‘The examination combines techniques of an observational hierarchy and those of a normalising judgment. It is a normalising gaze, a surveillance that makes it possible to qualify, to classify and to punish. It establishes over individuals a visibility through which one differentiates them and judges them.’ (Foucault 1975: 184)
Going to work is no longer as simple as doing a particular job in a particular place. By taking part in hierarchical system of office, worker also takes on responsibilities to other people and departments that are not directly linked to his line of work. The designer, for example, indirectly becomes associated with accountant as soon as his or her work efficiency comes under scrutiny.
Time management is one of most important aspects of work environment. In capitalist economy our time becomes worth money and therefore also becomes accountable to others. Personal accountability (in particular concept of audit as discussed briefly last issue) is a relatively new field in anthropology; however there are several important issues to consider when looking at this topic: How is efficiency measured? Who creates these rules? Are they based on historical evidence or on present day circumstances? This essay will address these questions using evidence from Douglas, Power and Strathern, amongst others.
Efficiency in Light of Failure ‘When transaction costs mount for one reason or another, a bureaucratic organisation offers an employment relation which can produce trust, develop expertise, and provide flexible continuity, and these combined can outweigh its insufficiencies.’ (Douglas 1992: 71)
Douglas points out that regulating bodies are employed when costs, or outlay, become too high or are unjustifiable for product that is being sold. In some respects this can be seen as introduction of a standardised system to regulate a transaction which, at least in terms of financial efficiency, has failed. In layman’s terms, someone is not doing their job properly to extent that costs are spiraling to point where finished product is not worth asking price. This is similar to Illich’s (1978) idea of crisis. He suggests that in times of misfortune personal liberties are withdrawn and supervisory power from further up social hierarchy is bought into play in order to rectify situation. Perhaps one of ways that this ‘higher power’ takes form is with audit which, according to Power (1997), is one of most important methods of assessing efficiency of an organisation. In principle this is a method of verification and checking, and Powers defines crucial aspects of this:
·Independence from matter being audited ·Technical work in form of evidence gathering and examination of documentation ·The expression of a view based on this evidence ·A clearly defined object of audit process (Power 1997: 5)
Established, examinable systems of audit exist in fields of both health and medicine, and teaching. Whilst in some ways implementation of audit systems can be seen as positive - by imposing clear regulations of high standards - some people argue that new managerialism involved in maintaining these standards instills insecurity in workplace (Shore and Wright 2000, Power 1997).
Making Auditees. It is one thing to suggest that an audit system should be bought in at a time of crisis but another that it should remain in place indefinitely. Foucault (1997) suggests that consequence of continual observation – a la panopticon, glass prison in which prisoners are constantly visible to guards although not vice-versa – is to ‘instill anxiety such that inmates come to scrutinise their own behaviour and eventually adopt norms of conduct desired by disciplinary institution whether or not guards are in watchtower.’ (Shore and Wright 2000: 77). Strathern (2000) puts forward that by moving from its’ birthplace in world of accounting to professional world, audit brings with it a whole new range of cultural ideas and values upon which institutions can be rendered culturally legitimate. Moreover, she suggests that ‘procedures for assessment have social consequences, locking up time, personnel and resources, as well as locking into moralities of public management.’ (2000: 2). Shore and Wright elaborate this, suggesting that audit practices ‘are agents for creations of new kinds of subjectivity: self-managing individuals who render themselves auditable.’ (2000: 57). The relevance to modern workplace is obvious; as we are given criteria to fit into – for example, spending x amount of time doing y on a particular day, between particular times – we either conform and keep our jobs, or we do not, and run risk of losing them. By conforming we are constructing an idea of a professional person, which is by no means natural, and, perhaps more disturbingly, is based on meeting someone else’s yardstick.