Technology strategy as macro-actor: Or how materials produce degrees of humanity in strategic research and practice

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The aim of this article is to inquire into the possible significance of materials in the production of emerging strategic outcomes. The article first sets out to discuss the different ways contemporary strategy research define the identity of strategic actors. It is argued that the various schools of strategy research, although different in important respects, operate with a common human centered assumption: Humanity is treated as given - the strategic actor or subject is assumed to be an individual human or a collective of humans.By adding the possible significance of materials and other non-human entities to the explanatory repertoire of strategy research, another line of inquiry is pursued. The performative perspective thus proposed, is inspired by the classical work of Von Clausewitz and the recent anthropology of science, technology and organizational identities. In the proposed perspective, the human centered assumption is no longer just a premise for doing strategy research, but instead considered an interesting emerging outcome to be explained. Further more, the performative perspective allows strategy research to extend the notion of emergent strategies so as to include the possible significance of materials and other non-human entities in the explanation of2emerging strategic identities and outcomes. Hence, also a new task has been added to strategy research: To explain how emerging strategic identities - consisting of both humans and non-humans, are produced as part of strategic outcomes.Three cases are presented, each of them with a particular bearing on how materials participate in the making of emerging strategic identities and outcomes:The first case account for strategies transforming plans into anti-plans. This is a case of how a strategic plan is betrayed (or rejected) by an emerging collective consisting of both humans and diverse materials like a paper inscription and heavy machinery.The second case account for how the emerging twin identities of the strategic management subject and the human object are co-produced in interaction with a machine delegate.Finally, the third case account for how the strategic technology and the strategic collective emerge and co-produce each other as a macro-actor, only to become transformed in unexpected ways - as common technology and reflective human subjects.In the concluding section, it is argued that the humanity of the reflective human subject should be regarded as an emerging identity, co-produced in interaction with diverse materials like machinery. It is further argued that strategy research has slowly written out Von Clausewitz original insight in this respect. The complexity Von Clausewitz introduced with the notion of `degrees of humanity' has been replaced with a given humanity, yet the costs of doing so remain outside the frames of contemporary strategy research. Failing to attend to the possible significance of materials in producing degrees of humanity has made strategy research as much producers of strategic outcomes, as providers of explanations and observations. The expression `technological strategy as macro-actor' summarizes these findings and the associated implications for research and practice.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationKøbenhavn
Number of pages58
Publication statusPublished - 2003

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