Aesthetics and Practice

18 October 2007

I met with Amit Chand yesterday. He is a former MGMT 301 student. Since then he has worked with Unilever in Australia and with Telecom New Zealand (in New Zealand). Anyway, he starts work in a few weeks time at McKinsey. He will start his training in Chicago, but will return to—and be based—here in New Zealand.

Over coffee, we talked on to the topic of the disinterest—i.e. not pushing a particular agenda—of consultants. In summary, I asserted that whilst the consultant may be (should be/likely to be?) disinterested, the nature of consultants results in the “solution’ the present will come from a particular set of solutions. Specifically, the practices (Reckwitz, 2002; Schatzki, 2001; Turner, 1994) they draw upon bounds the type of solutions offered to the client.

For example, a consultant/consultancy where economics practices loom large is likely to produce a solution that accommodates those type of practices. In this way, the “biography’ of a person shapes the solution. I don’t think I want to go into the agent-structure debate here, so I won’t dwell any further on that point.

Amit then asked me a very interesting question; “What shapes your solutions?”

Without thinking, I immediately said “For me, the elegance of the solution is important.” Thus, finding a solution is an exercise in good judgement. This may be a folk-tale, but when asked “What is good taste?”, the Queen responded, “I’m not sure, but it is important to have it.”

I think elegance, is related to aesthetics (which takes me back to work and discussions I had with David Barry). As I write this now, and as I think back, what strikes me is the strong relationship between practice (and those who write about it) and aesthetics. Perhaps, at the EGOS conference next year, I’ll catch up with Daved/David and explore this in more detail.

References

Reckwitz, A. (2002). Toward a theory of social practices: A development in culturalist theorizing. European Journal of Social Theory, 5(2), 243—263.

Schatzki, T. R., Knorr-Cetina, K., & von Savigny, E. (2001). The practice turn in contemporary theory (p. 239). New York: Routledge.

Turner, S. P. (1994). The social theory of practices: Tradition, tacit knowledge and presuppositions (pp. x, 145). Cambridge: Polity Press. <span