would assert, all those who come into contact with it. While each of my coorganizer's perceptions of this solidity will be different, there are clear patterns. Cooks, teachers, administrators, managers, porters and students do not all agree on everything about this organization, but they agree on some things and differ on others in a fairly systematic way. To argue otherwise would be to deny the possibility of social organization (and hence organizational sociology) at all. My male academic story about the University of Keele will clearly be different from that of the woman who cleans my office, but that does not mean that we would not also have common differences or even different commonalities. Most importantly, our beliefs and practices affect each other and the world(s) we inhabit -- we are not islands, but participants in the construction of social organizational patterns. Simply put, my assertion is that language may be the medium for all forms of enquiry into that social world, but it does not follow from that premise that language is all that there is.

Yet even this limited empiricism leads me to the conclusion that there is no final description of the world, though there are limits on credible descriptions. However, it does not follow from this that we should therefore stop attempting to describe anything other than our own experience -- what Lyotard calls petit recits rather than grand recits. Against this I wish to argue that big stories, grand narratives, are still worth telling, partly because that is how we do theory in both practical and academic arenas as our way of organizing and understanding the social world and partly for ethical-political reasons which I will explain in the next section. Truth/knowledge in the sense I am sketching becomes the attempt to sustain inter-subjective agreement -- not the end of enquiry but a temporary consensus on what is important in a particular situation at a particular time. Here we encounter a linguistic problem in that `truth' is usually seen as a state, and I am arguing that it is better seen as a necessary social process. To paraphrase William Thomas, if people define things as true, they are true in their consequences (Jary and Jary 1991: 660) or, as Richard Bemstein puts it, the aim of philosophy should not be to find the fixed Archimedian point from which we can watch the world rotate around us. Instead we should attempt to develop and sustain a dialogue based on mutual respect and the willingness to have one's views altered (Bemstein 1983). This version of truth is not a final totalizing narrative, but I would argue that it is a narrative nonetheless. It is a story told to convince someone that the world can profitably be seen like this. However, like all convincing stories, it needs to sit within what we, as embodied social animals, can do, see and think. The physical, biological and social constraints that I have asserted exist mean that any account will not do because certain narratives do not, and cannot, correspond with the way that subjects perceive the world acting upon them and their action upon the world. Keele University will not double my wages simply because I define it so, but I, and the cleaner, can hold a wide variety of views on the salary I do receive. This may be a weak definition of truth but I wish to argue that it is infinitely preferable to giving up on the concept altogether. The abyss of relativism, or the silence of the archive, seems to beckon the analyst who refuses this conversation at all.

Ethics and Politics

However, I do not believe it is enough to stop here with a form of qualified empiricism as if all that is at stake here are arguments about the relative reification or abstraction of journals, stones or organizations. As the linguistic turn suggests, our accounts and understandings of the world make a difference to the way that the world is and might be. Hence, following an epistemological argument with an ethical one, we have a responsibility to be clear about why we wish to tell a particular story in a particular way and that is essentially the arena of politics or Aristotle's `practical rationality' (Bernstein 1983). This is my second leap of faith and, again, I can offer no proof I simply state that if, by writing or speaking, we define the world in a particular way which is circumscribed by our idiosyncratic human interests then the intent of the analysis should be clear. What do we think the world is like now? If we are unhappy with some aspect of it, what do we want the world to be like? As with any critique we must be asking ourselves `critique in the name of what?' (Bernstein 1991). Postmodernists have clear difficulties with such a formulation since their stress on avoiding totalization or closure leads to the disavowal of any meta-theoretical ethical or political claims. `Resistance' for postmodernists is the aestheticization of irony, the art of relativizing the assumptions of the other, a critique for the sake of critique in which even consumption or passivity can be defined as resistance. I do not find such an umbrella definition very helpful or convincing. Instead I would argue that ethics and politics are essentially ways of saying `I think the world would be a better place if such and such were the case'. This necessarily means a disagreement or agreement with the ethical-political claims of others, a process for which postmodernists are tactically ill-equipped. How can you disagree constructively (that is to say, with the aim of building something you believe to be better) if you can offer nothing but negation or the suggestion that everybody is right in their own way?

To illustrate with a concrete example. In my research on organizations I have tried to begin from the assumption that everyone I talked to had an interesting story to tell. No one respondent had a `truer' account than any other. Male white managers are not `wrong' and female black workers `right'. Yet my ethical-political sympathies lie with the latter group because (I feel) that their rewards and power are less than the former. This leads me to interpret my data in particular ways that hypothesize the means by which (I feel) this inequality is propagated and justified. I am unhappy with this state of affairs and believe that it can be changed. Hence I will argue that the organization can be seen like this (as an unequal power structure) and not like something else (a consensus for everyone's benefit) but that it could be changed to something different, something I define to be better. If you disagree with me, I will keep trying to persuade you and others to think as I do, on the assumption that the more people who share my concerns the more likely it is that something will be done about them. How else could I justify doing my research at all?

Of course I have slipped over many problems here, not least whether the female black worker wants me to `liberate' her. The postmodernist might agree or disagree with aspects of the foregoing, but my central point is that some political, theoretical, ethical positions are wrong and others are right. I do not assert this as an epistemological certainty, but as a practical necessity and a moral responsibility. I simply do not see how debate about organization is possible otherwise. I am not prepared to stop with the assumption that the CBI, government minister or the Vice Chancellor of my University is as justified to their truth as a Trade Union, coal miner or University office cleaner. Somewhere in my analysis I have to leap from the convenient (but philosophically unchallengeable) distance of postmodern relativism to what I think is happening, and what I think might be possible. To restate the point, how else can I assert that what I am doing is worthwhile at all? One of the problems here is that the presentation of modernism as the precondition for running the trains on time to the death camp has done much to obscure its radical elements. If modernism is only a totalizing attempt to impose rationalized values (Habermas's instrumental rationality) then its usefulness as political critique is clearly limited. However, I wish to argue that there is a danger of presenting a parody of post-enlightenment thinking that neglects its element of interrogation and critique (Habermas 1987; Tsoukas 1992; Reed 1993; Thompson 1993). Reflective or critical modernism is as good a term as any to capture this, but the problem is really that postmodernists have themselves totalized at least four centuries of post-enlightenment thought under one pejorative label. Moreover, when convenient, it is allowable to further unify this fictive consensus by claiming that certain styles of thought -- surrealism, Nietzsche, situationism, late Wittgenstein, Weber -- are actually (proto) postmodernist as well. Surely a body of social thought that produced critical thinkers as diverse as Gramsci, Gadamer, Simmel and Bakhtin and movements as diverse as feminism, anarchism, Marxism and existentialism can hardly be said to lack its reflective side -- unless one argues that they were all postmodernists too?

However, I do not believe that it is sufficient to argue that this critique is a central element of the Western cultural tradition and then assume that it will always be so -- this would be a recipe for dangerous smugness. As Norris (1990), Bemstein (1991) and Linstead (1993) point out, this is the implication of Rorty's earlier version of liberal irony -- that the 'conversation of the West' and capitalist democracy are assumed to provide the necessary conditions for any and all critique (1979, and see also Fukuyama 1992). It seems to me that a comprehensive/systematic modernism has all too often been dominant and unquestioned and that any body of thought, whether we choose to call it modernism or not, needs continual radicalizing in order that different stories can be told. How else would issues which have been historically marginalized (gender, ethnicity, global inequality, environmental degradation and so on) find their way onto the organizational theorist's agenda which has so far been conducted between white middle-class `first world' men? What is required is that ethical-political critique should be defended against the postmodernist attempt to place all productive disagreement in question and also against the dangers of uncritical modernism. This is the implicit position behind many of the contributions to Alvesson and Willmott's recent collection -- a Habermasian intent to establish the possibility of emancipation (1992a, see also 1992b). It also seems to inform Giddens' formulation of `utopian realism', a commitment to attempting to steer the juggernaut of modernity to a morally informed destination (1990: 154). These are responses that do not only apply to postmodernism, but to any form of thought that seeks to continually relativize without placing anything in its stead. If the dominant mood of the late twentieth century is aesthetic irony, I would wish this to be replaced with a mid-twentieth century existential passion and engagement on the grounds that it is difficult to speak clearly when you have your tongue thrust firmly in your cheek. Because of this, I will certainly be accused of `humanism', and possibly also the greater sin of `bourgeois humanism', but unless I act (and write) as if I were an individual capable of making choices then I do not understand how I can treat others with the respect I accord to (my)self -- however ontologically fictive that self might be.

Going back to my earlier examples, and to reiterate the central theme of this paper, what are the implications of this polemic for me when I consider the University of Keele as an organization? As a self titled, critical modernist I must be clear that I believe that this organization is malleable, since the iron cage is made by people it can be unlocked by people. Areas on which I might focus, with the aim of pointing to (what I believe to be) oppressions, are the reproduction of inequalities of gender, sexuality, ethnicity, disability, age and socio-economic class. This will require that I attend to the distributions of space, status, reward and power and the symbolic and material practices that exclude, include and discipline members and clients. In addition, it is necessary that I recognize that the organization has a place in a local, national and global economy of finance and knowledge that acts as a set of structural pressures on the practices of local authorities, potential employers, government departments and transnational organizations. In case I am misunderstood, I wish to stress that I will not claiming that this must be the agenda for all critical modernists. This is my agenda and it reflects the problems that I view as important, but I list them here as issues for debate not as a manifesto for a totalizing modernist project. Mine is not the only story about the organization but, precisely because it is as potentially valid as anyone else's, it is worthy of debate. I put it forward to persuade in the hope that if we can begin to agree on the problems then we can begin to formulate acceptable solutions for the problems we have already defined and may wish to redefine in the future. As Alvesson and Willmott (1992b) put it, a relevant critical theory of organizations must be both pragmatically compromised and reflexively attentive to projects of microemancipation -- an attempt to wrest the politics of the possible from postmodernist nihilism and totalizing modernist certainty.

Consequently, I have a clearly articulated reason to write about organizations which allows me to borrow from, and critique, both sides of this seemingly unbridgeable divide. I cannot agree with postmodernists that 'anything goes' because I think it is a politically dangerous standpoint as well as having epistemological flaws. Yet neither can I agree with systematic modernists that I, or anyone else for that matter, can ever have the final solution for exactly the same reasons. If truth is seen as temporary consensus then debate about values becomes central and the 'escape route' of postmodernism merely an excuse for leaving the choices to others. If the organization theorist is clear about the intended implications of their narratives, then they can begin to navigate between the Scylla of relativism and the Charybdis of objectivism (Bemstein 1983), between saying nothing and saying everything. Where we go from there becomes a matter for moral and political choice. We must not give up on the possibility of progress, but neither must we believe that progress means the same thing to everyone. In other words, we must be continually attentive to severing the, admittedly suggestive, link between epistemological relativism and moral relativism (Hollis and Lukes 1982: 5-6).


This short polemic grew out of an enthusiasm for, and fascination with, postmodern ideas. For a while they seemed to me to represent the cutting edge of social theory and had particularly interesting applications for the study of organizations. However, after writing an article that attempted to outline the choices to be made, without making one myself (Parker 1992a), seeing it used for purposes I had not intended (Thompson 1993), and critiqued on grounds that I agreed with (Tsoukas 1992), 1 felt I had to get off the fence (Parker 1992b, 1993). I may not be able to control the reception of this text but I can at least make the message clear for my purposes and hope that others will engage with me on similar terrain. This is clearly an ethical-political line and my meta-narrative is showing but I cannot, in good conscience, write without accepting the arrogant implication that organizations can be improved and that my words might help. Only then can we start to discuss the problem of `who benefits' and how things might be changed.

One response to the argument developed above might be to suggest that I am actually putting forward a reasonably postmodern manifesto myself and have spent most of the paper merely worrying about labels. Watson (1993), for example, uses the term 'soft postmodernism' in a very similar way to that in which I have used 'critical modernism', and Willmott (1992, 1994) distinguishes critical postmodernism from Baudrillardian hypermodernism. I accept that I may indeed be worrying too much about terminology -- words are usually just tokens, after all -- but would want to suggest that, in this case, the labels are important indicators of divergence. Certainly all knowledge is 'interested' and provisional -- that is my epistemological a priori (though with certain empiricist caveats). Yet postmodernists appear to stop there, celebrating the impossibility of the enlightenment emancipatory project. As Craib aphoristically comments, this is akin to 'throwing a sort of intellectual tantrum: because if I can't have it all, then I won't have any of it' (1992: 249). My version of this tantrum is to assert that this forces us into an ethical-political debate about emancipation itself. If some choose to call that postmodernism, I cannot prevent it, but it is not a reading of the term I find very consistent with the 'ideal type' of postmodernism that I have put forward here.

To summarize, I believe that a 'hard' postmodern epistemology is essentially a way of avoiding responsibility for the implications of organizational analysis. Forms of relativism may be philosophically impenetrable but they are not useful, merely a way of being more 'heteroglossic' than the next theorist. Surely the purpose of any good theory is not only to relativize the world, but to critique it in the hope of changing it. It then becomes incumbent on us to be clear about what aspects of organizations we wish to change and what our intended outcome might be. Suggestive metaphors and linguistic play are simply not enough (Morgan 1986; Gergen 1992; Burrell 1992). This need not mean the imposition of a 'blue print' for now and forever, but the acknowledgement that a concrete proposal is a good place to start any debate. In that sense I believe the postmodern epistemology to be a distraction from an analysis and amelioration of the effects of global capitalism. Such things are too important to be avoided by concentrating entirely on an epistemology that can only lead to extreme ethical--political relativism. Postmodern thinking is undoubtedly challenging and anyone who studies organizations needs to take account of its influence -- particularly its emphasis on the provisional nature of all knowledge which stimulated this paper in the first place. Yet, in my opinion, it is a set of ideas that should be treated as a grinding stone to sharpen critique and not as an excuse for avoiding it.


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Martin Parker Department of Management, Keeke University, U.K.

Organization Studies 1995, 16/4 553-564 1995 EGOS 0170-8406/95 0016-0019 $3.00

Parker's Mood'


Parker creates a dialogue between an `I' and an other. The `I' is certain, and as befits the narrative voice, heroic. This `I' knows who it is and what it wants. `You/we', the other, has a much more circumspect role to play. `You/we' is invited, almost at the outset, either to acquiesce with or to deny the veracity of the words promulgated for them by the `I'. Denial is not complete. There is the further option of acceptance within denial; one can deny modernism in its `systematic' forms while accepting it in its `critical' form. The remaining option of postmodernism is not attractive because it implies, in the words of the `I' that promulgates, nihilism, relativism, and solipsism. One not condemned by these terms would `choose' wisely, that is, would `choose' to agree.

Periodically, at key moments in the text, the `I' invites the other(s) to accept one or other of the two options outlined. Hence, one is `free' to choose in this text in only a limited and extremely bounded way. One either accepts Parker's text on his terms or condemns oneself as beyond reasonable society, that is beyond discourse, to a nihilistic wilderness of relativism and solipsism.

Round one to Parker: construing things this way, who, other than one obsessively onanistic, would want to wander such a terrain, in such company?

Parker writes because he has `clear reason' for doing so. For Parker, writing is a projection of subjective reason as if it were objective reason. The subjective reason made objective `is to establish clear theoretical grounds for critical-radical studies of organization'. These are grounds of `progress and rationality', terms that imply `truth/knowledge'. `Truth/knowledge' is established by `attempts to develop and sustain a dialogue based on mutual respect and the willingness to have one's views altered'. Previously an `I' constructed dialogue; now it is `one', a more ambiguous imprimatur. One respects the views of one as the other does ones own. Dialogue can alter views. The Old Testament injunction to do unto others as others do unto one, where one initiates action with integrity, seems appropriate.

Why should one's `truth/knowledge', or for Parker, seemingly the same thing, `ones views', alter? Presumably, a coherence theory of `truth/ knowledge' undergirds the position espoused? Perhaps this is why, where there is no consensus, there can be no truth. Parker suggests that this would be the case between `male white managers' and `female black workers'. These black and white people are rendered not in terms of identity but of typification: produce the types and, in true Schutzian style, the motives will follow. The `I' that `feels' in the narrative may then empathize or not with the homunculi thus constructed. Where the `I' does not emphasize and the other does not agree with the empathy of the `I', then `I will keep trying to persuade you and the others to think as I do, on the assumption that the more people who share my concerns the more likely it is that something will be done about them'. Egoism seemingly premises action.

The big problem with the coherence model is that, institutionally, the tools of persuasion are not always gentle. Invariably they implicate existing relations of knowledge and power. The Inquisition is a graphic premodernist example of this: more contemporary would be the modern practices of intellectual schools and discourses that function monologically, as some do, to systematically exclude `other' voices. In the interests of `progress and rationality' one may remark that the disempowerment of the latter is probably preferable to the disembowellment of the former. Most calculus, other than the utterly existential, privileges disempowerment over disembowellment. For one thing, it is retrievable: it admits of rectification for mistakes or category error. At least, it does where well-established procedures work to make truth-claims contestable. Where they do not, then error may be irremediable.

Once intellectual terms secure coherence as truth the cognitive probability of recognizing mistakes diminish. Many examples exist of this institutionalization of error - perhaps the most evident are those that have identified `reason and progress' with a particular social interest - whether it be Germanic gentiles, the revolutionary proletariat or the mystic cultural identity projected by indigenismo in whose interests Sendero Luminoso acted. In none of these cases were the techniques of persuasion gentle nor the institutionalized error easily repaired. No compelling objective reason, apart from the forces of might, violence and terror, makes one representation of `progress and rationality' any more compelling than another. A common theme emerges from these reflections. Once one considers the actually existing conditions of discourse, such questions become inescapable, as Foucault so frequently implies.

In the absence of institutionalization, the credence of what is to count as `truth/knowledge' will usually be a capricious affair at best, while, at worst, it may be bloody. However, regimes of `truth/knowledge' do become institutionalized and, on occasion, de-institutionalized. In fact, permanent revolution in thought requires institutionalized structures in reasoning in order to judge the revolutionary credentials of any pretender who claims to usurp existing knowledge.

Parker requires permanent revolution in thought. He insists on the constant radicalizing' of `any body of thought ... in order that different stories can be told'. These stories, implicitly, seem to be the `other voices' marginalized by successful modernism and retrieved by reflective and critical modernists such as Parker in their construction of what can be represented, in the terms of the subject, as `my agenda', a `story about the organization as potentially valid as any one else's'.

This provides for subjective reason to be writ large through Parker's ego: `now I have a clearly articulated reason to write about organizanitions', that allows the `I' in question to make choices about values that institutionalize `truth' as `temporary consensus'. The values are ontological: `post-modern periodization and postmodern epistemology' the `I' `believe(s)' `to be a distraction from a rigorous analysis of organization changes within global capitalism'. In the critique early in the paper of `[t]he ontological distraction' one reads that

`I am sceptical about ... claims that flexibility, de-centralization, cultural control and so on indicate the rise of a post-bureaucratic organizational form. It seems to me that these claims are unpersuasive. Certainly organizations are changing, that is an essential element in the process of organization, but there appears to be little evidence that these changes are not still centrally related to changes in global capitalism and management fashion. In other words, I see little or no evidence that "modernism" (as a historical period) is on the wane.'

The author continues in a similar vein for another paragraph without adducing any evidence, other than citation of authorities, to establish the position argued for. Inspection of these authorities, particularly Jameson (1992), in tandem with the concern for the `rigorous analysis of organization changes within global capitalism', suggests that the main criteria in registering a periodical shift are the demise and replacement of `global capitalism'.

Typically, various anti-capitalist projects define replacement. Parker works with a de-institutionalized version of `truth/knowledge'. Hence, it is unlikely that a given social theory already forms the `anticapitalism' in question. Usually, where this is the case, it typically forms in a Marxian schema. Not on this occasion, it seems. Instead, the opposition comes from `different stories' told by `other voices' retrieved by reflective and critical modernists in their construction of what can be represented as a `story about the organization ... as potentially valid as any one else's'. Explicitly, Parker does not construct this story from institutionalized other sources - to do this would be to risk accepting choices already made, in a total way, rather than to hear these other voices. Although, presumably, unless authorial egoism is a generalized capacity, other voices must partake of a limited range of language games and constitute their subjectivity in limited modes of rationality. Other than that, these voices are as egoistically voluntaristic as Parker seems to make himself in this text; or they exist merely as typified, or have their choices constrained in the same way as the fictive intellectual `other voices' do. Then there arises the issue of what makes other voices possible.

To ask where otherness comes from is to raise an institutional question. If one believes these various stories of exclusion and marginalization, that is, if they are persuasive, how does one institutionalize their `truth/ knowledge' to be `as potentially valid as any one else's'? On this there is only silence in Parker's text. Could it be that critical, reflective modernism is still hostage to demons that it thought exorcized in the flight from institutionalized `truth/knowledge'?

Like the shadow-play of another reality, many of these issues have driven debate elsewhere in reflection on the human condition, particularly in literature, and particularly in Latin American debates. Parker's critical modernism claims to relinquish the author's privilege of narrative control from above, as it were, and to allow ordinary people to be heard from below, where these voices from below usually become institutionalized in and by `new social movements' (see Williamson 1992: 562). Parker has no account of institutionalization by such movements, or any other agency. There is only the heroic individual, the `I' that narrates, in dialogue with several other effects of the text that writes.

There are several problems with this gambit of heroic individualism.

First, what Parker says is not what Parker does. What Parker does is to construct his `others' as, in a celebrated term, `cultural dopes'. This is as true of the choices that he allows his intellectual opponents as in his choice of stereotypical others. Second, Parker admits of no reason other than subjective reason as to the values and preferences that the theorist espouses. Yet, these sit in an uneasy relation with the `truth claims' of the stereotypical others: if these were to be institutionalized in a consensus whose values offend those of one's own, what is to be done?

What is to be done - this is the classical question of politics, according to Lenin, and one surfaced anew in the politics of Parker's text. Are one's subjective reasons the ultimate arbiter of truth claims? The discursive invitation seems to suggest so. How, where `various new social movements' are concerned, does one choose between those different sirens of subjective reason that promise `progress and rationality'? Think of these social movements as institutionalized in brown shirts, red flags, green labels, lilac badges, or no leather at any costs. Any inherently consensus theory probably has to account for similar questions to the above if it is to connect with the institutionalization of `truth/knowledge'.

In institutional terms the critical modernism of the Frankfurt School, the mother of all contemporary left-oriented critical modernism, was but one of several varieties available in the market place in Germany in the 1930s. Moreover, as is well known, it became an emigre school for good reason. It was severely de-institutionalized by Fascism as a political practice in favour of theory far more acceptable to the Fuhrer and the Party, theory produced by critical modernists like Schmidt. When one considers such circumstances one has reason for alarm, particularly in terms not only of the old heartlands of fascism but also in the new continents of democratic pluralism.

Parker may be right to identify the importance of `progress and rationality' but he is quite wrong in thinking that a de-institutionalized account of `truth/knowledge' is able to serve such ends. Where there is knowledge there may be provisional truth, but there will certainly be power (see

Clegg 1989). One would not know this from Parker's `critique'. At least two problems present themselves in Parker's account: the absence of an account of institutionalized `truth/knowledge', plus a residual tendency' to cast the stakes of significance for change - in terms that are by now meaningless - from `capitalism' to something else. To cast debate in these terms condemns one not only to the premature end of history but also means one will be unable to assess the significance of ontological postmodernism as a periodic and thematic discrimination within the over-arching category of capitalism. The continuity of capitalism disqualifies the possibility of the ontology of postmodernism, a priori, one might say. Consequently, it would be as well to embargo terms such as `global capitalism' as little more than a talisman of a certain political rectitude, a rhetorical flourish, fine sounding but promising far more than is delivered or can be delivered. It is more important to identify and discriminate within and between members of the total category. How are different capitalisms constructed; how do they relate to the epochs in which their characteristics were first institutionally imprinted; what is the diversity of their organization forms; what are the correlates and consequences of these? Whether one chooses to use terms such as `modernist/postmodernist' organization as a form of shorthand for these discussions thus becomes something that is more or less useful empirically rather than something to be settled by ontological a priori. Total categories of sweeping generality rarely, if ever, admit of `rigorous analysis'. Taken together with narrative devices that simultaneously claim to give as much voice as they effectively silence, there is reason, indeed, to be sceptical concerning their efficacy and functioning.

While no one could doubt the authenticity that Parker displays in the context of the essay in question, one can still have doubts about the compositional resolution of some significant themes, as this response has sought to identify. There is still much to be done and the contribution that Parker makes on this occasion functions most significantly in flagging the issues rather than in answering them. One suspects resolution is not imminent. Whether one would, on subsequent occasions, want to flag a banner bearing a sentiment such as `progress and rationality' is another matter. Where I live and write, the nature of the flag is a contentious issue. Sentimentally, such signs bear a heavy historical burden. Some have slogans written on them. The Brazilian flag, for instance, bears a legend of striking similarity to that of `progress and rationality': ordem e progresso. The contemporary regimes of institutionalized `truth/knowledge' imposed in the name of this signification should give pause for thought.

It is not only in Brazil that such slogans give pause for thought. The country in which I live has many citizens who have reason to doubt Whiggish rhetoric, particularly the indigenous inhabitants. `Progress and rationalaity', much as `order and progress', have the ring of nineteenth century political-scientific positivism about them. Such slogans premise liberal institutions of `truth/knowledge' that hardly square up with the radical jib that Parker seems to set. Best consign them back whence they came. `Progress and rationality', as a slogan, speaks of a philosophy unitarily ill-equipped to deal with contemporary organization politics of difference; politics precisely about what is progress, what is rationality.

An example from contemporary Australia, will suffice to make the point. It is difficult to presume that a slogan of `progress and rationality' could resonate easily with various aboriginal representations, green representations, union representations, shareholder representations in organizations in the mining industry. Where terrain is contested, progress and rationality invariably elude representation in harmony. Only an ontology of harmony would seem able to ground the commitments of `progress and rationality' that Parker espouses. Why should harmony be considered the ontological condition of humanity any more than discord? Less stress on necessity of either sort may be more empirically appropriate.

There are no guarantees in, or for, theory. To presume `progress and rationality' as appropriate goals for theoretical reflection seems presumptuous, almost preposterous. In the past, there have undoubtedly been many organizations dedicated to a version of `progress and rationality'. Yet, how can one be sure? Papal infallibility? The Party line? The will of the majority? The voice of reason? The force of arms? An opinion poll? Individual agreement on a face-to-face basis?

As I write these lines there is a voice-over playing on the TV-set in the comer of the room. A landlord is recounting his treatment at the hands of the victors of the Chinese Revolution under Mao. Additional accounts of the change in class relations attendant on this once compelling organization of `progress and rationality' speak of the murder of thousands, of seizures and beatings. Later I hear that 30 million peasants died as a result of the three-year famine caused by collectivization and the `great leap forward'. The implications are stark. Can the social scientist serve `progress and rationality' by taking sides? Should she? No, there are better ways to proceed, as Weber (1948) proposed in `Science as a Vocation'.

One needs to consider the possibility that the slogan of `progress and rationality', despite the expressed sentiment of its author, tends towards both the autocratic and the unreflective. Metaphorical roads to mythological destinations are reputedly paved with good intentions. The point of such aphorisms is to suggest that `good intentions' provide no guarantees against losing one's way. In theory, as in moral life.


Clegg, S. R. 1989 Frameworks of power. London: Sage.

Jameson, F. 1992 Postmodernism, or the cultural logic of late capitalism. London: Verso.

Weber, M. 1948 From Max Weber: Essays in sociology. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Williamson, E. 1992 The Penguin history of Latin America. Harmondsworth, Penguin.

Stewart R. Clegg Faculty of Business and Technology, University of Western Sydney, Macarthur, Australia

To Write, or Not to Right? ...

I enjoyed reading Martin Parker's paper, but what he has written about is, I fear, Martin Parker, creating the image of the `Angry Young Man of Organization Theory'. As the paper is written in the style of a personal statement, rather than a closely argued piece of research, it appears appropriate to comment on it in the same fashion, though to what useful purpose I am unsure. Other than increasing our `knowledge' about the author, the paper contains nothing that has not already been said. Unfortunately, this wrestling with the inner self, with the doubts about what he and the rest of us are Doing, gets in the way of rational argument. As a self-proclaimed modernist I would assume that M.P. would subscribe to the centrality of rational argument in pushing forward the boundaries of knowledge, whatever that might mean. Such reflection and argument as he has expressed is, of course, the very stuff of academic discourse, but the forum for such chest-thumping is more properly the real ale bar in the company of those other angry `young' men and women, well known to us all, but who need not be named here (by the way, count me in! . Sorry Martin, but being angst ridden and full of existential doubt about being a knowledge producer is a common complaint.

This brings me to my second, more substantive, criticism regarding the integrity of M.P.'s arguments and his attempt to rationalize his self-doubt. (Though if it works for Martin Parker, should it concern anyone else?). M.P. wants to reject the idea of Truth, but does not wish to be a relativist. I am yet to be persuaded that if we abandon Truth then there is anything beyond opinion. That is not to say all opinions are equal, but the test is surely not truth content, but what those opinions lead to - the usefulness of knowledge, its praxis. Once upon a time, scientists had the comfort of knowing that they were merely disinterested de-coders of Nature's secrets, able to so do because of their specialist training and expertise. Once we abandon this certainty of Science, then what are we left with to explain the scientist's role as knowledge producer? Two possibilities suggest themselves. Either we, as individuals, have some special ability to see what other mortals do not, and so achieve our status as knowledge producers through recognition of this skill i.e. status follows talent, OR we acquire the right to make knowledge claims as part of our job i.e. status legitimates the right to speak. If the former obtains then M.P. should not be troubled. However, he is worried about writing. He seeks some legitimation, which is what he hopes to establish in his paper. He wants there to be some purpose in his writing. He argues that if one is a relativist there is no point in writing. Minimally, the urge to write must be the urge to tell the truth (albeit with a small `t'). Well, as far as I am aware, I write because I desire to write - it is pure self-indulgence - realist or relativist - it makes no difference. Because I cannot claim any transcendental certainty for my writing, does it make it pointless? - well, not to me, obviously! If I claimed such certainty would it make it more worthwhile - even if I was claiming the same things?

In an attempt to develop his case by reference to illustration, Martin Parker seeks to establish that an organization is something beyond language. Martin and his cleaning lady, although inhabitants of different milieux, like intersecting sets, do share some common ground. Apparently, they can agree that M.P. is paid a salary, though not necessarily on its equity. However, we then move from this notion of a basic commonality, of a sharing of understanding, to arguing that all understandings are not equal - some are truer than others! Right on! But how are we to tell which? By reference to some ethical-political interest - but whose? Martin Parker or his cleaning lady, or the Vice Chancellor? M.P. wants, by argument, to persuade others that he is right. However, this suggests a perfect pluralism where all interests have access to relevant channels where they can argue their case. This totally ignores power. Are the Vice Chancellor, the cleaner and Martin Parker equal parties to the debate? If the debate is about the cleaner's conditions, which M.P. wants to improve, should he have an equal voice with the cleaner? He can put his views forward through O.S. - could the cleaner? Would M.P. argue for what the cleaner thought was equitable, or what he thought best? Is he becoming authoritarian in seeking to represent the weak - does he know best? Certainly M.P. acknowledges that the weak may not want to be championed by him, but he is going to nonetheless. Inevitably, we fall back on what M.P. thinks is right: `I simply state it because, to me, it seems a sensible reflection of my own beliefs and experience' and `... I will keep trying to persuade you and others to think like I do ...' To be sure, M.P. wants to be open about what beliefs inform his knowledge claims, but still wants to claim something transcendental: `... I cannot ... write without accepting the arrogant implication that organizations can be improved and that my words might help'. Parker makes two points. He believes, though cannot prove, in terms of epistemology, that all knowledge claims are not equal. He further believes that knowledge should be judged in terms of how it fits in with his own ethical-political belief. We are then left with two possibilities. Martin Parker is God and we should accept his view of the world, or M.P. is just another academic arguing for his own pet interest. I am sure that Martin would not claim the former, which leaves him just another writer, with an emancipatory interest, flogging his wares in the market place of academic knowledge, just like the rest of us! All we can do is keep the faith and keep plugging away. I stated at the outset that I enjoyed reading Martin's paper but what I have written since no doubt appears as unalloyed carping. I share much of Martin's concern and recognize his arguments all too well. What I cannot share is his attempt to rationalize his anxieties by recourse to seeking an intermediate position between relativism and realism, by reference to the rightness of his beliefs, and using that to justify what he does. Anyone can do that, even those who do not share his ethical-political beliefs and, on M.P.'s epistemological argument, no one could gainsay them. I also stated at the outset that I did not see much purpose in this response. If what Martin has written explains himself to himself, who am I to criticize it? I doubt if Martin's paper, or my response, contributes to an increased understanding of the world, so why bother--other than, perhaps, for enjoyment!?

Norman Jackson School of Business Management, University of Newcastle, Newcastle upon Tyne, U.K.

Writing the Wrongs

As Martin Parker says, this paper is a polemic. Whilst I have nothing against polemics per se, when their claimed intent is to 'establish clear theoretical grounds for critical-radical studies of organization'--which would be no mean achievement--it does seem important that it should be done, done constructively and done in a rigorous way. None of these characteristics are inimical to polemic, but they are not much in evidence here. The 'clear theoretical grounds, claimed seem, rather, to be compromised in this 'tantrum' by lack of consistency, lack of clarity and lack of rigour.

To start with, the argument seems to require a characterization of what is to be criticized (postmodernism) that is so broadly drawn as to make it seem rather ridiculous that anyone could have taken it seriously in the first place, whilst, at the same time, rejecting as parody such broad characterizations of that which it is sought to defend. Then, this characterization of postmodernism casts it as arguing that 'knowledge' is not a worthwhile pursuit. If I assume that the quotation marks indicate objective knowledge, then I would agree that (some) postmodernism has emphasized that the status of knowledge is an issue -- and I have always felt that the attack on epistemological absolutism was one of postmodernism's better features, although it has not been alone in doing this. However, I am not at all sure from the rest of Martin's paper that I am correct in this assumption. He does seem to argue sometimes against objective knowledge, but elsewhere he talks about real conditions, real constraints, etc. Is then the target of this paper relativism in general, or just postmodern relativism? What is the difference? Apparently, relativism is less reprehensible if one is a critical relativist -- thus, by implication, there are no critical postmodernists (though even the definition here does not actually preclude such a position). Even so, Martin wants us to accept that some things are effectively real. However, although he does not wish to address his critique to poststructuralism, this too is a 'position' which would not accept Martin's realist inclinations, and moreover, is one amongst other relativist positions which allows more theoretically consistent explanations of those aspects of social organization that he wants to call real. Martin's problem seems to be that he does not want to accept objective knowledge in general, but, all the same, he cannot quite reject it in particular. It is not uncommon these days to find organization theorists arguing for some middle ground between realism and relativism -- but where is it? How should we understand the claims of such middle ground knowledge? Is it that some bits are True, whilst other bits are only true (opinion)? Alternatively, is it all a bit True? -- which seems to be akin to being a bit pregnant! It seems to me that either it is True or it is not, and if it is not, then it is just opinion, however well-informed or persuasive; but, if we take the latter view, why does that mean that there is nothing to say? Why does relativism silence? It only silences if some other kind of knowledge is True, a classically scientistic argument.

The paper talks a lot about conversation, debate, persuasion -- which are supposed to be directed towards producing inter-subjective agreement -- and temporary consensus. There seem to be two problems here. One is the implicit assumption that it will be Martin's position around which such consensus coalesces. (Does he not believe that his beliefs are correct? Does he expect that it is his belief that will be changed, bearing in mind his conviction that some things can be called real?) The other is the implicit assumption that all critical positions will be broadly committed to the same ends as his own -- what about beliefs that are opposed to his but held with equal sincerity? How is productive debate and persuasion to operate here? Presumably, Martin would be led to argue, either that he can persuade even these to his view, or that he is not addressing such beliefs, but only those who hold similar views to his own, though they might disagree about things like the ontological status of social phenomena. However, this seems to leave him preaching to the converted and/or claiming that those whom he sees as simply wrong' do not have the ontological and epistemological fortitude of those who are 'right', and/or excluding those who are 'wrong' from this debate. The first seems self-indulgent, the second naive, the third authoritarian -- the very trait he abhors in others -- and where, oh where, is some recognition of the role of power?

The inevitable consequence of such 'middle ground' approaches is precisely this assumption that all beliefs are potentially commensurable, yet Martin himself, on the evidence of this paper at least, would seem to be the last person to make such a claim. In other words, I think that the argument presented here is inconsistent, and negligent about its own implications and consequences. The ultimate test of a knowledge claim, in my view, is its praxis; the extent to which it is capable of achieving its desired ends. Martin's polemic falters twice on this reef, firstly in terms of its own internal consistency, and secondly in terms of its practical implications for the organizational analysis he wants to be realized. Martin claims that he needs some 'clear reason' to write -- and it seems that the reason he needs is to be right, not just for himself but for us all. Well, I think I am right too, and I am someone sympathetic to the moral-ethical position Martin expresses, but I am not at all persuaded by his argument -- so where does that leave us? We all have, implicitly or explicitly, a moral-ethical position, and many of us are exercized by the ontological and epistemological status of our beliefs in the face of the comprehensive critique of absolute truth, objectivity, etc.

What disappoints me about this paper is that, despite its claims, it offers nothing new on these issues. Now we know how Martin feels about it all, but what we do not know is how this advances anything, and in terms of my own commitment to a similar moral-ethical position, I feel dismayed that the issues should be treated in such a cavalier fashion.

Pippa Carter Department of Systems and Sciences, The University of Hull, U.K.


Angry Young Man has Egoistic Tantrum

Grateful thanks to Stewart, Pippa and Norman for replying. I disagree with your varied readings of the paper, but hope that there will be more of these dialogues in journals like this one. To restrict discussions of such issues to 'chest-thumping in a bar' would be a great shame. Before clarifying my differences I have to say that there is much in the three responses with which I agree. The characterization of postmodernism was parodic: my dismissal of the ontology not grounded in evidence; my imagined reader was forced to make some stark choices; and my use of language was often imprecise. That being said, I wrote the paper as a short polemic (which inevitably leads to rhetorical short cuts) and it is a strategy I do not regret. In fact, it seems to have been very productive.

I think the most damaging criticisms relate to my subject position and my neglect of power and I will try to explain why I believe these arguments parody my own, and, in so doing, rather miss the point. What I was trying to say (probably badly) is that postmodernism in the epistemological sense is a form of relativism, and that it is a relativism that I find logically compelling. I am not trying to refute this epistemology in the sense of establishing truth (opinion) in some places but Truth (fact) in others. What I am attempting to articulate is the problematic relationship between my acceptance of a relativist epistemology (and hence ontology) and a different way of asking questions altogether -- that of ethics and politics. My reason for doing so is to establish ways for talking about power, the institutionalization of knowledge, genocide and terrorism, but with a critical intent. In other words, as I said in the paper, to break the suggestive link between epistemological relativism and ethical relativism.

Unlike Pippa Carter, I am very clear that relativism of both kinds can lead to silence. This is because it goes no further than saying what some believe to be genocide, others believe to be 'a great leap forward'. If all truths are relative, then those of the dictator deserve as much consideration as those of the victims in mass graves and the bureaucrats who keep the files. How can we justify our talk of power and powerlessness if we also acknowledge that the only thing that differentiates the two is our vision of them? The egoism of the subject position I construct for myself follows from this contradiction. I do not claim access to a transcendental Truth, to speak for others, only to state my own truth, because I wish to condemn. I feel that I have a responsibility to do this and I wish to make the grounds of that condemnation as clear as I can. I do not argue, or expect, that others will simply see the error of their ways and join me. They may wish to point the finger elsewhere, to ignore me or to silence me. I am not suggesting that I believe the world really is a debate with a vote at the end. The point is that if we fail to orient our practice to this end, then we effectively concur with disempowerment or disembowelment. I put these views forward with the willingness to have them changed by the arguments of others. I do this in the hope that others will do the same. Apart from Norman Jackson's cynical 'flogging of wares', I see no other point in writing at all. Stewart, Pippa and Norman effectively confirm much of my diagnosis in two ways. First, they engage me in debate rather than disembowelling me (at the time of writing). They try to understand what I am saying, and then they tell me their disagreements. Now I am refining my position in response. Second, they all suggest I have neglected power, which implies that they feel there is a shape to the world that can be called 'power'. Since they all espouse various forms of relativism, they cannot be claiming this as a Truth, so it must be their truth, their point of view. We all seem to be doing the same thing, arguing about our ethical-political positions. At one level, all that I am suggesting is that we should be honest about them being ours. We should be sceptical of claims that ego is speaking for others -- whether the others are discursively fashioned as an institutionalized authority ('the evidence', 'the discipline'), or a group in need of rescue ('the Chinese peasant', 'the proletariat').

To conclude, my 'critical modernism' follows from an ethical-political translation of questions I found being raised within a postmodern epistemology. I title myself 'modernist' because I am aiming at an imaginary horizon (Bauman 1992: 217), an ever moving rainbow's end that gives me a reason for my 'journey'. I add the prefix 'critical' because I do not assume that everyone has voices in the conversation I wish to initiate (that is part of my belief about what is wrong), but neither do I assume that others will automatically agree with me (because my beliefs are not theirs). Considering postmodernism from this point of view can either crystalize the responsibility of an author, or it can allow them to avoid it altogether. Since 1, and my three respondents, do seem to believe that organizations are often instruments of repression, then should we not take responsibility for those beliefs? Stewart Clegg suggests Weber's articulation of 'intellectual integrity' in 'Science as a Vocation' as a better model. Yet, in 'Politics as a Vocation' Weber suggests that a utilitarian 'ethic of ultimate ends' should be supplemented by an 'ethic of responsibility' -- 'here I stand; I can do no other' (Weber 1948: 127). In other words, recognizing the inextricability of writing and righting encourages debate about ordem e progresso by forcing us to compare the aesthetics of the flags that we all wave.

Martin Parker Department of Management, Keele University, U.K.


Bauman, Z. 1992 Intimations of postmodernity. London: Routledge. Kegan Paul.

Weber, M. 1948 From Max Weber: Essays in sociology. London: Routledge and


(*) This is a revised version of arguments put forward in Parker 1992b and 1993. It was also presented in a form similar to this at the 1993 Labour Process Conference, University of Central Lancashire. Thanks to the O.S. reviewers for their stimulating disagreements.


(1.) The original `Parker's Mood' is one of the great masterpieces of modem jazz, a powerful and evocative narrative played, in a few remarkable minutes, around a blues theme of great longing and intensity. It came to mind as I sought to compose some reflections on Martin Parker's composition at the request of the editor of this journal. No significance other than a fondness for puns and for jazz attaches to the choice of title. The occasion for this composition is another kind of `blues' (and `blue'). Other Parker's, other moods, different themes. (2.) Dare one say Marxist and modernist?
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Author:Parker, Martin
Publication:Organization Studies
Date:Sep 22, 1995
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