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Call for papers: Special Issue of Journal of Political Power

Call for papers: Special Issue of Journal of Political Power

Paradox(a): Arts, artists, power, paradox and organized resistance

Deadline for submissions: 31 December 2023

Guest Editors:

Ace Volkmann Simpson, Brunel University London, UK

Marco Berti, University of Technology Sydney, Australia

Medhanie Gaim, Umeå School of Business, Economics, and Statistics, Sweden

Miguel Pina e Cunha, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal

Stewart Clegg, University of Sydney, Australia

In occupied Paris, a Gestapo officer who had barged his way into Picasso’s apartment pointed at a photo of the mural, Guernica, asking: “Did you do that?” “No,” Picasso replied, “you did” (The Guardian, 26/3/09)

Theme and justification

In this special issue, we invite authors to ask: how do the arts, artists and artistic work leverage paradoxes to attract popular attention while also going against prevailing opinion, providing a necessary critique to the embedded power of the status quo, uncovering new possibilities for expression? Paradox theory has emerged as a significant presence in management and organization studies and as a lens inspiring connections with other theories. Paradox refers to persistent and mutually constituting oppositions nherent to organizing (Smith & Lewis, 2011) that translate into undecidable trade-off decisions (Berti & Cunha, 2023). These contradictions may be generative or dysfunctional (Cunha et al., 2022, Gaim, Clegg, & Cunha., 2021)but can also be sources of novelty and synergy for organizations (Smith & Lewis, 2022).

Nevertheless, paradox is more than a managerial problem or a stepping-stone to innovation. Its etymological meaning (para-doxa, or ‘against the prevailing opinion’) points to its potential for challenging taken-for-granted views of the world, as a form of resistance to these (Luhmann, 1995). Power often confronts people with absurdly paradoxical demands and situations, especially those relatively less advantageously positioned in established circuits of power (Clegg, 2023; Berti & Simpson, 2021; Cunha et al., 2022; Gaim, Clegg., Cunha, and Berti, 2022).

We invite authors to submit their work on the arts, artists, power, paradox as a phemionenon and paradox work as a process, focusing on the heuristic potential of paradox as a way of revealing and challenging the status quo, through all the techniques of resistance, such as irony (Badham & Santiago, 2023). Previous work has explored the presence of tensions, contradictions and paradoxes in the creation and management of artistic organizations (Cunha et al., 2019) but the deliberate artistic uses of diverse artistic media to leverage paradox in organizing that engages as it resists a status quo is the concern of this special issue. Assuming the various arts as forms of organizing (Chandler, 2020), we aim to explore their paradoxical role in overturning the past, subverting the present and imagining a different world, all without being so marginalized as to be dismissed in their reception. Historically major figures such as Caravaggio and Coltrane have played this role of reframing oeuvres and relations of power, raising questions as to whether art born in struggle, resistance and disruption is necessarily bound to become mainstream and institutionalized (think of punk or house music as contemporary examples, or jazz and rock n’ roll in earlier times, the 1920s and 1950s, respectively).

Authors are welcome to explore how artistic expression, in its multiple forms, uses paradox as a way of entertaining, informing and criticizing social relations, processes and ideological contradictions and paradoxes. For instance, art must navigate the tension between engaging and challenging its audience; between provoking and promoting society. Overall, we aim to study how artists use artistic tools (ideas, traditions, expectations), to engage systems of communication through subverting them. Recent examples could be the use of metaphors in lyrics, as well as “performances” such as that created by a young Russian that showed up for voting during the invasion of Ukraine dressed like Iron Man.

There is a long tradition of resistance through the arts encompassing literature such as the works of Kafka, Borges or Hasek (Fleming & Sewell, 2002), in the theatre of Beckett and Ionesco (Breuer, 1993; Wellwarth, 1962), in protest songs (Esteve-Faubel, Martin & Esteve-Faubel, 2019; Friedman, 2013), in the use of irony and political satire (Fischione, 2020; Brock, 2018), in the migrant shop floor poetry of the worker poets of contemporary China (Goodman, 2021; Van Crevel, 2019), in the work of Banksy as insider-outsider (Cunha, Clegg, Berti, Rego & Simpson, 2021). Art is inscribed in not only the materialities that artists produce, elites display and dealers trade but resides in any work that uses creativity as a means of confronting power if only because doing so requires imagination. Stilling imagination, ironing out difference and producing endless repetition of orthodoxy is hegemony’s preferred mode.

With this special issue we seek to expand our knowledge of the role of the arts in making paradoxical, in being against doxa, criticizing and resisting, accepting inconsistencies to uncover absurdities, exalting the powerful to expose their ridicule (Rosen, 1988). The intersection of paradox theory, power and the arts offer considerable scope for students of political power and its organization.

We would expect work around questions such as but not limited to:

· What motivates artists to go “paradoxal”?

· How is protest paradoxical rather than direct and explicit?

· How are the arts organized to confront power that cannot be confronted?

· When art is organized or disorganized, what are the implications of each for resistance?

· How do ‘everyday people’ create subversive forms of resistance that do not boomerang back on them?

· How are artistic protests effectively organized and when and how do they backfire?

· When does paradoxa become part of the system?

· What contextually inscribed processes and practices influence the use of which artistic expressions?

· How is paradox performative in the arts?

· Is “paradoxa” oblique or can it be direct?

· Can art participate in resistance without becoming purely didactic?

Our overall objective is to produce a collection of works at the intersection of the arts, power, organization and paradox that will be enjoyable as artistic work should be, “paradoxal” and thus respectfully disrespectful of existing work, while being rich in theory as good academic work ought to be.

A kickoff event will be:

With the oportunity to present your working paper for feedback from senior paradox scholars.

Final deadline for submissions for Special Issue: 31 December 2023 : Papers should be submitted through the paper’s submission email:

Prospective authors and potential reviewers are invited to contact any of the editors about this special issue:

Ace V. Simpson ( is Professor of Human Resource Management and Organizational Behaviour at Brunel Business School, Brunel University London. His research is concerned with positive organizational practices promoting well-being, psychological safety, paradox transcendence, and love. His main research focus is on the cultivation of organizational compassion. Ace’s research has been published in journals such as the Academy of Management Review, Journal of Management, Journal of Business Ethic and Management Learning. Ace is also co-author of the Elgar Introduction to Organizational Paradox Theory (Edward Elgar, 2021) and Positive Organizational Behavior (Routledge, 2019).

Marco Berti ( is Associate Professor at UTS Business, University of Technology Sydney. He became a full time academic after a 20+ years international career as a management consultant. Marco’s main research focus are the study of organizational tensions, power dynamics and the creation of socially sustainable organizations. He more that 30 academic journal papers in journals such as Academy of Management Review, Academy of Management Learning and Education, Journal of Management Studies, Organization Studies, Organization and Management Learning. He is a co-author of the Elgar Introduction to Organizational Paradox Theory (Elgar, 2021) and of Organizational Paradox (Cambridge University Press, 2022).

Medhanie Gaim ( is Associate Professor of Management at Umeå School of Business, Economics, and Statistics, Sweden. His research focuses on paradox theory (its beauty and absurdity) and entrepreneurship. He is a co-author of Organizational Paradox (Cambridge University Press, 2022) and the Elgar Introduction to Designing Organizations (Elgar, 2022). His papers have appeared in journals such as the Academy of Management Review, Organization Studies, Harvard Business Review, Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Journal of Management Inquiry.

Miguel Pina e Cunha ( is the Fundação Amélia de Mello Professor at Nova SBE, Universidade Nova de Lisboa (Portugal). He studies different dimensions of organizing and organizations, using the lens of paradox. He is a co-author of the Elgar Introduction to Organizational Paradox Theory (Elgar, 2021), Positive Organizational Behaviour: A Reflective Approach (Routledge, 2020), and Elgar Introduction to Organizational Improvisation Theory (Elgar, 2022) and a co-editor of Contemporary Social Theory for Management (Routledge, 2019).

Stewart Clegg ( is Professor at the University of Sydney in the School of Project Management and the John Grill Institute for Project Leadership and a Visiting Professor at the University of Stavanger Business School, Norway, as well as a Distinguished Emeritus Professor of the University of Technology Sydney. He is recognised for his work in sociology, politics and power relations, organisation studies and project management to all of which he has contributed substantially over his career.


Badham, R. J., & Santiago, B. M. (2023). Ironies of Organizational Change: Introduction to Change Management and Organizational Theory. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

Berti, M. & Cunha, M.P. (2023). Paradox, dialectics or trade-offs? A double loop model of paradox. Journal of Management Studies.

Berti, M., & Simpson, A. V. (2021). The dark side of organizational paradoxes: The dynamics of disempowerment. Academy of Management Review, 46(2), 252-274.

Breuer, R. (1993). Paradox in Beckett. The Modern Language Review: 559-580.

Brock, M. (2018). Political satire and its disruptive potential: irony and cynicism in Russia and the US. Culture, Theory and Critique, 59(3), 281-298.

Chandler, J. (2020). IA Richards and Raymond Williams: reading poetry, reading society. Critical Inquiry, 46(2), 325-352.

Clegg, S. R. (2023) Frameworks of power. London: Sage (2nd edition).

Cunha, M.P., Giustiniano, L., Rego, A. & Clegg, S. (2019). Heaven or Las Vegas: Competing institutional logics and individual experience. European Management Review, 16(3), 781-798.

Cunha, M.P., Clegg, S., Berti, M., Rego, A. & Simpson, A.V. (2021). Fully embracing the paradoxical condition: Banksy to organization theory. Organizational Aesthetics, 10(2), 50-66.

Cunha, M. P., Rego, A., Berti, M., & Simpson, A. V. (2022). Understanding pragmatic paradoxes: When contradictions become paralyzing and what to do about it. Business Horizons, .

Cunha, M.P., Rego, A., Clegg, S. & Giustiniano, L. (2022). In a Kafkaesque catacomb: The killing of Ihor Homenyuk by the Portuguese customs and immigration bureaucracy. Journal of Political Power, in press.

Esteve-Faubel, J. M., Martin, T. J., & Esteve-Faubel, R. P. (2019). Protest songs about the Iraq War: An effective trigger for critical reflection?. Education, Citizenship and Social Justice, 14(2), 179-195.

Fischione, F. (2020). A critique of religious sectarianism through satire: a case study of Lebanese rap. Creative Resistance, 297-326.

Fleming, P., & Sewell, G. (2002). Looking for the good soldier, Švejk: Alternative modalities of resistance in the contemporary workplace. Sociology, 36(4), 857-873.

Friedman, J. C. (Ed.). (2013). The Routledge history of social protest in popular music. Routledge.

Gaim, M., Clegg, S., & Cunha, M. P. (2021). Managing impressions rather than emissions: Volkswagen and the false mastery of paradox. Organization Studies, 42(6), 949-970.

Gaim, M., Clegg, S., Cunha, M. P., & Berti, M. (2022). Organizational Paradox. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Goodman, E. (2021). “In the Roar of the Machines”: Zheng Xiaoqiong’s Poetry of Witness and Resistance. Chinese Literature Today, 10(2), 77-87.

Luhmann, N. (1995). The paradox of observing systems. Cultural Critique (31), 37-55.

Rosen, M. 1988. You asked for it: Christmas at the bosses’ expense. Journal of Management Studies, 25: 463–480.

Smith, W. K., & Lewis, M. W. (2011). Toward a theory of paradox: A dynamic equilibrium model of organizing. Academy of Management Review, 36(2), 381-403.

The Guardian (2009). Editorial – In praise of Guernica. The Guardian, 26/03/2009

Van Crevel, M. (2019). Misfit: Xu Lizhi and Battlers Poetry (Dagong shige). Prism: Theory and Modern Chinese Literature, 16(1), 85-114.

Wellwarth, G. E. (1962). Eugene Ionesco: The absurd as warning. Southern Journal of Communication, 28(1): 6-16.


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