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Transforming culture through social performance: a longitudinal case study of a professional firm in Great China using Jeffrey Alexander's cultural pragmatics framework

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posted on 2022-03-28, 17:46 authored by Kwai Yu Vivian Sun
This thesis aims at generating new insights or guidelines for the better understanding and more effective management of cultural change in organisations. The thesis started with two questions: “what is required to facilitate successful cultural change in an organisation?”, and “how can we change culture when we are the culture?” In attempting to answer these questions, it draws on Jeffrey Alexander’s cultural pragmatic framework to guide a longitudinal study of a cultural change program in an international accounting firm in China. The research draws on the interpretivist research paradigm. It uses documentary analysis, semi-structured interviews and non-participant observation to reconstruct the organisation’s cultural webs and detail how they influence the interactive dynamics of sense-making, sense-giving and the reception to sense-giving. As a basis for analysing the nature and effectiveness of cultural change as a social performance, the thesis draws on Jeffrey Alexander's view of performance as comprising of six key elements: systems of collective representation; actors; audiences; means of symbolic production; mise-en-scene; and social powers. In using this framework for understanding and evaluating performance success, the thesis provides the first application of cultural sociology's dramaturgical approach to the analysis of organisational change in a Chinese firm. It also provides a test and confirmation of the relevance of Alexander's cultural pragmatics framework for investigating cultural change in organisations. And, finally, it draws on and extends Alexander's framework in developing guidelines for how practitioners can more effectively manage cultural change - by viewing it as a social performance.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Curtains up - chorus of the drama of research -- Chapter 2. Literature review -- Chapter 3. Research methodology -- Chapter 4. The breakthrough drama -- Chapter 5. The challenge of script : re-fusing background representations with contingent performance -- Chapter 6. The challenge of actors and audience -- Chapter 7. The challenge of staging -- Chapter 8. This is not the finale.


Bibliography: pages 283-296 Theoretical thesis. "This thesis is presented for the degree of Doctorate of Business Administration (DBA)" -- title page.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis professional doctorate


PhD, Macquarie University, Macquarie Graduate School of Management

Department, Centre or School

Macquarie Graduate School of Management

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Richard J. Badham


Copyright Kwai Yu Vivian Sun 2013. Copyright disclaimer:






1 online resource (xii, 324 pages) colour illustrations

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