Organizational Discourse: A Language-Ideology-Power Perspective

Organizational Discourse: A Language-Ideology-Power Perspective

Organizational Discourse: A Language-Ideology-Power Perspective

Organizational Discourse: A Language-Ideology-Power Perspective

Excerpt

When thinking of corporations, most of us take them—and their goods and services—for granted. We think of them simply as entities signified by names and acronyms such as Aventis, Honda, Microsoft, Nestlé, Shell, BMW, BP, GE, HP, IBM, and so on. This is a convenient and necessary illusion; in reality a corporation is a dynamic and eruptive process of movement, change, and production. The taken-for-granted impression of a corporation as an entity is a result of order imposed upon disorder. That which imposes order is, of course, power: “a concentration of control within an asymmetrical relation between upper and lower strata in any complex system” (Beaugrande 1997, 533). A power, we note, practiced not through coercion but through consent (e.g., Hogan 2001; Schiff 2003; Monbiot 2004)—that is, through cultural processes such as language and ideology

Exactly how, then, do corporations (and people in corporations) use language and ideologies to practice power through consent? What is that language about? What are those ideologies about? What are the effects of those cultural processes on society?

Answers to these questions, it might be expected, would be found in organizational discourse (OD): a field of study focused on researching discourse—language in social action—in organizations and its influence upon organizational structure and behavior.

It was Peters and Waterman who, just over 20 years ago in their best-seller In Search of Excellence, made that first, albeit brief, explicit reference to the importance of discourse for an organization. “A true people orientation (within an organization), ” they wrote, “can not exist unless there is a special language to go with it” (1984, 260). Today OD encompasses the research of

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