Get Email Updates

View Table of Contents


An Ethnography of Management and the Global Economy in Crisis

Emil A. R°yrvik

284 pages, 15 tables & Figures, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-0-85745-185-9 $120.00/£75.00 Hb Published (September 2011)

ISBN  978-1-78238-065-8 $29.95/£18.50 Pb Published (March 2013)

eISBN 978-0-85745-186-6 eBook

Hb Pb

Winner of the 2012 SINTEF Prize for Excellency in Research

“… the book is a piece of extensive scholarship, full of insights that repay the reader's close attention."  ·  Journal of Political Power

This is an extraordinary book, huge in every way, one man’s personal synthesis of the world we live in, as seen through his own experience of Norway’s largest business corporation and much, much more. The book and the author have a lot going for them. There are few in-depth anthropological studies of global corporations. Scandinavian anthropology is enjoying a boom and this is reflected in the present study. The author is well-versed in German sources and is open to a very wide range of philosophy, critique, journalism, anthropology and social science.”  ·  Keith Hart, Goldsmiths College, London

[T]his book is a gem. I like it very much…an excellent blending of genres, approaches and disciplines, fused together by an essentially anthropological perspective. It tells a global story through a number of local intermediations of the most significant Norwegian company, Hydro.”  ·  Stewart Clegg, University of Technology, Sydney

The “managerial revolution,” or the rise of management as a distinct and vital group in industrial society, might be identified as a major development of the modernization processes, similar to the scientific and industrial revolutions. Studying “transnational” or “global” corporate management at the post-millennium moment provides a suitable focal point from which to investigate globalized (post)modernity and capitalism especially, and as such this book offers an anthropology of global capitalism at its moment of crisis. This study provides ethnographically rich descriptions of managerial practices in a set of international corporate investment projects. Drawing also on historical and statistical data, it renders a comprehensive perspective on management, corporations, and capitalism in the late modern globalized economy. Cross-disciplinary in outlook, the book spans the fields of organization, business, and management, and asserts that now, in this period of financial crisis, is the time for anthropology to yet again engage with political economy.

Emil A. Røyrvik is a social anthropologist and senior research scientist at SINTEF Technology and Society, Scandinavia’s largest independent research organization. The book has been written also in his capacity as postdoctoral fellow at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Department of Social Anthropology. His research focuses on ethnography and anthropological theory in the context of knowledge work, organizational and managerial culture, and aspects of contemporary economic and cultural globalization.

LC: HD87.R697 2011

BL: YK.2012.a.19721

BISAC: BUS000000 BUSINESS & ECONOMICS/General; SOC002000 SOCIAL SCIENCE/Anthropology/General; BUS035000 BUSINESS & ECONOMICS/International/General

BIC: JHM Anthropology; KJM Management & management techniques


List of Figures
List of Tables

Introduction: Investment Projects, Capitalism, and Crisis

  • Cultural analysis of corporate and capitalist organization
  • Hydro investment projects and the reproduction of relations
  • At the crossroads of production and finance capital
  • Contextualizing the study within Hydro
  • Organization of the book


Chapter 1. Situating “Global Corporate Management”

  • Hydro’s ambiguous position
  • Investment projects as “global assemblages”
  • Economic anthropology revisited
  • Managing man
  • The neoliberal triumph and tragedy
  • Extending anthropological discovering

Chapter 2. Managing in the Middle Kingdom: Three Investment Projects in China

  • Technologies, art and truth
  • Counterfeiting and strategic secrecy
  • The GM relay
  • The Mercedes and the carriage
  • Circulating safety—dodging danger
  • The carriage cum Mercedes
  • Social organization and construction
  • Reverse culture crash
  • Cultural encounters
  • From socio-technical to ontological truth

Chapter 3. Presencing Projects: A Social Reality of Construction

  • The tragedy of big projects
  • Keepers of gold and processes of “structuring”
  • The ambience of enabling
  • Projects as situated potentiality
  • A set of propositions
  • The imagination bank


Chapter 4. The Turn to Enchantment: Investing in Projects

  • Decision Gate Four
  • CROGIism: Inventing finance control
  • Blåruss-blues
  • The surge of “shareholder value”
  • “Scientific management”, collaboration and democratization
  • Projects as a cultural idiom

Chapter 5. Wagging the Dog: The Financialization of Sociality

  • Hydro’s financial transformation
  • The “stock options carnival”
  • “Options” in a moral economy
  • A neoliberal dismantling of democratic capitalism?
  • “Financial weapons of mass destruction”
  • Managing “financial risk” in projects

Chapter 6. Money Manager Capitalism and Reverse Redistribution

  • Financialization and international economic relations
  • Qatalum “money magic”
  • The dance of debt
  • The “ancien régime” reinvented
  • Financial neo-imperialism
  • Radical reverse redistribution


Chapter 7. Directors and Directions of Creation

  • Reprise and review
  • Hydro and the right kind of globalization
  • Anti-market capitalism
  • Financial entification
  • Qualifying capitalism
  • Incarnations of a different nature

Chapter 8. Managing in a Total Context of Crisis

  • Managing, reasons and rationalizations
  • Mixed regimes of rationality
  • The medium-range view: Levels in capitalism
  • Deep crisis in contemporary capitalism
  • Downfall or a phoenix for the future?
  • A tragedy or triumph of the commons?


Back to Top