Book I gotta read – “The Triumph of Emptiness: Consumption, Higher Education, and Work Organization”

From Oxford University Press, by Mats Alvesson

  • Provocative book of institutional and cultural critique
  • Offers a critique of materialism, consumerism, and branding
  • Debunks inflated rhetoric and narcissism of contemporary world
  • Employs a wealth of wide-ranging empirical examples

In this book, Mats Alvesson aims to demystify some popular and upbeat claims about a range of phenomena, including the knowledge society, consumption, branding, higher education, organizational change, professionalization, and leadership. He contends that a culture of grandiosity is leading to numerous inflated claims. We no longer talk about plans but strategies. Supervisors have been replaced by managers. Goods have become brands. Wealthy countries try to show that they are knowledge societies through mass higher education but with limited effect on real qualifications or qualified job opportunities for graduates. The book views the contemporary economy as an economy of persuasion, where firms and other institutions increasingly assign talent, energy, and resources to rhetoric, image, branding, reputation, and visibility.

Using a wide range of empirical examples to illuminate the realms of consumption, higher education, organization, and leadership, this provocative and engaging book challenges established assumptions and contributes to a critical understanding of society as a whole.Readership: Academics, researchers, and graduate students in Organization, Sociology, Consumer Studies, Higher Education, and Cultural Studies; and the general reader interested in cultural and organizational critique.

Table of Contents –

1: Introduction – Zero-Sum Games, Grandiosity, and Illusion Tricks
2: Consumption – the Shortcomings of Affluence
3: Explaining the Consumption Paradox: Why aren’t People (More) Satisfied?
4: Higher Education – Triumph of the Knowledge Intensive Society or a Statistical Cosmetics Project?
5: Higher Education – an Image-Boosting Business?
6: Modern Working Life and Organizations – Change, Dynamism, and Post-Bureaucracy?
7: Organizational Structures on the Beauty Parade: Imitation and Shop-Window Dressing
8: A Place in the Sun – Occupational Groups’ Professionalization Projects and Other Status and Influence Ambitions
9: Leadership – A Driving Force or Empty Talk
10: The Triumph of Imagology – A Paradise for Tricksters?
11: The Costs of Grandiosity


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Below the surface...
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