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My wey PARTS oo WRITING, THEORY AND BEYOND 13 The Language of Organization Theory n(n Language i the flower ofthe mouth. Jn Janguage the earth blossoms towards the bloom ofthe sky ‘Marin Heideege (1971) (On the Way 10 Language ‘Where words break off ‘No thing may be ‘Stefan George The Word nM. Heidegger's (1971) On the Way 0 Language ‘Words convey ideas. When ideas have been absorbed Words 8865 thse he fish and forget the net are worthy to seek Ta0 (Only thse who can tke ae eT aphes of Eminent Monks 3) Creativity and Taoism In CY. Chan Introduction “The academic study of organization isin transition..Some organizational weiter rac ely begun to emphasize the importance of language in organiationsh plausibility or oth ‘an increasing appreciation jon, Symbolic represen functioning, must not be understood as attempts to accurately mirror reality, but must instead be understood as ‘standing for’ the intractable and obdurate ds. organizing mode through which our in its multifaceted manifestations, however, cannot to be an accurate pic ‘mathematician and popular science writer John Casti (1995) points out: ‘engagement with reality. What is at once our most basic and arbitrary 312 ‘The Language of Urganizanon Itis this organizational capacity of language to structure our thought-worlds ‘and hence our social worlds through ongoing material acts of punctuating, ‘ordering and classification, which provides an a the ‘tum’ to language in organizational analysis. The study of organization now becomes the study of the organizational mevhod through which language ‘actively constructs social reality. The persistent refusal, amongst organizational ‘come to form the instinctively shared calibration points reality. AS the cultural linguist Benjamin Lee Whorf (1957) reminds us, all observers are not necessarily led by the same physical evidence to the same be in some way oftentiaes we are very much at the mercy of that particular form of language ‘Which has become the common medium of expression for our own collectivity, 50 much 50 that the language habits of our community unconsciously eispose st cerin peered choices of iret. * In this way, the structure of the socially organized world, that we find so ‘worlds. The multiplicity of languages to be found in diverse communities is thus instrumental in producing the correspondingly multiple organized worlds (Chia, 1998b; Goodman, 1984) within which we live. It is this broader Understanding of the language of organization, and its effects on our comprehension of social reality, which will be developed in the pages that follow. ‘The linguistic ‘turn’ in organization studies ‘The recent tum to language in organizational studies has led to a spate of ‘communication and sense- ‘emergent concems revolving around the ‘making in organizations and, more importantly for our concern here, t0 the in theory are essentially problems in the use of words" (1989: 474) Whilst Van Maanen points to the shameful truth that although ve a, tinny ean wit or wa ey See etl as ena mi or ep on hey ier or Sins Srp nh eo ‘existing rules of grammar, and constructed out of the pool of nouns and verbs, Sign pe, cence oot hl oe Seine vari isn es fa it Seer 58 2, hemi feo tein a Eee ero! aang py woo tm eg ‘organization and th . useful starting point for our discussion here is Sandelands and Drazin's (1989) important critique of our inattention to the role of language in organizational analysis. For them, the validity of theories of organization are substantially “undermined by words that refer to unauthentic processes ‘operating between uncompanionable objects. These words portray an unreal ‘world where organizing appears to be explained, but is not” (p. 472). What is therefore needed, according to them, is the rigorous adherence to the proper use ‘some kind. Where this minimum criterion is not met, ‘or events, which by virtue of not being ‘These are words for science to avoid? (Sandelands and Drazin, 1989: source of weakness in organizational theorizing does not lie in the essentially ephemeral nature of the social phenomenon being investigated, but in the lack of rigor and discipline on the part of researchers in formulating theories of ‘organization. So, despite their reservations about the dominant tendency in organizational theorizing to formulate organizational activites and actions in ‘achievement terms (see pp. 459-60), Sandelands and Drazin remain, on the whole, confide the representational capabilities of language as a ‘medium for a capturing the dynamic and complex character of ‘organizational proct ie tropes in thinking about ‘organization and in writing organizational research, sklberg' (1992) tightly argued response to Sandelands and the need for @ more judicious use of words in th organizational writers, there can be no simple, |i by Susinds and Dain (989) an he mpaices sodas statanble Such an strate view exp seen ees te ty Pi ial ngage To ce te se umes und ta ga TVW rte e ree SSCs sesssesesseerevy LL 34 ‘The Language of Organization in organizational life. Yet, despite these important contributions, lang 2 pa hog depen Sen eae, tepecaatn, lt setines io be Wewel a cal ‘communication and. Representationalism, as a dominant Westem metaphysical attitude, takes reality, both material and social to comprise discrete, stable and self-identical things and events as well as causal mechanisms which are assumed to be simply located in space-time. Our language, correspondingly, is thought to comprise a even some of the recent more appealing forms of organizational ethnography that have emerged as a response to the social constructionist critique of ‘mainstream organization theory. However, an even more radical ion is curently being pursued is quintessenti ‘organizational world to the exclusion of other possible worlds. or instance, expresses much sympathy with this cause when takes up a recurrent theme in the work of Robert Couper jence, not as the ity. S ‘per se, but the study of method; i.e ity... the eental problem of the social ‘that thet subject mater has the same form as that of those (Cooper, 1983: 218, emphasis original). Unlike those ot y mentioned who focus on acquiring greater sen ‘workings by attending to the ways in which talk and conversation play 3 Human organizing takes place through imerlocking network of ontological organi to be treated a existing independently of our perceptions. Once this has been achieved we are almost imperceptibly led more and more tovards an object- ‘riented mode of theorizing. ty therefore, behoves us to undertake more thorough analysis of bow language, through is objectifying tendency, affects sand organizes our material and socal ways of life. ‘The organization of language By the meaningless sign linked othe meaningless sound we have built he shape td meaning of Western man. (M. Mean, The Gutenberg Galaxy, 1962: 50) Language, writing and the organization of reality Our knowledge of the: world's inextricably. shaped and. conditioned bythe! language wense, Language actively organizes societal outlooks, priorities and aspirations, Ths is the point that McArthur (1986) makes when he identifies language in general and writing in particular with the pulse to order, classify and organize our lifeworlds. MeArthur calls thi i and maintains that it is this urge which has made mods Like McArthur, Goody (1987) observes that itis as the primary civlizing force underpinning the emergence . “writing, defined in its most basic jon punctuating the otherwise y. ‘Ong (1986), for instance, maintains that language, and especially writin is ‘technology which structures thought ina fundamental vay. According to him person, those who regularly assimilat inking and speaking human beings aman beings (ately conditioned