The Rise of the Creative Class and the Gentrification of the Workplace
Lancaster University Management School (UK)
Thomaz Wood Jr.
FGV-EAESP, São Paulo (Brazil)
Miguel Pina e Cunha
Universidade Nova de Lisboa (Portugal)
Call for papers
EGOS 2008 invites us to explore the ambiguities and paradoxes of organizational life, both the sunny and dark sides of organizations, 'to unmask organizational rhetoric' and to 'reveal actual practices and offer an up-close and in-depth insight that challenged then taken-for-granted views'. To respond to this challenge, we propose to bring, from urban studies, the concept of gentrification, and to apply it to organizational settings.
The term gentrification was coined in the sixties by sociologist Ruth Glass, to refer to the urban process by which working class quarters of London were invaded by the middle classes, displacing the original occupiers. More generally, gentrification is a process in which low-cost, physically deteriorated neighborhoods experience renovation, along with an influx of wealthier residents who partially or totally replace original residents. The consumption-side theory of gentrification emphasizes the role of gentrifiers in the process. In several documented cases, the agent of gentrification was a 'new middle class', or 'cultural middle class', made up of artists, cultural professionals, teachers and other professionals. As such, gentrification is an ambiguous socio-cultural phenomena and a politically contentious issue. Gentrification brings with it ostensible 'improvement'; but perhaps for gentrifiers more rather than original inhabitants. Moreover, the coexistence of the pre- and the post-gentrified, and the possibilities of gentrification's failure bring with it risk and anxiety.
This sub-theme wishes to analyze the consequences of the processes of radical surgery implemented by organizations in the last decades, comprehending restructuring, downsizing and outsourcing. In these transformational processes, some functions and activities become more and more fashionable. Meanwhile, others seem destined to oblivion, their professionals condemned to a second class corporate citizenship. Among the former are the 'creative, post-industrial functions' such as marketing, consulting, sophisticated financial services, advertising and strategizing. Among the later are 'outdated' industrial functions such as manufacturing and delivering. In fact, the new post-industrial functions affect the workplace in several ways: it favours less visible structures, brings higher levels of autonomy, and gives more room to creativity. It also alters the power dynamics and induces organisational actors to the intensive use of managerial discourse and symbolic communication. The gentrification of the workplace can also be related to the aestheticisation of products, services and of management itself. We thus argue that, after years of change process, many organizations became gentrified, occupied by a new service-cultural-creative-class, which displaced the old professional class.
We invite participants to frame their papers in the following way:
- To provide empirical evidence of gentrification processes in organization
- To upset current explanations of organizational change, by using the concept of gentrification to describe and interpret transformational processes in organizations
- To explore tensions, paradoxes and power struggles among the 'old classes' and the 'new classes' inside organizations
- To investigate the hybrid, transitional condition of semi-gentrified organizations
- To develop theoretical explanations of gentrification phenomena
- To bring new critical reflections to organization studies
At the end of the sessions, we hope to develop a collective landscape from the diversity of approaches presented and discussed.
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About the convenors
Bill Cooke is Professor of Management and Society at Lancaster University Management School. His research focuses on critical perspectives on participatory change, development management and management in/of the Third World, and the history of management ideas.
Thomaz Wood Jr. is Professor of Organization Theory and Strategy at FGV-EAESP, in São Paulo, Brazil. His research interests are the aestheticisation of management, creative industries and the phenomenon of symbol intensive organizations.
Miguel Pina e Cunha is Associate professor of Organization Theory and Behavior at the Faculdade de Economia, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, in Lisbon, Portugal. His research focuses on the emergent and continuous processes of change in organizations.