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Light in the darkness?: managers in the back office of a Kafkaesque bank

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>02/2014
<mark>Journal</mark>Organization Studies
Issue number2
Number of pages24
Pages (from-to)255-278
Publication statusPublished
Original languageEnglish


The ‘dark side’ of organizations has been represented in the literature as dysfunctional or abnormal, while more critical scholars regard it a condition of the ‘normal’ way in which organizations operate within a capitalist system. Drawing on the work of Franz Kafka, this paper develops a critique of both approaches.
It is argued that we can learn much from Kafka because his representations challenge a top-down view of power and, therefore, suggest that there is light in the darkness. These insights are applied to a case study of a United Kingdom bank, to explore how managers, who are often neglected in critical accounts, are constituted through power relations, and how in the process of enrolling and controlling others, they discipline themselves. In taking this approach, the paper makes four main contributions. First, it elucidates how the ‘dark side’ has become an integral feature of everyday life in a contemporary organization and, second, it indicates limitations to the power that managers are able to exercise. Third, it explores how managers are fabricated as particular types of subject as they endeavour to discipline others, and finally it argues that whole layers of management can be understood as victims of the ‘dark side’.