Journal Article


When ‘I’ becomes ‘We’: An ethnographic study of power and responsibility in a large food retail cooperative

Abstract

Based on ethnographic research of a large food retail cooperative in New York (the Co-op), this paper raises the research question of whether organizations can cultivate an ethic of responsibility to others and, if so, how this can be secured in everyday working practices? It draws principally on the work of Foucault and especially his later writings on the care of the self and ethics but seeks to link these deliberations to Levinas in identifying responsibility to the Other as prior to identity. Indeed, one message that we seek to convey is that attachments to identities are frequently a stumbling block for developing ethically responsible relations and organizations and this may necessitate some normative control. While recognizing that normative control can easily become oppressive and there were occasional signs of this where staff were watching one another and demanding compliance, our research provides a platform for exploring conversations about alternative forms of organization. We explore how relations of power can produce ethically progressive relations, through generative norms that give space to, and nurture, care and responsibility for others to constitute morally engaging organizational life.

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Authors

Huber, Guy
Knights, David

Oxford Brookes departments

Oxford Brookes Business School

Dates

Year of publication: 2022
Date of RADAR deposit: 2022-01-06


Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License


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