Ambiguity in the workplace : some aspects of the negotiation and structuration of asymmetrical relations
This thesis is based on participant observation undertaken by the author as an operative in a manufacturing bakery. The problems of control and resistance observed during this period are analysed in terms of their importance in the constitution of the symbolic reality, or order, of the organization. This is offered as an alternative but complementary perspective to the traditional focus of labour process or social exchange theorists, and suggests a potentially fruitful new direction for organisational analysis. The thesis falls into two parts: the first discusses methodological problems, "objectivity" and positivism in "reflexive" sociology, the nature of truth and the importance of community validation; the condition of "verstehen", and the relationships between hermeneutics, ordinary language philosophy, ethnomethodology and structuralism; and the development of poststructuralism, with the associated reconceptualisation of subjectobject relationships, reading, and deconstruction. The methodological argument is that social life constitutes a form, of text and can be approached as a "fiction" - that "method" or "playfulness" is best applied to developing openness and sensitivity to experience whilst developing a critical armoury - seeking to develop our "readings" of social life to their limit of sensitive scrutiny and penetrating enquiry. The second part discusses the observational data more specifically in relation to the creation of and resistance to an organizational symbolic order. The concentration is on marginal data in areas where the symbolic order is emergent and analyses forms of data hitherto neglected in previous treatments. The concept of culture is explored through a critical examination of the consultancy process on a model of primitive sorcery as cultural adjustment; cultural ownership of criteria for organizational membership is examined through formal and informal induction processes; the capacity of humour to function as a non-real framework for resistance to organizational control is illustrated; and the problems of defining and interpreting acts of sabotage as material resistances rather than as having symbolic significance are discussed. The final argument is that the processes of symbolization in organizational sense-making have been neglected in the past in favour of the processes of rationalization. Symbolization in preserving ambiguity furnishes grounds for the maintenance, negotiation of and resistance to the organizational order and it is suggested that this should provide a direction for the future development of post-contingency organization theory.