We Can't Go on Meeting Like This: Notes on affect and post-democratic organization

Simon Bayly

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This essay opens up an investigation into the physical, ‘face-to-face’ meeting as one of the most enduring yet understudied practices in the creation and maintenance of human organizations. Research on corporate management over the last 30 years has treated the group meeting as largely a dysfunctional waste of resources and continues to recommend myriad ways towards its management Yet over the same period, the meeting – in the form of the general assembly in a public square - has become the fetishized object and process for a constellation of urban mass protests across the world over the last decade. Within these politically charged events, subsequently framed as marking a series of watersheds in the transformation of cultures of mass political organization, methods of ‘leaderless’ consensus decision-making inherited from earlier grassroots social movements in the 20th century have been widely adopted in surprisingly uniform and prescriptive ways. Within contemporary art over the same period, institutional critique has given way to related experiments with varieties of group talk and deliberation that have been shaped around a DIY, counter-institutional agenda. Exploring the divergences and convergences between these varieties of organizational culture, this essay considers the meeting as the most persistent and essential means through which organizations, institutions and networks invent and perpetuate themselves, diverse acts whose specific aesthetic, performative and symbolic qualities have, with some notable exceptions, been relatively under-explored. Taking performance as a means for experimentation with the forms of social existence and drawing on insights from the less well-known psychoanalytic traditions of group analysis and group relations, it convenes an enlarged plurality of discourses with which to explore the psychosocial life of meetings beyond received forms of corporate efficiency, vanguard assemblyism or artistic dialogism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-48
Number of pages10
JournalPerformance Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 23 Sep 2015

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