Analysing organisational culture : a critical ethnography of public relations and personnel specialists in a state bureaucracy

  • Ivan Filby

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Following an introductory chapter, I examine (i) typologies which have differentiated the literature on organisational culture and symbolism (Chapter 2), (ii) the contribution of organisation theory to organisation culture (Chapter 3), and (iii) recent literature on organisational culture and symbolism (Chapter 4). Within these chapters, I adopt Habermas' (1972) notion of knowledge-constitutive interests, assessing the contrubutions to understanding organisational culture made by literature guided by technical, practical and emancipatory cognitive interests. In doing so, I suggest that more critical studies on organisational culture and symbolism have been comparatively neglected. Lamenting this neglect, I suggest that Giddens' theory of structuration can be employed to advance the development of a critical, emancipatory conceptualisation of organisational culture. In particular, I argue that this Giddensian analysis, by penetrating the existential, poltical and material processes of cultural reproduction (Chapter 5), is able to disclose some of the more contradictory features of organisation culture. The remainder of the thesis comprises of a critical ethnography of the work cultures of public relations and personnel specialists located in a state bureaucracy. I begin the ethnography with a dicussion of my research methods (Chapter 6) and an overview of the departments studied (Chapter 7): I then examine (i) the work cultures of the specialists (Chapter 8), (ii) the specialists' management of the relationships with the hosts bureaucracy (Chapter 9); and, (iii) opportunities the specialists had for developing an emancipatory praxis (Chapter 10). Finally, in a concluding section, I offer some critical reflections on the contributions of the thesis and suggest areas for future research.
Date of Award1989
Original languageEnglish


  • Organisational culture
  • public relations
  • personnel specialists
  • state bureaucracy

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