Paper Title
Aspects of Performative Knowledge in the Workplace: Insights from Postmodern Theory

The so-called ‘global financial crisis’ (GFC) of 2008-9 provides an intriguing context for revisiting Jean-François Lyotard’s seminal study: The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (1984). We are intrigued that so few appeared to ‘know’ the economic crash was about to hit. Yet so many are paid extraordinarily large sums of money to predict these things - including economists, bankers, insurance brokers, stock brokers, risk managers, investment advisers, fund managers, some lawyers and so on. Very few saw it coming. How so? This paper examines this question through Lyotard’s lens by asking how people in commercial enterprises understand and define knowledge in organisations. How are we ‘set up’ to ‘know’ about and anticipate these things? Our paper considers this ‘setting up’ through the lens of ‘organizational knowledge’ which is different from what has been defined as ‘scientific knowledge’. Traditionally, science has been prized for its abstraction from context - as generalizable. Organisational knowledge on the other hand tends to be prized more for its contribution to organisational effectiveness and economic management. The notion of ‘hard’ science might be used merely as a means to an end. However, where alternative non-scientific means can better achieve organisational effectiveness, science may not be necessary. Knowledge, in this organisational sense, has worth in its use-value. Against the GFC backdrop this ‘use-value’ has included achieving increased capital gains and measurable returns. This paper is primarily directed towards, but not confined to, the activities of large commercial enterprises) and questioning the authority by which knowledge is legitimated in such enterprises. To do this we revisit Lyotard’s (1984:9) pertinent questions: ‘Who decides what knowledge is, and who knows what needs to be decided?’ We draw on his theory of performativity to examine the ways organizational knowledge can be constructed to miss critical observations and thus opportunities.