PRE-MODERN, MODERN, POSTMODERN:
WHAT IS THE STORY?
Boje & Robert Dennehy's
Consult Managing in the Postmodern
World home page for more chapters as I get them done. There are also
plenty of cases, syllabus copies, and additional
learning materials to go with this book - D. Boje
Enough commercialism, Let the book begin:
A PRE-MODERN STORY
Pre-modern Stories and Times. In Medieval Times, before capitalism and the industrial revolution of the 1800s, organizations were sovereign citadels ruled by means of brute force and torture. The story line was subjugation, degradation of the working and peasant class by the sovereigns. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries land was taken from peasant families in order to make profit. Instead of farms and forests providing livelihood for a community, it was cut up, sectioned, and sold to provide profit to landowners. Commodification of land led to commodification of labor into larger and larger firms. Centralized monarchies taxed people to raise armies and to build ships for trade. At the same time people had a pride in their individualism, their freedom, and in their knowledge of craft. At one time skilled craftsmen after many years of apprenticeship built cathedrals, stained glass windows, crafted wood objects, the artisan quality of which cannot be duplicated by artisans of today.
Bob: I recall the pride of craftsmanship that my father demonstrated. On one occasion I helped his father install a set of pull-down attic stairs. As the task drew to a close, I suggested that the corner of the enclosure needed a small amount of plastic wood. My father was outraged. "No, my father said: "we will cut a triangular piece of wood to properly finish the job." Pride in his work would allow no compromises.
Other examples of craftsmanship exist today, but the era of the craftsman is identified with an earlier time.
Workers belonged to trade guilds and their allegiance to their trade
was greater than their allegiance to management and organization. People
worked in large crews and were expected to apprentice to learn their
craft. The worker was responsible for the work. The Protestant work ethic
dominated. People were competitive, innovative, thrifty, hard working,
self reliant, and rugged individualists. Only the fittest survived. They
were the individualistic entrepreneurs that set early merchant capitalism
apart from feudal capitalism. Unfortunately, we could not keep
entrepreneurship alive. Boje- "My dad was and is an entrepreneur. Not
willing to slave in the corporate dungeons he set out to create many
businesses. But he is the last of his kind, so I here."
As industrialization took root, craftsmen were de-skilled. Adam Smith's factory fractionated the craftsmen's work and skills. In pre-modern times, Indians were dispossessed of their lands, languages and stories. White Europeans herded them into camps and reservations. Punishment was a public spectacle. People brought lunches, prisoners performed, and the sovereign gave public lessons on the consequences of insubordination.
Slave auctions were also public rituals performed in the square on Main Street. Nations practiced slavery and serfdom. Abolition of slavery in America is a recent innovation. We can see the struggle between pre-modern slavery and modern capitalism being played out in South Africa. With the coming of the industrial revolution, socialists, unions, and communists sought to control the dysfunction of factory systems. The working classes were thought by Karl Marx to be dehumanized, alienated, and commodified by capitalism. Pre-industrial critics like Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Thomas Carlyle, Robert Sothey, William Cobbett, Thomas Hood, and Thomas Love Peacock were enemies of the industrial age.  They lost the battle and the war. The strong Protestant work ethic and the ethics of social Darwinism combined to form the survival of the fittest orientation that is the very heart of capitalism. Survival of the fittest was cruel to those who did not survive. Yet, the feudal system was benevolent to its subjects.
Note: I have had the following challenge made by Mr. Informal (president of the Thomas Love Peacock Society) concerning Peacock's work (email 14 August, 2000). I will do more research and check it out. Until then here is the challenge:
Mr. Informal makes some good points, tell him so at firstname.lastname@example.org
A MODERN STORY
Table 1.1: Modernism
Modern Stories and Times Brute force was replaced by mechanical force. People became cogs in the machine. The reformers of the pre-modern narrative were Adam Smith, Max Weber, Frederick Taylor and Elton Mayo. Adam Smith told us the story of the pin factory (how to fractionate and specialize labor to produce pins more efficiently). Max Weber told us the story of the bureaucracy (how to attain equality by formalizing, rationalizing, and specializing labor). Frederick Taylor tells the story of Schmidt, the pig iron laborer, who, if he only did his motions and timed his actions with scientific precision, could increase his production. Finally, Elton Mayo, the father of human relations, tells the story of the Hawthorne Experiments. He wanted to critique Taylorism but his social science became one more tool of modern management to make people happy while they were segmented, de-skilled, divided, specialized, and became mechanisms in the grand machine. Scientific organization classifies people into departments, functions, skill groups, levels, layers, and hierarchies. People fit into a system of little boxes, boring and repetitive jobs with no skills, a hierarchy of subordination to the moods and prejudices of superiors (Ferguson, 1984: 108). The new heroes are putting together organizations that are not segmented, highly skilled, multiplicative, generalized, and highly flexible, constantly reconfiguring, and self-designing networks. Each of the modern storylines became the motif for scientific management, a science that teaches the principles without teaching the founding narratives. It is our task here to reintroduce the original story lines, so we can reveal how the story lines are changing as we move to the postmodern interpretations.
The Modern Service and Product Bureaucracies In this era, the work ethics of the individual were replaced by collectivism through three opposing forces: Scientific Management, Bureaucracy, and Human Relations. Engineers like Frederick Winslow Taylor developed and evangelized scientific management principles to transform skilled craftsmen in large groups into unskilled workers doing very specialized tasks that are closely supervised by managers. Scientific management created the product bureaucracy. The service bureaucracy was already a reality. In both, the thinking, planning, creating, innovating, quality control aspects of work were taken away from worker responsibility and given over to staff people who did the thinking, planning, and inspecting. The best exemplar of this time period was Henry Ford. His mass production assembly line and the ensuing mass consumption model put American industry on the map. The school systems of America became training grounds to allow people to learn to be cogs in the Ford manufacturing machine as well as dutiful purchasers of Ford Motor cars. The human relation's movement, while vehemently opposed to scientific management, performed a more subtle form of modern control. In the name of science, workers were tested, examined, and measured to get them to be what William H. Whyte Jr. called a modern "organization man."  An organization man is a bureaucrat, a technocrat, and a staff person who chooses the security of the big corporation instead of the life of the innovator.
Table 1.2 A COMPARISON OF Pre-modern CRAFT ORGANIZATION WITH TWO
Education's Role. The education system, consumption system, and the productive system were complementary and synergistic. The education system fabricated workers capable of intense repetition for long intervals under direct supervision. Consider the word "industrious" the type of behavior in school that prepared you for industry. Workers became mass consumers. While the industrial revolution allowed for the establishment and security of the middle class, the sense of adventure and inventiveness of pre-industrial capitalism soon subsided. The factory system and the service bureaucracy flourished. Taylorism, despite human relations and human potential movements became the mainstay of modern organization.
Bureaucracies Isolate. In the name of equality, bureaucracies segment organizational life and isolate people into cells (offices, committees, projects, and positions). As isolation takes place, central control is established. Rational administrative rules and procedures apply to all of organizational life. People gave great control to the centralized, bureaucratic machine. As they did so, the cellular structures calcified and adaptability to change and reconfiguration and transformation became problematic.
Bureaucracies Discipline. For Michel Foucault (1979),  an organization is capillary system of discipline, a seamless web of control from the periphery to the center. In fact there is no center, there are many disciplinary nodes: many periphery points of discipline. Deetz (1992) points out how organizations select and produce identities to conduct the discourse of discipline.  Managers discipline by suppressing differences, correcting innovation, and maintaining the status quo. Differences are blurred, so the voices of diversity do not sound at all unique from one another. Men's voices sound like women's voices. But some groups are privileged in the discourse. Scientific disciplines marginalize lay stories and privilege expert stories. It is natural for men to discipline women, for whites to discipline blacks, for superiors to discipline inferiors. Discipline suppresses conflicting and diverse and alternative voices and fashions the monolithic voice.
Bureaucracies are Paternalistic Patriarchies. Women's voice has
been ignored in pre-modern and modern epochs. To be superior is to be man;
to be subordinate is to be woman. To be rational and objective is male; to
be feeling and subjective is female. In modern times, the narrative
rationalized, objectified, and subordinated women. There are many types of
feminism: from a fit-in-the-male-system, to liberal feminism to radical
feminism (create and empower feminine voices to oppose male-only voices)
to ecofeminism (creating discourses that are uniquely feminine).
Hierarchy and dominance and exploitation are male category systems of
control. In the stories of bureaucracy, you hear themes like women break
down and cry, their menstrual cycles will interfere with performance, and
they distract men. When we include stories that are positive images of
women, then this is a political act: it gives women a voice in a
male-voiced system. The feminist voice helps us to deconstruct modernist,
patriarchal stories and discourse. Some stories are male visions of
organizational reality. Other stories are male scripts of how past
experience anchors the present. Ecofeminists for example indict "the
destruction of rain forests in order to raise cattle for hamburger while
diminishing human life by encouraging the consumption of fatty, addictive
food... abuses animals by placing them in confining factories while using
artificial drugs which eventually harm the people who eat them" (Bullis
and Glaser, 1992: 19-20).  The destructiveness of
the organization to the natural world is among the taboo topics of
bureaucratic discourse; these are the stories that do not get voiced.
Bureaucratic categories like "workers" and "managers," "blacks" and "whites," "blue" and "white" collar, "women," and "men" define people in ways that pose discourse power advantages for one group over another. Binary categories like these are revealed in story discourse. Even if only one side of the binary is mentioned, the other side, though unstated is still there. At one point in the discourse the worker is a "clumsum," a "grunt," and at other times a "boomer." Competing categorizations can compete and co-exist in the same story. The critical question is, not just the language categories-in-use, but whose interests are being served or marginalized by the use of those particular categories?
Bureaucracy is rigid about categories. For example, if a woman has both Asian and Eskimo parents, is she Asian or Eskimo? If her Asian mother had parents who were Black and Asian, what box does she check on the obligatory race question. There is ambiguity here. How does the organization act, if she puts down Asian, Eskimo, or Black? If we deconstruct diversity, we find many people who do not fit into neat little boxes. There is no "mixed" category on government forms. If your mother was Black and your father is White, then you must choose one category or the other. If you do not have a bureaucratic category for people, you can effectively deny and avoid their very existence.
From the crew based apprentice trades of pre-modern form of management,
the modern period popularized the machine and service bureaucracies.
Each epoch answers the Harmony question with its own story of Utopia.
After the industrial revolution, man seeks an organizational community in
which his autonomy and freedom are valued. Each time period seeks an
answer to the puzzle of harmony: how to insure the freedom of the
individual in a competitive organization. In crown times harmony was
somewhere between benevolence and cruelty. In modern times, Taylorists and
Human Relationalists sought harmony that made man a happy cog in the
industrial and bureaucratic machines. Unions sought a harmony in which
there was strong opposition between workers and capitalists. Now with the
Biotech century here, postmodern philosophy is seen as a new story to
tell. But as we shall see the affirmatives and skeptics tell the story
A POSTMODERN STORY
The MAD Story. Boj: When I began teaching at Loyola Marymount
University, I decided to use ---
To be postmodern, is to be against racism, sexism, eurocentrism,
bureaucracies, and colonialism. As postmods, we try to construct the
stories and voices of those that management and organization texts have
excluded, marginalized, and exploited through the modernist project. This
we do through the skeptical act of deconstruction. Every story is a
single "construction." To deconstruct means that you take
a story and look at whose voice is included in the story, who is centered
in the story, what are the status differences, what universal,
essentializing, totalizing, marginalizing, and privileging claims --- are
in the story (Refer to Appendix A for student examples of story
Table 1.3 What is Postmodern
Table 1.4: Skeptical and Affirmative Postmodern Perspectives on
For both era and deconstruction, there are two sides to the story: affirmative and skeptical.
Table 1.5: Comparison of four approaches to postmodern
I. Affirmative/Era Postmodernism: Postmodernism began in debates in aesthetics, in architecture in the 1960's and moved from there to the humanities in the 1970's. Then the bottom fell out of American industry. Our 1987-merchandise trade deficit was $159 billion by 1987 and has been increasing each year. Despite prescriptions to get out of manufacturing and enter the service information society, America is losing its competitive edge in the global high-technology markets and our permanently underemployed; increasingly illiterate welfare and homeless populations are growing and growing. What remains a nightmare is that we can not shake our short-term, turn-a-profit-this-quarter mentality. Blaming the worker, while the boss takes yet another fat bonus is blaming the victim. Are we in an irreversible decline?
Peter Drucker, for example, sees management as going through paradigm shifts from the pre-industrial, industrial, to the postmodern or what he terms "post-business" era. He sees the shift from the "battleship" model of the modernist, factory-bureaucracy: a rigid structure, with every cog fixed in place to do its particular function to the "flotilla" where you have a loosely connected fleet of different types of ships changing formation in response to battle and weather conditions. In the affirmative/era postmodernism, there is a faith in progress through collective action. The industrial revolution may need some regulation of the robber barons such as J.P. Morgan, but the standard of living, the economy, and the nation prosper. For Drucker, as the industrial economy evolved, raw material economy uncoupled from the industrial economy. Manufacturing uncoupled from labor. The location of production and the local of investment capital in our global economy have uncoupled. The goods and services economy has uncoupled from the money economy. The nation state no longer is the dominant unit of economic life. The postmodern era is the time of the transnational and global enterprise, such as Toyota; out to maximize world market share and destroy enemy companies will to compete.
The Postmodern is a historical movement, just as trade unionism, scientific management, and human relations are historical movements. The postmodern movement recognizes (1) the liberated role of women and minorities in the workplace; (2) the need to re-skill all workers; (3) the foundation-backbone need for education; (4) the reaffirmation of both individual and community, (5) entrepreneurial spirit in America, and (6) the need to expose subtle bureaucratic control and surveillance mechanisms for what they are and what they do.
The postmodern organizational system is supposed to be the servant of the creative, innovative, and skilled individual, not the dominant and silent elite at the top of the great pyramids taking fat bonuses while laying off millions of American workers made unemployable by years of dependency and de-skilling. Illiteracy is rising each and every year, productivity is falling, earnings are falling, and jobs are getting scarcer. Why should we continue to privilege the voice of industrial leaders and management consultants who have led our nation to ruin?
The promise of postmodern management is to get rid of management. To empower a diversity of people from women, to minorities, to handy-capable, to gays who have been marginalized by center-planned, center-organized, center-led, and center-controlled enterprises. In postmodern management, small is beautiful; temporary coalitions of small groups is power; social problems can be dealt with better by the oppressed than by the bureaucratic oppressors.
Workplace 2000. We are moving from an old modernist or "traditional" model of management and organization into a new era "high performance" era of post-industrialization. For example, in the workplace of the year 2,000 have fully arrived-technology and jobs will be increasingly flexible, and labor-management cooperation will be thematize. A key feature of the workplace will be workforce diversity, including more women in the workforce; more ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversity; and greater variations in educational qualifications and skills of employees.
The Grand Narrative. The critical difference between pre-modern, modern and postmodern is each changes the "grand narrative." In fact, the postmodern is supposed to signal the "death" of the grand narrative, replacing it with a lot of competing narratives. Since postmodern stories are only recently beginning to take shape, postmodern practices exist in a "sea of modernism" (Clegg and Rouleau, 1992. In the modern narrative, scientific management and social science management (human relations) made objects of man. Man was a scientifically controllable and mechanistic instrument. The Weberian project was to rationalize man in a bureaucratic discourse. Big business, like big government must be formalized, standardized, centralized, routinized, and specialized. In the postmodern narrative, man is the victim of a system of so-called scientific categories. He must be set free from his incarceration in the object world. To do this is difficult because man is a willing and unconscious participant in his own incarceration. The postmodern narrative emphasizes the network organization, with flat lines, horizontal coordination, and temporary relations between vendors, customers, and workers. In short, hierarchy is discounted. In its place, a very fragmented, temporary, and responsive network obliterates all organizational boundaries. Environmentalism is related to postmodernism in this vein: the modern consumer was a silent partner in the mass consumption process that is destroying the environment. As a backlash, consumers are advocates of recycling product packaging and more environmentally sensitive consumption.
The Transition to the Postmodern: increase diversity and celebrate it; ignore the modern machine values; get beyond the cellular life of bureaucracy; freedom from the gaze; change the conversation of Western countries, both its discourse and the subjects of those discourses; to live as a master of one's life rather than a slave to it. For example, after Taylorism spread, it dominated all of bureaucratic discourse. It was assumed that scientific management was enlightened management. Even when the human relation's movement challenged this presumption, it made little difference. Planners and executives continued to be the brains, and workers continued to be the hands. Hierarchical supervision and surveillance continued and despite the rhetoric of decentralization, excellence, and empowerment is still centralized. The voice of leadership was privileged and final.
Management is still privileged and workers are very marginalized.
Training money is spent on management and white-collar workers, but not on
the people who deliver goods and services. Organizational science,
management theory, and organizational behavior are all discourses of
control. Turbulent, uncertain, and chaotic forces threaten stability and
order, and rational control is the response. "Managing is an
undisguised code word for (keeping things under) control" (Hawes,
1992: 5). MBO, management strategy and MIS are too often just about
control and fine-tuning methods of domination. The primary project of
critical-postmodern is emancipation of any oppressed group so they become
free agents: free from any form of coercion, especially discursive
coercion, knowledge coercion, and normalization (objectification) coercion
using social science language and practice.
What is the Postmodern and Post-Fordism? Clegg (1991) argues that modernism characterized the period from Henry Ford to the early 1970s, where mass production and mass consumption dominated society and essentially "worked". Thus the modern was an era in which "Fordism" or the division and fractionalization of labor was the dominant logic. Mass production, narrow range tasks and jobs, and labor versus management conflict were inherent features of the era. In the Postmodern era, which will be well established by the twenty-first century these bureaucratic management principles will fail. In fact, in this book we have already posed postmodern principles that are the direct opposite of modernist-bureaucratic principles. The inevitable failure of modern principles of management is exemplified in the closing decades of this century by the decline of Western producers and the rise and success of Asian and European producers. Clegg and others argue these Asian organizations use different, i.e. Postmodern organizing principles. In other respects, such as the treatment of women and minorities, dependence on paternalism, Asian organizations are not post-hierarchical at all.
Table 1.6: Skeptical/Era Section
II. Skeptical/Era Postmodernism: The first problem with the era approach, as formulated by Drucker, is that we have not given up our pre-modern roots entirely. The whole progress myth of moving up to social evolutionary chain by injecting larger doses of technology and Japanese management prescriptions is being swallowed, hook, line and sinker by American industry without much challenge, debate, or critique.
Before modernization, could it be that there were management practices that are valuable? Why should we assume that as time marches forward, management has gotten better? Maybe it has gotten worse. Was poverty better before the welfare state, before centralized Housing and Urban Development? Were Americans more entrepreneurial before mass education, mass consumption, and mass production? Why do we privilege modern times?
There is a lot of pre-modern focus on quality, craftsmanship, pride in workmanship, self-reliance, and entrepreneurship that was clobbered by the fusion of Max Weber's functionalist bureaucracy with Taylor's time and motion control, and Henry Ford's assembly line. Clearly, Europe kept more of the craftsmanship and craft-guild traditions in its modern work processes than was the case in America. For the Japanese, their pre-modern period was decidedly feudalistic. Their Shogun period of isolationism prevented Japan from living through the pre-industrial growing pains. As a result Japan's approach is a combination of feudalism, industrial bureaucracy, and some concepts such as TQM, JIT, Cycle Time, Empowerment, FMS (Flexible Manufacturing System), etc. that writers such as Stewart Clegg (1990) refer to as a postmodern "form" of organization. The second problem with the era approach is that the pre-modern, modern, and postmodern discourse are all present in today's complex organizations. I am feudalistic, bureaucratic, and postmodern every day. The third problem with the progress era by era model is that history has many voices. Progress for Columbus as Spain colonized South and Central America is one side of the story. The voice of the native South and Central Americans, and subsequently the Mexicans, who were enslaved, tortured, and wiped out in the search for gold is another. Any single-voices statement of history seeks to sustain the benefits and privileges of the majority culture over all other cultures. Skepticism is needed to rewrite history to include the voices of the excluded and oppressed.
The era by era approach is the "grand narrative" the single-voiced story that expunges the heroes, stories, and voice of the other: the Native Americans, women, African-Americans, Spanish-Americans, etc. The grand narrative of Marxism has been shattered, as the U.S.S.R became the Commonwealth of Independent States. The expected workers' revolution did not happen. Yet, Marx did give us a critique of exploitative labor process. He also advocated workplace democracy. Why should bosses decide everything? Let the bosses be voted in and out of their office, or just have no basses at all. Yeltsin has recently released documents to insure that a greater variety of voices get heard about the age of communism. The grand narrative of Marxism promoted class as the single lens with which to view the struggle of haves and have-nots. Feminists, on the other hand, have argued that it is gender, not class. Cultural approaches look at the role of race in the historical transitions and struggles. The point is that history gets sanitized through selective memory and outright exclusion to paint a rather narrow story of society and for our interest the story of corporate America. The problem with the era approach is to determine whose story gets told, that is, whose story is privileged.
Recall our Tamara metaphor. The Mansion with many storytellers telling many accounts with audiences chasing about trying to make sense of it all. In Peter Drucker's approach the eras are told as a three-act play from the point of view of the industrialist. It is management from the manager's view (e.g. "managerialism"). We would like to add other points of view, other stories, other plots, and in the end concludes that much of the history of American management systems is not progressive, it can be regressive. One reason management textbooks, as a rule, leave out the history, is that it is convenient to call management a science, and ignore generations of exploitative behavior. For example, a new Steve Robbins textbook Managing Today 1997 NJ: Prentice-Hall) marginalizes history to an appendix. At the same time Robbins' invents his own management history. It is one that seems to legitimate downsizing, reengineering, temporary employment contracts, and other ways to de-democratize the workplace. All history is multi-stories, multi-vocal, but only one-voiced when the story is being glossed. Glossing a story toward one point of view (e.g. the Managers' view or Managerialism) privileges one group of tellers, the way the whites in South Africa privilege their stories while marginalizing Black accounts. Management is a discursive practice that privileges bureaucratic/modernist discourse over more pluralistic and multi-voiced approaches. Simple formula and programs for administration de-select alternatives and shroud the control and exploitations in the mystic rhetoric of scientific-sounding principles. Deconstruction demystifies the story.
Skeptics argue that Postmodernism is not the same as Third Wave post-industrialism. The post-industrial paradigm was developed in the late 1950's through the early 1970's (Bell, 1973). It was then popularized by Alvin Toffler in Future Shock (1970), The Third Wave (1980), and The Powershift (1990).
Third Wave Burger Flippers. The postmodern skeptical critique of this story asks one important question: if we are a service economy, does this mean we will all be burger flippers, accountants, and insurance saleswomen? At a White house meeting, Alvin Toffler was asked this question by Donald Regan: "So you all think we're going to go around cutting each other's hair and flipping hamburgers! Aren't we going to be a great manufacturing power anymore?" (Toffler, 1990: 67). According to Reich (1983: 207), "one out of every three American workers now depends for his or her livelihood, directly or indirectly, on American industries that are losing rapidly in international competition." And this includes the information industries that were to replace America's manufacturing base.
How do you run giant factories, huge utilities, and Third Wave high tech firms with free self-disciplined people? Obviously, with the breakup of the communist's Soviet Union and the formation of the free market candidate: The Commonwealth of Independent States, the old utopia prescriptions of central planning bureaucracies and ideology and indoctrination, and state surveillance machinery are no longer viable answers.
The Postmodern is the target, but American has been running down the Post-industrial Third Wave path to Obscurity. According to Winsor (1992) and we agree America is far down the post-industrial path and clawing its way back to the postmodern road.
Instead of high-tech jobs, we find foreign investors buying up our entertainment companies, our electronic firms, and have made bids to buy some aerospace firms. We are looking at a post-IBM era, a post-Hughes aircraft era, and a post-GM era. If we ever were in an information age race, we are two laps behind the Japanese and Germans. We are eleventh in standard of living ratings and slipping. Some of us want to bring back our product and service leadership by getting back from the post-industrial detour to the postmodern highway.
Nor, is America likely to build the collective social fabric of a Japan, where government and industry conspire, where consensus structures thrive, and respect for the organization takes on nationalistic fervor. These collective systems do not give people freedom of thought and action that is expected in America. To run big businesses in the future, we have to unleash the individualistic spirit that made America great. We need to radically change our management principles to give a new dignity to the worker.
Americans are less able to cope with today's problems now than at the
time of the founding of the 13 colonies. Instead of looking at the causes
of our own decline, we are blaming the Japanese for unfair trade
practices. It is not the Germans, Japanese, and Koreans that are causing
America's decline. It is mismanagement of our own human and economic
resources. But, unless we change our educational system, we will continue
to slide until we join Great Britain, Spain, and France as "has
been" colonialists (You may have your own equally valid and different
Skeptics argue that there is nothing sacred about the postmodern era. They make the point that a Nike Corporation is a postmodern organization with a core of permanent well-fed workers and executives in Oregon and what many believe to be a virtual labor force of 500,000 mostly young female Asian workers paid starvation wages. It is fragmented, disintegrated, alienating, meaningless, vague, devoid of ethical standards, chaotic, and just as controlling and torturous as any era before it. Writers like Baudrillard stress Nietzsche's dark side of postmodern where happiness is only temporary disruption to chaos and cruelty.
Table 1.7: Affirmative Deocnstruction Section
III. Affirmative/Deconstruction. Deconstruction unravels a story (or text) to reveal-hidden assumptions, contradictions, and intent. Many assume that deconstruction is negative, just being hypercritical. But, the point of deconstruction is not to tear down and walk away. The point is to do what Derrida calls "resituation." To resituate is to tell a new story, to restory the old story in ways that redefines the hierarchy that was found. This is also called restorying, to deconstruct the old story that exploits, figure out what binds, then reconstruct a story that gets us beyond the double binds. For example if a story is told in ways that puts women in a hierarchically inferior role to men, the deconstruction would identify the problematic hierarchy, then resituate a storyline such that the hierarchy was removed. However, there are postmodernists who take a more affirmative approach to deconstruction. Feminists, probably have the clearest presentation in deconstructing the white male modernist corporation for its anti-women tendencies in order to suggest an improved discourse between men and women. Joanne Martin (1989), for example, did a postmodern deconstruction of how a CEO of a high tech firm liberated his vice president by encouraging her to have her C-section instead of natural child birth so she could not be away from work as long. He also had the idea of an electronic hookup between the office and her hospital bed.
After the deconstruction, the tearing apart of the story to reveal the hidden traps, the excluded voices, the privileged advantages, then the affirmative postmodernists try to improve on the discourse, revise the dialogue, and strike a new balance of power in the relationships. As we move into the year 2000, with America's diverse workforce, this is a very relevant challenge for us all.
Table 1.8: Skeptical Deconstruction
IV. Skeptical/Deconstruction. In skeptical deconstruction, nihilism is the final word. There is not much hope for emancipation. The world is going to hell, and the capitalist, military-industrial complex, despite its rhetoric of progress, is taking us all to hell for the ride. Skeptical deconstructionists are constantly criticized for not going beyond their deconstructive work to propose constructive changes or propose solutions. The rebuttal is that once a change is successful, it becomes a formula which can then be implemented and then transformed into a pattern of exploitation. The utopia becomes a living hell. The voice of the skeptic, while it does not propose solutions, is nevertheless a valid one. They point out that once a solution is fashioned it gets commodified and made into a spectacle. It becomes just one more late modern way to exploit. Skeptics love to pick on Tom Peters.
In the 1980's the Excellence discourse of Peters and Waterman (1982)
and Deal and Kennedy (1982) became the preferred text of practicing
managers. Hugh Willmott (1992) is skeptical of
the excellence literature because "management is urged to become
directly and purposefully involved in determining what employees should
think, believe or value" (p. 61) by strengthening organizational
culture along particular lines. People have to
be empowered to think and feel they are autonomous and have control and
ownership over their work processes. Improvements in productivity are a
result of this empowerment and ownership. As the worker identifies with
the company and its products and customers, the individual is also losing
the division between personal life, values, and believes and the
impersonal demands of the organization for greater productivity and
quality (p. 63). The skeptics see postmodernism merging with the
excellence literature and the Toyota model of flexible production in ways
that give the organization more and more dominance and control over the
individual's life space. Skeptics conclude that postmodern organizational
dimensions such as empowerment and lean production are imprisoning.
What is the Skeptic Postmodern Critique of the Excellence School?
The postmodern critique is (1) Changing managers over to a new language is
being used as a way to continue bureaucratic practices, to allow the
central and dominant core to control the dependent periphery by changing
their language, but not their practices; (2) getting people to give more
suggestions and make small win changes to their work life is not really
all that empowering or liberating, (3) workaholism is treated as the end
all and be all of work life --- work faster, shorter cycle times, managers
with 100 people reporting to them, round the clock work; (4) the
prescriptions and rhetoric are presented without attention to the
important historical roots of the practices, such as the fact that Edward
Deming brought an important chunk of the quality, zero-defect, measure
everything revolution to Japan after World War II at the request of our
own government, while we in America sent 40 years ignoring it until there
were so many foreign cars, TV's, and VCR's that we had to begin copying
the Japanese ways; (5) the post-industrial and postmodern forecasts are an
American economy in which 50% of the people will work for small businesses
that will network together and sub-contract to remaining large businesses
to form a very different economy than painted in the pro-big business
practices of the Excellence School; (6) there are Excellence prescriptions
that have uncritical and unexplored bureaucratic-machine consequences,
such as MBWA (Management By Wandering Around) which can be a surveillance
tool of bureaucrats to wander around to gaze at activity of their
subordinates. You start to self-monitor and to ask yourself all day long,
when will the boss just wander in? Soon the people are conditioned that
the boss is always watching.
The Excellence School is not the same as the Postmodern. Tom Peters has adapted the rhetoric of post-industrialism and Japanese management to push the Excellence approach. Critiques of the first book: In Search of Excellence with Bob Waterman, noted that most of the exemplar firms, such as People's Express subsequently failed. Peters' comeback was to suggest that while the organizations had failed, the prescriptions were valid. Most of management academia turned their back on the Excellence project because of this peculiar methodological twist. Tom Peters even has a section on Deconstructing Organizations in his newer WOW and Tom Peters Semina books. Whereas early Tom writings were about empowering employees to take ownership of the enterprise, late-Tom is advocating ways to make the haves richer, to down size, reengineer and bring about widespread temporary employment for the masses.
Tom Peter's reliance on stories to get his points across was also not
mainstream quantitative, survey research, laboratory study methodology.
Management Academy mainstream did not stop millions of American companies
from trying to implement the Excellence approach as a way to survive
declining productivity, decreased quality goods and services in our
declining economy.Few are stopping to compare old and new Peters.
Affirmative Postmodern writers ask for increases in quality, flattening
the organizational modern, empowering the people to control their work
process, bashing bureaucratic rules that are mindless, going
cross-functional, etc. But to Skeptic Postmodern writers this is just more
late modern rhetoric. It is the status quo put in an new book cover and
given a new title. To the Skeptics only emancipation from
heiarchical control, equal participation, and a fair share of the pie will
The Postmodern (either Affirmative or Skeptical) is not Reducible to
Japanese Management! In Japan, communal kinship patterns have been
formalized into a net of relationships between paternalistic management
who protects worker interests, the boundary of the organization is the
whole society (government cooperates with industry; industry cooperates
with industry; vendors are partners). Japanese culture is not yet as
hegemonic as American culture. Women for example are very marginalized.
The settlement pattern of Japanese transplant assembly plants is away from
minority population centers. Clegg (1990) points out that the Japanese
patterns of success in business are not easily assimilated into mainstream
business management recipes. American principles of management and
organization design are quite different. Tom Peters and many others are
re-writing the modernist narrative to assimilate the Japanese framework.
It is doubly ironic that America values Japanese management. First, because twenty years ago America thought Japan made cheap, imitative, unreliable products. Second, because Japan imported American quality control processes and is now teaching Americans a lesson. What Tom Peters and the quality/excellence movement leaves out of the story is the fact that Japan did a wholesale adoption of Taylorism, as recast in the William Deming's teachings, after World War II. General Douglas MacArthur rewrote the feudal, war-lord, narrative in Japan (actually re-wrote the constitution, gave women the vote, introduced land reform, introduced quality control) to transform Japan from a war nation to an economic power. The Japan industrial machine is a modern machine, with a few postmodern parts. More accurately, much of Japan is still agricultural. Only 35% of Japan's employees are part of modern organizations. Most of the small, sub-contract companies, the partners to the big Toyotas, Nissans, Hondas, and Sonys are practitioners of more pre-modern practices.
Unions, for example, pride themselves on being skeptical on purpose. While unions are weak in the US and represent less than 11% of the private sector work force, they do have critical voice, even a skeptical voice. Parker and Slaughter (1988), for example, are skeptical of the team approach being advocate as part of the Japanese model of organization that writers such as Clegg (1990) are positioning as postmodern. In the following example, a postmodern rhetoric replaces a modernist rhetoric, while the reality of people's work experience is exactly the same.
Implications. As affirmative postmodern theory makes inroads into status quo organization theory. It is likely to build a worldview of organization life that is decidedly optimistic. Affirmative postmodern theory does this by storying a new and more progressive era. It is one that has a better socio-technical fit of man and machine or one that looks at changing the discursive rhetoric so that it talks about leaner production, flatter structures, worker empowerment, continuous improvement, and other dimensions identified by postmodernists (Clegg, 1990; Boje and Dennehy, 1992). And, as critical postmodern organization theory makes its case known there will be challenges to the affirmative postmoderns and to the status quo organization theory gurus. For example, that affirmative postmodern is really just late modern (just the Third Wave post-industrial or Post-Fordist thesis warmed over). They have already been saying that status quo management and organization theory is just an apologetic. An apologetic is a story that legitimates and rationalizes plunder and pillage of the environment, the removal of community control over any and all corporate behavior, and the continued de-democratization of the work force. An apologetic is what managers' need from their public relations department to restory themselves as good guys in the age of downsizing and environmental deterioration.
The European tradition of postmodern theory, as exemplified in
Foucault's reconstruction of the history of discipline and punishment or
Derrida's deconstruction method, the postmodern horizon is more skeptical.
There are numerous examples, for example in Parker and Slaughter (1988)
which show the dysfunctional side of cycle time, continuous improvement,
teams, consensus, etc. The contribution of this skepticism is that we are
reminded that labeling dimensions of organization as postmodern does not
remove the specter of exploitative control of humans by technical,
cultural, and administrative fibers. It will be the challenge of American
organization theory to not get swept away by mom and apple pie rhetoric as
postmodern theory and method makes its presence felt in American
Not Just Management, but Finance, Accounting, and Management Information Systems (MIS) are making the transition to teaching postmodern courses, with postmodern textbooks
Avoiding Irrelevancy in Finance. The following tables are based on conclusions from the Financial Executives Research Foundation.
Table 1.10: Financial Managers
Postmodernism IN ACCOUNTING
Objectives of Education for Accountants. According to the Accounting Education change Commission: to become successful professionals, accounting graduates must possess communication skills, intellectual skills, and interpersonal skills... Interpersonal skills include the ability to work effectively in-groups and to provide leadership when appropriate.... They must understand the basic internal workings of organizations and the methods by which organizations change.... They should know and understand the ethics of the profession and be able to make value-based judgements... Students must be active participants in the learning process, not passive recipients of information. They should identify and solve unstructured problems that require use of multiple information sources. Learning by doing should be emphasized. Working in groups should be encouraged... Knowledge of historical and contemporary events affecting the profession is essential to effective teaching. It allows teachers to make lessons more relevant and to lend a real-world perspective to their classrooms... An attitude of accepting, even thriving on, uncertainty and unstructured situations should be fostered... Ability to interact with culturally and intellectually diverse peoples.... Ability to present, discuss, and defend views effectively through formal and informal, written and spoken language (p. 1-7)
These firms, after also advocating more focused training in interpersonal and communication skills, also recommend these changes in accounting curriculum.
Postmodernism IN MIS
What M.I.S. has to say about Postmodernism? With the emergence of network organizations in capitalist economies, information technology (IT) and information systems (IS) will change dramatically. The impact of the postmodern on IT will be to make visible previously hidden events, objects and activities (Jones, 1991: 173). IT and IS will be looked at as manifestations of power relations, discipline mechanisms, and surveillance apparatus. IT and IS are not power-neutral. Organizations are decentralizing IT as networks with integrated customer and supplier linkages replace management hierarchies. Some believe IT will further the de-skilling of the worker. Jones suggests a future where at the core of the organization will be a few privileged, stable full time people, while at the periphery, the majority of people will be part-timers, temporary staff, and subcontractors. IS will be crucial to linking this network together. If the periphery is composed of temporary teams and sub-contracting semi-autonomous work units, the traditional bureaucracy will be a thing of the past. IS can facilitate bureaucratic restructuring, reducing hierarchies and distributing information to a wide network of decision-makers. Therefore, the question is how centralized and how de-centralized will the network structure be? Will it have a dominant core or be poly-centered? If the network is centralized, IS can be used to gain more control over a de-skilled work force, customers, and suppliers. Why is it used? What is its historical development and use in a given organization (or inter-organizational, inter-group) network? These are the M.I.S questions to be asking. The next table summarizes the IS/IT differences between modern and postmodern networks and ideas presented by Jones (1991).
Table 1.12 Postmodern MIS
THE POSTMODERN BUSINESS EDUCATION.
With these changes in management, marketing, finance, accounting, and M.I.S. the need for a postmodern theory of organization and management principles is quite strong in the entire field of Business Administration. The postmodern form is flatter, more diverse, more flexible, more automated, more dispersed, and focuses on narrower niches (customer needs) in the market place. Since the form will be different, the skill set for managers, financiers, MIS specialists, and accountants will be different for planning, organizing, influencing, leading, and controlling.
What are the trends that are propelling us to postmodern business education?
Postmodern in Art and Architecture. One postmodern artist has to be Picasso. In cubism, he represents past, present, and future and multiple perspectives (front, side, back, top views) in one "here and now" canvas. He plays with time and space perspectives. In postmodern architecture you find statements from writers like Baudrillard: Disneyland exists to make LA look normal.  Since there is no "real" world, Disneyland is authentic, more authentic that the world around it, that purports to be real. You can see the destructiveness of pyramid architectures such as the "projects" (Housing and Urban Development was an attempt to create modern housing for the poor). Many believe HUD was a way to imprison the poor and separate and segment and bound them away from the non-poor society. The postmodern approach exemplified by Jack Kemp, who took over a HUD that was riddled with bureaucratic corruption, waste, and practices that imprisoned poor people as a permanent underclass. Kemp's approach to HUD is to empower the poor to control and manage their own housing projects. In order to do this federal HUD is now in a knock down dogfight with local city and state housing authorities. Federal HUD wants the people to control and staff their own services, local Housing Authority is doing all they can to keep control, keep fat-cat bureaucratic jobs. In HUD and in private as well as private bureaucracies, we are, for example, beginning to think critically about the way bureaucratic discourse "signifies" Women, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Indians etc. The language privileges whites, non-women, non-blacks, non-Hispanics, non-Asians, non-workers, and non-subordinates. Instead of pointing to how one group is categorically different, postmodernists celebrate diversity, plurality, equality, and democracy. It is hegemonic American diversity. To accomplish this celebration it is necessary to point out explicitly how one group is more privileged than another group in the stories and discourse of the modernist organization. In short, postmodern exposes how people are controlled through categorizations in stories and discourse.
Postmodernism is propelling management education into the 21st century. Pre-modern, modern and postmodern provide the panorama for the adventure. Not just management but finance, accounting and MIS are joining in the postmodern.
The postmodern is not Third Wave post-industrialism. It is not reducible to Japanese management. Neither is the postmodern the same as the Excellence school. The postmodern Project has a different vision. The vision can be skeptical or affirmative. We have opted for the affirmative route. This choice underscores the challenges and advantages of postmodern.
What are the Challenges of Postmodernism? The postmodern future thus appears to include several key features and challenges. First, as managers continue to rely on modern principles, they may be (unwittingly) lowering the performance of employees. Second, the tradition paternalistic, male model or style of organizational management may remain widespread, but (particularly women) will increasingly challenge it, as the workforce becomes more diverse. Third, the Postmodern will require greater dialogue among diverse subcultures and groups of all types -- women, men, Blacks, Asians, Whites, Americans, Japanese, Canadians and others.
What are the advantages of Postmodern Management? First, the postmodern provides an opportunity to enrich management theorizing and practice by embedding management scholarship in broad postmodernist scholarly traditions, particularly European based intellectual traditions such as deconstructionism and semiotics. This encourages multidisciplinary research and provides a basis for linking management theorizing to general theories of cultural organization. It also encourages the investigation and use of a variety of new and more sophisticated "qualitative methods" for data collection such as story analysis, representation and analysis which can complement present applications of qualitative research on management. Second, postmodern emphasizes cultural knowledge and the national and international context and nature of social organization. Thus, postmodern reshapes the management and organization landscape by moving research away from the organization or individual as a unit of analysis, to consideration of organizations in their societal and cultural context. The Postmodern thus provides an integrative, overarching framework for understanding management and organization. Rather than the specialized, tree-of-knowledge, divisions of knowledge, postmodernism argues for a rhizomatic approach. A rhizome forms inter-connections among the roots of a tree, rather than the pattern of separated and specialized branches. Third, critical postmodern view organizations as playing important activist roles in the crises and rich-get-richer problems of advanced capitalist society. In adopting a postmodern perspective (be it affirmative or critical) we are encouraged to address organizationally based social problems which are not often addressed in holistic manner in the management literatures. Fourth, this book extends the current frontiers of management scholarship by incorporating insights from a number of areas outside the core of traditional management research -- rhetoric, anthropology, literary criticism, history, and so on. Finally, we argue that an understanding of the postmodernism is essential for the development of theories of the management of social and organizational change which will be needed to "humanize" the social landscape of contemporary and future organizations and overcome or solve the significant problems faced by organizations today.
What are the Emerging Social Issues? The Postmodern emerging form of society is of significant general interest to all managers. This new era makes the social context of management and emergent social and environmental issues more problematic. Feminism, post-colonialism, and ecology are here to stay, The ongoing management of change will need to address feminist concerns, environmentally unsustainable business practices and the greedy salaries of Fortune 500 corporate executives. Alternative and new forms of democratic and eco-sustainable organizing and managing with social audits of human resources are here. The new Cyber and Biotech industries pose significant moral dilemmas. The increasingly global and international nature of business creates more gaps between rich and poor. Bill Gates makes more money than one billion people do (or is it two billion this year)? Management of an assumedly increasingly diverse work force spread across the planet with hundreds of protesting special interest groups makes managing in the postmodern era one huge headache. But it can also be a great opportunity. That is, how to deconstruct the status quo practice, explore and reverse the problematic hierarchies, and then resituate how the firm is managed. Resituate means learning new harmonies, new balances of power and freedom in a sustainable postmodern organization. And let us make this point clear. A postmodern organization can be the dark side of the force or a liberating democratic way of being. Most we are convinced are a combination of the light and the dark side, just as the status quo firms are both light and dark. But the question is how do you manager postmodern organizations so they do not become one more Vader Inc. bent on exploiting humans and ecology? The Postmodern offers more diverse and pluralistic explanations about the relationship between core and periphery, male and female, majority and minority. There is a strong focus on marginalized social groups resulting from organizational practices that are glossed by modernist theory.
Stories are Political. As America enters a more pluralized and
diverse social makeup the labels, the categories of social makeup must be
challenged to become more equitable, more sensitive, and more accountable.
At the same time, if the economic recession, the negative balance of
payment, the shrinking middle class, and the other ills continue, there
will be great pressure to marginalize more citizens into permanent
unemployment categories, like homeless, hard-core, under-employed. In
short, in the postmodern era we do not find a utopia. There is a struggle.
There are pressures both to privilege the few and to franchise the
marginalized. Some labels are more privileged at a given point in history
than are others. The study of management stories lets us capture the
buzzwords and see how they privilege one group, one practice, one way of
thinking over other ways. In this sense, stories are very political:
giving one group more language rights than another group. It is necessary
to expose the privileged use of categories, before we can accomplish
meaningful and equal participation of diverse people in the workplace.
Is the Postmodern Management Project Susceptible to these Critiques? Introducing a new language will not reform bureaucratic practices. Managers go to seminars several times a year to learn new buzzwords and then go back to business as usual. Getting managers to give in grudgingly to token participation and token "empowerment" programs is non-sense. How empowering is it to be paid poverty wage but get the authority to decide how to structure one's workday? As Mary park Follett told us in the 1920s you can not be delegated, or awarded, or given power. Nor can power be shared. People have to grow their own power. For Mary Parker the best you could do was create situations of co-power. We are very skeptical of the guru empowerment literature. We ask basic questions: how empowered is my paycheck? How can managers and workers engage in co-powered democratic organizing? Let the workers elect the managers and fire them when they screw up the works. That is empowering. Getting people to become more fast-paced workaholics or as Tom Peters puts it "speed is everything" is not very postmodern. is, leaving out important pieces of the historical record of management, not attending enough to small business, and worst of all: giving the bureaucrats more tools to stay in power? Probably, but we intend to use stories from pre-modern, modern, and postmodern perspectives to triangulate what are the management practices and principles and show their historical roots.
NOTES (Press on Footnote Number to return to
Featherstone, Mike. 1988. "In pursuit of the postmodern: An
introduction." Theory, Culture and Society. 5 (2-3): 195-217.
10 Ibid This section is based on Rosenau's
categories of affirmative and skeptical, 1992: 109-137. There are,
of course other versions of postmodernism.; Agger, Ben 1990 The Decline of
Discourse: Readings, writings, and resistance in postmodern capitalism New
York: Falmer Press; Gitlin, Todd 1989 "Postmodernism: Roots and
politics." Dissent (Winter): 100-108.; Griffin, David 1988
Spirituality and society: Postmodern Visions Albany: State University
Press of New York.; Graff, Gerald. 1979. Literature against itself.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press.; Foster, Hal 1983
"Postmodernism: A preface." In The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on
Postmodern Culture, ed. Hal Foster. Port Townsend, Wash.: Bay Press.
Baudrillard, J. 1983. Les strategies fatales. Paris: Bernard Grasset.
Nietzsche, Fredrich. 1980. On the Advantage and Disadvantage of
History for Life, trans. Peter Preuss. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing.
Peters, T.J. and R.H. Waterman. 1982. In Search of Excellence.
London: Harper & Row.
28 Jameson 1991 ibid; Wuthnow, R. W., J. D. Hudson, A. Bergesen, and E. Kurzweil (1984) Cultural Analysis: The work of Peter L. Berger, Mary Douglas, Michel Foucault and Jürgen Habermas. London, England: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
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