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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
thesisposted 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.