Kafka on gender, organization and technology: The role of ‘bureaucratic eros’ in administering change

Marinus Ossewaarde (Corresponding Author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
490 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

In this article, it is argued that Kafka's novels are satirical portraits of the workings of ‘bureaucratic eros’ in gendered organizations. In Kafka's tragi‐comical fiction, a sexually perverse and uncreative ‘bureaucratic eros’ — the opposite of the ‘poetic eros’ — administers highly sexualized gender relationships in hierarchical organizations: law, bureaucratic regulation, administration and execution are expressions of the male officials' sexual desires. Given the lustful manifestations of ‘bureaucratic eros’, Kafka reveals that organizational and technological change is not some process of rationalization (as Max Weber suggests), but, instead, must be poetically understood as metamorphosis. In Kafka's comical portraits of metamorphoses, the remnants of old myths, old desires, tribe‐like organizational forms and primitive uses of technology continue to operate in distorting, disorienting, sexually perverse ways. Thereby, ‘bureaucratic eros’ brings about an incomprehensible world of lawlessness and anxiety — a deplorable condition that, Kafka suggests, can only be overcome by fleeing administrative dictates, into the aesthetic sphere.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1000-1016
JournalGender, Work and Organization
Volume26
Issue number7
Early online date8 Aug 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2019

Keywords

  • UT-Hybrid-D
  • Bureaucracy
  • Kafka
  • Metamorphosis
  • Technology
  • Weber

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