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The democratic rejection of democracy: Performative Failure and the Limits of Critical Performativity in an Organizational Change Project

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-08-30, 15:13 authored by Daniel King, Chris Land
‘How do we introduce democracy democratically to people who are not sure they want it?’ This question was posed to us at the outset of what became a three-year experiment in seeking to implement more democratic organizational practices within a small education charity, World Education. World Education were an organization with a history of anarchist organizing and recent negative experiences of hierarchical managerialism, who wanted to return to a more democratic organizational form. An ideal opportunity, we thought for the type of critical performative intervention called for within Critical Management Studies. Using Participant Action Research, which itself has a democratic ethos, we aimed to democratically bring about workplace democracy, using a range of interventions from interviewing, whole organization visioning workshops through to participating in working groups to bring about democratic change. Yet we failed. World Education members democratically rejected democracy. We reflect on this failure using Jacques Derrida’s idea of a constitutive aporia at the heart of democracy, and suggests the need to more carefully unpack the difficult relationship between power and equality when seeking to facilitate more democratic organizational practices. The paper presents an original perspective on the potential for, and limits of, a critical performativity inspired interventions in organizations.



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Human Relations





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