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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 5 - Talk and Silence: Playing with Silence as an Organizational Resource -117


Chapter 5 Talk and Silence: Playing with Silence as an Organizational Resource Introduction: Talk about Talk In the last chapter we discussed how forms of play and work interpenetrate in popular culture, specifically in the phenomenon of dance. In part, our inquiry revealed the artificial nature of the separation between public (work) and private (play), and between the organizational and personal realms. Implicit in our analysis is the idea that dance is a non-linguistic aesthetic representation that uses the body as a mode of communication and play, in a way that sometimes ref lects dominant powers, inf luences and ideologies circulating in the wider social field, and at other times subverts them. In each of the following chapters, we show how social forms that at first appear to fall outside or even stand in antithesis to organizational life – as conventionally understood – such as ‘silence’, ‘foolishness’, ‘gam- bling’ and ‘madness’, can help us to play creatively with the conventional discourse and regulatory apparatus of modern institutions, and can pro- vide alternative models and refreshing new frameworks with which to examine organization studies. In this particular chapter, we will push the idea of the potentially creative and subversive dimensions of the non- linguistic realm in examining the playful, creative and subversive poten- tial of silence. Here we build on French feminism, which argued against the overly rational, linguistic, repressive dimensions of Enlightenment epistemology, which represses the realm of the body, emotions and the pre- or non-linguistic. Kristeva, Irigaray and Cixous in their...

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