Teaching alternative forms of work and organization – Audebrand/Camus/Michaux (2017): A Mosquito in the Classroom

To learn and to teach something about alternative forms of work and organization is one of the urgent tasks of critical management and organization studies. However, one of the most striking problems in teaching alternatives is the lack of imagination, that is the idea that these are real and possible alternatives. As Gibson-Graham (2006: XV) write about their own experiences: „In the face of a new discourse of the diverse economy, participants in our projects can easily recognize the activities and enterprises it names, but they cannot readily identify with the alternative subject positions it avails. Most of them get up in the morning wanting a job – and if not wanting one, feeling they need one – rather than an alternative economy”.

One idea to cope with this problem seems to reframe it or to tackle it in a roundabout way. Luc Audebrand and colleagues introduce cooperatives into the classroom via the topic and reflection of paradoxes in organizations. They argue that “despite the absence of the cooperative business model in mainstream management textbooks and curricula, this model can offer a high pedagogical value for management education in that it can foster paradoxical thinking” (Audebrand et al. 2017: 216).

Said this, we can think about several other topics which makes it possible to introduce alternatives. Just think about power, participation, democracy or sustainability and maybe then alternatives are just around the corner or at least are worth to talk about it in the classroom.


Audebrand, Luc K., Annie Camus, und Valérie Michaud. 2017. A Mosquito in the Classroom: Using the Cooperative Business Model to Foster Paradoxical Thinking in Management Education. Journal of Management Education 41 (2): 216–248. doi: 10.1177/1052562916682552. [http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1052562916682552]

Gibson-Graham, J. K. 2006. The end of capitalism (as we knew it). A feminist critique of political economy. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Call for Papers – 37th Labour Process Conference, Vienna 2019

The 37 th  International Labour Process Conference 2019

‘Fragmentations and Solidarities’

University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria

24-26 th  April 2019

Abstract submission through the ILPC website (www.ilpc.org.uk) will open at the start of
June 2018 with a deadline of October 26th 2018.

Exzerpt from the Call:

„The conference organizers welcome papers on any issue concerning the analysis of labour processes, labour markets, labour organising and labour reproduction. The  2019  conference  will  additionally  focus  on  ‘Fragmentations  and  Solidarities’  in contemporary work and employment relations. Recent developments in the economy and society  challenge  the  institutional  frameworks  of  employment,  accelerating  the  ongoing processes of deregulation and flexibilisation. This reiterates segregation along the lines of gender, ethnicity and qualifications and creates new formal and symbolic boundaries within the  workforce.  Furthermore,  transnational  forms  of  work  organization  and  global  value
chains modify and partly intensify the divisions of labour, deepening the unequal distribution
of wealth, ecological hazard, and risk to health and social security among employees in the
world. Global inequality, in return, pushes workers to leave their home countries and migrate
to adjacent or more distant formal or informal labour markets, raising the issue of solidarity
within  and  between  the  formally  and  informally  employed  workforces.  Finally,  new
technologies appear to increase their impacts in uncertain directions: augmenting the share
of  knowledge  work  and  improving  skill  levels,  threatening  jobs,  and/or  increasing  the
pressure on workers and the scope of managerial control. There is considerable risk of new
fragmentations  of  employment  according  to  different  skill  levels,  forms  of  contract  and
locations of work.“

Conference website with complete Call for Papers: https://www.ilpc.org.uk/

Call for Papers – Contested realities of the Circular Economy

Contested realities of the Circular Economy

Call for papers for a special issue of Culture and Organization

Volume 26, issue 2, 2020

Submission deadline November 15th 2018.



Guest editors: Hervé Corvellec (University of Lund), Steffen Böhm (University of Exeter), Alison Stowell (Lancaster University) and Francisco Valenzuela (University of Chile)


This call for papers invites contributions that question the Circular Economy in innovative ways. In the past few years, the Circular Economy (Stahel 2016) has surfaced as a reference framework for economic, industrial, and environmental strategies and policies for different organizations, such as: the government of the People’s Republic of China and the European Union; the World Economic Forum, Zero Waste Europe and Greenpeace; and mega companies such as Cisco, H&M and Renault, as well as activist associations promoting bulk retail, repair, sharing, and other instances of sustainable consumption.

Chinese and European politicians and bureaucrats, top-level managers, and activists join in a plea to replace today’s take-make-use-waste economic system, called the Linear Economy, by an economic system where materials and goods circulate in circular ways. Drawing on the 4R-model (Reduce, Reuse, Refurbish, Recycle), the Circular Economy is to turn waste into resource, and lay the groundwork for a zero waste economy (Greenpeace 2016). Industrial circles are to mimic natural circles (McDonough and Braungart 2009; Ellen MacArthur Foundation and McKinsey Center for Business and Environment 2015) to develop and prolong resource productivity (Blomsma and Brennan 2017), create closed loop production and consumption systems (Hobson 2016), manage material scarcity (Bermejo 2014) and integrate economic activity and environmental wellbeing (Murray, Skene et al. 2017). The Circular Economy is to decouple environmental pressures from economic growth (Ghisellini, Cialani et al. 2016) and allow for an economic growth respectful of the planet’s boundaries (H&M 2014).

But what is this more than enthusiastic reception of the Circular Economy a sign of? The emergence of new marketing languages and imaginaries (den Hollander, Bakker et al. 2017)? A genuine ground for green-and-lean consumption (Tukker 2015; Pollard, Turney et al. 2016), and sustainability-aware  subjectivity (Jones 2010)? A new sustainability paradigm (Geissdoerfer, Savaget et al. 2017)? The ground for a new material and environmental ethics (Gregson, Crang et al. 2015)? A way to replace the negative connotation of sustainability and sustainable development with a positive view of relationships between economy and environment (Valenzuela and Böhm 2017)? Another avatar of ecological modernization (Gregson, Crang et al. 2015)? A new form of greenwashing – circular washing – aimed at creating a diversion from the need to fundamentally re-think rules of natural resource uses? There is a need to critically engage with the discourses and practices of the Circular Economy, examining its assumptions, claims, contradictions, and therefore limits.

This special issue aims at bringing together critical, interpretive and theory-driven papers that go beyond the often repeated, but largely a-historical, a-practical, and a-theoretical, claims that the Circular Economy will help organizations solve 21st century problems. There is, for example, a rich history of economic and social practices (think of the frugality of survival practices during various wars) that could be seen as precursors of the Circular Economy, and one might ask: If such practices have been around for some time, why have they not been able to address the questions the Circular Economy aims to answer? Likewise, the Circular Economy has a lot to say about materials and their flows, but very little about humans and the social dimension of circular activities (Bozkurt and Stowell 2016; Gregson, Crang et al. 2016). Based on what we already know of the global flows of recycling today (Alexander and Reno 2012; Carenzo 2015), what are the work and labour implications of circular-economic practices in terms of race, class, gender, geographical and distributional justice? Equally, how can one conceptualize the changes in the subjectivities and responsibilities of producers and consumers in a circular economy; will there be winners and losers? Are consumers aware that in a circular economy they will not own anything but would become totally dependent on their instant payment- and creditworthiness?

We welcome contributions that address the organisational and social aspects of the Circular Economy, including questions of power, process, and labour; its cultural aspects, including symbolic, political, and historical dimensions; its theoretical aspects, including how the Circular Economy relates to organizational theories of sustainability, change, and materiality; and its ethical aspects, including questions of justice, Otherness, and responsibility. Here is an indicative, arbitrary and in no way exhaustive list of possible topics:

  • Ethnographies of organizational transitions to the Circular Economy, including specific aspects of such transitions, such as product design, restorative and regenerative strategies, and the development of circular business models.
  • People at work in the Circular Economy: organizational, local, regional, and global approaches.
  • The Circular Economy and innovation, for example recycling techniques, technologies, information technology and social media.
  • Organizing materials in a circular economy, from mines to landfills (and the atmosphere) via storehouses and homes.
  • Scales of circularity: micro-, meso- or macro-loops?
  • The Circular Economy and systemic transformations of consumption.
  • Circular-economic governance: soft, strict, or otherwise (e.g., nudge), exploring, in particular, the role of incentives and legislation.
  • The Circular Economy and master-metaphors: from utopias to dystopias, from socialism to sustainable development, and from the myth of the eternal return to the Anthropocene.
  • The management of externalities in the Circular Economy.
  • The Circular Economy experience of countries at war, for example Nazi Germany, but also of countries under embargo, for example Cuba.
  • Regional differences in the Circular Economy, for example between the “Global North” and the “Global South”; circular economy and de-globalization.
  • Examining the discursive development of the Circular Economy, focusing on the roles of key organizations and institutions, such as the Ellen McArthur Foundation, McKinsey, the European Union and the World Economic Forum.
  • Deconstructing the Circular Economy discourse, for example, how the European Union connects the Circular Economy to safety as much as environmental sustainability.
  • The Circular Economy as aesthetic, but also as play, derision, irony, and provocation.
  • How the contemporary circular economy fails.
  • The Circular Economy as paradigm shift.

Qualitative papers that open new spaces of reflection and understanding of the Circular Economy in organizations are welcome, regardless of their theoretical sources of inspiration. Innovation in writing and composing style are also welcome. In addition to scholars working in management and organization studies we therefore welcome contributions from – inter alia ­- anthropology, sociology, philosophy, politics, art history, communication, film, gender and cultural studies.

Submission and informal enquiries

Please ensure that all submissions to the special issue are made via the ScholarOne Culture and Organization site at http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/gsco. You will have to sign up for an account before you are able to submit a manuscript. Please ensure when you do submit that you select the relevant special issue (Volume 26, Issue 2) to direct your submission appropriately. If you experience any problems, please contact the editors of this issue.

Style and other instructions on manuscript preparation can be found at the journal’s website: http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/gsco20/current. Manuscript length should not exceed 8000 words, including appendices and supporting materials. Please also be aware that any images used in your submission must be your own, or where they are not, you must already have permission to reproduce them in an academic journal. You should make this explicit in the submitted manuscript.

Manuscripts must be submitted by November 15th 2018.

Prospective authors are invited to discuss manuscript ideas for the special issue with the guest editors before the deadline for submissions.  They can be reached via e-mail at: SICANDO@TELIA.COM



Alexander, C. and J. Reno. 2012. Economies of recycling: The global transformations of materials, values and social relations. London: Zed.

Bermejo, R. 2014. Circular Economy: Materials Scarcity, European Union Policy and Foundations of a Circular Economy. In Handbook for a Sustainable Economy. R. Bermejo (Ed). Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands: 269-287.

Blomsma, F. and G. Brennan. 2017. „The Emergence of Circular Economy: A New Framing Around Prolonging Resource Productivity.“ Journal of Industrial Ecology 21(3): 603-614.

Bozkurt, Ö. and A. Stowell. 2016. „Skills in the green economy: recycling promises in the UK e-waste management sector.“ New Technology, Work and Employment 31(2): 146-160.

Carenzo, S. 2015. Materialidades de la ‘basura’ y praxis creativa: aportes para una etnografía de tecnologías cartoneras (Materialities of ‘waste’ and creative praxis: contributions for an ethnography of cardboard-collecting technologies). In Recuperadores, residuos y mediaciones: Análisis desde los interiores de la cotidianeidad, la gestión y la estructuración social (Recoverers, residues and mediations, analysis from the inner boundaries of everydayness, management and social structure). G. Vergara (Ed). Buenos Aires: Estudios Sociológicos Editora: 157-174.

den Hollander, M. C., C. A. Bakker and E. J. Hultink. 2017. „Product Design in a Circular Economy: Development of a Typology of Key Concepts and Terms.“ Journal of Industrial Ecology 21(3): 517-525.

Ellen MacArthur Foundation and McKinsey Center for Business and Environment. 2015. Growth within: A circular economy vision for a competitive Europe. Isle of Wight: Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

Geissdoerfer, M., P. Savaget, N. M. P. Bocken and E. J. Hultink. 2017. „The Circular Economy: A new sustainability paradigm?“ Journal of Cleaner Production 143: 757-768.

Ghisellini, P., C. Cialani and S. Ulgiati. 2016. „A review on circular economy: the expected transition to a balanced interplay of environmental and economic systems.“ Journal of Cleaner Production 114: 11-32.

Greenpeace. 2016, 2016. „Zero Waste & Circular Economy.“   Retrieved June 14, 2017, from https://greenwire.greenpeace.org/uk/en-gb/groups/zero-waste-circular-economy.

Gregson, N., M. Crang, J. Botticello, M. Calestani and A. Krzywoszynska. 2016. „Doing the ‘dirty work’ of the green economy: Resource recovery and migrant labour in the EU.“ European Urban and Regional Studies 23: 541-555.

Gregson, N., M. Crang, S. Fuller and H. Holmes. 2015. „Interrogating the circular economy: the moral economy of resource recovery in the EU.“ Economy and Society 44(2): 218-243.

H&M. 2014. H&M 100% Circular Lab [film] H&M.

Hobson, K. 2016. „Closing the loop or squaring the circle? Locating generative spaces for the circular economy.“ Progress in Human Geography 40(1): 88-104.

Jones, C. 2010. „The Subject Supposed to Recycle.“ Philosophy Today 54(1): 30-39.

McDonough, W. and M. Braungart. 2009. Cradle to cradle: Remaking the way we make things. London: Vintage.

Murray, A., K. Skene and K. Haynes. 2017. „The Circular Economy: An Interdisciplinary Exploration of the Concept and Application in a Global Context.“ Journal of Business Ethics 140: 369-380.

Pollard, S., A. Turney, F. Charnley and K. Webster. 2016. „The circular economy, a reappraisal of the ‘stuff’ we love.“ Geography 101(1): 17-27.

Stahel, W. R. 2016. „Circular economy – A new relationship with goods and material would save resources and energy and create local jobs.“ Nature(March(431)): 435-438.

Tukker, A. 2015. „Product services for a resource-efficient and circular economy – a review.“ Journal of Cleaner Production 97: 76-91.

Valenzuela, F. and S. Böhm. 2017. „Against wasted politics: A critique of the circular economy.“ Ephemera 17(1): 23-60.

Researching Management through Popular Culture: The Case of Disney Animations

For anyone interested in the relation of popular culture and the world of work and organization as well as some aspects of its research, this video with Mark Learmonth is a good starting point:

The 11th International Conference in Critical Management Studies – Call for Sub-Theme Proposals

The 11th International Conference in Critical Management Studies


Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, UK

27th – 29th June 2019



 The Department for People and Organisations, in collaboration with VIDA, the Critical Management Studies Association, will host the International CMS conference in 2019 around the theme of ‘Precarious Presents, Open Futures’. This theme invites theoretical and empirical analysis of what it means for societies and organizations to be ‘open’ in the 21st century, what currently constitutes radical political, economic, historical and ethical openness, and how this openness is under attack from renewed discourses of individualized privilege and closure.

It was once claimed that the new millennium would mark the ‘end of history’, characterized by the permanent victory of the free market and liberal democracy. Yet these triumphant visions have been profoundly challenged by the global financial crisis and the growing populist demand for radical change across the ideological spectrum. Rising inequality and the growth of the precarious economy, marked by zero hour contracts and other unstable and insecure working arrangements, have meant that, for many, modern working life is tainted by material insecurity and psychological anxiety. Faith in democracy is being upturned by the spread of oligarchy and the troubling return of nativism, racism and nationalism. Our very identities are threatened in a present where personal data are routinely harvested and exploited, as exemplified by many recent scandals. And all of these concerns are exacerbated by fear of a hi-tech, automated, dystopian future of mass unemployment.

Still, these uncertainties may also prove to be the catalyst for creating new opportunities to profoundly reshape and reorganize our economies, politics and societies. Once sacred neoliberalist assumptions are now threatened by new ideas, like a universal basic income, while seemingly entrenched elites may be at risk. ‘Industry 4.0’ – a potentially unholy mix of the Internet of Things, cloud computing, artificial intelligence and cyber-physical systems, which is predicted to revolutionize manufacturing – is a very daunting possibility. However, it might be supplemented, dramatically transformed, even supplanted by ideas of ‘democracy 4.0’ and ‘development 4.0’. Perhaps we can completely reimagine contemporary management thinking and organizations so that they are as radically ‘empowering’ as they are ‘smart’, challenging dominant paradigms based on patriarchy, racism and ethnic discrimination, ageism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism and colonialism.

For these reasons, it is more urgent than ever to ask: who is influencing these new histories? How can they be further democratized and owned by the many rather than the elite few, the 99% and not the 1%? Such concerns are especially significant as developments like Brexit and the election of Donald Trump reveal a distinct politics of closure and exclusion in regard to geographic borders, ‘facts’ and hard-won progress around expanding social inclusion. At the same time, open source creation, collaboration and information are recalibrating the potential for personal and collective interactions and knowledge sharing across the globe. At stake, therefore, is a resurgent need to radically reconceive the meanings and practices associated with openness. It is also vital that we critically assess how and in what ways they might actually be(come) open, rather than simply giving the appearance of openness.   In short, then, how can CMS contribute to transforming our precarious presents into possibilities for genuinely open futures?

For the 2019 conference, we therefore invite stream and workshop proposals which critically unpack new concepts including – but not limited to – digital inclusion, decolonizing data management, trans-human management, alternative human-animal relations, open source organizations, virtual progress, glocal solidarity and mobile organizing. These concepts (and many others) allow for an exploration of how technologies and emerging forms of organization can subvert established identities, and open the space for new and marginalized voices to shape our presents and futures. We are also interested in proposals that engage with the contemporary production and organization of knowledge – specifically its openness to alternative perspectives and traditionally marginalized voices – as well as how emerging techniques and technologies associated with ‘open information’ are reinforcing old or fostering new forms of ideological and social closure.  Proposals which engage with the broader sociopolitical, economic and technological changes outlined above and how CMS can respond to them in order to help shape more open societies are equally welcome. These would require reflection on our own role as researchers, educators and ‘intellectual activists’, as well as the (changing) role of universities in producing both closures and openness in the contemporary context. Just as importantly, we are committed to ‘opening up’ how a conference is organized and managed, creating collaborative spaces for constructive knowledge sharing between academics, activists, practitioners, artists and policy makers, inter alia. These could include activist led ‘unstreams’ or ‘noworkshops’, performances, art sharing sessions and interactive installations involving virtual technology and mobile games.

Proposals should include an outline of the proposed sub-theme (500-750 words), as well as a short description of the team of convenors, including their backgrounds and experience. We expect most of the submissions to be linked with the overall conference theme, but other submissions are welcome as long as they are likely to appeal to the wider CMS community. We particularly seek proposals from convenor teams that are international in their composition; and are keen to encourage proposals from the range of management studies disciplines (accounting and finance, human resource management, industrial relations, marketing and consumption, organization studies, international business, etc.) and related disciplines including – but not limited to – sociology, human geography, cultural studies, anthropology and psychology. Cross-,multi-/ interdisciplinary proposals are also very much encouraged.

Please note that we will apply the principle of progressive stacking in the event that  we receive more proposals than we can accommodate for the conference. This approach means that convenor teams including members of non-dominant gender, racial, ethnic, sexual, age, ability and regional groupings will be given priority over other teams whose proposals are deemed to be of an equally high standard.

The deadline for submission of sub-theme proposals is 1st September 2018. Please send these to the local organizing committee at OUBS-CMS2019@open.ac.uk. Convenors will be notified by 29th  September 2018 of the outcome of their submissions. Any questions can be directed to the same email address.

New Publication on Cooperatives – Pansera/Rizzi (2018): Furbish or perish: Italian social cooperatives at a crossroads. In: Organization (OnlineFirst)

Another interesting case study about about market pressure, scaling up of coops and the conflict between democratic management and commercial success.

Pansera, Mario/Rizzi, Francesco (2018): Furbish or perish: Italian social cooperatives at a crossroads. In: Organization (OnlineFirst).



Although the public debate tends to privilege investor-owned organisations, alternative forms of organisation are mushrooming at the borders of the capitalist economy. In this work, we contribute to the debate on alternative economies by analysing a specific form of worker-owned organisations which originated in Italy in the 1970s and was recognised by Italian legislation in the 1990s: the social cooperative. By drawing on data gathered over 3 years of participant observation, this article explores the tensions and contradictions generated by the rapid growth of an Italian social cooperative focused on waste recovery and its preparation for reuse. We show how social cooperatives might be able to reconcile their commercial success with their founding principles of equality and democratic management. This article contributes to the debate on the ‘regeneration thesis’ by providing new insights into the factors and drivers that force social cooperatives to scale up and to engage in competition with mainstream competitors, the internal conflicts and solutions that emerge in this process and the external alliances that social cooperatives can leverage to prosper and flourish.

New Article about Cooperatives – Audebrand (2017): Expanding the scope of paradox scholarship on social enterprise: the case for (re)introducing worker cooperatives. In: M@n@gement 2017/4.

Between ‘staying  alternative’  and  ‘going  mainstream’ …

Audebrand, L. (2017). Expanding the scope of paradox scholarship on social enterprise: the case for (re)introducing worker cooperatives. M@n@gement, vol. 20,(4), 368-393. doi:10.3917/mana.204.0368.


Abstract. Over the past decade, scholars have argued for using a paradox
perspective  as  a  provocative  and  insightful  lens  for  understanding  social
enterprises. This article addresses two gaps in this burgeoning literature.
First,  it  expands  the  focus  on  social  enterprises  to  include  worker
cooperatives,  which  are  often  overlooked  but  are  highly  relevant  to  this
area  of  study.  Worker  cooperatives  are  unique  among  social  enterprises
due to their foundational principles: worker-ownership, worker-control and
worker-benefit. Due to their dual nature as both a democratic association
and  an  economic  enterprise,  the  relationship  between  the  cooperative’s
social  mission  and  its  business  venture  is  mutually  constitutive  and
inescapable.  Second,  this  article  calls  for  paradox  scholarship  on  social
enterprise  to  include  the  study  of  paradoxical  tensions  other  than  the
conspicuous tension between financial and social performance. This article
suggests  broadening  this  focus  to  include  the  tensions  between
communality  and  individuality,  hierarchy  and  democracy,  and  between
‘staying  alternative’  and  ‘going  mainstream’.  Overall,  this  article  seeks  to
construct  a  stronger  theoretical  basis  on  which  to  build  future  paradox
research on alternatives to the dominant economic paradigm.

Neue Publikation – Hartz/Hühn/Rybnikova/Tümpel: Partizipationspraktiken in Genossenschaften – Ergebnisse eines Forschungsprojekts. In: PerspektivePraxis 4/2017

Hier nur ein ganz kleiner Vorgeschmack auf unseren Projektbericht zu „Partizipationspraktiken in Genossenschaften“, unserem bis Ende 2017 von der Hans-Böckler-Stiftung geförderten Projektes.

Hartz, Ronald/Hühn, Melanie/Rybnikova, Irma/Tümpel, Markus (2017): Partizipationspraktiken_in_Genossenschaften – Ergebnisse eines Forschungsprojekts. In: PerspektivePraxis 4(2017), S.6-7.

Der Link zum ganzen Heft:


New Publication: Pynnönen/Takala – The Discursive Dance: The Employee Co-operation Negotiations as an Arena for Management-by-fear

An interesting study about downsizing, it’s discursive construction through companies and media and the enforcement of a ‚management-by-fear‘:

Pynnönen, Anu; Takala, Tuomo (2018): The Discursive Dance: The Employee Co-operation Negotiations as an Arena for Management-by-fear. In: Journal of Business Ethics 147 (1), S. 165–184.

DOI: 10.1007/s10551-015-2991-8



The purpose of this article is to qualitatively describe and critically explain the discursive construction of employee co-operation negotiations in Finland as an arena for management-by-fear. The article consists of a theoretical review, covering the legislative basis of co-
operation negotiations and recent research on management-by-fear. The empirical study consists of media texts and company media releases in Finland in 2012–2013. The
main conclusions are that there are distinctive features in the co-operation negotiations that enable and enforce the possibility of management-by-fear, and thus destructive
leadership. The process, supported by law and very much against the original aim, enhances authoritative leadership, objectification of employees, distortion of information and
misleading, and the negative consequences thereof. The process is an employer-invited discursive dance where the employee has to follow through the set steps and in the set
rhythm, with the media orchestrating the tune and managing the fear. The study adds a valuable element to the research areas of downsizing, bad management, and the
discursive construction of these phenomena.

New Publications: Rhodes/Wright/Pullen on „Impact“ and Bousalham/Vidaillet on „how competition undermines alternatives“

There are two new and interesting publications, both published in Organization, I want to inform you about:

Contradiction, circumvention and instrumentalization of noble values: How competition undermines the potential of alternatives

https://doi.org/10.1177/1350508417741536 | First Published December 3, 2017


Recent studies have shown that alternative organizations are particularly exposed to the risk of losing ‘their soul’ or their capacity to put into practice their original ends when they compete with capitalist companies. But what happens when an alternative organization competes exclusively with another alternative organization? This article addresses this question using a unique and ‘revealing’ case, in which two mutual insurance organizations compete structurally and directly with each other and propose the same products to the same target population, at the same time and same place. The case shows in concrete terms how competition can undermine the integrity of alternative organizations and expose them to a dissociation between ends and means by leading them to: (1) adopt ‘dirty’ practices that are incoherent with their founding purpose, (2) circumvent the coherent practices that have been specifically designed to reach their alternative ends, and (3) instrumentalize their alternative ends and turn them into means of coping with competition. Furthermore, the case shows how the dynamic of structural and direct competition, because of its ‘captivating’ nature, may prevent local actors from ‘denaturalizing’ or questioning these incoherent practices. This study suggests that any action aimed at promoting alternative organizations requires taking due account of the competitive environment in which local actors of alternatives are placed and which can seriously undermine their emancipatory potential.


Changing the world? The politics of activism and impact in the neoliberal university

https://doi.org/10.1177/1350508417726546 | First Published December 15, 2017


This article explores the political differences between academic activism and the recently emerged research impact agenda. While both claim that academic work can and should engage with and influence the world beyond the academic ‘ivory tower’, their political meaning and practice are radically different. Following the distinction made by Jacques Rancière, we argue that research impact performs a policing function which, despite its own rhetoric, is arranged as an attempt to ensure that academic work maintains a neoliberal status quo by actually having no real political impact. Academic activism, in contrast, serves to politicize scholarly work by democratically disrupting political consensus in the name of equality. Being an academic activist in an era of research impact rests in a twofold movement: that of both acting in the name of equality in an effort (using Marx’s terms) to ‘change the world’ and resisting and contesting an academic administration whose police actions have attempted to eliminate such forms of democratic practice from the political consensus. The argument is illustrated with examples from the Australia Research Council’s statements on research impact and the practice of climate change activism.