Organisational Change and Retail Finance: An Ethnographic Perspective

Organisational Change and Retail Finance: An Ethnographic Perspective

Organisational Change and Retail Finance: An Ethnographic Perspective

Organisational Change and Retail Finance: An Ethnographic Perspective

Synopsis

Financial organisations, like many others, are undergoing radical change. This book reports on the use of sociological ethnography in helping guide these changes.

Excerpt

Like many books this one is the product of circumstance and happy accident. As successive research assistants to Professor John Hughes, and being fortuitously involved in research in similar fields, we met at conferences, workshops and bars to discuss our work and express our general disappointment, verging on boredom, with the standard sociological accounts of the area—summarised in that well-worn phrase from Star Trek, ‘it’s life, Jim, but not as we know it’. Those like ourselves who took the ethnomethodological ‘turn’ at some point in their intellectual careers are accustomed to some dissatisfaction with our parent discipline, sociology. As, for historical reasons, each of us began to research organisational life, and in particular the role of technology and its uses in the organisation our ‘troubled thoughts’ about sociology, organisational theory and concomitant disciplines seemed to multiply. Fashionable views concerning the proper subject matter of the social sciences and the desire to theorise above all were, it seemed to us, accompanied by a somewhat cavalier treatment of ‘data’ and, in more recent versions, a legitimate concern for the problematisation of ‘facticity’ has, on occasion, seemed to render data collection irrelevant. The subjection, not to say subversion, of facticity to theoretical purpose in the social sciences through radical constructionist and postmodern approaches has been in our view largely spurious, ignoring as it does the massive reality of the world for those who inhabit it. In turn, ethnomethodology’s standpoint has been widely misunderstood, arguably because many writers cannot conceive of an approach which really means what it says when it argues that the ‘lived reality’ of work, or work as an ‘interactional achievement’, requires no commitment to any philosophical or sociological theorising.

At much the same time, and with some irony, quite different traditions in organisational study have proliferated. In these traditions, and we include here change-management approaches such as Business Process Re-engineering and ‘principled’ alternatives such as Socio-technical Systems work and Participatory Design, practical design agendas have predominated to such an extent that theory has hardly been an issue at all. The irony lies in the fact that one might naively imagine that these largely atheoretical stances might be accompanied by

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