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Actor–network theory and strategy as practice

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCambridge Handbook of Strategy as Practice, Second Edition
Publisher or commissioning bodyCambridge University Press
Pages265-280
Number of pages16
ISBN (Print)9781139681032, 9781107073128
DOIs
DatePublished - 1 Jan 2015

Abstract

Introduction The aim of the chapter is to show how actor–network theorizing can contribute to our understanding of strategy as practice. Practice theorization offers a broad church, with many partially overlapping sets of interests and concerns, as discussed in the collection of writings found in The Practice Turn in Contemporary Theory (Schatzki, Knorr Cetina and von Savigny 2001). In this chapter we seek to show the variety of points of contact between the sensitivities making up a strategy-as-practice research agenda and those arising from actor–network theory as one particular part of this broader set of theories. Through such an engagement, we find opportunities for SAP research to pursue its agenda and to address a range of critiques that it has faced from those frustrated that its progress so far has not been as great as hoped. In setting itself a core agenda, the strategy-as-practice approach questions the view that ‘strategy is something organizations have’, with a view to shifting to consideration of ‘strategy as something people do in organizations’ (Whittington 2006). Pursuing such an agenda has radical implications, questioning as it does the notion of strategy as a legitimate resource at the hands of top management. By making practice central to understanding strategy, this literature suggests that the locus of strategizing is dispersed (for anyone participating in the organization has the potential to engage in strategizing) and the instantiation of strategy may follow a complex, non-linear and less determinate trajectory involving the interplay of multiple conflicting logics. Among all of the development and debate around the strategy-as-practice agenda, we trace some particular criticisms that have been made (namely Araujo and Easton 1996; Whittington 2006; Rasche and Chia 2009). We focus our discussion around these, since we find that they are helpful as a way to reiterate and develop central aspects of the agenda of SAP research. More importantly, given the focus of this chapter, we find that these criticisms can be directly addressed through the adoption of elements of actor–network theorizing into strategy-as-practice research. Overall, then, we present these criticisms not as judgement of the quality or intentions of the field. Rather, we see them as comments made about particular subsets of studies that serve a useful purpose as conceptual tools to further strengthen and develop the field. With this caveat on the role of these criticisms in this chapter firmly in mind, we now briefly rehearse them.

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