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Tag Archives: power

Image: John Keatley via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Image: John Keatley via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Since I conducted research on manufacturing in the US Midwest in the early aughts, I’ve kept in contact with a few of my informants. One of them, Paul D. Ericksen, has 38 years of experience working in procurement and supply management, primarily in two household-name, multinational manufacturing corporations. Ericksen has been writing a blog on Next Generation Supply Management at IndustryWeek since April 2014, and I’ve been keenly following it.

The Ericksen blog is an object lesson in how wide the gulf is between the everyday problems facing manufacturing managers in the real world and the way academics represent management within mainstream management theory. By mainstream management theory, I have in mind the economistic literature based on assumptions that individuals are rational maximizers and markets are inherently efficient (as opposed to the sociological literature, which emphasizes how cultural institutions and power relations in the real world systematically undermine the maximization of efficiency).

Ericksen worked with many hundreds, perhaps thousands of factories that supplied parts and subassemblies to the Fortune 500 companies he worked for. Based on this experience, he highlights a number of ways in which deeply embedded forms of culture and power, in both the multinational corporate brands (prime contractors) and their suppliers (subcontractors), generate and sustain systematic inefficiencies in their organizations. (For academic studies that document and triangulate such outcomes with the views of other informants, see my colleague Josh Whitford’s book on the decentralization of American manufacturing, as well as my own study of routine inefficiency in factories.)

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pink collarI recently talked with my colleague, Associate Professor of Sociology at Washington State University, Dr. Jennifer Schwartz about her April 2013 American Sociological Review collaboration with Darrell Steffensmeier and Michael Roche entitled “Gender and Twenty-First-Century Corporate Crime: Female Involvement and the Gender Gap in Enron-Era Corporate Frauds.”

The article is of particular interest to readers of this blog for its application of theories of work (e.g., homosocial reproduction, network theory, and theories of power at work) to explain the connection between gender and corporate malfeasance.  This piece also tells us about gender differences in work styles and locations:  women engage in less “big time” corporate fraud than do men, a fact that is NOT fully explained by their lower level corporate positions. The authors suggest male-dominated networks at the top of work organizations and informal barriers to women’s upward mobility may explain why men outpace women in corporate fraud.

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Print

Jerry A. Jacobs.

2013.

In Defense of Disciplines: Interdisciplinarity and Specialization in the Research University.

Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Interdisciplinarity has become an increasingly powerful current in US universities and colleges. The virtues of promoting interaction among researchers from diverse fields and building bridges across academic units are taken for granted by many observers and university administrators. But the longer I investigated the matter, the more I became convinced that disciplines are an indispensable component of a dynamic university system. At the very least, any viable interdisciplinary arrangement will need to stand on a firm disciplinary foundation. A stronger version of the argument holds that interdisciplinary arrangements are much more specialized and transitional than most analysts have recognized.

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Flirt(1)

New research by management scholars on workplace flirting is getting quite a bit of media attention.  You might have rolled your eyes at the topic, thinking that nothing serious can be learned about the workplace by studying flirtatious women.

I disagree.

A study of flirting at work may reveal a lot about workplace gender inequality.  In fact, the behavior may be telling of underlying problems that are not “sexual” in content.

First, the study (read a summary of the study here).  The authors surveyed about 300 employed female attorneys in 38 Southeastern U.S. law firms.  Female attorneys reported on, among other things: their strategic flirting (engaging in socio-sexual behaviors with the intent of attaining a desirable outcome); daily mistreatment (the frequency with which they were treated rudely, excluded from a work activity, or as not-smart or inferior); and the femininity or masculinity of their law firm (the extent to which their firm could be characterized by terms such as “assertiveness, forcefulness, and masculinity” versus “compassion, and warmth”).

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