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Gibson Burrell

Gibson Burrell insists that Chaos be given priority over organization if we are to gain fresh insight into the relationship and tension between these two opposites. His espoused purpose in this chapter is to ‘patrol the edge of Chaos’ and expose it as ‘the absent presence which makes organization possible’. Whist cautioning against an uncritical pursuit of ‘origins’, he nonetheless selects three sources of organization in human history for particular attention, namely: (a) narrative accounts and emplotment that gave rise to the myths of organization; (b) social music making which led to the development of musical instruments and crucially, in the Western tradition, to organs; and (c) the incessant pursuit of ever sharper metal tools with which humans could leave marks on the world. As Burrell has it, ‘we must retain the notion of “Chaos” as free (not only from the chaologists) but from those who wish to occupy it with societal ruptures, everyday poor organization and military destruction’.

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Karen Dale and Gibson Burrell

We demonstrate, through a single case that neither architectural spaces nor leadership are ‘monolithic’, the form predominantly associated with dictatorial leadership – hard, impervious, unyielding and dominant, reflecting a single figure in a landscape. The case of a new academic building presents the lived and embodied experience of one author as researcher and subject, thus providing an ‘insider’ account that can be compared to the rhetoric produced by architects, consultants and senior management. The architect’s account, given on an architectural tour of ‘his’ building, is supplemented by documents and experiential accounts from colleagues. For those professionally concerned with quasi-participative control systems, the twin thrusts of ‘managerialism’ and ‘leaderism’ are very evident in the case, with the typical academic’s experience of formal leadership being one of distance, dissent and disembodiment.