The Monstrous Organization

The Monstrous Organization

Torkild Thanem

Drawing on contemporary debates in organization theory, this book explores the monsters that populate organizations, what organizations do to these monsters, and how this challenges us to re-construct organization theory.

Chapter 5: Monstructing Organizations and Organization Theory

Torkild Thanem

Subjects: business and management, organisation studies


[W]e are all monsters [but] some monsters find it so easy that they scarcely look like monsters at all. (Law in A Sociology of Monsters)1 All this, lines and measurable speeds, constitutes an assemblage. . . . It is a multiplicity – but we don’t know yet what the multiple entails. (Deleuze and Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus)2 MONSTERS IN SOCIAL SCIENCE AND ORGANIZATION THEORY Writings on monsters in the social sciences and in organization theory are scattered and far between. Perhaps the following terms may be invoked to illustrate the shared but divergent foci of this research: heterogeneous couplings between humans and machines (e.g., Law, 1991b), multiple membership and marginality (Star, 1991; Munro, 2001), distortion, subversion and undecidability (Bloomfield and Vurdubakis, 1999) and deviance and vulnerability (Shildrick, 2002). Given the history of organization theory and its track record in excluding issues of embodiment that disrupt and monstruct order and organization, I would argue that the litmus test when discussing this literature should concern how well this literature addresses issues of monstrous embodiment. Research in the interstices of actor-network theory, science and technology studies and the sociology of scientific knowledge might have produced the first attempt among social scientists to address the problem of monsters. With the anthology A Sociology of Monsters published nearly 20 years ago, Law (1991a) and others were particularly concerned with the sociotechnical relations between humans and machines. As Law (1991b) suggests, it is the relations between such entities that create monsters. Although the heterogeneity of these...

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