David Courpasson

David Courpasson
emlyon business school | EMLYON · Strategy and Organization

Professor

About

96
Publications
23,287
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2,783
Citations
Additional affiliations
October 2015 - present
Cardiff University
Position
  • Professor (Full)

Publications

Publications (96)
Article
This article sheds light on how a group of workers manage to create an enduring collective resistance, in an uncongenial context of neoliberal management pushing for compliant behaviors. Research on resistance has given scant attention to the concrete conditions through which collective resisting efforts can be sustained, despite adverse contexts....
Article
Full-text available
Flexwork, i.e. the combination of shared offices and telework, is one of the major changes affecting the workplace these days. But how do employees react to these transformations of their work environment? In this paper, we investigate employees’ resistance to the introduction of flexwork in a large Belgian organization. We show employees resisting...
Article
In this article we elaborate on the connection between organizational isolation and misbehaviour. Drawing on 47 interviews with elite chefs we make a twofold contribution to the misbehaviour literature. First, we conceptualize misbehaviour amongst chefs as a potentiality engrained into the geography of the kitchens they work in. Drawing on Smith (1...
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Durkheim’s contributions to organization studies have so far been decidedly marginal, and largely concentrated on culture. In this paper, we draw upon his theory of anomie and solidarity to show how a Durkheimian view of contemporary organizations and work has special relevance today for debates about how workers, particularly middle managers, can...
Article
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Secrecy and ethics are often seen as opposing forces within organizations. Secret work is viewed as unethical, as it excludes others from knowing and is associated with self-interested behavior. We contend that this view does not account for the dynamic inherent to secrecy and to the fact that ethics is embedded in social relations. This paper sugg...
Book
The book, based on 30 years of ethnographic investigation in a manifold of organizations, asks a simple question : how can we explain the social carnage happening for decades in offices and workshops in which all of us live and work everyday ? Even more than the dirty and noisy factory of yesterday, the boiling and energetic corporation of today is...
Article
Recent studies on identity regulation emphasize the significance of the body in mediating individuals’ responses to cultural control within organizations. However, little is known about how such responses are concretely enacted by individuals through their bodies. Based on an ethnography of an activist organization, this study discusses the culture...
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This article aims to shed light on how ‘powerless’ people can organize to survive in situations of mass oppression. Research on powerlessness often explains compliance and political inaction by a culture of silence, generated from the sedimentation of numerous experiences of defeat. We question this assertion by drawing from an illustration of cert...
Article
Secrecy and ethics are often seen as opposing forces within organizations. Secret work is viewed as unethical, as it excludes others from knowing and is associated with self-interested behavior. We contend that this view does not account for the dynamic inherent to secrecy and to the fact that ethics is embedded in social relations. This paper sugg...
Article
Most studies on the links between secrecy and creativity have focused on individual sources of creativity and the impact of organizational management on creative initiatives. However, because of their very focus on individual practices of concealment and personal creative capacities, they have paid scant attention to collective interactions occurri...
Article
Stealing, doing something unauthorized, occupying places, feeling silly and on the edge… how can we account for these practices that make the everyday? Why would the notion of everyday be interesting for understanding people’s experiences at work? How can we make sense of the myriad of disconnected actions, gestures and encounters that make the eve...
Article
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Despite previous work developing an understanding of organizational violence through grounded theoretical frameworks (Clegg, 2006; Hearn, 1994), we still do not understand the extent to which the conscious practice of violence in bureaucracies can influence subsequent individual performance. Part of the problem is that the ‘talk about’ violence at...
Article
In recent decades, organizational research on resistance has been largely characterized by a strict divide between hidden and public forms of resistance. We contend that this division impedes a full understanding of how resistance can be efficacious. We suggest that hidden and public forms of resistance are in fact interrelated and mutually reinfor...
Article
Most studies on identity work have overlooked the corporeal quality of occupational life. Despite calls to attempt such engagement, little is known about the role of the body in occupations for which corporeal elements are central in the affirmation of identity. This study aims to answer such calls by providing a detailed ethnography of police work...
Article
Full-text available
The meaningfulness of the physical place within which resistance is nurtured and enacted has not been carefully considered in research on space and organizations. In this article, we offer two stories of middle managers developing resistance to managerial policies and decisions. We show that the appropriation and reconstruction of specific places b...
Chapter
This entry explores the different definitions of democracy and the complex problems of democratic rule. These issues are then related to the dynamics of corporate governance and the extent to which democratic arrangements can offset hierarchy, oligarchy, and bureaucracy in modern organizations.
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Contrary to an ontology of defeatism that permeates scholarship on resistance, this paper suggests a perspective through which resistance can lead to hope and the unlikely victory of the powerless against the powerful. We offer an example where resisters develop specific activities that substantially modify a power relationship, thus showing the pe...
Article
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The essay as a literary genre has, over the centuries, delivered profound insights into a wide range of topics and even contributed to social and political change. As part of academic apprenticeship, the essay has served to develop students' intellectual and reflective qualities and to assess their mastery of many different disciplines. Yet, in rec...
Article
This paper aims to contribute to the emerging perspective on organizational entrepreneurship by outlining how resistance to managerial policies and decisions can give birth to alternative organizational styles. Drawing on an in-depth analysis of a personal narrative of an R&D team manager opposition to hierarchical decisions, we link studies on res...
Article
The objective of this paper is to offer a framework with which to better understand some conditions and possible modes of action under which extreme powerlessness and hopelessness can shift to situations where political action is made possible through collective action. We build on research explaining the reasons of compliance and lack of resistanc...
Article
Seven employees of an insurance company (called INSUR in this paper) created a blog following the collective dismissal of 239 salespeople in January 2007. The 239 were fired for refusing to sign an amendment to their working contract. Following the dismissal, 86 of them sued the company. After a two-year online struggle, sixteen participants engage...
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This paper traces the main lines of a process of ‘entrepreneurization’ of a local community in Argentina. It highlights how the development of the community in working spaces generated through the interaction between community members and external actors fosters the creation of an entrepreneurial culture and of new communitarian roles and structure...
Article
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Research has recognized the transformative dimension of resistance in the workplace. Yet resistance is still seen as an adversarial and antagonistic process that management can accept or reject; thus, understanding how resistance can actually influence workplace change remains a challenge for research. In this paper, we offer an analysis of two sit...
Article
Full-text available
Research has recognized the transformative dimension of resistance in the workplace. Yet resistance is still seen as an adversarial and antagonistic process that management can accept or reject; thus, understanding how resistance can actually influence workplace change remains a challenge for research. In this paper, we offer an analysis of two sit...
Chapter
Many bureaucracies still exist, and not just in the public sector. Increasingly, however, we would argue that they are more likely to evolve towards polyarchic forms because of the growing centrality of stakeholder resistance, especially that which is premised on empowerment of key employees. We suggest that managerial responses to this resistance...
Chapter
Full-text available
Power and domination once occupied center stage in organizational sociology. But as the field developed, the concept of power was marginalized and its overall significance for the drama of organization life neglected. Normative critiques of domination were recast as puzzles of obedience to authority, while scholars wishing to study the concrete wor...
Article
general and organizational and management theory in particular. It is to be found at the heart of all social relationships, and forms a leitmotiv for social action (Russell, 1938; Foucault, 1977; Laclau & Mouffe, 1985; Clegg, 1989; Machiavelli, 1981). In other words, it is an integral part of social living involving groups or individuals within org...
Article
Phénomène jusqu'ici largement ignoré, la rébellion de cadres et de managers qui un jour n'acceptent plus de se soumettre à des ordres qu'ils estiment arbitraires, stupides ou humiliants, engendre des processus douloureux à vivre pour les parties prenantes. Elle ne traduit pourtant pas seulement quelque chose de négatif, elle se traduit aussi souven...
Chapter
What are companies’ strengths and weaknesses in dealing with rebellion? As the twenty-first century gets under way, self-proclaimed performance-based management possesses three traits: arrogant claims to leadership; a refusal to allow open discussion allied to the professed infallibility of an elite with broad managerial impunity; and disdain for t...
Chapter
What becomes of rebels? What practical repercussions do their acts have for them? Do they pay dearly for their transgressions, or does their boldness confer all kinds of benefits in terms of their career, psychological and moral comfort, and social status?
Chapter
Perfectly normal managers one day join the resistance. They at last speak out: “No way! I can’t stand it any more! I’m going to give them a piece of my mind!” They behave in a way that undermines the order and good manners that are generally the rule in the workplace.
Chapter
This chapter explores in greater detail an issue discussed above. Managers rebel when their private lives become intertwined with their public lives at their companies, as if society at large had stepped into the workplace. Rebel managers play the role of go-between with this other world, the private sphere outside the company that hegemonic senior...
Chapter
Are junior or senior, first-line or top executives, managers increasingly exposed to soft constraints they cannot avoid, and to expectations of total conformity to decisions they must not challenge? Are rebellions going to expand even more? Might this weaken the roots from which the companies grow? How sustainable are their governance practices?
Chapter
Who becomes a rebel? Anyone can, and without any warning at all, without planning to, and without being predestined to do so.
Chapter
Executive rebellion unleashes a dynamic of protest to which the company must respond, whether the decision it ultimately arrives at is right or wrong. Rebellion, in fact, gives the company an opportunity to implement new management principles that it had previously been unable or unwilling to adopt. Rejecting current work rules and the decisions ba...
Chapter
How do rebellions start? How do they spread? How do they end? What exactly do rebels have in mind at the outset, and what are their ultimate aims?
Chapter
Management practices give rise to a number of illusions and fantasies about how they relate to the real world. It inspires its diehard fans and its inventive gurus. It obsesses its weekend crit­ics, who say that a company is either a prison or a playground. But neither of these metaphors stands up to a closer scrutiny of executive rebellion.
Chapter
Manager rebellion can be seen in another light by analyzing the company in terms of a political regime, in which power is held temporarily, is contingent on issues that are debated, decisions that are made and consequences of actions that have been taken, and which is a scarce resource distributed unequally between individuals, groups and units who...
Article
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L'approche clinique ou pathologique qui s'est développée en matière de GRH à la fin des années 2000 est basée sur une ignorance des acquis des sciences sociales qui conduit à des impasses. Le chapitre fait un constat et propose des pistes pour réinjecter une perspective basée sur de la connaissance. The French scene in the field of HR management ha...
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Pourquoi parler du pouvoir dans et autour des organisations ? Le pouvoir marque par son omniprésence dans les sciences sociales en général, dans les sciences des organisations en particulier. Une recherche comparative sur Google laisse apparaître que le concept est tout simplement le plus cité de tous les concepts des sciences sociales : le score p...
Chapter
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Cultures of resistance in the workplace Talking about resistance largely means addressing the processes through which a taken for granted phenomenon (for instance, managerial hegemony) is more or less suddenly unveiled by certain social actors and made questionable and thinkable by the same social actors. The unravelling of the taken for granted (E...
Article
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Publishing is an industry, and a very competitive one. Today more than ever, academic journals strive to be recognized as the most influential in their area, and this is shaped by somewhat strange, and often perverse, measures such as citation indexes and impact factors. Organization Studies plays this game: to be read, to spread the ideas expresse...
Article
Analyse du phénomène de la contrainte "douce" exercée par l'entreprise sur ses cadres et la résistance que certains d'entre eux y opposent, avec des témoignages oui
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The paper reviews, briefly, debates about power in their social context from the 1970s to the present day. It relates theory to changing political practices from Thatcherism to the War on Terror and suggests some new ways of thinking about power and identity in the present conjuncture. The paper provides an analysis of present and forthcoming socia...
Article
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Modern management theory often forgets more than it remembers. ‘What's new?’ is the refrain. Yet, we suggest, there is much that we should already know from which we might appropriately learn, ‘Lest we forget’. The current paper takes its departure from two points of remembrance that bear on the sustained assaults on bureaucracy that have been unle...
Book
In this tour de force, authors Stewart R. Clegg, David Courpasson, and Nelson Phillips provide a comprehensive account of power and organizations, unlocking power as the central relation of modern organizations and society. The authors present an excellent synthesis of organization, social and political theory to offer an overview of power and orga...
Article
For the past decade, project organization has become increasingly central to management and organization studies, particularly as these seek to discern the contours of post-modern organizations. Yet, these contours frequently seem to be sighted without bearings on the current realities of project management. In this paper we take such bearings, usi...
Article
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To the perennial question of why and how people obey, organizational and political theories usually offer a restricted vision mainly based on interpersonal power processes and organizational control mechanisms. Although such theories are useful, the recent evolution of business organizations toward post-bureaucratic models means they must be combin...
Article
Full-text available
This paper discusses the emergence and reinforcement of organizational political regimes based on domination and centralization in French organizations. Domination and power are old concepts in organizational sociology, but the confrontation of two well-known approaches to politics in organizations, that of Weber and that of Crozier, suggests that...
Article
The abstract for this document is available on CSA Illumina.To view the Abstract, click the Abstract button above the document title.
Chapter
The face of French deposit banks has greatly changed since the beginning of the 1980s. Changes in their organization, their employment structures and the characteristics of their markets have effectively moved them into a new era (Annandale-Massa and Bertrand, 1990; Grafmeyer, 1992). Banking in France is changing rapidly, as in many countries. The...
Article
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[eng] The idea of «normalization» cannot be mixed with the notions of «formalization» or «certification». This article tries to demonstrate that the most powerful normalizations of the last decade in the management of firms concerns more the cognitive and subjective dimensions of the individual implication in work, than the commercial inter-firm re...
Article
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Les approches de l'identité professionnelle et de sa genèse font l'objet de nombreux travaux. Mises en rapport avec les phénomènes de pouvoir, de métier et de conscience collective, ou de mobilité et de socialisation, ces approches persistent dans le projet de construire des figures identitaires " idéales " ou en tout cas homogènes. Le changement e...
Article
In this paper, a case in the banking sector in France is presented because this is particularly illustrative of some advanced training policies. Hence it enables several general conclusions to be drawn about their strategic effectiveness. One particular conclusion is that a training programme aimed at raising educational levels or basic skills whic...

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Projects (2)
Project
Organizational life for managers has never been an easy option. Disruption, instability, contingency and uncertainty have characterized the working lives of the majority of managers for many decades across a range of societies. However, the level and intensity of ontological insecurity experienced by many managers under neoliberal capitalism seems to have significantly exceeded those felt under the neo-Keynesian/Fordist conditions prevailing until the 1980s. As the overall theme of the Egos 2019 Colloquium suggests, we seem to be entering a ‘new age of organization and management’ in which the forces released by neoliberalism – individualism, populism, market fundamentalism, anti-intellectualism and constructivism (Cahill & Konings, 2017) – fundamentally challenge the intellectual and institutional foundations of modern management theory and practice. Specifically, this subtheme attempts to gather contributions aiming to understand how the recent transformations of work and organizations lead to the crisis of managerial occupations, and what could be imagined and done to “fix” it. Indeed, four decades of the ‘unbridled capitalism’ promoted and legitimated by neoliberalism (Korten, 1995; Etzioni, 1994; Sennett, 2006) have left managers – along with many other professional and technical expert occupations – ‘drowning in anomie’ (Mestrovic, 1991; Durkheim, 1961). In practice, organizations witnessed changes in their environment that complicated the everyday work of managers. The latters’ activities are increasingly dispersed around the world; they belong to networks of organizations that depend upon them and upon which they depend, making their autonomy a real challenge. They are increasingly observed by consumer associations and social movements while they are under growing pressure for a better financial performance. The managerial role itself has now been partially appropriated by different occupations including financial officers, human resources officers, accounting officers or others that perceive their expertise as crucial to the very exercise of management. The professionalization of these roles and the competition it involves renders corporate cohesion even more difficult. Managers’ working lives and prospects are indeed defined by insecurity, instability and uncertainty such that they feel ‘completely on their own’ and forced to fall back on their personal, but substantially depleted, social and psychological resources within a shareholder-driven economy and market society that is unforgiving in its ferocity and ruthlessness (Head, 2003). The latter also undermines any residual sense of ethical commitment and moral sensibility that managers might feel for the organization as a collective entity socially anchored in a fine, and often delicate, mesh of reciprocal relationships in which “each member of the community owes something to all the rest, and the community owes something to each of its members” (Etzioni, 1994, p. 23). This communitarian configuration is today very difficult to imagine, much less realize, when “under neoliberal conditions, managers are hired protection … the division between workers and the elite that professional managers are hired to maintain inevitably fuels a rampant growth in the number of administrative technocrats employed by the institution, the new ‘securocrats’ of the modern order” (Fleming, 2015, p. 93–95). The purpose of our sub-theme is to identify the major causes and consequences of this contemporary condition of ‘managerial anomie’ and to assess what kind of intellectual and practical responses might be made to counteract the pervasive sense of organizational dislocation that characterizes contemporary managerial life. Such an exploration of the collective existential/cultural crisis which now confronts contemporary managers will require a number of interrelated analyses of the conditions and historical contexts under and through which the latter has emerged and festered. In turn, such an exploration of these conditions and contexts may provide insight into how entrenched anomie might be counteracted by intellectual and social movements refusing to accept it as an irrevocable and irremovable state of affairs. Taking these broad issues as framing the agenda for this sub-theme, the conveners invite contributions from a range of theoretical perspectives that will help us to develop further insights into and potential responses to ‘managerial anomie’ with an interest for questions such as: What are the key features of ‘managerial anomie’ in contemporary organizations? How did the work of managers evolve during the recent years in the context of neo-liberalism? How has the shift towards neoliberal conditions, in both the polity and economy, contributed to the disintegration of modern organizations and the demise of management? How did the role of different occupations (finance, accounting, human resources, engineering, etc.) evolve with the disintegration/dislocation of the organization? Who is really managing organizations today? How do managers deal with the new challenges (internationalization, delocalization, disintegration, financialization, etc.)? Can social concerns still be taken into account in the neoliberal organization and how? Can alternative ideas and movements, help in reviving conceptions of the corporation as a community? The above are illustrations of the kind of themes and debates which the conveners wish to address in this sub-theme. We would encourage contributions from those who have ideas about how the managerial anomie might be analysed and addressed. We welcome empirical studies shedding light on different transformations of corporations and the managerial work and challenges in them and invite you to join us in exploring these questions in Edinburgh in July 2019. References Cahill, D., & Konings, M. (2017): Neoliberalism. Cambridge: Polity. Durkheim, E. (2014): The Division of Labour in Society. New York: Simon & Schuster. Etzioni, M. (1994): Spirit of Community. New York: Simon & Schuster. Fleming, P. (2015): The Mythology of Work. London: Pluto Press. Head, S. (2003): The New Ruthless Economy. New York: Oxford University Press. Korten, D.C. (1995): When Corporations Ruled the World. San Francisco: Barrett-Koehler. Mestrovic, S.G. (1991): The Coming Fin de Siècle. London: Routledge.
Project
Because I can hardly think of a more important project for organisation studies...