Concepts and Transformation

Published by John Benjamins Publishing
Online ISSN: 1384-6639
Publications
Article
Facing exogenous changes and endogenous impasses, Emilia-Romagna, one of the richest regions in Europe, is undergoing transformation. In this paper, we outline the dynamics of change at the regional level, both in the changes in the interrelationships among the major actors, and the emergence of new phenomena such as demographic trends. Regional policy measures to foster local development are sketched by focusing on industrial policy, transport infrastructure plans and policy measures on learning processes, as they emerge in the changes undertaken at regional level in technical and vocational education.
 
Article
The point about a 'Scientific theorY' has traditionally been that it provides a 'guarantee of truth.' While it has, on the one hand, proved difficult to establish such theory within fields like work, organization and leadership, the growing competition and complexity facing most modern organizations makes for an increase in the demand for theory. The purpose of this contribution is to explore what functions theory can play in a context where people are looking for help to unravel complexity, give meaning to experience, make ordered comparisons possible and provide reference points for learning. When these become the primary functions, what happens to 'theory'?
 
Article
In this brief response I address four topics. In the first place I suggest that single-case action research has a useful contribution to make. In my view, so does action research on the smallest scale: applied to improving the practice of a single practitioner. A second topic is the difficulty of avoiding marginalisation if you are one of those who seek to keep their research practically meaningful. A third one consists of some reasons for my seemingly greater optimism. Finally I try to provide from my own experience some practical measures which can be taken.
 
Article
An action research program was started in two Dutch concrete construction factories to reduce absenteeism due to sickness. Representatives of workers and managers analyzed all possible causes of absenteeism. This process was guided by the action researchers, who also explained theoretical models. Smaller working parties were then formed to formulate proposals for action. The working parties consisted of workers and foremen. Top management set aside a budget for improving the work environment. The communication structure in the organization was improved, especially by encouraging two-way communication and by creating more opportunities for workers to have their say and to participate. Care was taken to ensure a good fit between the absenteeism program and a Quality Control Program. The program succeeded in drastically reducing sickness absenteeism. The change process is described, with special attention to theoretical models and to the characteristics of action research.
 
Article
The article presents a new European collaborative project, building on experience of regional development coalitions across Europe. Globalization is complemented by regionalization, and the emergence of new structures between the levels of individual enterprises and national governments. Competitive collaborative advantage is to be derived from learning across cultures, celebrating differences rather than seeking uniformity. Particular case study accounts are given from Italy, Germany and Sweden, but the framework is offered for a broader project, with the theme of Europe as a Development Coalition.
 
Article
As living, embodied beings, communication begins in, and continues with, our living, spontaneous, expressive-responsive (gestural), bodily activities that occur in the meetings between ourselves and the others and othenesses around us. It is by our 1st-person expressions that we influence the actions of others — our tellings are much more important than our reportings . Thus, as I see it, abstract and general theories are of little help to us in the unique living of our unique lives together, either as ordinary people, as professional practitioners, or as action researchers. On the other hand, however, the specific words of others, uttered as ‘reminders’ at a timely moments within an ongoing practice, drawing out attention to unnoticed features of the practice, can be a crucial influence in developing and refining it further. In this paper I distinguish between two kinds of speech/writing: ‘withness (dialogic)’ -talk and ‘ aboutness (monologic)’ -talk . Crucial in this distinction is our spontaneous, expressive, living, bodily responsiveness. While monological aboutness-talk is unresponsive to the activities of the others around us, dialogical withness-talk is not. In being spontaneously responsive both to the expressions of others, as well as our own, as I show in the paper, it engenders in us both unique anticipations as to what-next might happen along with, so to speak, ‘action-guiding advisories’ as to what-next we might do — a feature that is of central relevance for action research.
 
Semio-narrative analysis of an organizational schema  
Article
We illustrate the mechanisms by which speech acts structure organizational interactions. First, a comparison is established between what Greimas (1987) calls “narrative schemata“ and what I propose to call “organizational schemata.“ It is shown that both syntagmatic structures are organized into different phases that strictly correspond to specific speech acts (directives, commissives, accreditives, informatives, expressives). By illustrating how speech acts seem to be syntagmatically and hierarchically organized according to narrative forms, a first link between action and structure is proposed. Based on this result, a critical reinterpretation of some of Giddens' ideas is presented, especially concerning the notion of duality of structure in its syntagmatic and paradigmatic dimensions.
 
Article
This article examines how and why the academically-based social sciences, both pure and applied, have lost their relevance to practical human affairs (praxis) and links this discussion to the reasons why action research is a marginal activity in the academic and policy worlds. It also contains a harsh critique of action research practice focused on action researchers’ combined sense of moral superiority over conventional researchers and general complacency about fundamental issues of theory, method, and validity. The central argument is that “doing good” is not the same as “doing good social research” and that we action researchers need to hold ourselves accountable to higher standards, not only to compete with conventional social research but for the benefit of the non-academic stakeholders in action research projects .
 
Article
An attempt is made to clarify the nature and relevance of the psychodynamic perspective for the work of action researchers and organization consultants. Since this perspective is grounded in psychoanalytic theory and clinical psychology, some important distinctions need to be made between the various work-domains of the consultant/action researcher and the classic individual psychoanalytic session. The author argues that without explicit reference to observable data, interventions may in fact pervert rather than facilitate learning and development. This argument is illustrated by vignettes grouped together under: (a) questionable interventions in group-relations conferences, (b) self-reflections and interpretations as a cult, and (c) the individual in interaction with the group.
 
Article
The notion of theory is often discussed with great anxiety among organization and management theorists. Theory is often seen as being in opposition to practice which implies that theory may be outside of practical use. Against this view, this paper argues that what we call theoretical practices are key components of action research activities in organizations. Theoretical practices allow a contextual analysis of “thick“ organizational practices and also allows an analysis of the multiple language games being used in organizations. Thus, theoretical practices should be examined as an important activity in insider/outsider action research activities.
 
Article
This is a personal Latin American perspective on action research, as my contribution to the debate promoted by Werner Fricke on the subject. My discussion follows the main issues outlined by Davydd Greenwood in his article (CAT 7(2): 2002), which laid the ground for our exchanges. I argue that it is too early to dismiss all contributions from conventional research to the social sciences, and that action research's main contribution is to really involve ordinary people in building knowledge, an endeavor that is not easy to achieve. In relation to unfulfilled promises and unmet challenges I discuss such issues by referring to my own practice.
 
Article
Three themes seem to be common to both Greenwood's and Gustavsen's accounts: One is the social isolation of professional [research] elites from the concerns of ordinary people, which connects with another: the privileging of theory over practice. Both of these are connected, however, with a third: the great, unresolved struggle of ordinary people to gain control over their own lives, to escape from schemes imposed on them by powerful elites, and to build a genuinely participatory culture. An understanding of Wittgenstein's later philosophy, and the recognition of its striking differences from any previous philosophical works, can make some important contributions to all these issues. Wittgenstein's aim is not, by the use of reason and argument, to establish any foundational principles to do with the nature of knowledge, perception, the structure of our world, scientific method, etc. Instead, he is concerned to inquire into the actual ways available to us of possibly making sense in the many different practical activities we share in our everyday lives together: “We are not seeking to discover anything entirely new, only what is already in plain view.“
 
Article
This article presents three cases: (I) the employment development and assistance program (EDAP) at the Ford Motor Company; (2) participation and change at 3M's Gorseinon production plant; and (3) confronting change at the Yorkshire Water Company. The cases provide an illustration of the action research involvement of the Trade Union Research Unit (TURU) at Ruskin College, Oxford. In particular they show the importance of understanding the contextual forces shaping the action research space in the realpolitik of industrial relations. The critical importance of taking 'the question ' and not a theory as point of departure come to the fore. The studies point to the primacy of dialogue for building the understanding necessary for effective joint action.
 
Article
The Scottish Institute of Human Relations, a psychoanalytically based training/therapeutic organization undertakes to "action research" itself. The need for this study comes at a time of rapid expansion and development which coincides with the death of its founder, J.D. Sutherland. Uncertain about the appropriateness of involving the total institution from the beginning (e.g. a search conference), the researchers begin by setting up and working with an incipient research group (IRG) which represents the Institute. How an Institution manages this phase in the change process is here described, with a particular emphasis on understanding the psycho-dynamics of the process of containment.
 
Article
The article describes the Center for Community Partnerships at the University of Pennsylvania as an organizational innovation designed to mobilize the range of university resources to solve the strategic problem of creating democratic, local cosmopolitan communities. We identify the Center's approach to this problem as helping to develop university-assisted community schools, schools transformed to function as centers and catalysts for community revitalization with ongoing support from an institution of higher education. We argue that communal action research, in which scholarly attention is focused upon the university's local geographic area in a continuous comprehensive partnership with the community studied, is a particularly promising approach for revitalizing communities, advancing knowledge, and integrating the university's missions of research, teaching, and service. We describe the Turner Nutritional Awareness Project (TNAP), which works to alleviate nutrition problems in a university-assisted community school, as an example of communal action research conducted by all participants in a common project. We conclude by describing the structure and operation of the Center for Community Partnerships, claiming that the Center itself is part of a broader organizational change occurring throughout the American academy as urban universities, in particular, respond to severe external crises as well as internal difficulties resulting from the separation of service from teaching and research.
 
Article
Some of the major aspects of engaging in action research are presented. The triadic relationships of action research as a basic and fundamental characteristic, ranging from the very abstract to the very concrete, are discussed. In action research one experiences, on and off, all the modalities of daily reality. The dialogical, linguistic, ethical and psychodynamic features of action research are emphasized, as well as its unfolding and often unpredictable nature. The role of the researcher unfolds in the context of joint action and becomes gradually articulated through (a) experience, (b) the content of one's 'toolkit', and (c) appropriate timing.
 
Article
The case of Action Research drives a wedge between two opposite views of research methodology: an 'exclusive ' (Platonic/theoretical) one which insists that only objective and quantitative inquiries (as in physics) are genuine scientific research, and an 'inclusive ' (Aristotelian/practical) one that recognizes a need to adapt the research methods of different inquiries to the nature of their problems. The latter approach involves seeing issues of methodology as dependent on half-a-dozen contextual factors, which are crucial to Action Research, yet which the former approach ignores.
 
Article
While welcoming Gustavsen's exploration of issues of scale and wider influence in action research, which argues that we need to extend the relatively small scale of individual action research `cases' and see action research as creating social movements and social capital, this article takes issue with the implication that this implies that less attention must be paid to the personal and interpersonal dimensions of action research. Issues of scale must be approached not only through distributive action research as Gustavsen advocates, but also by expanding the emancipatory inquiry space of face-to-face inquiry practices. The integration of the personal with the political is seen as absolutely central to this type of work; a range of examples is offered. The possibility that action research can never be part of mainstream science but rather runs fundamentally counter to mainstream Western culture is explored. It is argued that action research must be seen not as a form of social science producing knowledge or cases, but as a form of day to day inquiry integrated in the lives of individuals, small groups, organizations and society as a whole.
 
Article
The debate initiated by Greenwood and continued by Gustavsen fills a major gap in action research. The present paper underlines the importance of communicating with the broader research community, relating what we learn from our research activities. The findings of action research are seldom developed and argued in such a way as to connect to the borader intellectual discourses within the scientific community.
 
Article
This article argues that the question of what actionable knowledge is, can hardly be answered appropriately either by solely theoretical argumentation or by solely practical demonstration. It is in the very interplay between theory and practice that knowledge can prove to be actionable. Thus it becomes crucial to come to an adequate theoretical understanding of this interplay on the basis of practical experiences. This article, however, does not argue in favour of any particular theoretical model as the only adequate interpretation of this interplay. Rather, the main argument is that experiences from Scandinavian action research programs over the last decades indicates that it is necessary to deconstruct the conventional concepts of general knowledge to be able to construct actionable knowledge. The article briefly presents some of the main steps in this development, and thereby some new perspectives on the main features of actionable knowledge. On this basis, the final part of the article presents some arguments why a linguistic turn in action research and in management and organisation studies may pave the way for a hitherto greatly underexploited resource for creating actionable knowledge: the personal experience of the researchers.
 
Article
This article is a response to Davydd J. Greenwood's critical review of defensiveness and sloppiness in the current action research (AR) community. My experience of the situation in AR coincides to a large degree with Greenwood's. His claims are hard to test, however, since he hardly gives concrete examples. In order to sort out real “sloppiness“ (whatever that is), we have to take into consideration the conditions under which most AR has to work. I also think Greenwood's contention that AR suffers from “complacency about fundamental issues of theory, method and validity“ has to do with fundamental changes in AR's self-understanding between “old AR“ before 1965 and “the second wave“ from the 1970s on. Personally I recommend an AR-strategy — immanent critique — that balances between “morally superior, but sloppy and complacent AR“ on the one hand and “conventional social research“ (whatever that is nowadays), but find it hard to find much support in the AR community, for reasons, I believe, that have to do with the mentioned fundamental change in justification-strategy and self-conception within AR. At the end I announce some issues I would like to discuss further, but for which I lack the space in this article.
 
Article
In his article in Volume 7, No.2 of Concepts and Transformation , Greenwood lays the ground for a self-critical review of action research. This is very much called for but there is a need to avoid this review becoming a revival of yesterday’s “famous cases”. Major parts of today’s action research are oriented towards social movements, learning regions and other levels of organisation far beyond the small group.The associated research challenges can be met only by developing new research platforms and seeking new alliances with other branches of research.
 
Article
It is argued that more attention should be paid to the epistemological foundations of action research. Doing this from a pragmatic point of view, the author points to the decisive role of human practices regarding such fundamental issues as the constitution of meaningful signs, the application of concepts as rule-following, the contextuality of knowledge, and the marginal relevance of theory. The concept of practice not only points to the ways in which our concepts are established, it also comprises the skills involved in handling the conceptualized phenomena, our pre-reflective familiarity with them, expressed in the sureness of our behavior towards them, and the discernment exercised in applying or withholding a given concept on a particular occasion. These factors are all relevant to the establishment of knowledge, but they cannot themselves be fully and straightforwardly articulated by verbal means. Nevertheless, they represent what we go by when we apply concepts and other types of rules.
 
Article
The focus of this article is a social entrepreneurship initiative in Ireland that aimed at training long term unemployed people from 11 deprived areas in the Dublin region for jobs in the information technology industry. The initiative comprised a partnership of industry, government, state training agencies and local communities. Adopting action research as the methodology, the paper describes the evolution and construction of the design and implementation of the project from the perspective of first, second and third person research practice. The paper reflects on the outcomes from the initiative to date and concludes with a description of a possible model for dealing with similar persistent social problems.
 
Article
Can universities ever become a greenhouse for education in Action Research? Would it be possible to create Ph.D. programs in Action Research that are loyal to the genuine characteristics of Action Research? The hegemony of conventional researcher education has dominated university activities. Action Research has inherent characteristics that break radically with the academic tradition. The core challenge is to assess whether high-level training in Action Research can find a home in universities. Training action researchers in conventional academic institutions will in itself be an action research project. The paper presents three different AR projects, all aimed at training cohorts of students to become professional Action Researchers through obtaining a Ph.D. The first program started in 1989, the second in 1995, and the new program began in May 2003. The main conclusion is that it is a feasible strategy to create action research learning opportunities within a conventional academic context. This is partly due to a change in conceptualization of what constitutes knowledge, adding onto a stronger demand for practical and useful knowledge. At the local design and implementation level, curriculum design — both collective learning processes and theses that were closely connected to real life change activities — were important factors for success.
 
Article
All concepts applied in social research have two sources of meaning: other words and practical experience. Making knowledge (more) actionable implies increasing the emphasis on the practical. This increase, however, is no simple process to be carried through as a turnaround operation. Rather, the shift demands a process consisting of several steps, ranging from establishing dialogic relationships with other people to the development of “regions of meaning“ where theory and practice can interact in new ways. The article traces and discusses one such process of development, drawing on experience over two decades from action research in Scandinavian working life.
 
Article
Departing from the discussion whether there is a tendency — or a coercive force — towards convergence within the working life of the capitalist countries, forcing the enterprises to adopt similar structures and procedures across national boundaries, this article presents a brief discussion of the nature of some of the aspects of this assumed coercive force, namely the conditions of competition with which each enterprise has to cope. It is shown that analysts of capitalism with such different views as Karl Marx and Michael Porter agree that any enterprise has to be able to meet the actual productivity requirement within its own branch of industry at any point in time, if it is to survive in the market. However, it does not follow from this that there is only one way, or just a few, to cope with these requirements. Thus, starting with a simple model showing the broad scope of both the internal and the external general conditions of competition of any enterprise, we argue in favor of the importance of making all employees participate in well-organized work with a broad scope of improvement or development tasks, by means of a development organization. The thesis is that locally created development organizations within enterprises will not necessarily increase the uniformity of future developments: local variety may well be increased.
 
Article
This paper is a critical account of the effects generated by the current process of globalization from a Latin American perspective. Two sociologists and two rural development experts discuss the fragmentation of production and the concentration of power produced by such process, the role that the National States are playing, the culture of abundance and misery that globalization has originated. The authors propose some alternatives to the current process, summarized by the term “world-for-all“ or “worldization“. They claim that the university has an important role to play in fostering those alternatives.
 
Article
In the industrialized countries, notably of Europe, the 1990s have seen a systematic erosion of the social protections that the liberal democracies carefully built, as a matter of policy, in the years after the World War II: the protections we know collectively as 'the Welfare State'. This change of direction in social policy is rationalized by appeal to economic arguments: the 'logic of the global market' (it is said) makes it necessary for any major exporting country to enhance its global competitiveness, by reducing the economic burden of 'non-wage ' labour costs imposed on industry as a result of earlier Welfare State policies. The cogency of the economic arguments rests (it is argued here) on confusing two interpretations of the terms 'global' and 'globalization'. In multinational businesses or other global enterprises, these terms imply that the economic role of governments will be reduced, and global competition takes place between corporations.In governments, by contrast, the same terms imply a continued - even, an enhanced - economic role for governments, and global competition takes place, rather, between countries. If tackled on this last mentioned level alone, the economic arguments are, indeed, hard to undercut: addressed One Nation State at a Time (so to say) matters of 'comparative advantage' tempt rival Governments to engage in competitive cost cutting, and the costs of social services are an obvious target for cost cutting, e.g. in France or Sweden. Tackled on a wider ('global') level, this article argues, the same issues can be stated in terms less damaging to Labour and Environmental interests.
 
Article
This article examines the arguments offered by Will Hutton (2002) in drawing out a whole set of crucial differences between American and European capitalism, and why we should prefer the European version. The essential difference, as he sees it, is that while there is an ultimate preference for liberty and individualism in America, there are still in Europe a whole set of interlinked, positive attitudes towards equality, social solidarity, and the importance of public discourse. Hutton argues for the importance of these differences because, as he sees it, under the influence of the individualist values implicit in American capitalism, “the idea of the public realm is in eclipse, and with it a conception of civilization.“ Hutton hinges his argument around a contrast between with the ideas of two American social theorists: the conservativism of Robert Nozick (1974) with its fixation on individual freedom as a single, political value that trumps all others, and the liberalism of John Rawls (1972) and his arguments for egalitarianism. However, as I see it, more than a contest of ideas is at stake. An issue of a much deeper kind is involved, one that goes right to the very heart of how we should conduct our reasoning in social affairs from now on. Rather than arguments over ideas, the devising and implementing of new, dialogically-structured, participatory practices is required, practices which are constitutive of “public spheres in private places“ (Pålshaugen 2002). Here is where we can find important new European leads.
 
Article
The OECD, the EU, and a growing number of national governments have enthusiastically agreed with ideas about innovation systems. At the center of this set of ideas is the notion that learning is the most important process in the economy of the information age. This paper is an epistemological and methodological inquiry into the concept of learning within what economists call `the systems of innovation approaches'. Two conclusions are drawn: (1) notions concerning the concept of learning within this new framework of economic thinking are, in general, ambiguous; (2) furthermore, and in particular, ideas of expansive and collective learning in complex systems, ideas that more or less define the concept of innovation, are virtually non-existent within the framework.
 
Article
Traditional medical education focuses on scientific knowledge, it concentrates on the technical aspects of diseases not on the sick person. In a study with three different groups of doctors an attempt has been made to start reflecting with the dilemmas in practical work as a point of departure. Perspectives from the field of the humanities have been used in order to offer other ways of looking at problems with which the doctors are familiar in their daily work.
 
Article
In the current transformation of transnational corporations we are confronted with a new kind of dynamism inside these companies. To grasp the nature of these "self-organizing processes" becomes a prerequisite for employees to determine and assert their interests under the new conditions. The following article combines two spheres of work of the author. On the one hand there is the practical experience as employee and member of works council and supervisory board at IBM Informations-systeme GmbH in Germany. On the other hand there is a close cooperation with the philosophers Klaus Peters and Stephan Siemens.
 
Article
The search conference has come to be regarded as a critical intervention strategy within interorganizational domains. Yet the existing literature focuses more on the search conference as an event and less on what happens after the event. This paper focuses on post-search conference strategies in interorganizational domains. Four follow-up strategies — abort, fizzle-out, sustain, and diffuse and dissipate — emerge in the assessment of two search conference-based interventions in two different industries in Turkey. The paper shows that these strategies are co-produced in two dimensions: dialogue conditions among the stakeholders in the domain and the leadership strength of the referent organization.
 
Article
New management methods are trying to reproduce the performance dynamics of self-employed entrepreneurs among their `regular' employees, leading them to become the driving force of a company's production growth. In order to do this, they have to replace the system of command and control by a system of indirect control, which makes the autonomous free will of the individual employee instrumental to the company's purpose. Works councils and trade unions are thereby confronted with an entirely new situation, the main thrust of which is to render ineffectual the conventional means of conflict with which they are inclined to react to its negative consequences. To cope with this challenge agreement must be reached on our understanding of autonomy and the changes it encounters, associated with the changes in forms of management itself.
 
Article
Traditionally, compared with Wittgenstein, philosophers have begun their investigation too late in the day. They have thought of people as being already self-conscious, self-contained individuals, acting in a willful and intellectual manner. Indeed, they have interpreted Wittgenstein's latter philosophy, and his claim that the meaning of a word is its use in the language, in this way: as if he were concerned with language only as a tool, or as move in a language-game, with words said willfully and intellectually. In this view, words have meaning only if they are systematically connected with states of affairs and/or states of mind. There is, however, another side to Wittgenstein: a concern with the beginnings of language-games in spontaneous bodily reactions, and with such reactions as being the prototypes for new ways of thinking rather than as the results of ones already in existence. Here, meaning is understood in terms of one's direct and immediate responsiveness to one's surroundings. This paper explores this side of Wittgenstein's thought, and relates it to practical methods for beginning new practices, by noticing the presence within our old practices of such, usually unnoticed spontaneous bodily reactions.
 
Article
The paper is the inaugural public lecture given at INSEAD (6.11.1999) to the memory of Dean F. Berry, former Dean of INSEAD. The author aims at inviting a debate on the role and responsibility of business schools in today's globalization process. He summarizes some of the arguments which question the globalization and the neo-liberal ideology and wonders whether there is still some place for developing the sense of the “community“. Today's cult of individualism and the “I and We“ debate are discussed, exploring whether the enterprise can become or remain a “community“ (when the competitive pressure induces M&A and the cult of EVA). The answer does not encourage optimism. In that context the lecture explores whether business schools can bring a contribution to the development of a sense of community. The answer is a positive one if business schools are willing and able to redefine their role and models to develop “accountable citizens“ sharing a community.
 
Article
The development of complexity theory in the natural sciences is described, and summarized in six principles of complex emergent wholes. It is suggested that complexity theory is leading biology toward a science of qualities based on participation and intuition. It is argued on metaphorical and epistemological grounds that these principles which describe the emergence of complex wholes can be applied to social and organizational life. The six principles are then applied to qualitative and action research practice, with a particular reference to co-operative inquiry, in order to provide principles for good practice and theoretical support for the nature of valid inquiry processes.
 
Article
Participation has become a widely used concept and covers a great range of political and social practices. This article describes and analyzes some aspects of the Participatory Budget in the State of Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil) in the period 1999-2002, representing the first attempt to implement this process on a larger geographical scale. The paper is developed around three foci. First, the experience of direct popular participation is situated in the context of the grassroots social movement that has developed over recent decades in Brazil. Then there is a presentation of the basic contours of the discussion and preparation of the state budget in Rio Grande do Sul. Finally, some of its effects are pointed out in terms of the political structure, regional development and pedagogical construction.
 
Article
Non-governmental organizations are gradually coming to play an increasing role in developmental projects and organizational psychology is being challenged to contribute to our understanding of the dynamics of inter-party collaboration. This article documents how the stakeholders in a social development project develop meaning through discursive practices, when they define the issues they work on from their own particular perspectives. Development work is pictured in the use of metaphors as being aid, trade, transfer, exchange, etc. through the use of specific forms of thought and language. Each metaphor leads into different meaning configurations and characterizes a specific quality of dialogue. Special attention is paid to the action strategies that allow the 'weaker' parties to remain included in the development project. Discursive practices, metaphors and qualities of dialogue are illustrated for two multi-party projects. These illustrate how a social constructionist reading can reveal and generate discourses that allow the inclusion of weaker parties, in the cases under study, as representatives of the local communities.
 
Article
This article offers a summary reflection on the recent (September 2003) WTO Summit held at Cancún, Mexico. It places the WTO issues in the context of the process of globalisation. The discussion has four main sections: The first surveys the Cancún meeting, its participants, orientations and main topics. The second covers the characteristics of the altermundista international movement, its composition, its denunciations, proposals and demands, and the failure of the Summit. The third section raises the possible consequences for Latin America, the problems and the forces at work. The final section gives a personal view of the outcomes of this event and expresses that it opened up some opportunities for hope.
 
Article
Between 1974 and 2002 there were three state financed work life programmes at federal level in Germany, with a financial outlay of more than €1 billion. The author evaluates the programmes’ achievements, conflicts and deficits and pays special attention to the role of social science research in work design projects; he concludes by comparing the German experiences and the Norwegian tradition of work life programmes since the 1960s. The social partners participated at programme and project level from the very beginning. Many successes have been achieved: the easing of physical work load and unhealthy work; the development of flexible and decentralized work organization in industry and services; providing working people with opportunities to make better use of their qualifications. There were also lost opportunities: due to massive conflicts between trades unions, employers’ associations and the programme administration, the initial perspective of enhancing democratic participation and enlarging the scope of co-determination in industry was abandoned, after a series of successful experiments, as early as 1980. The implementation of modern forms of work organization, including semi-autonomous group work, largely failed; it was (and still is) restricted to less than 5% of enterprises in Germany. Recent tendencies in industry to return to Tayloristic forms of work organisation, to intensify work processes by introducing market-driven work organisation and flexible working time schemes, directly contradict the original intentions of the programmes.
 
Article
Ever since the 17th century, European thinkers have valued `rationality' at the expense of `reasonableness': the current crisis about postmodernity is one by-product of that obsession. Yet, from garden design and literature to electrical theory and development economics, it can be helpful to restore the balance between these two aspects of Human Reason. In this way, we can recapture the practical wisdom of Aristotle, and recognize the importance of clinical understanding as contrasted with theoretical explanation.
 
Article
Over a period of several years, the employees and their superiors — together with their line manager,1 the author of this article — completely redesigned the labor process at and the structure of the Lemken Company, Rhineland, Germany. Decision making procedures and responsibility were transferred to work groups; middle management was reduced and decentralized; and the hierarchical organization was flattened out substantially. It was possible to create a shopfloor culture of trust based on direct communication between the work groups and the remaining management. Information, including that about the company's financial situation, was made accessible to anyone in the company. Piecework payment was replaced by a fixed hourly wage. Flexitime and a voluntary profit sharing scheme were introduced.
 
Article
Urban time policies have to be regarded and embarked upon as a democratic and cross-sectional process. For such policies to become institutionalised requires citizens' forums, model experiments and surveys within the community as well as interdisciplinary cooperation between the various branches of the local authority administration. The article has its focus first on Eurexcter — a European action-research project in five European countries which has been promoting practical experiments with local time policies — and secondly on an empirical survey concerning time policies in Europe conducted for the European Foundation for the Improvement of Working and Living Conditions/Dublin.
 
Article
Despite its early contributions to the development of working life research the UK has lagged behind much of the rest of Northern Europe in establishing a coherent approach to the modernization of work organization. The removal of tripartite structures by the Thatcher and Major governments and their decision to opt out of significant areas of European employment policy left the UK ill-prepared to respond to emerging economic or policy challenges in Europe. Evidence of an increasing gap between leading-edge practice and common practice in UK workplaces has emerged forcibly as a key issue for future productivity and employment. The UK Work Organization Network (UK WON) was first established in 1996 as a coalition between researchers, business support organizations and social partners, slowly building a portfolio of projects designed to support workplace innovation. More recently the creation of the Work Research Foundation, a partnership-based company with responsibility for managing the activities of the Network, firmly establishes UK WON as a significant vehicle for social dialogue and organizational change.
 
Article
The understanding of post-Fordist societies as learning economies, in which learning organizations such as learning firms and learning regions play a strategic role, has lately received some criticism. The critique has partly pointed at the structural limits to learning in a capitalist global economy, and partly argued that firms in capitalist societies have always been learning, referring especially to the role of innovation in inter-firm competition. Against the critics, it is argued that the learning region has great potential, both as a theoretical and normative concept and as a practical metaphor for formulating regional policy.
 
Article
New approaches to securing jobs and dealing with structural transformation are being taken in Southeast Lower Saxony. The two companies that predominate in the region — Volkswagen AG and Salzgitter AG — have founded their own personnel development and training companies. A regional development agency has been set up with the participation of the trade unions. These new approaches can be understood both as internal company objectives and as a contribution to overall responsibility for a given location. Some exemplary project initiatives are presented here in the form of regional strategies for innovation and development concepts, business start-up networks and collaboration between business and universities.
 
Article
The article discusses industrial political activities conducted in regional networks by German trade unions. Referring to the example of Dortmund it is shown that the industrial political strategies of local trade union sections are currently at a watershed. On the one hand, trade unions prove capable of socially compensating for the consequences of a radical structural change. On the other hand, however, they have great difficulties in gaining a foothold in the newly emerging economic sectors. `Action research' will help the trade unions to develop adequate strategies for the new economic sectors.
 
Article
How may we conceive of cognition in practice? What kind of thinking and reflection animate the accomplishment of action? These problems are usually settled by an intellectualist argument: to perform an action is mainly to execute decisions, to carry out plans or intentions, or to follow instructions. According to that view, cognition produces action, but it does not take place in the accomplishment of action itself Such an intellectualist view has been taken up again and developed by recent trends in cognitive science. Why focus on such a view? Because, by its systematizing of current assumptions in most of (he theories of action, it makes the conceptual framework of those theories very clear and allows one to see the inconsistencies of its underpinning. The alternative view outlined in this paper is based on an externalist and pragmatic conception of mind. It considers cognition as a social process and reintegrates it into the performance of situated actions. To do so, it grasps performance as a genuine praxis and specifies the thinking and reflection which animate it in relation to the phenomenon of 'embodied agency.'
 
Top-cited authors
Peter Reason
  • University of Bath
William Torbert
  • Boston College, USA
Guenter Voss
  • Technische Universität Chemnitz
Hans J. Pongratz
  • Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich
Louis Quere
  • École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales