The Cultural Work of Corporations by Megan Brown (auth.)

By Megan Brown (auth.)

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19 But creativity is not the only personality trait encouraged by the cultures of American corporations. Dave Arnott, author of Corporate Cults, describes an army of friendly, enthusiastic Southwest Airlines employees who, despite the company’s casual and nonrestrictive dress code, were all wearing the same clothes: khakis and a polo shirt with the corporate logo on it. Management theorists Caren Siehl and Joanne Martin explain the process by which corporate cultures reward certain types of people: “[They] teach, support, and demonstrate behavior and attitudes that are appropriate for a particular cultural context .

Consider, for example, the contrast between business studies, as I have described it, and an argument espoused by Daniel Rabuzzi in the journal Liberal Education. Rabuzzi writes that liberal arts professors should cooperate with the future employers of our students as we design and teach courses. Teaming with campus placement offices, liberal arts departments could develop relationships with corporations and government agencies to persuade them to hire more humanities graduates. Humanities professors could talk with corporate and agency officers about how those skills either are or might be taught (Rabuzzi 2001).

University-level business studies programs could provide students with valuable information about the corporate sector while simultaneously encouraging them to maintain a healthy skepticism about business. If, as Bill Readings argues, corporate presence in American universities is already pervasive and influential, then it makes sense for professors to take a closer look at manifestations of corporate culture—its rhetoric, its policies—in order to engage with it more carefully and strategically.

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