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Ever since the 1990’s the authorial ‘I’ of organizational studies research has been questioned (Jeffcutt, 1994; Linstead, 1993, 1999; Kostera, 1997; Richardson, 1994). The debate challenged the invisible omniscient voice of the researcher. A researcher, who has been accused of being too reductionist, indifferent to poverty and injustice, too careerist and self-centred (Alvesson & Willmott, 1992; Clegg et al., 2006; Parker, 2002, Parker et al., 2014; Wray-Bliss, 2003). Crucially, inspired by research ethics grounded in Levinas, the ‘right’ of researchers to take the researched into their possession and to pronounce the ‘truth’ of the ‘Other’ has been contested. As organizational ethnography, often in case studies or histories, has been the most active non-positivist form of organizational research, the status of ethnography has been crucial. Inspiration came from two sides. First the anthropologists Geertz (1988, 1995), van Maanen (1988) and, Marcus and Fischer (1986), have been deeply troubled by anthropology’s (neo-)colonial identity, wherein the European voice dominated the non-European one and research (for instance in India and Indonesia) was used to strengthen repressive and undemocratic rule. And second, Gibson Burrell and Gareth Morgan (1979) and, further Morgan (1986) and Burrell (1997), chimed in, asserting that very different styles of researching and writing to positivist functionalism were possible. While Linstead eventually more or less abandoned the writing of organizational research for documentary film making (2017, 2018), and Jeffcutt has left academe to become a published poet (2010, 2020), Carl Rhodes (2001, 2009, 2015, 2019; Rhodes & Brown, 2005) has stuck with the theme through the period of Postmodern enthusiasm, and more lately, the re-emergence of institutionalist and functionalist dominance…


The authorial ‘I’ of organization and business scholarship has been accused of being too rational, excessively blind to the plight of the marginalized poor, too self-centred, comfortable and opportunistic. There is a problem here of the selection of focus, themes and pragmatics. And there is a problem of the ‘writing’ process itself—that is, of language, style and text. Much has been written about the former, but very little about the ‘scriptology’ or the writing process (Rhodes, 2019). As readers, we are confronted by everything from sterile, cliched and forced text, to evocative, credible and authentic writing. This article explores the ‘art’ of scriptology. It takes Édouard Louis’ texts of the lifeworld of the economic and socially disadvantaged as its exemplar. If the writing or scriptology is convincingly authentic and powerful, has it succeeded? I will make use of the Lacan/Zizek critique of the relationship between languaging (symbolization) and emancipation, as a foil to explore Louis’ achievement. Louis’ negation of the (French) ‘rust belt’ poverty trap is profoundly moving and authentic. But is a ‘negation of the negation’ necessary for anything to change? And what does that imply for writing? Writing or scriptology is a key aspect to the ‘process of doing research’, which up to now has been insufficiently explored; this article intends to be a prolegomenon in this much needed direction.

  • Édouard Louis
  • ‘scriptology’
  • art of writing
  • ‘negation of the negation’
  • Slavoj Zizek
  • Jacques Lacan

Scritptologie. L’art d’Édouard Louis (re)vu

Le « Je » de l’auteur des études sur les organisations et les entreprises a été accusé d’être trop rationnel, excessivement aveugle au sort des pauvres marginalisés, trop égocentrique, confortable et opportuniste. Il y a là un problème de choix de centre d’intérêt, de thèmes et de pragmatisme. Il y a également un problème lié au processus d’écriture lui-même, c’est-à-dire à la langue, au style, et au texte. On a beaucoup écrit sur l’écrit, mais très peu sur la « scriptologie » ou le processus d’écriture (Rhodes, 2019). En tant que lecteurs, nous sommes confrontés à des textes stériles, clichés et forcés, mais aussi à des textes évocateurs, crédibles et authentiques. Cet article explore l’art de la scriptologie. Il prend pour exemple les textes d’Édouard Louis sur la vie des personnes économiquement et socialement défavorisées. Si l’écriture ou la scriptologie est convaincante, authentique et puissante, a-t-elle réussi ? Je me servirai de la critique de Lacan/Zizek sur la relation entre le langage (symbolisation) et l’émancipation, comme une stratégie pour explorer la réussite de Louis. La négation par Louis du piège de la pauvreté de la « ceinture de rouille » (française) est profondément émouvante et authentique. Mais la « négation de la négation » est-elle nécessaire pour que quelque chose change ? Et qu’est-ce que cela implique pour l’écriture ? L’écriture ou la scriptologie est un aspect essentiel de « l’art de faire de la recherche » qui, jusqu’à présent, n’a pas été suffisamment exploré ; cet article se veut un pas dans cette direction indispensable.

  • Édouard Louis
  • « scriptologie »
  • l’art de l’écriture
  • « négation de la négation »
  • Slavoj Zizek
  • Jacques Lacan
Hugo Letiche
Hugo Letiche is founder and director of the practice-based PhD program at the Universiteit voor Humanistiek, Utrecht (NL). He is now adjunct Professor at Institut Mines: Telecom Business School, Evry (FR) and visiting Professor at Nyenrode the Business University, Breukelen (NL). His current research focuses on accountability and ethnography. Recent research and publications (articles and books) have focused on magic & organization; film and the ‘filimic’ in organization research and studies; Lacan or coaching without coaches; Latour, ANT and the Anthropocene; the ethics of affect in the Covid pandemic; applications of Object-Oriented-Ontology to business ethics; the deformation of the university and its research agenda; modern slavery and Afropessimism; and practices of research accountability.
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