Department of Government

Speech-acting, organization, and power-struggles

Speech-acting and the outcomes of narrative struggles – on hard and social facts -generate organisations

Beach hut on stilts, Norway
Bjørn Tore Økland, Unsplash.com

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Professor emeritus Thorvald Gran has published the book “How Speech Acting and the Struggle of Narratives Generate Organization” (Routledge 2017). He investigates how language as institution and speech acting from within specific languages constitute – and deconstruct – organisations. He suggests that political science has overlooked language and speech acting as perhaps the most powerful – and oldest - of all institutions. He proposes that speech act theory radically expands insights into the field for political freedom and democracy. The theory ‘solves’ the construction problem: All sociality, all that we consciously do collectively – is constructed by our willful choices and actions. The basic processes in nature on the other hand unfold independently of our willfulness. There we can affect the conditions for their unfolding – where the rivers run – but not that they run. The theory suggests that the distinction between physical/biological and social facts is essential in all science, and that our social competence has natural/biological conditions (See also Gran 2012 Vitenskap i praksis).

The book delves into narrative struggles in research on Norwegian history and in anglo-saxon organisation theory. It investigates the struggles in Norway and Sweden (in Volvo) over cooperation in industry (Samarbeidsforsøkene) and the struggles over organisation and (public) regulation of Norwegian fisheries – all from a speech act perspective. Freedom in how to organize is especially present when people genuinely engage in finding solutions to pressing but unsolved problems. Mainstream social science is often more engaged in explaining the actually chosen solutions than in describing the freedom that is present before pressing problems are solved.