Re-presenting the knowledge worker: A poststructuralist analysis of the new employed professional
This dissertation advances the claim that recent lack of progress in organization theory development has been due less to conceptual inadequacy or lack of rigor, than to unexamined assumptions and 'common sense' about what constitutes 'good' theory. Emerging work experience cannot be represented in theory because current theory itself reflects the values and problems of a specific (industrial) era.
Using a form of poststructuralist textual analysis, Foucaultian genealogy, this dissertation establishes the need for understanding theory development as a form of representation, produced and sustained through socially constituted relationships which are undergoing transformational change. It is argued that, through these changes, organizational science itself could become a passing chapter in the history of work.
To illustrate this claim, the study examines representations of "knowledge work," a term whose emergence appears to indicate attempts to speak of new work relationships. The main object of analysis in this study is structured observation of the work of an atypical, but apropos, group of knowledge workers--staff nurses in a university teaching hospital.
Using genealogical methods, this structured observation is studied as a text created within the discourse of organization studies. One analysis of this text is a "history of the present," which follows the emergence and present operation of the disciplinary practices of the discourse of the employee. Another analysis studies contrasting representations of nursing work in the dominant discourse of science and the marginalized discursive voices of "caring/connecting."
The claim advanced from these analyses is that the failure of the management disciplines to develop a self-reflexive dialogue about the active role of representation in theory development limits what can be said about knowledge work to what has already been said about the industrial employee. As one example of poststructuralist textual research, genealogy is presented as a means for bringing this problem into theory development.
0629: Labor relations