Foucauldian Theory Of Discourse AND Its Application To Studying Organizations Essay Examples

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Management, Power, Organization, Workplace, Discourse, Rhetoric, Employee, Study

Pages: 10

Words: 2750

Published: 2023/04/10


The Foucauldian theory of Discourse has been an influential tool used by many organizations in shaping and enhancing the understanding on power. The theory has assisted many organizations to deviate from assessments of power from different actors who perceive the same as a coercion instrument. The Foucauldian theory of discourse additionally drives people away from the discreet operational structures of the actors and tries to make them understand that power is equally distributed, embodied and diffused in discourse, regimes of truth and knowledge. According to Michel Foucault, power operates on other levels and makes up who we are. Foucault's work signifies a very radical withdrawal from the past modes of power conception hence can't be easily integrated with past ideologies since power is more concentrated than diffused, is more deployed than constituted by agents, and more discursive than coercive (Morais, 2014). Moreover, Foucault poses a challenge to the ideology that power is wielded by groups or individuals through sovereign and episodic acts of coercion or domination and viewing it as pervasive and dispersed. Power comes from anywhere and is everywhere; hence, it is not considered a structure or an agency.
This article, therefore, aims at discussing the main analytical and theoretical developments regarding the application of the discourse analysis in the study of different organizations. To enable the discussion, it is, therefore, inevitable that we direct the concentration on different literature materials compiled from different management and organizational theory, rather than on other related discourse analytical articles that were compiled within the limitations of pragmatic theory, socio-linguistics and linguistics. Moreover, from the ethnomethodology and conversation analysis domains, there have emerged researches regarding organizational interactions (Rakowska, Valdes-Conca and de Juana-Espinosa, 2015). Although the Foucault discourse analytic piece that has been generated within management and organization studies is extremely varied in orientation and even in nature, this article will refer to them as organizational discourse research or study. This will be to allow us successfully distinguish it from more organizational discourse evaluations and approaches based on linguistics (Li and Ding, 2010).
As an example, in a philanthropic organization analysis, more often than not, power is perceived as a tool that can be exercised amidst groups, for example, between the administrators and the employees, between different generations of the people working in the organization, and between different levels of professional degrees and between different power positions (Morais, 2014). Moreover, in the organization, power is perceived as a tool that is exercised from the upper to the lower levels, from the managers and leaders to the employees. In the analysis, power is therefore regarded as an added capacity that the leaders and managers exercise with different levels of success. The approach, however, does not seem to work or catch the power in different organizations. According to Foucault, management and leadership do not necessarily be demanding, controlling, and dictating the subjects, it should possess its objectivity to initiate and activate the staff personnel (Seethamraju, 2012).

Application of Foucauldian Theory of Discourse to Organizational Study

Discourse has been defined by different theorists as a collection of ideologies or sequenced ways of thinking, easily established in verbal and textual communications, and can be easily located in the larger social organizations. Foucauldian discourse analysis provides vital insights concerning the way the bodies of knowledge operate in their particular contexts through the generation of claims that are interpretive about the power impacts of a discourse on individuals or a group of people, regardless of generalizability claims to other contexts (Li and Ding, 2010).
The theoretical foundation of the Foucauldian discourse analysis is founded on different historical improvements in the social theory and the science philosophy. As an approach to assessing systematic knowledge bodies, the analysis partakes in western thoughts traditions that affect the Foucauldian discourse analysis. The main influences from theories result from the anti- foundationalism, feminism, social theory and postmodernism.
The ODS also known as Organizational Discourse Study dates back to discontentment with organizational paradigm studies that emphasized the significance of the culture of these organizations. Having arisen to light in the 1970s and the 1960s, the organizational cultural viewpoints sought to concentrate more on the different habits and behaviors of the members who contributed to the running of the organizations and their diverse understandings of one another. Before that particular time, different organizational theories focused on presenting the organizations in very holistic ways (Kroessin, n.d.). For instance, referring from a metaphor that was adopted from biology, these organizations or institutions were labeled as systems that comprised of out puts and throughputs, formal inputs and needing operational complementarity amongst its sub-systems. The cultural viewpoint additionally facilitated the shifting of the analytical attention from institutions as systems. It emphasized that the system perspectives of these institutions glossed over the particulars of a person's actions, not every detail that could be authentically be equated with the requirements of the institutional systems, it’s out puts and its operations. Moreover, the cultural paradigm enhanced a necessity to improve an understanding of the ideas like meaning, sign and symbol to effectively carry out significant analysis of the actions of the members of the organizations under study (Juhary, 2013). The contribution of other scholars like Putnam and her followers can also be found here and can, therefore, be considered as seminal in offering an assessment framework for the research of the use of language in organizations. Later on, other sets of influences were presented, predominantly to deal with the heightening doubt regarding the effectiveness and the efficiency of the current analytical approaches to try and explain the action, organizational cultures, and organizations. The cultural approach was uncovered and termed as condoning definitions of institutions that failed to show respect to the complexity in the institutional life. During the recent periods, cultural theorists like Pettigrew and Schein emphasized on unifying characteristics and additionally balance the ideas related to cultural integration with assessments of cultural fragmentation and differentiation. Nevertheless, the accounts of these cultural theorists continue possess as their point of departure what is common and even what is shared, rather than what complicates and differentiates.

Approaches to Norms, Power Relations, Hierarchy, and Control

Foucault took part in the Postmodernist addition of the crucial critique from the social theorists regarding the implementation of the empirical investigative science all the way to the human science. The stress in the later works of Michel Foucault was based on the context of power, in particular, local human circumstances. Foucault's work was considerably affected by Nietzsche and Wittgenstein as discussed in this segment. Additionally, this section also seeks to identify the different approaches Foucault has regarding the hierarchy, power, and norms (Grassa, 2015).
Michel Foucault held that discourse is a cultural construction of a reality representation; however it was not the actual copy of the on the ground situation. He also maintained that discourse governed since it was the major knowledge constructor. Through the generation of texts assemblage and knowledge categories, what can be spoken about and what cant. As such discourse produces or re- produces knowledge and power in a simultaneous way. Moreover, he also emphasized that discourse described subjects, positioning, and framing who it was conceivable to be and what it was likely to carry pout.
According to Michel Foucault, power emerged from anywhere and circulated uniformly within the organization, and while hierarchized, it was not a simple top to down phenomena. It is therefore possible to evaluate power regimes by means of historicized deconstructions of the regimes or systems of significance-enabling constructed as and in discourse, for instance, to see why or even how some lines of arguments and lines of thinking have emerged to be taken as whole truths while marginalizing other forms of doing, being and thinking (Geng, 2011).
Further on, Foucault states that power should not be exercised from the top level coming downwards to the staff level, the objective of power should be to stimulate the employees to active in their individual capacity. Michel emphasizes that the employees are free individuals who should control their self- created governance hence effectively operate their individual actions.
Power should be the main driver of micro-relations and self-relation between the management and the employees. Modern management is very different from sovereign, and discipline management hence must never be disciplinary form, controlling, and commanding, instead of direct action on the employees, a manager must use administration techniques that link to the self-government created by the employees (Geng, 2011).
There is significant current research critically evaluating and analyzing the new focus of contemporary management and the effect it has on the personality of the employees. Theorists like Anderson have suggested that discourse launched an invasion on the relationship between the employee and the organizations that they work for. These major assistances draw another or somehow inspiration from the Foucauldian theory. Foucault has demonstrated a more centralized and fair interest in governmentality, which has attracted a larger scope of interest through his lecture on the same. The modern state was to stop being a center of repressive and authoritative powers and consequently base itself on technologies considered governmentally productive technologies. These technologies are intended to shape and create subjectivity (Fan, 2009).
Foucault additionally launched a rigorous bout on the formation of the modern organizations as sites for repressive powers, dominant in different political theories and has since maintained influentially in the theories of organizations. According to Foucault, this power conception fails to grasp the un- repressiveness I the modern power objectivity. Conceptualizing power in the context of leadership, state, hierarchy and sovereignty, therefore, it implies that power is limitable and localizable. The commencement, in Foucault’s perspective, misses the core of modern power. Therefore, modern power does not emerge from the apparatus of the state and is not executed from the top to the lower levels and is not necessarily exercised (Entrepreneurship in Family Firms, Business Families, and Family Business Groups, 2015).
Foucault again defines governmentality as a particular contemporary mentality of the government, which implies that management or government should be directed to individual's self-management and self-government. Or rather, the management or the government in sitting should employ effective management technologies that have the capability to attach themselves to self-management technologies and not act on individuals directly through force and control. Alternatively, modern power should influence and shape the self-governments created by the employees on themselves. On liberalism, Foucault emphasizes that the management doesn't withdraw its powers, but rather, manage or govern cautiously at the same time regarding natural mechanisms to protect free market operations among others. In the liberal management, then the employees are technically sovereign and autonomous, at the same time requiring discipline, guidance, development and improvement (Burrow and Kleindl, 2012).

Role of managers

The current literature on management asserts management practice does not only concentrate on dictating, putting demands on people or controlling but should rather have an objective of making individuals have initiative and being active. Employees should not wait to be told their specific role or the expectations of the organization for them. They should rather be active and self-initiating, be responsible and think for themselves regarding the organizations expectations for them. Careers are currently presented as contravening the traditional boundaries cutting across hierarchies, organizations and professional domains. Each employee has to take charge of his career line and shape it to suit both the employing organization and his individual boundaries.
Modern career life is viewed as an avenue where employees get new and unforeseen prospects for reshaping and building their identities. A career is not restricted to a series of job positions but a sequence of experiences, events, and actions. Working is about being unique, and carving your career to shape your identity. Doing the expected and conforming to organizational requirements is not the course to being responsible or the justification for a promotion or pay rise; individuals who act and adapt to the required norms are not considered characters of themselves. The new HRM discourse explains that it is better to deviate than to adapt (Burrow and Kleindl, 2012).
Common buzzwords have taken the HRM scene by storm to include: participation, involvement, employee ownership of values, personal fulfillment, and delegation of duties, innovation and more. The words articulate and still reiterate the same primary principle: an employee should not wait for directions but should be self-stimulated to take action through his thinking. The primary premise is the improvement of organizational development, formulation of strategies, and upscaling of values; all of which cannot be initiated form the top management but from the individual and independent actions of each employee. Therefore, personal development and organizational development must happen in an interrelated and simultaneous fashion. A movement that runs parallel between employee personal development and organizational development then has to be established (Azis et al., 2014).
However, the emerging management trend does not talk regarding shaping employee personalities to enable them to accommodate organizational needs. Instead, the presentation of the new management technologies sticks out as though they are an objective reality working to replace a naturally existing order. The current HRM tries to bring an impression that it functions to expose the internal and natural abilities and potentials of employees rather than transforming them towards a particular direction.
Foucault offers a way to understand the innovative managerial techniques and organizational forms such as total quality management, team work and reduced production time; that are not explored deeply under the Marxist labor process theory. Foucault's theory also provides an elaborate understanding of HRM practices besides the traditions and ethics in organizations. Scholars of the recent times have thought about Foucault as beyond penalizing power while some have backed the use of genealogical and archeological concepts in organizational studies instead of Foucault's concepts. The critical application of Foucault's concepts may have stolen the show in the 90's, but it remains to be perceived whether it still has any influence or if it provides a theoretical toolkit for countering what is taken for granted regarding knowledge on management and organizational growth (Abdullah, Hanafiah and Hashim, 2013).


Michel Foucault discourse theory supports the modern form of government where the managers initiate and activate the employee. According to Foucault, an Up to down for of power designation inhibits the expression and productivity of the employees since they view it as control and demand- making. Foucault, therefore, emphasizes that power should be distributed internally and from all the directions in the management of organizations. He states that every individual has power over himself to create and manage a self – management and self-governance that the managers have to work to meet. Modern management has recorded increased open- mindedness and productivity in different organizations.


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