What is Organizational Culture Becoming? Seeing Organizational Culture in a Becoming Perspective

Jens Bøgetoft Christensen, Per Darmer

Research output: Working paperResearch

125 Downloads (Pure)


Introduction Over the years, the organizational culture debate has become not only extensive and diverse but also quite motley. Starting back in the early eighties as a response to a growing frustration over traditional organizational analysis among management scholars, in their attempt to understand the inability of the western industry to match the Japanese competition and success, culture soon became the topic in the management debate. A debate that by no means was characterized by a common understanding of how to understand this newfound theme, but on the contrary covers a wide field from flat out common sense, over contingency theory thinking toward a social constructivist inspired line of thinking. Through the eighties and the first part of the nineties, the culture debate continued, and as far as the more constructivist inspired part of the debate is concerned, it contributed significantly to the development of an alternative to the mainstream neo-positivistic tradition. Since the mid nineties though, the culture debate seems to have ebbed, and apparently there has been only little further development in the cultural approach to organizational theorizing. Although the concept has spread to newer areas of interest, where it has generally been taken for granted as an instrumental tool for managers. Meanwhile in other areas of organizational theorizing, the social constructivist line of debate has developed further and with inspiration from postmodernism moved towards a debate of both the ontological and the epistemological questions facing organizational research. Lately new books on culture have appeared (Parker, 2000; Martin, 2002 and Alvesson, 2002 ), but although these authors represent reflections on more contemporary debates, the purposes of these authors differ from the ones we want to bring forth in this paper. Despite these new books, it seems obvious that organizational culture has lost most of its appeal as an approach to organizational theorizing. Why we can only speculate about, but we find that the concept of culture is still essential for the understanding of sociality and organizing. Thus, the purpose of this paper is to reflect upon what organizational culture becomes in a becoming perspective (Tsoukas & Chia, 2002). More precisely, the paper shows how we rethink our social constructivist-based conceptualization of organizational culture, with inspiration from a becoming perspective. This means that the paper will apply the becoming perspective to organizational culture and see what that implies, but at the same time the paper critically reviews the becoming perspective. The paper discusses social constructivism and the becoming perspective in order to get an understanding of organizational culture that is inspired by both without being equivalent to any one of them.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationFrederiksberg
PublisherLOK Research Center. CBS
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2004
SeriesLOK Working Paper

Cite this