Manufacturing the past: Loss and absence in organizational change

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This paper describes different conceptions of the past presented in a retrospective analysis of organizational change. One day in 1993, an Australian subsidiary of a United States manufacturing organization introduced changes including product-based production teams, a three-shift factory operation, and employee redundancy packages. Eighteen months later, the teams were dissolved. In this paper, talk about change is interpreted through the concept of loss; loss as regret for what has been in the past, return to the past and loss of what might have been, loss as relief to move on to what can be in the future, and loss as release from constraints of the past. It is suggested that analysis of loss and absence can increase the complexity of representations of emotion in situations of organizational change, and that there are additional senses of loss which can supplement those associated with death and mourning. The association between loss and resistance is discussed, and a comparison is made between 'loss of' as a retrospective analytical frame and 'resistance to' as more prospective and modernist in orientation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)623-654
Number of pages32
JournalOrganization Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1997


  • Emotion
  • Loss
  • Organizational change
  • Resistance
  • Retrospective analysis
  • Time

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