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Authoritarianism, Gender and Managerial Identity in Chile

Rodriguez, J.K. (2010) Authoritarianism, Gender and Managerial Identity in Chile. In: Gender, Work and Organization Conference, 2010-06-21 - 2010-06-23. (Unpublished)

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This paper aims to discuss the role of authoritarianism in promoting gender roles and shaping managerial identity in Chile, and its implications in the promotion of male heteronormativity. Using an analytical framework that links political economy and sociological theories of gender identity, the paper will discuss the impact of historical authoritarianism in Chilean employment relations on the articulation of managerial identities. In general, both the impact of authoritarian regimes on society, and the relationship between authoritarianism and gender need more discussion. In the case of the former, Jensen (2003) notes that discussions on the effects of democracy on macroeconomic performance suggest that authoritarian regimes facilitate the development of multinational organisations 'due to lack of popular pressure from below, and the repression of unions' (p. 593). This could also be taken as a possible explanation to authoritarian styles being a desirable trait of managerial identities. Since they seem consistent with organisational aims of operating without regulation and pressures from workers' groups but rather controlling internal and external environments, through authoritarianism, managers reinforce their roles as agents of organisational control. In the case of the latter, some research has been conducted in psychology that has identified a negative relationship between authoritarianism and dimensions of diversity (see for example, Duncan et al., 1997) yet literature addressing authoritarianism with gender from a sociological perspective and linked with organisational identities, remain scarce. In Chile, this discussion is particularly relevant given that patterns that have historically shaped employment relations perpetuate distinctions based on power, authority and class and can be identified in organisations. The managerial role in Chile is highly masculinised, characterised by transactional leadership, benevolent paternalism and strict hierarchical structures. Authoritarian behaviours are considered to be a central trait of managers in Chile (Rodriguez, in press; Rodriguez & Gomez, 2009, Gomez & Rodriguez, 2006), where it is understood that managers are bosses and workers are subordinates. Chilean managers are considered to be self-centred, impose their points of view and world vision and understandings, and inconsiderate of workers' opinions and experiences. This is supported by hierarchical structures that place importance on legitimising power and authority as means of organisational control and that see employment relations as a conflict management exercise of dichotomous positioning, with employers on one side and workers at the other. However, these structures cannot be taken as organisational products or unique organisational features. Political regimes have an undeniable impact on organisational dynamics. For instance, when discussing the interaction between institutional, social, and cultural dimensions and their impact on organisational forms and employment relations, Smith (2005) argues that political economy has an effect on work practices as the latter emerge from common social relations or purposes (p. 612). It could be argued that this positions employers and workers to perform patterns of social relations that fulfil the expectations of these relations and ways of working. Organisational dynamics in Chile are an example of this. Two main events are considered to be fundamental in shaping authoritarian managerial behaviour in Chilean organisations: the hacienda in the 18th century and the military regime in the 20th century. It is argued that authoritarianism in Chile has its origins in the 'hacienda' (Godoy, 1986) where employment relations developed around two roles: the protective 'superior' (landlord) and the loyal subordinate (peasant). This promoted a power-based system of relationships that saw 'the patron' as an ambivalent figure; abusive but also protective (Gomez & Rodriguez, 2006). Workers, on the other hand, became submissive figures, where loyalty and personal sacrifice to the employer are pillars of employment relations. These dynamics were strengthened during Pinochet's dictatorship; practices and the general nature of the military regime are considered to be fundamental in shaping current employment relations structures in Chile (Walker, 2003). During the military regime, societal identity was fragmented due to the systematic silencing, oppression and subjugation individuals were subjected to as part of the loss of democratic liberties and general violation of basic human rights (Hirschman, 1979). As a result, power distance (see Hofstede, 1980) increased with employers gaining total control of organisations and managers becoming omnipotent figures of authority. There are many implications to this, and one of the most important which will be addressed in this paper is how authoritarian managerial styles promote male heteronormativity. The strength of the dichotomy produced by the gender binary results not only in non-heterosexual identities being seen as unnatural and organisationally awkward, but also fix managerial identities within traditional notions that perpetuate polarised gender identities. In the Chilean case, as I have argued elsewhere (see Gomez & Rodriguez, 2006), authoritarianism is a general criterion for 'organising' yet within the order it establishes, hierarchies of authority are also created based on gender, ethnic background, age, socio-economic background, educational background, etc. However, the intricacies of these hierarchies of authority have not been fully explored. References Bergeron, S. (2001) Political Economy Discourses of Globalisation and Feminist Politics, Signs: Globalisation and Gender, 26(4): 983-1006. Duncan, L.E., B.E. Peterson & D.G. Winter (1997) Authoritarianism and Gender Roles: Toward a Psychological Analysis of Hegemonic Relationships, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 23(1): 41-49. Gomez, C.F. & Rodriguez, J.K. (2006) Four Approximations to Chilean Culture: Authoritarianism, Legalism, Fatalism and Compadrazgo, Asian Journal of Latin American Studies, Hirschman, A.O. (1979) The turn to authoritarianism in Latin America and the search for its economic determinants, in D. Collier (Ed), The New Authoritarianism in Latin America, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 61-98. Hofstede, G. (1980) Culture's consequences: International differences in work-related values. Newbury Park, CA: Sage. Jensen, N.M. (2003) Democratic Governance and Multinational Corporations: Political Regimes and Inflows of Foreign Direct Investment, International Organisation, 57(3): 587-616. Rodriguez, J.K. (in press) Employment Relations in Chile: Evidence of HRM Practices, Relations Industrielles/Industrial Relations. Rodriguez, J.K. & Gomez, C.F. (2009) HRM in Chile: the impact of organizational culture, Employee Relations, 31(1): 276-294. Smith, C. (2005) Beyond Convergence and Divergence: Explaining Variations in Organisational Practices and Forms, in S. Ackroyd, R. Batt, P. Thompson and P. S. Tolbert (eds). The Oxford Handbook of Work & Organisation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 602-625. Walker, F. (2003) Breve Analisis de algunas de las recientes reformas en material de relaciones individuales del Trabajo introducidas por la Ley Num. 19.759 de 2001 al Codigo del Trabajo chileno, in P. Kurczyn Villalobos & C.A. Puig Hernandez Coords), Estudios jurídicos en homenaje al doctor Nestor de Buen Lozano, Mexico, DF: UNAM, 799-818.