Edited by Barbara Czarniawska
Chapter 13: Popular culture and management: the provocation of SpongeBob SquarePants
Agere! What is to be done! Is there a list of things that require action when it comes to the study of popular culture and management? Back in 1998 an agenda was set by Hassard and Holliday who, having edited the book Organization-Representation: Work and Organizations in Popular Culture, declared in their introductory essay: It is our intention in bringing together the chapters in this volume to take a critical look at filmic, literary, televisual and journalistic portrayals of organizations, and to explore the ways in which these portrayals both remark on and inform current organization theory and practice. This agenda reflects . . . a theoretical imperative to explore the linkages between ‘image’ and ‘reality’ . . . [and] ‘fact’ and ‘fiction’. (p.1, italics added) A central dimension of this agenda was a consideration of how popular culture provided dramatic representations of a ‘reality’ of working life that was different from more conventional accounts that depicted the workplace as ‘rational, disembodied [and] unemotional’ (p. 7). Popular culture was heralded as enabling an understanding of organizations as ‘boring, unadventurous, mechanical institutions, rife with internal wranglings and powerplays, organized by corrupt managers whose financial motives outstrip ethical concerns’ (p. 8) and where ‘corporate heads are self-obsessed, insane, immoral or deviant’ (p. 11).
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