'Ethics' as a discursive resource for identity work

Sage Publications
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Human Relations, 2007, 60 (3), pp. 497 - 518
Issue Date:
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This article analyses how participants in a not-for-profit service organization (the `Incubator') drew on understandings of 'ethics' in order to make sense of their individual and collective selves. Identities are theorized as being constituted within discursive regimes, and notions of ethics are conceived as discursive resources on which individuals and groups may draw in their attempts to author versions of their self and organizational narratives. We show how conceptions of ethics were a rich vein on which organizational members drew to elaborate narratives that legitimated particular modes of working and which cohered an otherwise quite disparate community of individuals. The research contribution of this article is twofold. First, we discuss how a discourse focused on ethics may be a strategic resource for identity work. Second, we analyse how talk and writing about issues of ethics are implicated in relations of power and ongoing struggles for control over organizations conceived as discursive spaces. In so doing, this article advances our understanding of ethics as discursively complex constructions, which require the micro-analysis of language practices in situated contexts for action
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