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 | 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 | 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.

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