Phenomenal Complexity Theory and Change at Nike:

Response to Letiche

David M. Boje

New Mexico State University




This article develops an example of Letiche's article on phenomenal complexity by contrasting academic research projects that have contradictory findings concerning Nike. Some academics think Nike is unfairly critiqued while others think that Nike escapes. Phenomenal complexity theory is used to explain the disparate results.

Key words: change, storytelling, complexity, chaos, Nike.

BACK STAGE: This article was to appear in Journal of Organizational Change Management special issue on Complexity Theory (Janice Black, guest editor).  Due to fear of legal suits in UK publishing industry. Article was replaced with Phenomenal Complexity Theory and Change at Disney: Response to Letiche, Journal of Organizational Change Management, Vol 13(6): 558-566. Original follows:

I have been invited by Janice Black to reply to Hugo Letiche's essay, "Phenomenal Complexity Theory and Bergson, its precursor." My charge is to connect the phenomenal complexity theory (PCT) to change management and to give an example. My response assumes your familiarity with PCT.

The new metaphors of complexity theory include emergence, self-organization, complex adaptive systems, strange attractors, bifurcations, 'edge of chaos,' and fitness landscapes. The essay focus on the over-rationality and reductionism of science, particularly complexity science (i.e. Stuart Kauffman & John Holland) and its preference for reductionism (reducing self-organizing to non-cognitive) and to rationalization (dualizing subjective and objective experience, with a preference for the later). The only example (a good one) is the relationship of PCT to music and the bulk of the essay is en elucidation of Bergson's phenomenological concepts of the conscious experiencing of time (dureé, intuition). Letiche's argument is that while supposedly "anti-mechanistic," complexity theory is being theorized and practices according to what I will call the three R's of logical positivism:

What Letiche's essay does is challenge the 3R's with inclusion of a fourth decidedly postmodern "R."

Letiche concludes that (1) social systems are in constant state of change and complexification (as well as their opposite counter-acting loops); (2) knowing the parts in depth does not able us to predict the direction or development of a complex system; (3) phenomenal complexity is rich in inductive, sense-based knowledge processes; and (4) there is a plurality of valid cognitive and experiential modes of knowing rather than a unity. With this too brief summary, I turn to an example.

Nike and Phenomenal Complexity Theory (PCT)

At the August Academy of Management meetings in Toronto, I chaired a panel, "Time and Nike." Various academics studying Nike Corporation presented their analysis and were then critiqued by Ms. Amanda Tucker of Nike's Labor Practices Department. During her commentary, she recommended to the standing room only All Academy session some new academic research that supported some of her claims. Tucker passed out a copy of and a recent article by Kahle, Lynn R., Boush, David M. & Phelps, Mark (2000) titled "Good Morning, Vietnam: An Ethical Analysis of Nike Activities in Southeast Asia" that was published in Sport Marketing Quarterly (Vol. 9, #1: 43- 52). What I would like to do is situate that research in PCT. Kaule is the James H. Warsaw Professor of Sports Marketing, Bousch is an associate professor of marketing and Phelps is a senior instructor in business law. All are members of the same University of Oregon Marketing department in the Lundquist College of Business. The three marketing academics begin their article with this five sentence-abstract (I numbered the sentences for reference):

    1. Nike has received criticism regarding the ethics of its operations in Vietnam.
    2. We examine this criticism by ethical analysis and by on-site inspection of one of its factories.
    3. We conclude that ethical decision making in business is often complicated and multidimensional.
    4. Some criticisms of Nike have been unfair but have benefited Asian workers and have promoted the principles that firms are responsible for the actions of their subcontractors.
    5. These subcontractors now have a heightened sense of responsibility for providing a good work environment, and their presence has had some desirable consequences for the awakening economy of Vietnam.

The key sentence here is #2, to which assertions and conclusions 3, 4, and 5 get attached.

Assertion #3 is an example of what I think Letiche means by phenomenal complexity (i.e. the fourth R, relativism). Yet, there is little (if anything) in the article that explores multidimensional or complex aspects of the Vietnam factory or the claims and counter-claims of various Nike critics and apologists. In short #3 is a deductive generalization from an N of one. In the walk through, the marketing academics stopped to talk to several workers about their pay rates. "Our sample was too small for inferential purposes" they say, but go on to make them "but we have no reason to doubt Nike's estimate that pay exceeds minimum wage by some modest amount" (p. 46).

The first part of assertion #4 ("some criticisms of Nike have been unfair") is also a deductive generalization and one for which can not be supported by the sample (one of approximately 610 subcontracting factories around the globe, of which about 450 are in Asia). It would take a bigger sample to make such a generalization credible. The second half of the assertion relies on challenges made by three news reporters (Herbert, Saparito & Greenhouse in separate articles) and one human rights activist (O'Rourke who released the 1997 Ernst and Young audit of a Vietnam factory to the press). Again a more comprehensive analysis of hundreds of news articles and press releases filed each year about Nike would be warranted.

Finally assertion #5 has two parts (subcontractors now have a heightened sense of responsibility for providing a good work environment"); (their presence has had some desirable consequences for the awakening economy of Vietnam). Both parts are deduced from the single walk through inspection of one subcontractor factory in Vietnam.

There are several other conclusions made. One is a large type inset (p. 47):

Our general conclusion agrees with that of Andrew Young, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (Nike, 1998). At the request of Nike founder Phil Knight, Young visited four factories in Vietnam, and four factories in Indonesia. He reported that those 12 factories were "clean, well-organized, adequately ventilated, and well-lit: and that he found "no evidence or pattern of widespread or systematic abuse or mistreatment of workers."

The article also presents two Tables, both of which are adapted from Nike web site documents (Table One a brief founding story about Nike and their Code of Conduct; Table Two A list of summary findings and recommendations for the Andrew Young "GoodWorks International Report").

So how does Letiche's article help us? Let me count the ways.

Complexity is more than the sum of the study of parts. First, the changes gripping Nike are the product of complexity, a system of forces and counter-forces that is not encompassed in the single factory tour or even Andrew Young's tour of a dozen Asian factories. Victoria Carty (1999), for her Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of New Mexico did a study on emergence and complexity titled "emerging post-industrial, postmodern trends and the implications for social change: A case-study of Nike Corporation." She scopes the research problem as a complex Global Commodity Chain (GCC) which includes the dialectic relation between such macro-features of the global economy ties to postmodern culture, such as follows:

    1. Post-industrial trends in a three-tier periphery of 610 subcontract producers relationship to Nike, the virtual core.
    2. Contract network of distributors and endorsees (sports stars, teams, and university athletic programs and campus apparel stores).
    3. Postmodern consumer identity creation that includes wearing or not wearing the Nike brand. The consumption fashion trends of generations of Nike brand consumers who are now over-saturated to the point that rebelling against moms and dads who wear Nikes means wearing Adidas. Skateboarders don't wear Nikes.
    4. The semiotic move of Nike away from "Just Do It" and the Swoosh logo to the new "I Can" campaign as a way to tone down a bully-image in negotiations with Olympic advertising, sports stars endorsees who are not always good sports, and a growing segment of spectators who identify "Just Do It" with hyper-competitiveness (winning at any costs and putting the individual and a Nike contract ahead of team or country).
    5. The postmodern politics of post-WTO non governmental organization (NGO) networking across first and third world groups (including students and workers) that are sharing knowledge and co-creating strategies such as World wide boycotts, letter campaigns, and joint responses to Nike press releases. This includes the 150 (and growing) university campuses with United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) groups who are staging debates, protests and sit ins in an effort to sign their university to the Workers Rights Consortium (WRC) instead of the Nike-sponsored Fair Labor Association (FLA) for on going monitoring of the Nike subcontractors making apparel sold on university campuses (or university apparel made by Nike sold off campus).

Nike Corporation uses a virtual form of organizing (core and peripheral firm inter-firm contract across producers, distributors, and celebrity/team/franchise/university endorsees).

The Three-Tier System of Nike Subcontracting is an Alternative Explanation. Second, what the University of Oregon marketing department study has missed is the phenomenal complexity and richness of the set of Nike subcontractor relationships. Carty (1999) describes a three-tier system of flexible decentralization in Nike's global production patterns. As a virtual organization Nike retains direct (Beaverton, Oregon) control of the marketing and advertising, while subcontracting both production and distribution (except for NikeTown which is owned). Nike's GCC (Global Commodity Chains) embeds the one factory the University of Oregon marketeers studied in a complex system of relationships. The three-tiers of post-Fordist production subcontracting include an upper tier of semi-peripheral country factories (South Korean and Taiwan subcontractors manufactoure the most expensive and sophisticated styles and often subcontract to the next tiers), a second tier periphery (Indonesia and China doing volume produciton using less flexible manufacturing and vertically integrating the material supplies such as leather, rubber and assembly), and a third tier of "developing" sources (Thailand and Vietnam known also for cheap labor). To study one factory in Vietnam is to miss the complex interdependent relationships in this producer network. I would like to add a fourth tier to Carty's typology. That is, the sub-contracting that subcontractors do with other subcontractors (part of the second tier above but happening as I understand it in all three tiers). The importance is that while Nike may admit several professors and Andrew Young to a factory tour, what is missed is the difference between conditions in such "model" (ready for inspection sites) and the subcontractors to the subcontractors of Nike. In Australia this involves home manufacturing while in Asia it can and does mean highly militaristic, even lower wage and higher overtime sweatshops.

Who is in Control in a Complex Network? Third, Carty (1999: 112) distinguishes between a well-known debate between what constitutes "legal ownership: and "economic ownership" under post-industrial conditions of late capitalism. At issue is the negotiation process between Nike and its subcontractors. Nike negotiates the production process and the finished good pricing, and conformity to its Code of Conduct. In numerous studies, it is reported that Nike is a tough negotiator leaving subs with no margin to pay higher wages, implement employee safety training, etc. When Nike succeeds in imposing higher standards reported by the University of Oregon study, what options do the subs enact? First, they can recover costs by levying fines against the workers for talking (half day's pay in some Vietnam subs and subs of subs up to two days pay in China), fines for lateness, fines for breaking a sewing needle, or failing to meet the daily quota. Most, if not all, Nike subcontractors use quota systems which can be adjusted upward to make it impossible for most workers to attain it in the usual 10 hour workday. Voluntary overtime and the intricate fine-system means more production at no wage cost and recovered operating costs, thereby collecting money from workers to pay for Nike policies. Finally, there is a piece of the complexity system that Carty (1999) does not address. There are major family cartels in Taiwan, Korea, and Singapore, such as the following that control the factories which Nike, Reebok, Adidas and other sneaker corporations subcontract to:

Pou Chen, owned by Taiwanese entrepreneur David Tsai and his four brothers, probably has benefited more than any other Asian company from the explosion in demand for athletic shoes. The company employs more than 150,000 factory workers across Asia (Manning, 1997: 1).

Pou Chen manufactures for many corporations, but Nike is 53% of its sales whereas Feng Tay, Nike's second-largest supplier, sells it 100 percent of its production. Pou Chen and Feng Tay together own 45% of the subcontractors making Nike sneakers. According to Manning, four of Nike's five largest footwear suppliers are owned by ethnic Chinese. The FormosaTextile, based in Los Angeles, runs apparel factories in Central America, including El Salvador, the site of perhaps the most extensive sweatshop abuse of all Nike subcontractors. In terms of complexity theory, when Nike began in 1992 to adopt and some years later implement a code of conduct, including employing some 20 internal monitors (in the Labor Practices Department with Amanda Tucker), Ernst & Young (until the leak of the Vietnam factory audit in 1997), Price Waterhouse Coopers auditors (since 1998), the FLA, and Global Alliance. With these many monitors and compliance auditors, the long control relationship between Nike and its subcontractors entered a new era of contralist edicts to the three-tier periphery. For example, " Nike fined Pou Chen $5,000 in June after officials of the company's Ho Chi Minh City plant threw a birthday party for their Nike liaison, complete with offensive gag gifts made at the plant" (Manning, 1997: 1). And each year with more global NGO organizing, world wide Nike boycott days, WTO-protests, and university sit-ins, the pressure put on Nike by subcontractors grows. The implication for complexity theory is that at any moment a small incident can ignite a whole new pattern of partnerships, agreements, and standards.

Ripple Effects of Control Attempts of the Core over the Three-Tier Periphery. Fourth, Carty (1999: 1888) reports that between 1987 and 1992, Nike closed 20 subcontract factories and opened another 35. In a network of some 610 subcontractors that is to be expected. Yet, there is more going on. Nike can elect to close a factory that is the subject of an NGO media investigative report. But, in a complex system that does not end the problem. Peter Hancock's (1996) dissertation reported on two factories in Indonesia: Fentay and Kutje. Nike closed Kutje but left Fentay open after the media picked up on Hancock's claims that Nike was operating abusive sweatshops. Hancock returned in (1997) to find what he reports as the "worst conditions yet in a Nike subcontractor factory in Indonesia. Hancock's report reveals that that in Nike contractor Feng Tay's factory in Banjaran:

  • Supervisors had been trained in the systematic abuse of women workers using the Indonesian equivalent of phrases such as "F_ _ _ [word replaced] you!" and "Move you stupid bitch!"
  • The average workday is 11.5 hours and 81% of workers work seven days a week.
  • Workers who take sick leave are dismissed instantly, irrespective of whether they have a doctor's certificate. This puts pressure on them to work in these extreme conditions even when they are sick. In one case a woman fainted on the job, was not taken to the medical clinic and later died.
  • The average age of workers is 16 and 41% of workers surveyed were under 16 when they first started working (one was only 11 when she started at the factory).
  • Of all the multi-national factories in Banjaran, which employ predominantly women (textiles, garments and shoes), the Nike factory rates the lowest in terms of treatment of workers via-a-vis overtime wages, working conditions, the non-payment of legal working benefits (Sick Leave, Menstruation Leave, Bonuses ECT) and staff turnover. Evidence to support the 'lowest rating' is provided by the analyses of quantitative and qualitative data from interviews and focus groups; data which can be best described as 'community perceptions'.

The title of the report, "Nike's Satanic Factories in West Java", comes from an Indonesian villager. Hancock writes, "Mereka Pergi dan Pulang Seperti Hantu Dari Pabrik Setan":

In September 1996 I had been researching female factory workers in a rural area of West Java (Banjaran) for two months when the words of an old man (immediately above) were so tormenting that I had to investigate their meaning. I arrived in the old man's village at about 8.00 PM on a week night to survey factory workers. I entered on foot as the roads were so bad that no form of transport is available during the night time (in the rainy season). I asked the old man where I could find women who worked for Nike. He replied that they had not returned since leaving at 4.00 AM the previous morning. I was puzzled and he explained that all the factory workers worked for Feng Tay (Nike) and I had very little chance of seeing them, as their families rarely saw them. He said the women from Nike were called "Walking Ghosts Who Worked in Satan's Factory" (Mereka pergi dan pulang seperti hantu dari pabrik Setan) by the local community and if I wanted to speak with them I would have to become a ghost myself.

Butterfly Effects of Academics Studying Nike upon Global Subcontractor Networks and Student Protest Movements. Fifth, just visiting and studying the two Indonesian factories has introduced complexity ripple effects; the strange attractor of academic reporting upon subcontractor behavior has set off change. Any idea that there is an "objective" or "unbiased" distance between researcher and subject is shattered in Hancock's (1996, 1997) tales of the field. There is also the case of Lap Nguyen, who was first interviewed by a CBS News (48 Hours) in 1996, then re-interviewed in February 1998 for an ESPN documentary program. In March, 1996 Ms. Nguyen, was one of 15 team leaders lined up and each one slapped in the head with a Nike upper sole by their Korean manager, Ms. Jaeng Mi Baek. The incident followed an inspection by a Nike official who had reprimanded the manager for producing shoes with the wrong color patterns. By September 1996, numerous Vietnam newspapers had published reports on the incident and that is when Roberta Baskins of CBS came to interview Lap Nguyen. When ESPN aired its 1998 report on Nike labor practices, which reported two more incidents of corporal punishment during its visit to the Sam Yang, Nike Vietnam sneaker factory. After these bouts of threats and deliberate humiliation, the Nike factory forced Ms Nguyen to sign a letter of resignation (Campaign For Labor Rights 5/13/98). Ms. Lap Nguyen, despite her excellent employment history was demoted to cleaning the toilet from a team leader position after talking to ESPN and NBC News reporters. Nike executives have refused multiple pleas to review her case. One reason may be that Sam Yang, unlike the four subcontractors Phil Knight reported severing ties with (Nike web document, 1998 stockholder's meeting; Manning, 1997), as discussed above, this sub contractor from Korea controls a significant portion of Nike's overall production (See Boje, 1998 for testimony of Lap Nguyen). I would add, a worker at a Reebok factory was also sacked for talking to ESPN in 1998, and when Reebok was contacted about this they immediately found that worker another job. Why is Nike not prepared to do the same for Lap Nguyen? (see Bissell et al., 2000 for update). According to Dusty Kidd, director or Nike's Labor Practices Department:

The source of the allegation, according to Mr. Connor, was Mr. Thuyen Nguyen of Vietnam Labor Watch. Nike's labor practices manager in Vietnam, who like Mr. Thuyen is also Vietnamese-American, investigated. He spoke to Ms. Nguyen, the trade union manager, factory management and workers in the sections where Ms. Nguyen had worked. His conclusion was that there were genuine work performance issues and that the factory's decision not to renew Ms. Nguyen's contract was legitimate. A Vietnamese Court heard Ms. Nguyen's case when she appealed for review. The court, reviewing all the documentation, concluded that the factory had acted properly.

I will leave off here in the exchange of point and counter point in the letters (Kidd, 1999; Bissell et al., 2000). I want to instead accentuate connectons to several of Letiche's points. In relativism there are many "truths," as many as experiential possibilities. It takes solid research methodology and dialogue among the various players to sift them out the hetroglossia and intertextual claims. The claims and counter-claims are rich in irony in ways that escape the University of Oregon academics. For example, as Letiche argues, no one truth endues too long, you do not know what will unfold, and any dualism between logic (analysis) and experience (in the field) is sheer fallacy. In the sorting out process, not everything goes. You can not say just anything and escape worldwide critique from a multiplicity of perspectives (of which this is one). The discussion of key events and interpretations never ends. As Nike says "there is no finish line." As Letiche argues in phenomenal complexity, there is a constant state of change and growing complexification on multiple fronts. In these highly complex and interdependent systems (across not only subcontractors, but distributors, and critics) simple cause-effect prediction is too simplistic an analysis to attempt. There are multiple sense-making centers and peripheries and many experiential modes of knowing rather than universality or unity.

Academic tourism research is a weak substitute for research based in Complexity. Sixth, my read is this is too simplistic an academic tourism combined with a staged Nike-packaged factory tour for the University of Oregon marketing faculty has helped spread propaganda. The claims, I believe, will be widely disputed. These marketing professors defend Nike in Asia against all criticism using an ethical analysis and an on-site inspection. "Some criticisms of Nike have been unfair but have benefited Asian workers and have promoted the principle that firms are responsible for the actions of their subcontractors" (p. 43). But, I would add, many others are fair and even understated. From a research methods viewpoint, what do they base this conclusions on? I read the article and could not find a comprehensive methodology. They just visited the Chanshin factor in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam because this factory was selected to fit their "travel schedule" (p. 44). They point out "Nike did not dictate which factory we visited" (p. 44). Yet, they also admit that this is a pre-announced factory tour. Undisclosed sources (let us guess) told them that variability among factories is very small so this factory was taken as representative. Very interesting finding, given the reports coming out of Vietnam (e.g. Vietnam Labor Watch). The University of Oregon academics inspected the physical environment of the factory on their walking tour. Their method, they admit, is no different from the study of Andrew Young (which has been thoroughly deconstructed by too many academics to list here). They observed workers, and describe a "modal employee: as "a young, rural woman." There are no sampling statistics, just corporate one. Since no interview data with "several workers" they spoke to is provided (see p. 46), we can only assume that the statistics and conclusions of the study are provided by Nike officials and subcontract managers (e.g. wages are $35 per month). They conclude" Overall, we did not see anything that struck us as out of the ordinary for a manufacturing facility" (p. 46). They describe ethics as "subjective: and assert that they have no reason to doubt any of Nike's claims. They concluded that Nike has behaved ethically (p. 48) and the controversy is explained as a conflict between the expectations of Nike stakeholders (who want to maximize shareholder value) and those who want to hold Nike to a standard in excess of the law. I would welcome any opportunity to debate these academics. To me, this article fails each of the major tests of reliability and validity listed above.

Questions of Time and Space. Seventh, time in sports events is about measurement, the stopwatch. And stopwatches are also used to set quota systems in Nike's (approximately) 450 subcontracting factories in S. Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and China. Half a million workers (mostly) between 16 and 22 years of age, and most of these (roughly 85%) are female. 111,000 are estimated to work for Nike in China. They work in factories that are run with the precision of extreme Taylorism, with mechanistic routines of factory production and life that pre-date Taylor. Now according to Letiche and other theorists, complexity theory is not about mechanistic production. Yet, if we theorize Nike and its 610 subcontractors as an multi-layered complex system of post-industrial and post-Fordist production subcontracting, postmodern culture imagineers and responding to a post-WTO network of critical academics and student and NGO protesters, then the mechanistic units matter little compared to the dynamics of the interwoven system. And it is a system that I think dances upon the edge of chaos, full of noise and disinformation, ready with the late breaking news to spin into the abyss of labor reform and popular culture spectacle. And it is this embedded and situated awareness of the relation between, mechanistic work, post-industrial flexible subcontracting (in production and distribution, and postmodern culture (in both creating culture sports hero-brands and experiencing the blunt of culture jamming) that is missed by the University of Oregon marketeers.

What have Marx and Nike got in common? Eighth, I think that the above points and Karl Marx's (1867) chapter ten of Das Kapital, "The Working Day" share a great deal. Marx's chapter is an apt description of life in, not the modal, but the peripheral (off-Broadway places that are not part of the Nike factory tour-ism). And many of the issues are the same between the 1860s and this time. Managers stretch the day with strange fines and quotas, working laborers day and night, in shifts and in stretches of time that are 12, 14, and 16 hours in duration. The long hours demanded of female labor was an issue in the 1860s, as it is today for the NGOs, activist web sites, and student organizing on campuses in the Western world. In competitive sports as in the working day, there is an interest in counting the units produced at various time intervals with various measuring apparatus. To avoid being late to work, workers start their day earlier. To avoid fines for missing a quota they stay later without recording the hours (fines are half a day's wage in Vietnam, but a full day's wage in China).

Postmodern Culture and Nike. Ninth, in sports, Nike has some controversy with regards to time. In purchasing the apparel and appearance rights to the Brazil soccer team, practices were cut short to fulfill Nike contract requirements for a tour of Nike promotional events. And too many fans think that this extra Nike work-time explains Brazil's poor showing in the recent World Cup matches. The fatigue from overwork, in stretching work time as well as exercise time and advertising-promotion-event time is a concern for Nike endorsees and Nike factory labels. Nike is forever grappling with its past, with "bad press stories" of its labor condition, its bully-behavior with sports franchises (and the Olympics), and with "bad boy" images for many of its past and a few current endorsees (Jimmy Connors, John McInroe, Andre Aggasi, Rodney…., Barker, etc.). The identity of time enters into Nike products and into the reputation and image of the Firm, as well as to the logo and slogan and attitude that enters into Nike-objects. Change has happened at Nike. "Just Do It" has taken on bully-competitiveness characteristics, "bad boy," and "poor sportsmanship" as well as sweatshop labor conditions. There is also postmodern culture jamming. Activists in leafleting and in web-graffiti have altered the "Just Do It" slogan, changing it to "Just-ice Do It!" and "Just Screw It." The Swoosh has been changed into an upside down smile (for workers and sports fans), a drop of blood (the Vampire sucking last drop of blood from labor), and the four Swooshes arrayed in the shape of a Swooshtika (an image of Fascism as well as labor/concentration camps). The tarnished image of "Just Do It" and "Swoosh" has resulted in a new campaign. The move to "I Can" as the slogan, not totally retiring "Just Do It" but sending it to the second team. And the Swoosh was also not present at the last shareholder's meeting, has been removed from the corporate logo (leaving only the word Nike), and is being shrunk in size in its appearance on this year's sports uniform. The marketing explanation is that the Swoosh, "Just Do It," and Nike-name have been overexposed. They appear on everything, anytime, and, any place leading making the brand image less distinctive. For example, since baby boomers are getting on in years, their and wear Nikes, the skateboarders have moved away from Nike, and are headed to new brands and to Adidas which is emerging as an "anti-Nike" brand. The "I Can" represents the future as potential. It is not about bully-sports heroes, it is about the average weekend-exerciser and sports enthusiast trying it and doing it. I Can is a bit more wimpy than Just Do It, which is now associated with win at any costs and the new hyper-competitive ideas about business. In hyper-competitiveness one seeks to not only be a bad sport to ruin the game for the competitor to take them out of the game so they never compete. And as an image of Nike's labor practices, hyper-competitiveness is a dangerous image. Hyper-competitiveness has no ethical or moral dilemmas with sweatshops or paying poverty wages while paying endorsing celebrities tens of millions of dollars.

Dureé Time - Tenth, dureé is different from mechanical time. Dureé is the experiential quality of the time and it is more about psychological time (dureé). Instead of mechanical time segments, each identical, dureé time segments are each different in their sensatoins, in their ability to absorb our attention, and in the memories they call to our mind. I would argue that dureé time for researchers observing sweatshop work is different than workers speedily working to meet quotas that keep being raised beyond human endurance. For Lietische, "Duration (of time) is proof of emergence. It is about the ""multiplicity of time" about the relation between our experience of a present event and its embedded meaning in our life-history, as well as our anticipation of our future. Dureé time is about our identity in time. And for Nike Corporation, dureé time is critical to change management.



In terms of change, there is a self-organization happening to Nike. The Nike popular culture maker is having to reframe its image to recognize and anticipate shifts in popular culture. Rather than a linear trajectory of how Nike has helped Third World countries become emergent (little and Big) Tigers, that narrative (called the Nike Index of economic development) is being sacked in favor of more "I Can" narratives. It had to be sacked because the crash of the Asian economy in 1997 raised questions about the veracity of the Nike Index narratives. In Nike country-hopping to find cheaper labor when wage rates, labor organizing, and government regulation of work conditions and ecology occurred/

My application of Letiche's phenomenal complexity theory does not abandon the idea of complex material conditions, such as subcontracting network dynamics in production and distribution chains. It does pay attention to the phenomenal complexity spectacle beyond the material conditions. That is, the academics studying Nike are more than "objective" or "unbiased" spectators observing the "subject" workers from a safe distance. To study Nike is to insert yourself in the controversy and become what Augusto Boal calls the "spect-actor" a simultaneous spectator and actor. As I write this article I am both spectator and actor, in the never ending theatrics of Nike-land. Factories and their relationships across several peripheral to core tiers are not unchanging objects. The observation of the factories and networks changes both observer and the observed. Nike is not a spectacle that can be appreciated by the innocent by-stander or expert academic. I think both Nike and the subcontractors script the performances of the announced factory visits, making the validity and reliability of that research suspect and calling into question the very ethics of that research. The research is dureé, it is not a succession of independent test, re-test, multi-site moments in the research program. Each moment as Letiche's reading of Bergson states is interconnected to the past and future moments. But, not in some linear sense of time, but more in terms of the hermeneutic circle. In this circle the phenomenal complexity has its intertextual-relation to the material conditions of labor. A positive or negative research finding can set of chaos effects that change both consciousness and labor practices. Objectivity and distance are illusions.


Boje, D. M. (1998) "How Critical Theory and Critical Pedagogy can Unmask Nike's Labor Practices." Paper presented to the Critical Theory pre-conference of the Academy of Management meetings, San Diego, CA, August 8th. See Academics Studying Nike web site for full text

Bissell, Trim (National Coordinator Campaign for Labor Rights), Francesco Gesualdi (Coordinator Centro Nuovo Modello di Sviluppo Vecchiano ,Italy), Esther de Haan (Clean Clothes Campaign Amsterdam, Netherlands), Pamela Curr (Coordinator Fairwear Campaign Melbourne, Australia), Kristina Bjurling (Fair Trade CenterStockholm, Sweden), Neil Kearney (General Secretary

International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers' Federation Brussels, Belgium), Liz Copeland (Coordinator Justice. Do It Nike Coalition Portland, Oregon, USA), Bruce Gould (Chairperson Labor Rights Task Force, Nicaragua Solidarity Committee Chicago, USA), Tim Connor (Coordinator NikeWatch Campaign, Sydney, Australia), Annie Delaney (Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia (TCFUA) Melbourne, Australia

(2000) " Response to Nike's claims to have reformed it's labour practices." March 15th. See full text at

Hancock, Peter (1996). Report on Fentay and Kutje factories in Banjaran, Indonesia, unpublished, October. (Research done on Nike in preparation for doctoral dissertation.)

Hancock, Peter (1997). "Walking Ghosts Who Work in Satan's factory." 4 April, 1997. See for the report.

Kidd, Dusty (1999) "To all the signatories of the Clean Clothes Campaign's open letter." Letter dated October 5th is available at

Kreitzman, Leon (1999) The 24-Hour Society: Transforming time in our lives

Letiche, Hugo (2000) "Phenomenal Complexity Theory and Bergson, its Precursor." To appear in Journal of Organizational Change Management special issue on Complexity Theory (Janice Black, guest editor).


Marx, Karl. 1867. Capital: A critique of Political Economy. Volume I. The Process of Capitalist Production. Translated from the 3rd German edition by Samuel Moore and Edward Aveling. Edited by Frederick Engles. Original publication NY: L. W. Schmidt. NY: International Publishers, 1967 version.

Manning, Jeff 1997 " Huge subcontractors find they must dance the tune Nike calls" Oregonian Live." November 9th. See