Judith Butler

Last updated, 22 Aug 2014

by Kate Kenny

Judith Butler is a prominent post-structural philosopher whose contributions to the areas of feminism, queer theory, political philosophy and ethics are widely recognised. Her approach to the study of identification draws on poststructuralist thought including Foucault and Derrida, along with Hegel, Althusser, Lacan and Freud and others.

The following quote, given on the first page of the introduction to her latest book, encapsulates her notion of identification well:

…one does not “do” one’s gender alone. One is always “doing” with or for another, even if the other is only imaginary. What I call my “own” gender appears perhaps at times as something that I author or, indeed own. But the terms that make up one’s own gender are, from the start, outside oneself, beyond oneself in a sociality that has no single author (and that radically contests the notion of authorship itself).(2004:1)

This quote shows the importance of seeing 'identity' as a process of identification, rather than the achievement of a final identity position. Identification is always 'being done': a continuing practice that cannot nor should not be reified into categories, but that it is changeable over time and in different contexts. Despite what Butler's critics argue, for her, this view does not imply that there is a proliferation of identity positions available to the subject at any given time. Rather, the subject's psychic processes tend to ground and limit the possibilities for identification. Moreover and most importantly, her view of identity is essential social, we are always 'beyond ourselves in a sociality', always 'doing' gender (identity) for another, or others. This enables Butler to understand identification as inescapably political.

Butler and CMS
Butler has been drawn on in the following papers and works (please add to this list)

Ball, K. 2005. Organization, Surveillance and the Body: Towards a Politics of Resistance. Organization, 12(1): 89-108.

Fleming, P., & Sewell, G. 2002. Looking for the Good Soldier Švejk: Alternative Modalities of Resistance in the Contemporary Workplace. Sociology, 36(4): 857-873.

Harding, N. 2005. Marx on Alienation and Butler on Unlivable Lives- Complementary ways of thinking through working lives in the 21st Century? Paper presented at the 4th International Critical Management Studies Conference, Cambridge.

Hodgson, D. 2003. ‘Taking it Like a Man’: Masculinity, Subjection and Resistance in the Selling of Life Assurance. Gender, Work and Organization, 10(1): 1-21.

Hodgson, D. 2005. 'Putting on a Professional Performance: Performativity, Subversion and Project Management. Organization, 12(1): 51-68.

Jones, C., & Spicer, A. 2005. The Sublime Object of Entrepreneurship. Organization, 12(2): 223-246.

Katila, S., & Merilainen, S. 2002. Metamorphosis: From `Nice Girls' to `Nice Bitches': Resisting Patriarchal Articulations of Professional Identity. Gender, Work and Organization, 9(3): 336-354.

Kenny, K. 2010. ’Beyond ourselves: Passion and the Dark Side of Identification in an Ethical Organization’. Human Relations., 63(6): 857-873

Kenny, K. & Euchler, G. (forthcoming 2012) ’Some Good Clean Fun: Humour in an Advertising Agency’. Gender, Work and Organization.

Kenny, K 2009. 'Heeding the Stains: Lacan and Organizational Change', Journal of Organizational Change Management, Vol 22. No. 2, pp 214-228

Kenny, K. 2009. ’The performative surprise: parody, documentary and critique.’ Culture and Organization, Vol. 15, No. 2, pp 221-235.

Kondo, D. 1990. Crafting Selves: Power, Gender and Discourses of Identity in a Japanese Workplace. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Linstead, A., & Thomas, R. 2002. ‘‘What Do You Want from Me?’’ A Poststructuralist Feminist Reading of Middle Managers’ Identities. Culture and Organization, 8(1): 1-20.

McKinlay, A (2010). 'Performativity: From J.L. Austin to Judith Butler' in P. Armstrong and G. Lightfoot (eds.) 'The Leading Journal in the Field': Destabilizing Authority in the Social Sciences of Management, London: MayFly Books

McKinlay, A. (2010) Performativity and the politics of identity: Putting Butler to work, Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 21: 232-242

McNay, L. 2003. Agency, Anticipation and indeterminacy in feminist theory. Feminist Theory, 4(2): 139-148.

Parker, M. 2001. Fucking Management: Queer, Theory and Reflexivity. Ephemera: Critical Dialogues on Organization, 1(1): 36-53.

Rhodes, C. 2002. Coffee and the Business of Pleasure: The Case of Harbucks vs. Mr. Tweek. Culture and Organisation, 8(4): 293-307.

Roberts, J. 2005. The Power of the 'Imaginary' in Disciplinary Processes. Organization, 12(5): 619-642.

Spicer, A., & Fleming, P. 2001. Making Constructivism Critical: Structure, Text and Contestation. Paper presented at the Critical Management Studies Conference, UMIST, Manchester.

Sturdy, A., & Fleming, P. 2003. Talk as Technique- A critique of the Words and Deeds Distinction in the Diffusion of Customer Service Cultures in Call Centres. Journal of Management Studies, 40(4): 753-773.

Thomas, R., & Davies, A. 2005a. Theorizing the Micro-politics of Resistance: New Public Management and Managerial
Identities in the UK Public Services. Organization Studies, 26(5): 683-706.

Thomas, R., & Davies, A. 2005b. What Have the Feminists Done for Us? Feminist Theory and Organizational Resistance. Organization, 12(5): 711-740.