Mimesis and the Antinomies of Corporate ‘Fun’

Peter Fleming

in Authenticity and the Cultural Politics of Work

Published in print June 2009 | ISBN: 9780199547159
Published online September 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780191720024 | DOI:
Mimesis and the Antinomies of Corporate ‘Fun’

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One of the key aspects of the ‘just be yourself’ management discourse and its quest for personal authenticity is the fetishization of fun and play at work. This stands in stark contrast to earlier modes of management thought that attempted to depersonalise the organization and drive out any ‘irrational’ human features (when at work we are serious, when work is finished we can have fun). The presumption is that fun is part of our authentic personhood and should be celebrated, often involving strange exercises and games. Employees are presumed to be motivated by this. Fun has always existed in organizations in the informal sphere, often played out against management. Now this form of life has entered official discourse. In order to make work fun a process of mimesis occurs in which non-work gestures are simulated inside the organization. An empirical case is investigated to demonstrate this process of mimesis or simulation. But what exactly is being simulated? Again, the chapter draws upon the Italian autonomist ideas of Hardt and Negri to show how managed fun is more of a controlling gesture rather than an act of liberation.

Keywords: authenticity; cynicism; the commons; fun; humour; non-work; play

Chapter.  8413 words. 

Subjects: Organizational Theory and Behaviour

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