Competence and Gender Issues at Work
Chapter 3: Interpreting Organisational Life
CHAPTER 3 1/10/03 12:41 PM Page 1 3. Interpreting organisational life In keeping with the spirit of critical theory, and the eclectic way of theory building, this chapter focuses on the different ‘interpretive’ lenses through which the research was conducted. According to Alvesson and Deetz, the interpretive repertoire is made up of the paradigmatic, theoretical and methodological qualifications and restrictions of the research work. It is made up of ‘theories, basic assumptions, commitments, metaphors, vocabularies and knowledge’ (Alvesson and Deetz 2000, p.184). The analytical tools and methodological considerations that have guided the study are spelt out here. 3.1 LANGUAGE AS A PRODUCER OF IDENTITY: DISCOURSE AND DISCURSIVE PRACTICES Critical theory, post-modern and feminist work all emphasise in different ways the importance of language in shaping the reality in which we live. The origins of a ‘discursive’ understanding of language began with the work of the French linguist, Saussure. In his semiotic of language, he emphasised two properties of language that are of crucial significance in how we come to know ourselves (our subjectivity) and how we tend to construct ourselves (our identity). First, he saw that the linguistic sign was arbitrary – in other words there is no natural connection between the sound image (signifier) and the concept it identifies (signified). Second, he emphasised that the sign is differential, part of a system of meaning where words acquire significance only by reference to what they are not. The conception of language that Saussure develops is thus one of a social...
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