The devil in high heels: drugs, symbolism and Kate Moss

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Journal Article
Culture and Organization, 2009, 15 (3/4), pp. 331 - 346
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This paper contributes to critical voices on the issue of organisational responses to employee drug use. It does so by exploring symbolic readings of organisations' relations with drugs and drug-taking. Our focus is recent coverage of, and organisational responses to, the UK tabloid media's expose of fashion supermodel Kate Moss's alleged cocaine use. We consider that the celebrity endorsement in this particular case highlights the ambiguities created by the symbolic associations between the organisation and the 'image' projected by the celebrity. Overall, we use this case to explore symbolic relationships between drugs, sex, femininity and organisation. Through highlighting these connections, we question further the rationality of organisational responses to employee drug use and, utilising Derrida's (1981) extension of Plato's notion of the pharmakon, consider whether workforce drug testing might be fruitfully seen as a symbolic mechanism for scapegoating and sacrifice in order to protect the organisation's (masculine) moral order.
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