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Imaginaries and the organised life

Oliveira, F. (2023). Imaginaries and the organised life. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


Organisations and how society organise play a vital role in achieving societal goals, and imaginaries as part of a process to achieving collective objectives. This thesis examines the mobilisation of imaginaries in Organisation and Management Studies (OMS) through a case study of the Big Worm (BW), an elevated highway that has sparked intense discussions and unexpected solutions. I define imaginaries as shared perspectives encompassing values, beliefs, and desires that influence and actualise organisational activities. The central question that follow is: How do imaginaries shape both public and private organisations and how does the interplay of imagination and organised life bring about inertia and changes to their environment? In the first chapter, I conduct a systematic review of 1,071 OMS articles published in top journals, demonstrating that organisational activities, inertias, and changes in organisational forms align with imaginaries-based perspectives. Understanding a formative nature of imaginaries in organisational phenomena then led to the question: How do shared experiences and accumulated knowledge contribute to the formation of imaginaries, and how do they attempt to arrange lives, surroundings, and their actuality? Chapter two examines 590 news clippings, spanning the period from the BW's construction in 1969 to 2013, when the first hearing attempted to define the purpose of the BW, to understand the emergence and development of imaginaries over the decades, culminating in solutions to either maintain ongoing operations and BW’s existence, implement an Elevated Park, or demolish the structure. Forty-five years of controversial existence and operation garnered online attention, digital movements, and virtual discussions, which prompted a question on the role of imaginaries to organise online communities and to generate and disseminate impactful knowledge for civil society. Chapter three presents a five-year study of online group netnography, delving into the demolition and Elevated Park proposals. Imaginaries were found to be critical in creating, sustaining, and expanding "virtual bubbles" where participants' knowledge circulated, proposals were refined through their inputs, and online and offline activities organised recommendations based on social expectations. On the in-person confrontation of these solutions raises questions about the persistence of divergences within social imaginaries and why shared subjectivities remain fundamental to effective, civic-centred decision-making. Chapter four investigates the discursive struggles that occurred in nine consecutive official meetings among policymakers attempting to reach a consensus on the future of the BW. These face-to-face meetings initially failed to find common ground due to varying justifications, further deepening divergences regarding the most appropriate adaptation of the elevated highway. Ultimately, an ambivalent decision was made to recognise the BW as a "sui generis" Park. The conclusion chapter recall all these empirical findings to demonstrate that imaginaries and organised life co-create a voluntary and spontaneous organisation of everyday affairs that emerges by contrasting implicit and explicit dimensions in organising. this interplay, imaginaries and organised life intertwine in routines and ordinary activities, accommodating deep-seated opinions, irreconcilable divergences, and personalised experiences. This ensures civic-centred forms of organising that meet the demands of society.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
Departments: Bayes Business School > Bayes Business School Doctoral Theses
Bayes Business School > Management
Doctoral Theses
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