32nd EGOS Colloquium, Naples 2016
Power is central to any form of organizing. Scholars have long debated its forms, dimensions, manifestations and outcomes in and across organizations. Power can be some more visible, institutionalized, and legitimate, but also hidden, anarchic, illicit and even violent, erupting suddenly and disrupting organizational life like a volcano, an earthquake or other major exogenous event. It is no coincidence that the choice of this theme is so fitting for the Naples Colloquium a city living in the shadow of a volcano.
Power can be overt, covert or a mixture of both. However, all forms of power cast shadows, some sharp, others more obfuscated, with which individuals, organizations and societies must cope, or work around. Understanding and examining these processes underpins the general theme of this Colloquium. The exercise of power can be a potent means of improving productivity and growth. At the same time, it can result in exploitation and the creation of inequalities, often breeding fear and silence. Power can trigger subversion, attempting to undermine or putting up resistance against established authorities, institutions, and professional elites, mobilizing collective energies towards what is argued to be a greater good. Other countervailing processes can be characterized by persistence, marked by a "making do" attitude of agility, improvisation, and bricolage, backed by entrepreneurial spirit and informal networks.
Power, resistance, and persistence in organizations often exist side by side, alongside reactions to them, such as revolt, bargaining, sabotage, cynicism, complacency, inventiveness, or ignorance. Many scholars have examined and debated the various epistemologies of power and its exercise, and have attempted to characterize the complex mixtures of power, control, resistance and persistence, which more fully capture the interwoven and perhaps interdependent relations between power and resistance. They have examined resistance where some forms of it may be equally described as shadowy, covert and, occasionally, illegal. There is a rich stream of scholarship in these areas, which will help inform the Colloquium theme.
American anthropologist Jason Pine charted his experiences in Naples, translating a well-known Neapolitan expression "arte di arrangiarsi" to coin the phrase in English as "the art of making do". It describes the local "attitude" of handling a context marked by hidden powers and blurred distinctions in original, entrepreneurial, and informal ways. Naples has perfected this art of "making do" in the shadow of Vesuvius and its latent brutal power. Seen from the city, it does not appear like common images of volcanoes worldwide. There is no smoke or eruptive fissures on its sides. Seemingly quiet, it hides in its depths relentless magmatic movements and catastrophic potential, its ever-present threat internalized by the Neapolitans and characterized by a fatalistic attitude and scepticism toward coping with power making do. This fatalism in the shadow of the Vesuvius's power invites more reflection on whether and how power and resistance can be ignored or disregarded (as some organizational theorists do) and how, if dormant for long periods, they can surface periodically with unpredictable consequences.
A network of local universities has joined forces to host the 32nd EGOS Colloquium and ensure a rich mix of intellectual energies: University Federico II (founded in 1224, one of the oldest state-supported institutions of higher education and research in the world), University Parthenope, Second University of Naples, and University of Salerno.
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