The Relational Construction of Interest Alignments: A Perspective to Organizational Change

Friday, 20 July 2018: 11:15
Oral Presentation
Antero OLAKIVI, University of Helsinki, Finland
Language and discourse play a central role in societal and organizational change. Language is a medium for justifying and criticizing societal phenomena, including forms of production and divisions of labor in societies and organizations. A central feature of modern, liberal forms of government is the alignment of interests between different actors. These forms of government, including work government, avoid impressions of open force or acting against anyone. Instead, they invite all actors to cultivate their own agency and serve their own interests, but mainly in alignment with more distant, organizational, governmental and economic objectives.

Sociological tradition offers different avenues for studying interest alignments – and interest conflicts – in work organizations. Traditional, substantialist sociology conventionally examines how different material, economic and socio-political entities, things and forces affect organizational life, including actors’ abilities to act and serve their interests. From the perspective of relational sociology, in contrast, interest alignment is an ongoing and dynamic process in which the interests of different actors receive meaning and significance in relation to each other and their environment. In this paper, I draw on relational and, in particular, dramaturgical sociology to examine such processes of interest alignment, and misalignment, in social care work organizations in Finland, among care work managers and migrant care workers. The paper demonstrates how the empirical analysis of interest alignments offers a productive framework for the study of organizational change.