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Strong plots: The relationship between Popular Culture and Management Practice & Theory




In this paper we consider the relationship between popular culture and management practice. Starting with references to previously established connections between high culture and management, we turn to popular culture for the same kind of connection. We suggest that much popular culture is based on established and repeated patterns of emplotment, and we go on to examine how it might teach practices and provide models for how practice is understood. The "strong plots", we claim, provide possible blueprints for the management of meaning in organizations. We illustrate our ideas with three types of text. The first is an ethnographic study of an organization in decline. Here we show how management practice that attempted to work outside of the heroic emplotment of management action was resisted in the organization. The second example concerns two popular novels about the financial services industry. We point out that these novels perpetuate particular strong plots in relation to gendered practices in financial services. Thirdly, we turn to two examples of the parody of working life in comic strips and animated cartoons. In this case we demonstrate that popular culture can also be a site for the critique of, and resistance to, strong plots. In conclusion we suggest a role for management research consisting in questioning strong plots in both culture and management practice through avant-garde practices of experimentation and creation.

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  • Czarniawska, Barbara & Rhodes, Carl, 2004. "Strong plots: The relationship between Popular Culture and Management Practice & Theory," GRI-rapport 2004:4, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg Research Institute GRI.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhb:gungri:2004_004
    Note: Forthcoming in Pasquale Gagliardi and Barbara Czarniawska (eds.) "Management & Humanities"

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    popular culture; emplotment; modelling; representaion;

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