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Toward a Virtualization of Social Control? Simulation and Seductive Domination in an Australian Coastal Hotel

Dirk Bunzel
Administrative Theory & Praxis
Vol. 23, No. 3 (Sep., 2001), pp. 363-382
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25611528
Page Count: 20
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Toward a Virtualization of Social Control? Simulation and Seductive Domination in an Australian Coastal Hotel
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Abstract

In drawing attention to the prevalence of images, spectacles, and simulations in contemporary service organizations, the paper points at a blind spot in recent debates about new forms of "soft" control. Whereas the trend from negative to positive power, from hard to soft control, from obedience to commitment has received significant attention within organization studies; the shift from real to virtual power, from actual to simulated control has largely gone unnoticed. Based on stories and episodes collected during a fourteen-month organizational ethnography of an Australian coastal hotel, the paper reflects on the increasing virtualization of organizational life at this hotel in the context of an almost obsessive concern with service excellence. Drawing on Baudrillard's concept of simulation/seduction, the case of the Grand Seaside demonstrates the relevance and effectiveness of simulation as a technique for controlling individuals within service organizations. The paper concludes that the emergent mode of seductive domination corresponds to a gradual virtualization of social control and that, consequently, discussions within organization studies should not confine to issues of obedience and commitment but should address the actual/virtual dimension of power and control.

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