Organizational Conflict: Where We Have Been and Where We Are Going

Posted: 29 Mar 2015

Date Written: March 18, 2015


Organisational conflict has been suffering from a form of arrested conceptual development as it has been pressed into the specialist, if wide and diverse, research arena of conflict management and resolution. This is important but too often parochial and under-theorised. This paper responds to the call of bringing organizational conflict ‘back to theory’. This is achieved by mobilizing philosophical readings especially the ontological, epistemological and poetico-praxeological dimensions of theory constructions. These analytico-reflexive moves are productive of three contributions. Firstly, I offer a diagnosis for the arrested development of conflict theorizing. Secondly, I reactivate thinking of organizational conflict by conceptualizing it in a radically political manner that builds a contemporary ideology-critique based on the notion of fantasy as political category. Fantasy makes possible to think about theories in their poetico-praxeological dimension but includes not only the expressive and performative aspect of specific ways of life but also organizes desires gripping subjective investments in specific ways of life that are then difficult to radically contest and transform. I look at the operations of fantasy in three strands of OT: functionalism, the behavioural theory of the firm and the neo-liberal theory of the firm showing how they participated in the domestication, cooptation and utilization of conflict. Considering the hegemonic role of market governance I consider current challenges OT faces since the organizational arena is crossed globally by rising conflicts and heightened antagonism.

Keywords: organizational conflict, philosophy, ideology, praxeology, fantasy, market governance, alternative organizations, new economy, neo-liberal theory of the firm

Suggested Citation

Contu, Alessia, Organizational Conflict: Where We Have Been and Where We Are Going (March 18, 2015). Available at SSRN:

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