Sub-theme 19: Power, resistance and hegemony in the contexts of organizational and institutional change

Alessia Contu
Warwick Business School, UK
Françoise Dany
EM Lyon, France
Damon Golsorkhi
ESC Rouen, France

Call for Papers

Change, whether it be organizational, strategic or institutional, is a recurrent subject of research in organizational studies. There are many entry points for studying the phenomena associated with change, but among them, power and concepts such as resistance and hegemony seem to be play a significant, direct or indirect role in processes of change. Arguably they may explain the success or failure, partial or total, of organizational, strategic and/or institutional change. Four generic directions/scenarios can be defined with regard to the phenomena of power, resistance and hegemony in the change process:

  1. The desired change is in line with the plans of the elites or top management class controlling the greatest volume of different forms of resources. This would be a reflection of managerial hegemony and its capacity to make organizational practice evolve in the way it desires, yet maintaining traditional practices of domination. The resistance of those directly affected by the change is often annihilated, for example through violence or cooptation, by the power strategies of those who are dominant.
  2. The change is an obvious failure, in other words, it has not been carried through and it endangers the organizational survival and the sustainability of the institution/organization. The open or covert resistance of those immediately concerned by the change is such that the project is trapped at a rhetorical, cosmetic stage and has not been incorporated into everyday practice. In such a situation a notion of 'managerial hegemony' would seem to be adversely affected, and the change initiators would appear not to have the necessary resources to counter the practices of resistance.

  3. The change is a (more or less) mixed success/failure. The resistance and the counter-power of those immediately concerned by the change are the source of an incremental evolution of the requirements of the initiators, but also of the demands of those affected. The change accomplished is a compromise, resulting from the continual dialectical confrontation between the desire for managerial and institutional hegemony and the daily resistance practices of those immediately affected by the change or by other adjacent actors whose interests are not served by the change.

  4. The change is a success, but only for those immediately concerned (recipients of change). In effect, through different forms of resistance, combining forces and structuring attitudes and isolated actions/discourses, a communal movement is created in the form of a counter-power which annihilates all aspiration to create and/or reproduce managerial and institutional hegemony. The change is therefore the result of the activism of those who are dominated which produces communal action. One of the main objectives of this type of change is emancipation or the creation of new, less alienating organizational or institutional forms. It emphasizes the political dimensions of a 'conter-change', which induces a real organizational and institutional transformation.

Although these four generic views can give rise to a number of variations and combinations, they are also indicative of a group of four complex problems concerning power dynamics, particularly regarding the interdependence between resistance and hegemony. Following on from the stream at EGOS 2007 and 2008 dedicated to power and resistance, the aim of this track is to theorise and elaborate power relations and the complex dynamic between hegemony and different forms of resistance, specifically in processes of organizational and institutional change.

Although not exclusively, contributions are sought on the following questions:

How is managerial and institutional hegemony created, maintained and renewed?

  • How is domination to be theorized?

  • In the process of change, what processes and power levers are available to the dominant in order to change organizational practice and yet maintain the constellation of practices of domination?
  • How is subordination and submission maintained and oppression reproduced?
  • How can hegemony and radical change evolve together?

How and why do those who dominate not always succeed in using the levers provided by their hegemony during the change process?

  • What is the role played by resistance?
  • How should resistance be theorized?
  • Can resistance account for organizational and institutional paralysis and stasis?
  • What types and forms of resistance are there available?
  • Does resistance playa 'negative' and 'destructive' role?
  • What are the conditions for this to happen?
  • How is it that often resistance ends up in strengthening the status quo, and often indirectly consolidating the system of domination?

How is cross-fertilisation and inter-play established between the managerial/ institutional hegemony and the everyday resistance of those immediately concerned by the change?

How can resistance to change be 'creative' and 'positive' and weaken managerial and institutional hegemony while enhancing the context and the state of the change in question?

  • What practices characterise creative resistance?
  • What are the conditions of emergence of such 'creative' resistance?

How can resistance, while totally destroying managerial and institutional hegemony, engender positive change and the emergence of new organizational and institutional forms, which in turn may lead to the emancipation of the agents?

  • By what dynamic force does resistance propagate itself during projects for change?
  • How does this dynamic force become a positive, creative counter-power action?
  • During a process of change, what are the counter-power creation strategies leading to the annihilation of domination, while creating a process of construction?
  • Who can/should resist, why, and with what aims?

The questions above are only indicative and not exhaustive of the possible interventions in this sub-theme on power, resistance and hegemony in processes of change. Papers can be empirical and theoretical. Studies looking at power dynamics and the interplay between hegemony and forms of resistance, for example, on M&A, restructuring, changing standards, changing IT, changing institutional practices are all welcome

Alessia Contu 
Françoise Dany 
Damon Golsorkhi