This presentation investigates the interconnections between language and affect in the context of new management and consulting practices. The previous research in sociological and organizational research has underlined the central role of “community”, “collaboration” and “participation” in contemporary organizations (e.g. Adler 2015) that are seen as self-organizing systems utilizing the participants’ affective engagement with each other and the task at hand. The aim of the study is to explain how this shift to affective economies has created new sites for the commodification and policing of language, based on a new kind of communicative expertise.  

The data comes from a training program of a Finnish educational institution, delivered to its management teams by a consulting company. The training aimed at enhancing the organizational capacity by creating an organizational culture that is rooted in co-creative and experimental work processes. For this reason, the participants were helped to establish an elevated self-awareness of their professional practices and the way in which they materialize in social interaction – in order to transform them as the training proceeds. In the study, the one-year long training was followed ethnographically. The training encounters (approx. 45 h) were videotaped and analyzed by using conversation and discourse analytical methods.

The presentation demonstrates how the transformation the training is expected to generate is construed and managed through a sequence comprising 1.) the consultant’s request to reflect the professional practices, 2.) the participants’ response and 3.) the consultant’s follow-up. In particular, it analyzes the consultant’s methodic ways of invoking the participants’ awareness of their routinized social conduct and their desire for its transformation, and the participants’ resistance of the pursued change. The results show how the sequence functions as a basis for the negotiation of the professions’ rights to interpret and categorize the world, and thereof, is used to redefine their boundaries.