Sub-theme 06: (SWG) Love and hate: Forms of attachment to the objects of work

Paolo Landri
National Research Council of Italy and University of Naples, Italy
Bente Elkjaer
School of Education, Aarhus University, Denmark
Silvia Gherardi
Università di Trento, Italy

Call for Papers

The recognition of the limits of a purely instrumental view of human and economic activity draws attention to the importance of the expressive relation and attachment to the world. In particular, the interest in passions in organization signals the need for a more comprehensive theory of motivation – and of 'being' – in the workplace. The motivation to work is not reducible to selfish calculations. Recent studies reveal that the practical and reflective engagement in fields of practice and in a community of practitioners may trigger joy, pleasure, and love for those actively engaged in performing a particular kind of work (see for instance the Special Issue of Organization: 'The passion for knowing and learning'). In those analyses, passion sustains the processes of knowing and learning in organization, and emerges as an event in a web of practices that weave together the individual, the community, the objects and the environment where those relations emerge. Here, a web of practices is a set of situated 'ways of doing and saying' (a pragmatics of passion) that promotes, mobilises (and renews) devotion to the objects of activity, i.e. the never accomplished engagement in organizations.

The theme of passion does not convey a peaceful representation of the workplace, or of the world of organizations. Rather, passion has a double face: it entails creative attachment in practice and supports the making of knowledge and learning in organization; but it also brings about suffering and dependencies as a result of an unbalance in the involvement with the objects and subjects of a field of practice. Concretely this means that the 'force' that triggers and sustains innovation and knowing in organizations may elicit a 'dark side' in terms of obsessions, workaholism, and domination. However, still open questions and problems to be investigated are (1) when, how and why a 'misbalancing' is taking place in fields of practices, and (2) when 'positive' engagement to a practice may become its reverse ('lock in', difficulties, dependencies).

In privileging a practice-based approach to workplace and organisational studies, we invite papers that explore these issues and focus in particular on those practices that support, accompany, and tentatively produce attachment to objects of activity ('those things that hold us together'; Hennion, 2007). The main theme is the way in which passion affects the involvement in a field of practice, i.e. how passion emerges via a set of practices that binds the object of activity, the bodies in organization, the collective discourses on the practices, and the 'dispositifs' (devices, settings and means) that permit transformations of subjects as well as of social worlds, i.e. organizations.

Contributors are expected to investigate the ambivalence of passions, and to present those practices that nurture the attachment to an object of activity, like pleasure and joy in working, learning and knowing in workplaces, and the conditions whereby engagement can lead to suffering, or to the emergence of excessive involvement in organization.

We invite contributions that address the following themes:

  • Passion for knowing and learning in organization

  • The ambivalence of attachment to the objects of activity

  • Obsessions, suffering and the dark side of passion in organization

  • Pleasure, joy, and emotions in the workplace

  • Methodological questions in studying passion in practice

We also welcome papers (empirical or thought-provoking) addressing what is meant by 'unbalancing' in passion for the objects of attachment and where it is detectable in practice.

Paolo Landri 
Bente Elkjaer 
Silvia Gherardi