Struggling over subjectivity: A discursive analysis of strategic development in a group

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Title: Struggling over subjectivity: A discursive analysis of strategic development in a group
Author: Vaara, Eero; Laine, Pikka-Maaria
Abstract: We have seen growing interest in discursive perspectives on strategy. This perspective holds great promise for development of an understanding on how strategy discourse and subjectivity are intertwined. We wish to add to this existing research by outlining a discursive struggle approach to subjectivity. To understand the complex subjectification and empowering/disempowering effects of organizational strategy discourse, this approach focuses on organization-specific discourse mobilizations an various ways of resistance. Drawing on an analysis of the discourses and practices of ‘strategic development’ in an engineering and consulting group we provide an empirical illustration of such struggles over subjectivity. In particular, we report three examples of competing ways of making sense of and giving sense to strategic development, with specific subjectification tendencies. First, we show how corporate management can mobilize and appropriate a specific kind of discourse to attempt to gain control of the organization, which tends to reproduce managerial hegemony, but also trigger discursive and other forms of resistance. Second, we will illustrate how middle managers resist this hegemony by initiating a strategy discourse of their own to create room for manoeuvre in controversial situations. Third, we show how project engineers can distance themselves from managerial-initiated strategy discourses to maintain a viable identity despite all kinds of pressures. Although our examples are case-specific, we believe that similar discursive dynamics also characterize strategizing in other organizations.
Date: 2007-01
Subject: discourse
discourse struggle

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