Chapter 9: Managing Diverse Social Systems: Diversity Meets Social Systems Theory – Deconstructing Binary and Unfolding Paradoxes
Iris Koall and Verena Bruchhagen INTRODUCTION Resistance to diversity management may arise if the privileges of dominant groups are affected or the perception of normalcy is threatened (Özbilgin and Tatli 2008). Adopting the assumption that organisational systems are regulated by elitist rather than democratic standards (Koall 2007), we argue that managing diversity can challenge hegemonic cultural assumptions within organisational processes. It offers the opportunity of systems evolution, counteracting the tendency of actors and constituent groups in modern organisations to avoid perceptions of difference and otherness against the spirit of using diversity to strengthen organisational viability. Our chapter is based on the premise that paradoxes are useful to develop the ambiguity (Lewis 2000) of reality, which is necessary in dealing with diversity issues. This premise calls for an examination of the complexity in systems thinking as communication in organisations and requires us to observe the inherent systemic paradoxes of organisational systems (Luhmann 1984, pp. 138ff.; Koall 2001, pp. 210ff.; Koall and Bruchhagen 2007). 1. APPLICATION OF DECONSTRUCTIVIST THEORY TO DIVERSITY In this perspective, diversity discussions are connected to two theoretical streams: first, the theory of social systems (see the work of German sociologist Niklas Luhmann, especially 1984, 1997, 2002) and second, post-structuralist theory including deconstruction and paradox thinking (Foucault 1977; Derrida 1988; Butler 1993). This systemic-constructivist 120 Diverse social systems: deconstructing binary and unfolding paradoxes 121 approach to diversity (Koall and Bruchhagen 2002; Koall et al. 2002, 2007) refers to the idea of regulating diversity, with complexity in systems in mind....
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