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We, the Max Planck Society: a Study of Hierarchy in Germany

Peacock, VSP; (2014) We, the Max Planck Society: a Study of Hierarchy in Germany. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis explores the idiosyncratic internal hierarchy of the Max Planck Society in Germany, through which its natural scientific work is produced. Using the emic notion of a ‘principle’ (Prinzip), it articulates the presence of three hierarchical principles within the Society – the hero principle, the longevity principle, and the precarity principle – which have a range of subjective and intersubjective reality effects. Based on fifteen months of partially itinerant fieldwork at various Max Planck locations across Germany, it mobilizes testimonies, observations, virtual texts, statistics and archival data in the service of this contribution to organisational anthropology. In so doing it also performs a syncretic act which has not yet been made in this field, that is, to bring traditional anthropological studies of hierarchy – most significantly the work of Louis Dumont – to bear on a complex and technologized Western organisation. It argues that the cause of this neglect is in fact a historical product: the last forty years or so being characterized by a generalized repression in the human sciences of full consciousness of societies’ hierarchical aspect, expressed most visibly in the ubiquitous use of tropes like ‘agency’ and ‘action’. In offering a Dumontian interpretation of the Max Planck Society, this thesis thus brings the presence of social hierarchies and their respective value-ideas once more to the fore. ‘We, the Max Planck Society’ – a reference to Raymond Firth's Pacific islanders and betokening collective solidarity and identity – is the historical product of an alternate Teutonic vision of togetherness, which since the eighteenth-century has contradicted and opposed Western Enlightenment individualism. Germany therefore provides a good regional vantage point from which to expose obscured ethnocentrisms, and offer an alternative version of how organisations can work.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: We, the Max Planck Society: a Study of Hierarchy in Germany
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Keywords: Germany, Hierarchy, Anthropology, Organisations
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1417712
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