Managing Intensity and Play at Work
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Managing Intensity and Play at Work

Transient Relationships

Niels Åkerstrøm Andersen

In this thought-provoking book Niels Åkerstrøm Andersen uses a unique combination of deconstruction, systems theory and discourse theory to critically discuss topics such as the management of feelings, partnerships as second order promises, and work–life balance as an immune defense against over-socialized employees. He assesses the parallels between layoffs in intimate organizations and modern professional divorce discourses, and explores the dichotomy of double-bounded management commanding both ‘do as I say’ and ‘be autonomous’. In so doing, Professor Andersen encourages the reader to look at relationships in the workplace in new ways.
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Chapter 1: Diagnostics of the present and second-order observation

Transient Relationships

Niels Åkerstrøm Andersen


My approach in this book can be described as a systems theoretically based diagnosis of the present. I define diagnosis of the present as the effort to capture the creation of contemporary conditions and what is put at stake by them. Rather than assuming a fixed relationship between organization and employee, I explore the different historical forms that the relation has taken. At the same time, I look at the inner tensions and logics inherent in these forms. Given a particular form of relation between organization and employee, what specific inner contradictions are management forced to unfold within? Observing organizing and employee management as a social form means addressing them in their ambiguity and complexity. All social and communicative forms contain insurmountable tensions or even paradoxes, which, depending on the specific form, have to be continually managed and unfolded. In other words: a specific form results in specific and inherent questions to which the social has to respond without ever being able to arrive at a final solution. Thus, diagnostics is a question of identifying prevailing forms and framing the basic questions that they raise. It is a question of describing what is at stake given a particular ordering of the social realm. Unfortunately, employee relations as form do not represent an isolated island. Different forms develop alongside each other, condition each other, sustain each other or contradict each other. And the study of this collaboration of forms thus becomes part of the diagnosis.

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