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Disorganizing through texts: The case of A.K. rice’s account of socio-technical systems theory

Research output: Contribution in Book/Report/Proceedings - With ISBN/ISSNChapter

Publication date13/03/2019
Host publicationDis/organization as Communication: Exploring the Disordering, Disruptive and Chaotic Properties of Communication
EditorsConsuelo Vásquez, Timothy Kuhn
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages25
ISBN (electronic)9780429960567
ISBN (print)9781138588387
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This chapter seeks to contribute to the understanding of how organizational texts can serve as key resources in the constitution of organization by defining practices through which organizing and organization are realized. Building on Cooper’s processual take on the duality of organization-disorganization, the chapter adopts a communication-centered approach to explore the textually mediated processes of organizing. More specifically, we examine how in promoting a given interpretation (reading) of organizational reality alternative accounts are suppressed but nonetheless remain as possible meanings that “haunt" that reading, threatening to destabilize it. As an empirical illustration we examine the earliest textual account of the socio-technical “experiments" to reorganize work practices in Indian weaving mills conducted by Tavistock Institute consultant A.K. Rice in the 1950s. Revisiting Rice’s text, we show that the quest to re-order working practices in the mills simultaneously involved a suppression of disorder as manifest, for example, in the decontextualized analytical inscriptions he deployed. Drawing upon archival research, we recontextualize Rice’s text, giving breath to the suppressed voices that have haunted it and thereby offering an alternative perspective on the general applicability claimed for Socio-technical Systems theory.