Dr Peter Watt of York St. John University and Dr Justine Grønbæk Pors of Copenhagen Business School run this OWT research workshop.

1st talk on Ford’s metaphysics: On the transcendentalist origins of mass production (given by Dr Peter Watt)

Fordism is largely understood in secular materialist terms as the first system of mass-production. In this capacity it is associated with the standardized products it produces, the process of their production and the labour-relations that such a process requires. This paper seeks to re-examine the origins of this system and in doing so argues that behind what has come to be understood as the most ‘material’ processes of organizing man and machine was an attempt by Henry Ford to realise a ‘metaphysical’ ideal that was informed by the popular philosophical and theological thought of the previous century. By returning to the writing and thought of this period, the work of the American Transcendentalist, Ralph Waldo Emerson (with which Ford systematically engaged), is employed as an analytical framework to both re-contextualise and interpret the industrial ideals of Henry Ford and his Motor Company. This is done by using three concepts from Emerson’s essays and applying these to form an analysis of the three aspects that make up Ford’s ‘ism’. In doing so some original insights are uncovered and analysed which relate to the way that the history of organizational thought might be reconsidered as being premised on transcendentalist values rather than scientific principles.

Peter Watt is a Lecturer in Work and Organisation at York Business School, York St. John University, York. He holds a PhD from Lancaster University Management School.

2nd talk on “It sends a cold shiver down my spine”: Ghostly moments of policy implementation ( given by Dr Justine Grønbæk Pors)

Many welfare states are currently going through thorough and forceful reform processes that fundamentally change the values and goals of public service. This presentation offers a conceptual framework of ‘the ghostly’ for thinking about the strange moments where public servants all of a sudden begin to question the policy goals they are meant to implement and wonder about the broader social and political stakes of their work. The presentation reads Freud’s concept of the uncanny, theorizing in cultural geography on collapses of linear time and Avery Gordon’s sociological work on ghostly matters in order to explore the moments where the familiar account of organizational purposes is not so self-evident anymore, but all of a sudden appears rather disturbing. The concept of the ghostly, I will argue, makes it possible to direct attention to subtle forms of political actions occurring in embodied registers, through which organizational actors allow themselves, to feel the violence inherent in their daily work, although they are not yet certain what to think, even less how to act.

Justine Grønbæk Pors is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy, Copenhagen Business School. She works at the intersections of policy studies, cultural theory and ethnography. Her work focuses on the contradictions inherent in contemporary public policy and the complex setting for professional practices these constitute. She is particularly interested in subjectivity, temporality, noise, affects and ghosts. She has published a number of books and articles dealing with the historical trajectory of public government focusing on how the current regimes of change and public innovation curiously deconstruct substantial notions of work, administration and professionalism.

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