Managing the blues : theories and practices of power in the police service
Keith, Beverley Anne
The primary intention of this thesis is to explore theories and practices of power. To that end, the\ud analysis first pays close and critical attention to a number of theories of power, and employs the\ud empirical example of the police organization as a means through which to explore the strengths\ud and weaknesses of these different theoretical perspectives.\ud These themes are examined in a number of ways: firstly, by setting out and exploring different\ud sociological and organizational theories of power; secondly, by considering a range of powerrelated\ud practices (management practices, hierarchical practices, and gender related power\ud practices) in light of theoretical approaches to power; and thirdly, by seeking to push forward\ud theories of power in light of the (theoretically informed) empirical analysis. The empirical analysis\ud is based on semi-structured interviews and non-participant observation of officers in one\ud Constabulary. This thesis brings to the police literature a critical perspective on organizations that\ud has been largely lacking to date. The analysis aims to extend the terms of debate about the theory\ud and practice of power in some measure in light of its focus on how power operates in cultural\ud practices, organizational practices, and notions of subjectivity and identity management.\ud This thesis draws first on the power-related work of Max Weber, and associated critiques, for a\ud greater understanding of the assumptions and limitations of bureaucracy, appropriate to a study of\ud power in the quasi-militaristic bureaucratic police organization. The thesis also draws on the\ud power-related approach of Michel Foucault, and related critiques. The analysis engages critically\ud with the power/knowledge concept, and related questions of resistance and agency.\ud Considerations of epistemological and ontological constraints inform the whole analysis, with\ud regard to theories of power, methodology, and in explorations of power-related theory in light of\ud empirical data. This thesis argues that power informs what is often described as the intransigence\ud of police culture, and that power is reflected in, and as a consequence of, organizational structures,\ud managerial practices, and officers' concerns with subjectivity.\ud Accordingly, the underlying assumptions of this thesis are that:\ud 1) in order to understand many seemingly intransigent practices within the police force it is\ud necessary to explore the analytical significance of power as expressed in structure, discourse\ud and practices, and;\ud 2) that identities are negotiated in a complex environment in which success and status are\ud informed and defined largely by a history of white, male practices.\ud The research places questions of power inequalities at the centre of much of the analysis, in\ud particular gender inequalities. The analysis also engages with current debates in organizational\ud theory about power and resistance and seeks to extend the ways in which resistance is theorized\ud and researched empirically. The analysis therefore considers officers' 'interactions with, and\ud responses to' a range of organizational practices, in order to engage critically with the powerrelated\ud implications of everyday practices in the police, and, to push forward the ways in which\ud workplace resistance (and compliance) are theorized.\ud This thesis shows some of the ways in which assessment practices in the police organization\ud exacerbate and shape concerns with subjectivity as often expressed in attempts to protect aspects\ud of identity, or in the privileging of some aspects of identity in this very public, and male\ud dominated, workplace. A central contention of the present work: that many theories of power,\ud including those associated with Weber and Foucault, do not adequately incorporate the influence\ud and role of identity and subjectivity in the shaping of power practices.
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