The phenomenon known as globalisationIntroductionTo begin with, tell them that they will need to look at the essay questions todayLater we will be doing a trial reflective exerciseLets look at GlobalisationMy storyWhen my colleagues and I were faced with redundancy we were placed in a unique position. Or perhaps it wasnt quite so unique, just unspoken; experts are not renowned for publicly applying their own theories to themselves. After years working as labour researchers or workplace change consultants we found ourselves in the position of having the stories we told other workers and their managements about why change was happening being reflected back to us by our managers and the people employed to facilitate our departures. We shifted from being purveyors of the discourses and narratives about why change was necessary to sitting in judgement of whether these very discourses and narratives applied to us, made sense to us, or were believable.
Armed with more information than the average potentially redundant worker, we gathered around photocopiers, water coolers, staff room dining tables, coffee shop booths, each others desks – and discussed, argued, complained, questioned. As labour researchers we turned on labour theories, as change consultants we turned on theories of workplace change, and asked ourselves and each other, Is what Ive been saying for the last ten years really the case in my case? Now that Im down there amongst it all instead of looking at it from the safety of an analysts lofty heights, does the story look and sound the same? The Globalisation StoryThe stories we told the workers went generally like this: Globalisation led to economic and industry restructuring which leads to organisational change which means jobs change which means you have to do things differently to how you did them before and if you do not change, you wont be able to give your customers what they want and you and your company and your country are gone (hereafter called The Globalisation Story). Simple. Logical.
Inexorable. Until we started telling it to ourselves and to each other.Then, with remarkable alacrity, we shifted from a reliance on causal explanation to an emphasis on interpretive understanding.Putting yourself inside the pictureWith many of us experts in different stories – some were macroeconomists who understood globalisation theory, some of us were labour or industry economists who understood the theories of work and industry change, some were organisation researchers who knew about change management – we started to pick holes in other peoples stories and they picked holes in ours, many with the preface, Your story doesnt work for me because .
.. We were forced, many of us for the first time, to look reflexively at our own stories about how the world works, and also at how the various stories fitted together into the one that we delivered with such assertive nonchalance at the many workplaces we visited.
Mikhail Bakhtin had a way of describing this. Morson and Emerson (1989: 17-18) point to the distinction Bakhtin draws between knowledge and acknowledgement. Many writers, as my colleagues and I had done, take theories and knowledge as representative of our world but with ourselves outside of it. It is only when we find ourselves within that world – when we are put in the position of having to acknowledge that knowledge as forming the content of our particular and singular worlds – that we hesitate and question.
We refuse to sign on, as it were. As Bakhtin argues, any sort of practical orientation of my life within the theoretical world is impossible: it is impossible to live in it, impossible to perform answerable deeds (1993: 9). He describes the distanced possession of knowledge that experts display as an alibi for being, an alibi for taking responsibility for what we say and do, of placing ourselves within the same world that we so willingly place others.So what will I be talking about and how? How is important.Firstly, I argue that the macro literature orders perceived events in a particular way to demonstrate that globalisation or restructuring is happening, and a particular vocabulary of concepts is constructed to show how and why it is happening. These events, the writers argue, must be responded to