Title: Our Kafkaesque world

Authors: Alison Donaldson

Addresses: 21a Coleridge Street, Hove, BN3 5AB, UK

Abstract: Kafka's book The Castle remains a brilliant and chilling allegory of the modern bureaucratic world. That world is generally associated with rules, hierarchy and rational organisation, but another typical feature of bureaucracy is copious documentation. A close reading of The Castle reveals numerous instances of the written word being used to block genuine communication, and Kafka's story evokes the situation of many organisations today, especially in the public sector. My aim, drawing on complexity thinking, is to show how bureaucratic cultures are perpetuated in specific interactions between people. I reflect on how the written word is used in organisational life, arguing that we need to start thinking of writing as process rather than just creation of written products. Finally, I suggest that an understanding of complexity and emergence can open a small door into how we can each contribute to resisting bureaucratic domination. This is important because bureaucracy, although useful in many respects, can also be time-wasting, demoralising and even dehumanising.

Keywords: Kafka; The Castle; bureaucracy; documentation; complexity; emergence; human relating; bureaucratic cultures; writing as a process; totalitarianism; ethics; learning; collaboration.

DOI: 10.1504/IJBG.2016.079332

International Journal of Business and Globalisation, 2016 Vol.17 No.4, pp.528 - 540

Available online: 16 Sep 2016

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