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 2: Adapting to adaptability: the machine of transience

Transient Relationships

Niels Åkerstrøm Andersen


Around 1980, a new ideal emerged in organizations about adaptability. It was not an ideal about adapting to some definite form but rather an ideal about adapting to adaptability. I have primarily studied the emergence of this ideal in the public sector, but today this is no longer specific to a particular sector but applies more generally to modern organizations. I argue that this ideal generates a specific “problem machine”, which since 1980 has thematized and recreated a large number of elements in modern organizations, including the relationship between organization and employee. This book explores the effects of this problem machine in the form of changed conditions for the way that organizations produce the organization-employee relationship along with a range of associated phenomena, including membership, role, contract and layoffs. My focus is primarily on the public sector but not exclusively.

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