City Research Online

'Leader, you first': The everyday production of hierarchical space in a Chinese bureaucracy

Zhang, Z. & Spicer, A. (2014). 'Leader, you first': The everyday production of hierarchical space in a Chinese bureaucracy. Human Relations, 67(6), pp. 739-762. doi: 10.1177/0018726713503021


Recent studies highlight how organizational power relations are materialized in space. However, relatively little is known about how these spatialized power relations are reproduced on a day-to-day basis. Drawing on a ten-month ethnographic study of a large government office in China, we find that hierarchical space is produced through three intertwined processes. It proliferates as employees actively seek out signs of hierarchy in the organization’s space; it becomes familiarized as employees fabricate and circulate fanciful narratives about their spatial environs; and it is ritualized by employees acting out hierarchical relations across the organization’s space. These processes resulted in a hardening of the hierarchical relations of power. The study extends the existing literature by showing how hierarchical organizational space is not just something that is imposed on employees; it is also imposed by the employees themselves.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: Copyright Sage 2014
Publisher Keywords: bureaucratic hierarchy, organizational space, everyday lives, Lefebvre, China
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
Departments: Bayes Business School > Management
SWORD Depositor:
[thumbnail of Bureau 22 7 13.pdf]
Text - Accepted Version
Download (877kB) | Preview


Add to AnyAdd to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to LinkedinAdd to PinterestAdd to Email


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics

Actions (login required)

Admin Login Admin Login