Critical Narrative Inquiry – Storytelling, Sustainability and Power

Editors: Kenneth Mølbjerg Jørgensen (Denmark) and Carlos Largacha-Martinez (Colombia)

While organizations have become central for thinking and structuring contemporary social action, existing perspectives on what they are and how to deal with them are still rooted in modern ideas about the foundations of society. The chapters in this volume take critical narrative inquiry — inspired by postmodern or post-human approaches to organizations — as a broad range of research and development strategies that challenge the dominant perspectives prevalent in the organizational literature. The purpose of the volume is three-fold. Firstly, a critical reading of organizations foregrounding notions of power and ethics is presented. Secondly, a new framework for understanding and analyzing organizational action based on critical notions of storytelling and sustainability is unfolded. Thirdly, the framework is deployed through innovative concepts and learning methodologies for leadership, organizational, or community development. The authors engage in philosophical and theoretical reflections on the ways contemporary organizations work. They also present and analyze case studies of power, storytelling and learning in organizations. As a whole the book provides examples of what can be done to make organizations work in more appropriate ways in the future.

The book brings together scholarship from Denmark, Germany, Colombia, and England. It is interdisciplinary in bringing together people from philosophy, sociology, leadership, organizational theory, psychology, and learning theory. It contains chapters organized in different and interrelated thematic areas. Key concepts are storytelling, power, and sustainability as a kind of axis around which the book chapters unfold. Within this broader framework, some chapters also deal with the role of the body in organizational action, while others deal with the complex relationship between materiality and storytelling in organizational contexts. We have divided the chapters up in the following four subsections: 1. Power, storytelling and materiality; 2. Quantum humanism and systemic thinking; 3. Storytelling and organizational development,; and 4. Sustainability, ethics, and the role of the body in organizations.

Expanding the Second Subsection, Quantum humanism and systemic thinking, in chapter seven, Quantum Humanism as a Framework for Humanistic Management, Carlos Largacha-Martínez criticizes mainstream corporations from another stance; namely, quantum mechanics. Largacha-Martinez is also inspired by Quantum physics (like Jørgensen & Strand in chapter four and Strand in chapter five) but he draws his inspiration from the work of Werner Heisenberg instead of Niels Bohr via Karen Barad.

In chapter eight, Critical Systemic Inquiry, Louis Klein and Christian A. P. Weiland also work with systemic thinking but they take their inspiration from German sociologist Niklas Luhmann. They describe how systemic inquiry continues to be a major instrument in organizational development research and practice despite, and on the basis of, abandoning truth as a central criterion.

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