Book Review of »Free Speech« by Timothy Garton Ash

Some time ago I was invited to review “Free Speech. Ten principles for a connected world” written by the British historian and writer Timothy Garton Ash. The review has now been published in the journal Organization Studies. The full text is available at the journal’s website. Here is a brief excerpt of my review.

Although the book is almost encyclopaedic, its main aim is not simply to represent the freedom of speech debate and its various positions, but to intervene in the world and to contribute to its transformation. It “invites a conversation about free speech” (p. 142), develops, promotes and defends a liberal position, and proposes principles of how to organize our relations in the “mixed up, connected world as city” (p. 19), that Ash calls “cosmopolis”. In this “crowded world”, he argues, “we must learn to navigate by speech” (p. 4). For students of organization, the book offers many points of entry for reflecting on the current conditions of organizing and its relation to free speech. How do organizations influence, control, and limit what we can say? What are the forms of power that shape and organize what we can say and see in and through the internet? What are the transformative potentials of organizing created by the affordances of the internet? (How) can “free speech” be organized, given that any form of organizing implies closure and exclusions? What are the organizing principles for a self-governing community, in which the principles of “free speech” can be actualized?

The internet has fundamentally transformed life in general and the conditions of communication in particular. It not only offers new possibilities of “free speech”, but also reveals its fundamental ambivalence. “[N]ever in human history was there such a chance for freedom of expression as this. And never have the evils of unlimited free expression – death threats, paedophile images, sewage-tides of abuse – flowed so easily across frontiers” (p. 127). Unknown freedoms of expression and unprecedented forms of control and surveillance coexist and create an ambivalent space of experience.

In case you are interested and your institution doesn’t have access to the full-text, I would be happy to send it to you via e-mail.

Book Review of »Organizational Wrongdoing« edited by Palmer, Smith-Crowe, and Greenwood

Earlier this year I was asked to serve as an Organization Studies book reviewer for ‘Organizational Wrongdoing’ edited by Donald Palmer, Kristin Smith-Crowe, and Royston Greenwood. My review has now been published in the most recent issue of Organization Studies. The final paragraph summarizes my reading of the volume as follows:

The final chapter of the volume (Chapter 16 by Chugh and Kern) then returns to the individual level in presenting suggestions on how to conceptualize and practice “ethical learning”. The chapter is a truly worthy conclusion, providing concrete suggestions for management practice. At the same time, it is also prototypical for the volume as a whole, focusing on reflection at an individual level instead of more collective and political processes of dealing with organizational wrongdoing. The latter perspective would not only put more emphasis on processes of subjectivation in the course of attributing “wrongdoing” to individuals, but might also arrive at different suggestions for practice such as ideas related to criminal law for corporations. This would reflect the, at least partially, emergent character of organizational wrongdoing. Given the importance of political processes and institutional contexts for organizational wrongdoing highlighted by several of the contributions in this volume, political organizing based on solidarity is probably as important as ethical learning by individuals.

The full text of the book review is available at the journal’s website. As usual, please send me an e-mail in case you are interested but your institution does not provide access to the journal.