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date: 17 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter reflects on identity construction as a political process in organizational theory. The authors provide a reassessment of the literature, arguing that such identity perspectives have developed around three pairs of (potentially) antagonistic notions, namely, structure/agency, language/materiality, and elites/shopfloor employees. First, they show how the pendulum has swung from studies that emphasize the power of structure in disciplining organizational participants’ identities, towards contributions that focus on agency in the reproduction or subversion of the dominant social order. Second, they argue that the attention of identity scholars, when investigating identity construction, has fluctuated between the power of language and the power of materiality. Third, they highlight that the initial view, which argues that elites exercise power over shopfloor employees by disciplining their identities, has been superseded by more nuanced approaches that take into account a much greater variety of stakeholders and recognize that individuals can be both subject to power and active subjects of it. The concluding section proposes several research avenues that aim to inspire organizational scholars interested in identity construction in relation to power relations.

Keywords: identity, power, identity regulation, identity work, poststructuralism, Foucault, discourse, materiality, discipline, resistance

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