Agentic collaboration in a secular age: A rhetorical theory of organization

John-Christopher Spender

Research output: Book chapterChapter


I began my academic career as a PhD student of business strategy influenced by the work of Knight, Schutz and George Kelly, of repertory grid fame (Kelly, 1955; Knight, 1965; Schutz, 1972). My problematic was management as the response to Knightian uncertainty. When the organizational economists took strategy over in the 1980s uncertainty was pushed out of the discussion and the field morphed into something inherently tautological and boring. So around 1990 I segued into what became known as knowledge management, an unfortunate neologism. While I was floundering around trying to theorize management on this basis Professor Bonet suggested it could be good for me to look into rhetoric. I knew nothing about rhetoric, of course, especially the rhetoric of economics. Little did I realize Professor Bonet's suggestion would upend my intellectual position - leading to this chapters sketch of a rhetoricbased approach to organization and management. But first, a caveat; I know only enough about rhetoric to respect it as a vast and venerable subject packed with controversies and distinctions it takes years to understand. What I have to say is decidedly exploratory, an amateur's appropriation of sorne rhetorical notions.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSecond conference on rhetoric and narratives in management research: Proceedings
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2011
Externally publishedYes


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