Kafkaesque power and bureaucracy

Stewart Clegg, Miguel Pina e Cunha, Iain Munro, Arménio Rego, Marta Oom de Sousa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


The metaphor of Kafkaesque bureaucracy has attracted the imagination of organization theorists for decades. While the critical and metaphorical approach offers vibrant insights about organizing, it has not been complemented by systematic empirical analysis. We take a step in that direction and conduct an inductive study of how people experience and deal with the Kafkaesque bureaucracy. We focus on the Kafkaesque organization as constructed in process and practice by those who experience its effects as citizens and clients. Data uncovered three major affordances of Kafkaesque bureaucracy: inactiveness, helplessness and meaninglessness. These combine in a mutually debilitating configuration that constitutes the Kafkaesque bureaucracy as an effortful everyday accomplishment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157-181
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Political Power
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 3 May 2016


  • bureaucracy
  • Kafka
  • Kafkaesque organization
  • organization
  • vicious circle


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