Just cause I went to Harvard MBA Program does not mean I learned about Accounting?

There is a multiplicity of rhythms to be analyzed in this fourth SEPTET element. 

Rhythms are defined as novelty and change, as the interaction of order and chaos, flowing, in asymmetry and symmetry, in acts of improvisation and emergent recurring patterns. - the rhythmic resonances self-organize in chaotic patterns, that refuse to freeze, and often disintegrate what was oftentimes just integrated. Rhythm can be the self-organizing urge of nature and its rhythm manifest through the motion, interaction and evolutionary potential; it can also be a self-organizing motion of organizing and emergence of inter-spectacle complexity. Rhythm can mean providing space for improvisation, experimentation with alternative rhythms (Barrett, 1998; Hatch, 1998; Peplowski, 1998; Weick, 1998; Zack, 2000).

It is important to recover rhythm and dialogic rhetoric in a more critical and postmodern dramaturgical analyses of corporate Metatheatre (Boje & Rosile, 2002a,b). For example, in Septet Dramaturgical Analysis, rhythm and dialog are recovered from Burkean (1945) reduction of agency. The rhythms of time are a dialectic of order and disorder. The situated context of organizations is historical events that spread in rhythmic strands in linear and non-linear trajectories (this is explained below). For now, suffice it to say that temporal historical rhythms experience blocks, transitions, evolutions, revolutions, and chaotic cataclysms (as in the Enron example below).

Practical Examples - Corporate rhythm can be seasonal, cyclical, linear or non-linear, mechanical or more organic, and there are authoritarian (centered) rhythms and rhythms that are more a democratic dance. Spectacle theatrics invokes un-natural rhythms, such as the 24-7 time orientation in Las Vegas casino work and consumption or recurring metascript rhythms that self-organize into recurring scandal patterns.

There is also a dynamic textual system in Metatheatre, a rhythmic production, distribution, and consumption of antenarratives (Boje, 2001a) performed in theatre to persuade and to camouflage alleged fraud and facade.

Antenarrative rhizomes and Tamara-esque networked stages, can create disrupting rhythms, such that the spectacle decontextualizes, veering out of orbit., and rhythms find their time patterns out-of-fashion, character's dialogs seem comedic or pathetic as the scandal becomes firestorm and megaspectacle. Next, I want to briefly derive the theory of rhythm in work by Aristotle, Goffman, and Burke.  I then turn to a deeper understanding of Rhythm in the causal texture theories of the environment of Emery and Trist, and to the source of that work, the Contextualism work of Steven Pepper.  I use this to critique linear models of rhythm in organization studies. 

Aristotle on Rhythms - Rhythm for Aristotle was too obvious too explain; rhythm – (or Melody, his other term) is “what is too completely understood to require explanation” (1449b: 35). Rhythm is the “means of their [i.e. stories’] imitation” (1449b: 31, bracketed addition mine); i.e. it is agency. It is the “greatest of pleasurable accessories of Tragedy” (1450b: 15). We know rhythm now as self-organizing, as chaotic perturbations, or repetitive cycles. Yet, rhythm in contemporary times is all about self-organizing, patterns of complexity, emergence, and chaos. Rhythm springs from intercommunication and from the acts grasped together into plot. 

Goffman on Rhythms

Rhythm in Goffman's (1974) work is about framing, scripting, and performing, within a closed system framework. In constructing a dramaturgical theory of organizations, the early studies looked at internal theatrical processes, using closed system assumptions. For example, Goffmanesque (1959) studies of organizational dramaturgy focus on charismatic leadership behaviors (e.g. Gardner & Alvolio, 1998; Harvey, 2001), emotional improvisation (e.g. Morgan & Krone) where the leader is the spokesperson and dramatist of organizational life (See Boje, Luhman & Cunliffe, 2002 for a review). Gardner and Alvolio's (1998) charismatic leadership study is a combination of Goffman’s impression management process enacted theatrically in acts of framing, scripting, staging, and performing.  Such an analysis of how leaders cast themselves as charismatic characters within organizations is a closed system analysis of the Theatre of Capitalism (Boje, 2002c). Harvey's (2002) study of Steve Job's charisma uses Goffman concepts of 'exemplification' (embodying the ideal of being morally responsible, committed to the cause, and taking risks) and 'self-promotion' (and less often organization-promotion) to construct his character as charismatic leader (Gardner & Alvolio, 1998, p. 257). Besides Goffmanesque charisma studies, there are small group studies within organizations, such as, Morgan and Krone (2001, p. 317) who found that the emphasis on maintaining a "professional" appearance in care giving largely constrains actors to perform along their scripted roles.  In Boje, Luhman, & Cunliffe (2002), we review how Goffman’s perspective is not that dramaturgical because he focuses on well scripted, pre-rehearsed performances rather than momentary and creative drama.  Here, I just want to look at the way that earlier studies of organization as theatre adopt a closed system perspective.

Burke on Rhythms

The second dominant approach organization is theatre, which builds upon Burke’s (1945) pentad (act, agent, agency, purpose, & scene). There are important differences between the dramatics of Aristotle (350 BCE), Goffman (1974), and Burke (1945). Burke preferred to keep acts separate from plots; characters were essentially agents. Agency for Burke is how the act was accomplished (Burke, 1945: 231). Burke notes that Aristotle said dialog and rhythm were the means. The Burkean applications in organization studies are legion, but, by in large, also take a closed system perspective. For example, Czarniawska (1997) explores how the identities of organizational actors are constituted theatrically through role-playing and image construction in the Swedish press. In another example, Pine and Gilmour (1999) use Burke’s dramatism to assert work is theatre and every business is a stage.  I agree, but would like to explore the capitalist context of that stage, in a more open systems view of organization/environment theatrics. Much of capitalist life is carefully scripted on what I term a Tamara (Boje, 1995) of stages where we play our scenes, according to games of agent and agency, within an institutional web of political economy. 

I think in the postmodern theatrics turn, it is time to unbundle rhythm from agency (means), and give it a critical postmodern flavor. Burke's (1937) early work, before Pentad (i.e. 1945), was as sociological analysis of the frame and framing processes of capitalism. Burke rejects both the progress myth and the Meliorist  position suggesting these are “frames of acceptance “ (1937, p.20-25) that over-emphasize what is favorable, and under-emphasize any unfavorable consequences.  

We (Boje, Luhman, & Cunliffe, 2002) argue that there are two ways one can theorize dialectic of theatre-as-organizing opposed to theatre-is-organizing.  One way would be to follow Kärreman (2001) and look at the transition from modern to the more postmodern dramaturgy of Baudrillard.  We prefer a second, option, to follow the more “critical postmodern” approach of dramaturgy in Guy Debord (1967), rooted in the dialectic of Marx (critical theory) and postmodern theory, in looking at the accumulation of consumption rather than production. 

Spectacle is defined as both a (ante) narrative and a (meta) theatric performance that legitimates, rationalizes, and camouflages production, distribution, and consumption in late modern capitalism (Source, Boje, Luhman, & Cunliffe, 2002). 

“The spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people mediated by images” (Debord, 1970, #4)[ii]. 

And the production, distribution, and consumption of antenarratives and Metatheatre is accomplished with the inter-rhythm of organization and environment. 

What is an Open Systems Theory of Theatre?

I would like to redefine Emery and Trist's (1965) classic article, "The Causal Texture of Organizational Environments" in Metatheatre terms, as 'the causal texture of rhythms' of capitalism. I do not envision, here, the tired old systems model of organizations importing, transforming, and exporting theatric rhythms from and to its environment (i.e. this is not a second thermodynamics theatre theory of entropy and negontropy). Rather, I envision a study of organization and environment theatre that is time and space, contextually-situated in Guy Debord's (1967) Society of the Spectacle. By context, I mean the the contextualism theory of Steven Pepper (1942), but resituated in a New World Hypothesis of Theatre, capitalism is taking a postmodern turn into theatre. 

My general proposition is that a comprehensive understanding of organization and environment theatre requires knowledge of the rhythms of contextualism, in the Theatres of Capitalism (Boje, 2002c). IN my revised notation to Emery and Trist (1965), R indicates the Metatheatre inter-contextual rhythmic connections, the suffix 1 refers to organization rhythms, and the suffix 2 to capitalism's rhythms. 

R11 R12
R21 R22

R11 here refers to the Metatheatre rhythmic processes within the organization, such as the TAMARA (Boje, 1995) of stages where wandering groups of spectators chase characters and storylines from stage to stage, and room to room, within the networking of stages within organizations. 

R12 and R21 refers to rhythmic exchanges between corporate Metatheatre and Capitalism across local, national or global stages (in either direction), and 

R22 refers to rhythms through which stages of capitalism (contextualism) become intertextually related to each other in its causal texture, the spaces and times of interdependency that belong within capitalism itself, to its Metatheatrical ecology. 

In short, I am proposing, in this SEPTET element, a inter-rhythm theory of organizational-capitalism dramaturgy. In Emery and Trist' s (1965) theory of organization and environment, there are four types of causal texture environments, which we can resituate in a theory of inter-rhythmics. 

Table 1: Four types of Causal Texture Inter-Rhythms


I. Goals and resources (noxiants) are randomly distributed. Rhythmic patterns are recurrent. Strategy and tactic are not differentiated.


II. Goals and resources no long random, but are clustered. The rhythmic patterns (seasons and cycles) are read by a few organizations as recurring. Strategy differs from tactics. 


III. Goals and resources are clustered, and there are many organizations competing for cluster domination. Anticipating the strategy of opponents is critical to survival. Inter-rhythmic relations between organizations and their context form. 


IV. The institutions of the environment are inter-connecting in ways that make rhythms self-organizing and chaotic-emergent. The ground does move, and this makes strategy a very uncertain enterprise, even for organizations that partner or otherwise coalesce.. 

There is an important tie between Emery & Trist (1965) and Steven Pepper's (1942) World Hypothesis work. Emery and Trist cite one of Pepper's (1934) earlier pieces in their essay (See Alvarez dissertation 1999: 25-31 for review of relation of Pepper's relations to Emery's work). The four World Hypotheses  are world theories and each has a root metaphor (in parentheses):

  1. formism (categories), 

  2. mechanism (machines), 

  3. organicism (trees), and 

  4. contextualism (historical events). 

It is the fourth one that is the basis of Emery & Trist's (1965) causal textual environments. In contextualism, the assumption is continuous 'change' and 'novelty' (Pepper, 1942: 235). Small businesses in R11 RANDOMLY DISTRIBUTED environments can be free-running affairs with no sense of rhythm at all. The only natural stopping places other than ending the business when there are no more resources or customers.  These small business graze to find resources they see as randomly distributed. In R12 PLACID CLUSTERED environments, small (and larger) firms live in more seasonal rhythms, aware of cycles and periods of resource availabilities, like the New Mexico green and red chile farmers and the Pecan growers. Tax businesses are seasonal, aware that January to April 15th is a peak season for tax work.  In R21 DISTRIBUTED REACTIVE environments, organizations are strategically conscious of cyclic and recurrent rhythms of resource distribution, but also aware that they are not the lone hunters and gathers.  Finally, in R22 TURBULENT FIELD environments, rhythms self-organize. 

Pepper's Work on Contextualism?

We can deepen our understanding of the relation of rhythms as a Poetic element of SEPTET (theatre analysis) and causal textured environments, by looking more closely at Pepper's (1942, 1982) contextualism. The causal texture of the environment is strands of causal texture, contextualizing processes, and references that are (a) linear, (b) convergent fusion, (c) blocked, or (d) instrumental. There is an inter-rhythmic texture among organizations and institutions in the Type IV turbulent field that is both theatrical and (ante) narrative. It is the textured relations among changing and novel historical events that is the rhythmic contextualism of organization and environment. Historical events spread in time. There is a futurity and a pastness of the present (akin to Augustine's theory of 3-fold present). 

In my re-reading of contextualism and causal texture, all the world is an historically narrated set of events, and these (ante) narratives are produced, distributed and consumed in Metatheatrical performances.  Permanence of a causal textual field is a fiction. The contextualist is interested in derivative time, not in linear time slices (or durations of time). "He does not deny the utility of the latter, but he denies its adequacy to reveal the nature of an actual event" (Pepper, 1942: 242). 

Linear Spread of historical event (linear rhythms) - Emery & Trist (1965), by my read, impose what Pepper (1942: 240) call a "linear scheme of time: on to the "intuited event" ; i.e. they assume that environments are since 1965 always turbulent, having evolved from types I to II, then to III, and now all is type IV (turbulent field).  However, I think that contextualism also speaks to the spread of an historical event of the present in ways that are non-linear (such as in convergent fusion strands & blocked strands). The filed of organization studies continues to celebrate linear models of rhythm, without much attention to nonlinear ones (e.g. convergent fusion and blocked strands, below). For example Larry Griener's  (1972) linear model of size and age rhythm published in HBR, continues on. 

Figure 1: Greiner's Linear Model of Historical Event in the Growth & Size of Organizations 

Source: http://www.clicklocal.com/documents/Evolution_and_Revolution.doc & http://www.remnet.com/Growth.html 

The red line is a linear rhythm of evolution moments, disrupted in age and size growth trajectory by historical events (see blocks below) of evolution. For example, in The Leadership Crisis , "as the company grows, new systems are needed - manufacturing, accounting, personnel, etc. The founders usually do not have the expertise to manage this new set of systems nor can they motivate new employees. this is the Leadership Crisis. The company may bring in management who can manage in this new environment or may flounder as founders try to "maintain the old guard" (Greiner, 1972).

Convergent Fusion of historical event rhythms. If you play the chord C-E-G on your guitar it has a distinctive character. In this example from Pepper (p. 243), an attitude shift in C-E-G chord will be perceived as relatively unfused, "as the simultaneous combination of these three tones at certain intervals apart." When the fusion of three strands of rhythm does occur, the "qualities of the details are completely merged in the quality of the whole. Where fusion is relaxed, the details take on qualities of their own, which may in turn be fusions of details lying within these latter qualities" (p. 243). It is theoretically interesting that Pepper (1943: 243-4) defines fusion as "agency" since agency is one of Burke's (1945) Pentad  terms (Burke, as discussed above had reduced Aristotle's two terms, dialog and rhythm to just the one term, agency). In my reformation of Aristotle's Poetic element, and aligning it with contextualism, we get a theory that takes fusion of historically narrated and theatrically performed organization/environment events seriously. For example, various life cycle theories of organizations, assume that as an old rhythm loosens its grip on an organization, a new one is emerging that the organization will adapt to. For example, the life cycle theory of environmental accounting, environmental accountants want to fuse the Green Life Cycle theory with the traditional life cycle asset theory of the firm (e.g. theories of concurrent environmental packaging engineering).

Figure 2; Cyclical Inter-Rhythms of Fused Green & Traditional Life Cycle Models

Source: Boje, http://web.nmsu.edu/~dboje/TDgreenlifecycle.html 

In the fusion of strands, there are crossroads in the network of rhythms, points in time called Kairos , where in the case of Enron, people for deregulation meet with people for regulation, and some trading takes place, in the case of Enron, until all are for deregulation. With fusion, the historical spread of events becomes irreversible, until a block is encountered, and the unraveling begins. 

Blocked Strands of Historically Narrated and Theatrically Performed Events -  "A texture" says Pepper (1942: 246) "is made up of strands and it lies in a context." These strands not only fuse, they can encounter blocks, that unravel what had been fused. Historical narratives and theatric performances lie in a rhythmic context, but these spreading events can be blocked. What is blocking?

Blocking is the concept for irreducible fact that strands do not always run smoothly from their initiations to their satisfactions (Pepper, 1942: 255). 

Rhythms have order and disorder; they can be smooth-running in order; rhythms can encounter blocks, such as novelty, or a market pattern that was expected to recur, like the last time around, but did not. In Griener's model of evolution and revolution, there are five crisis events that we can term "blocks" (leadership, autonomy, control, red tape and '?').  My only amendment, would be to develop a non-linear model of these blocks.

Blocks, for example, in less linear terms, are about unexpected turns in the market, practices that worked each time in the past, but fail to work this time. In Type IV causal texture environments (Emery & Trist, 1965), the blocks are uncertain and unpredictable.  Blocks are also, for Pepper (1943), textual novelties and emergent novelties, such as a sudden disappearance or influx of customers.  Blocks are conflicting actions of historical event strands (trajectories) such that an anticipated pattern does not repeat.  Emergent novelties integrate and disintegrate constituent strands of historical events. There can also be the kinds of radical novelty, as in the case of Enron, where the theatrical facade no longer controls spectator perception, as it did each time in this historical past. 

There is no sharp boundary between narrative and context or between narrative and theatre, or between theatre and context. The theatric performance of narrative is embedded in context; that is there the quality of the meaning of the performance is situated. But, I am not talk here about sense-making, rather it is world-making; it is ontologizing (see Quasi-object in menu at top of page).  Antenarratives are rhythmic trajectories that become contexts; they contextualize and decontextualize; they realize and derealize (see menu at top of page for more on this topic). 

A Poetic analysis of the rhythms of organization and environment is a tracing of the strands, the way they are linear, fused, or blocked. . I think that organization stakeholders are partially able to trace emergent and radical blocks to the spreading strands of historical events. We need a theory of inter-rhythmic dynamics to understand each of the causal texture environments that Emery & Trist (1965) posited. Rather than assume, a linear travel of organization and environment from Type I before WWI to Type II before WWII, to Type III until their seminal article was written, and Type IV (turbulence) ever since, I would prefer to look at the stranded nature of rhythms as being some hybrid of linear, fused, and blocked patterns of antenarrative trajectories and Metatheatrical performances.  What seems irreversible in terms fo fused strands, can become reversible. Enron is a prime example of how the fusion of theatre to economics, became reversible after the fall from political grace. 

Enron beat out rhythms of predation while the resistance rhythms of India villagers and California energy users come into dialectic opposition. 


Our point is quite simple. Enron is Theatre. Enron accomplishes its theatre to persuade and seduce employees, investors, and students into the willing suspension of disbelief. We life in what Boje (2002c) calls Theatres of Capitalism, in what Guy Debord (1967) calls the Society of the Spectacle and what our friends A. Fuat Firat and Nikhilesh Dholakia call the Political Economy of Theatres of Consumption (1998). 


Alvarez, Rossana, C. (1999) Strategic planning and organizational development and change in Type IV environments: A case study in public natural resources management. Dissertation, Department of Management, New Mexico State University (December). 

Barrett, Frank  J. (1998). Creativity and Improvisation in Jazz and Organizations: Implications for Organizational Learning. Organization Science. 9 5, 605-622.

Boje, D. M. (1995). Stories of the storytelling organization: A postmodern analysis of Disney as 'Tamara-land.' Academy of Management Journal. 38 (4), 997-1035.

Boje, D. M. (2001a). Narrative Methods for Organizational and Communication Research. London Sage.

Boje, D. M. (2001b). Carnivalesque Resistance to Global Spectacle: A Critical Postmodern Theory of Public Administration. Administrative Theory & Praxis. Vol. 23 (3): 431-458.

Boje, D. M. (2001c). Global Theatrics and Capitalism. Presentation to Academy of Management Conference, Washington D.C., August.

Boje, D. M. (2002a). Critical Dramaturgical Analysis of Enron Antenarratives and Metatheatre. Plenary presentation to 5th International Conference on Organizational Discourse: From Micro-Utterances to Macro-Inferences, Wednesday 24th - Friday 26th July (London).

Boje, D. M. (2002b) Enron Metatheatre: A Critical Dramaturgy Analysis of Enron’s Quasi-Objects. Paper presented at the Networks, Quasi-Objects, and Identity: Reintegrating Humans, Technology, and Nature session of Denver Academy of Management Meetings. Tuesday August 13, 2002.

Boje, D. M. (2002c) Theatres of Capitalism. Book being published by Hampton Press (San Francisco). Available until publication, on line, at http://business.nmsu.edu/~dboje/theatrics/index.htm (password is required).

Boje, D.M., Ann L. Cunliffe & John T. Luhman (2002). A dialectic perspective on the organizational theatre metaphor. Paper under review.

Boje, D. M. & G. A. Rosile (2002a). The Metatheatre Intervention Manual. To be published by ISEOR Research Institute of University of Lyon 2, France.

Boje, D. M. & G. A. Rosile (2002a). Theatrics of SEAM. Paper to be published in Journal of Organizational Change Management Special Issue on Socio-Economic Approach to Management (SEAM), guest edited by Henri Saval.

Boje, D. M., Grace Ann Rosile, Rita A. Durant & John T. Luhman (2002). Enron spectacle theatrics: A critical dramaturgical analysis. Under review at Organization Studies, for special issue on organization theatre.

Burke, K. (1945). A grammar of motives. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 

Czarniawska, B. (1997). Narrating the organization: Dramas of institutional identity. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Duffy, Michael (2002). By the Sign of the Crooked E. Time.com, February 27. Accessed on web http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,195268,00.html  

Freire, Paulo (1970). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Translated by Myra Bergman Ramos. NY: The Seabury Press (A Continuum Book).  

Gardner, William L., & Avolio, Bruce J. (1998). The charismatic relationship: A dramaturgical perspective. Academy of Management Review, 23: 32-58.

Goffman, E. (1959). The presentation of self in everyday life. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin Books.

Goffman, E. (1974). Frame analysis. New York, NY: Harper Colophon Books.

Greiner, Larry (1972). Evolution and revolution as organizations grow. Harvard Business Review. July-August. Vol. 50 (4): 37-46. On line see http://www.ils.unc.edu/daniel/405/Greiner.pdf or see interactive model at http://www.remnet.com/Growth.html 

Harvey, A. (2001). A dramaturgical analysis of charismatic leader discourse. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 14 (3), 253-266.

Hatch, Mary J., (1998). Jazz as a Metaphor for Organizing in the 21st Century. Organization Science. 9 5, 556-557; 565-568.  

Kärreman, Dan (2001). The Scripted Organization: Dramaturgy from Burke to Baudrillard. In R. Westwood and S. Linstead (Eds.) The language of organization.  London: Sage Publications.

London, Simon & Sheila McNulty (2001).  Enron flickers: Once a paragon of the new economy. Financial Times (London). October 29, London Edition, pg. 22.  

McTague, Jim (2002). Fixable flaws. Barron's.  Jan 7, Vol. 82 (1): 16. 

Morgan, J. M. & Krone, K. J. (2001). Bending the rules of "professional" display: Emotional improvisation in caregiver performances. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 29 (4), 317- 40.

Peplowski, K. (1998). The Process of Improvisation. Organization Science. 9 5, 560-561  

Pepper, Stephen C. (1934). The conceptual framework of Tolman's purposive behaviorism. Psychological Review. Vol. 41: 108-133.  

Pepper, Stephen C. (1942). World Hypotheses: A study in evidence. Berkeley, LA & London: University of California Press. 

Pepper, S. C. (1982). Metaphor in philosophy. Journal of Mind and Behavior, 3 (3), 197-205.

Pine, B. J. & Gilmour, J. H. (1999). The experience economy: Work is theater and every business a stage. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press

Weick, Karl E. (1998). Improvisation as a Mindset for Organizational Analysis. Organization Science. 9 5, 543-555.

Zack, Michael H. (2000). Jazz Improvisation and Organizing: Once More from the Top Forthcoming in Organization Science, March/April.  http://web.cba.neu.edu/~mzack/articles/jazzorg/jazzorg.htm


[i] According to Barnes, Barnett, & Schmitt (2002), “Like that of the first Gas Bank plan, the origin of Cactus is controversial: New York businessman Bernard Glatzer, who sued Enron over the issue, claims Enron took the idea from him.”


[ii]  Notation: I refer to the numbered paragraphs of Debord’s (1970) text rather than page numbers from a specific printing since many different editions of The Society of the Spectacle are available (including one pirated edition and a full reprint on the Web at http://www.nothingness.org ). This style is  also conventional when using Debord’s work (see Best & Kellner, 1997, 2001).


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