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Organizational Kitsch

Linstead, S. (2002) Organizational Kitsch. Organization, 9 (4). 657- 682. ISSN 1350-5084

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Kitsch as a descriptive and evaluative term is popularly deployed in the context of art and artifacts, contemporarily denoting that which is perhaps poor in taste, quality or refinement yet which retains some sort of mildly perverse attractiveness. It prettifies the problematic, makes the disturbing reassuring, and establishes an easy (and illusory) unity of the individual and the world. This article draws on historical sources and contemporary theory across a range of critical disciplines to expand our current awareness of the range of the concept and its organizational relevance. It examines how its acceptation has developed to incorporate mass production techniques and development in the reproductive technologies which can allow us to apply it with more precision to the field of organization studies. Kitsch is not so much a metaphor as a multifaceted response to modernity of great complexity in its very simplicity, and its key features are summarized. The article then identifies the presence of kitsch in two examples of thinking about organizing—the work of Abraham Maslow as an example of needs-based organization theory, and Peters and Waterman's In Search of Excellence, the founding example of the `excellence' school which claims the status of theory. It is not the identification of kitsch as an aesthetic style in organizing which is significant, but the recognition of kitsch as an ontology of being which effectively masks the experience of being—interposing itself as a comforting buffer between ourselves and the `real', and often being taken for it. Kitsch, rather than being a mere matter of stylistics, can be seen as one of the key philosophical problems of modernity and should therefore be taken seriously by organization theory.

Item Type: Article
Institution: The University of York
Academic Units: The University of York > The York Management School
Depositing User: York RAE Import
Date Deposited: 07 Apr 2009 11:30
Last Modified: 07 Apr 2009 11:30
Published Version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/135050840294008
Status: Published
Publisher: SAGE Publications (UK and US)
Identification Number: 10.1177/135050840294008
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/7124

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