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Organization in Play

Donncha Kavanagh, Kieran Keohane and Carmen Kuhling

Play is a foundational concept that animates life, work, creativity and organization; and while play is essential, it also dislodges the very meaning of these terms. Organization in Play explores different meanings, usages and understandings of play to present novel and insightful perspectives on capitalism, management, markets, bureaucracy and other organizational phenomena. It traces how early capitalism, with its ethos of austerity and distaste for recreation, has given way to a more ludic version in recent times. At the same time, children – those playmakers supreme – have been, curiously, excluded from scholarly conversation about organization. The authors examine this and other paradoxes using a wide range of sources – from Weber to Sesame Street, from Star Trek to Lacan, from Riverdance to Beckett – that shed light on the capricious boundaries between work and play, rationality and foolishness, sense and nonsense.
Play points us to the liminal and the extraordinary, where meaning is ambiguous at best, and where conventional notions about order and disorder, movement and stasis, centre and periphery are undone and are put into play. It focuses our attention on the silences and absences, the comic and the theatrical, the folly and the madness of markets, organizations, management and work practices in contemporary capitalism. Drawing on a deep engagement with sociological and organizational literatures, the authors show how a play perspective enhances our understanding of the institutions we inhabit and which inhabit us.


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Chapter 4 - Dance as Play and Work: Images of Organization in Irish Dance -93


Chapter 4 Dance as Play and Work: Images of Organization in Irish Dance In chapter 2 we argued that children’s play and children’s culture must preserve the ‘little piece of the real’ that resists symbolization, or is beyond representation, language and reason, if it is to facilitate the cultivation of a critical, creative political imaginary. In chapter 3 we examined science fiction, and in particular Star Trek, with specific reference to how the nar- ratives, images and metaphors it produces can enable us to play with organi- zational and cultural theory. In this chapter, we will extend our examination of how forms of play and work interpenetrate in popular culture through examining the phenomena of dance. Dance is interesting because it very clearly reveals the artificiality of the separation between public (work) and private (play), and between the organizational and personal realms that Max Weber discussed, and which was elaborated in chapter 1. We focus specifically on the phenomenon of Riverdance, which emerged contemporaneously with the Celtic Tiger. Here we argue that the Irish economic boom, which ended in 2008, commonly known as the Celtic Tiger, provides an interesting and unique opportunity to explore the relationship between the profound shifts in the organization of work- ing life and in the production and consumption of culture. We argue that both are deeply immersed in larger organizing discourses, historical nar- ratives about national identity and civilizing attempts to control the body. We identify three distinct ‘moments’ in the development of Irish dance,...

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