• Critical essay: reconsidering critical performativity

      Cabantous, L.; Gond, J-P.; Harding, Nancy H.; Learmonth, M. (2016-02)
      In recent years, we have witnessed the emergence of ‘critical performativity’, a concept designed to debate relationships between theory and practice and encourage practical interventions in organizational life. Notwithstanding its laudable ambition to stimulate discussion about engagement between CMS researchers and practitioners, we are concerned that critical performativity theory is flawed as it misreads foundational performativity authors, such as Austin and Butler, in ways that nullify their political potential, and ignores a range of other influential theories of performativity. It also overlooks the materiality of performativity. We review these limitations and then use three illustrations to sketch out a possible alternative conceptualization of performativity. This alternative approach, which builds on Butler’s and Callon’s work on performativity, recognises that performativity is about the constitution of subjects, is an inherently material and discursive construct, and happens through the political engineering of sociomaterial agencements. We argue that such an approach – a political theory of organizational performativity – is more likely to deliver on both theoretical and practical fronts than the concept of critical performativity.
    • Moving critical performativity forward

      Learmonth, M.; Harding, Nancy H.; Gond, J-P.; Cabantous, L. (2016-02)
      In this rejoinder, we draw attention to some of the possible performative effects of Spicer et  al.’s (2016) commentary and reaffirm the importance, in our eyes, of the fundamentally political and material dimensions of performativity.
    • What do we mean by performativity in organization and management studies? The uses and abuses of performativity

      Gond, J-P.; Cabantous, L.; Harding, Nancy H.; Learmonth, M. (2016-10)
      John Austin introduced the formulation “performative utterance” in his 1962 book How to do things with words. This term and the related concept of performativity have subsequently been interpreted in numerous ways by social scientists and philosophers such as Lyotard, Butler, Callon, or Barad, leading to the co-existence of several foundational perspectives on performativity. In this paper we review and evaluate critically how organization and management theory (OMT) scholars have used these perspectives, and how the power of performativity has, or has not, stimulated new theory-building. In performing a historical and critical review of performativity in OMT, our analysis reveals the uses, abuses and under-uses of the concept by OMT scholars. It also reveals the lack of both organizational conceptualizations of performativity and analysis of how performativity is organized. Ultimately our aim is to provoke a ‘performative turn’ in OMT by unleashing the power of the performativity concept to generate new and stronger organizational theories.