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Title: Looking Elsewhere: Howard S. Becker as Unwilling Organisational Theorist
Authors: Hughes, Jason R. A.
First Published: Nov-2015
Publisher: SAGE Publications Ltd.
Citation: Organization: the interdisciplinary journal of organization, theory and society
Abstract: This paper explores the idea of Howard S. Becker as organisational theorist. It examines some of the principal conceptual imagery in Becker’s work, and considers the significance of this imagery for how organisations are ‘seen’ (conceptualised) and ‘looked at’ (analysed). To this end, a critical comparison of Becker’s concept of world and Bourdieu’s concept of field is undertaken. By his own admission, Becker recognises that some of his key studies – of art worlds, jazz musicians, educational environments, and so forth – might be recast as centrally ‘about organisations’. However, it is argued that Becker is something of an ‘unwilling’ organisational theorist; not in the sense that he avoids or is ignorant of the conceptual debates invoked by that term, but in as much as formal theory without object is profoundly at odds with key aspects of his sociological practice. Accordingly, the paper centrally considers how Becker has consistently ‘looked elsewhere’ in much of his work. ‘Looking elsewhere’, it is proposed, involves reframing key conceptual and methodological problems such that they are amenable to research. It also involves an often radical rejection of the framing of certain kinds of problem, points towards alternative modes of analysis and investigation, and entails the development of conceptual imagery expressly intended to avoid the restrictions and confinement of now dominant forms of analytical convention.
DOI Link: 10.1177/1350508415587155
ISSN: 1350-5084
eISSN: 1461-7323
Version: Post-print
Status: Peer-reviewed
Type: Journal Article
Rights: Copyright © 2015 SAGE. Archived with reference to SHERPA/RoMEO and publisher website. Version of record:
Appears in Collections:Published Articles, Dept. of Sociology

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