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Virtualization as a mode of organizing: Ontology, becoming, and modulation.

Christian Helge Peters


In organizational theories inspired by the process ontologies of Spinoza, Bergson, or Deleuze an organization only seems to be the effect of ontological forces and therefore exist only retroactively and derivatively. In a formula, process ontologies tend to overemphasize the virtual, active ontological forces of becoming in organizations. These assumptions cause a negative and reactive understanding of organizational processes: organizations oppress, restrict, adjust, and regulate becoming. In this perspective organizations are defective, inadequate, and politically reactionary. They are the negative antitype of the positive, productive, and creative ontological forces. In this article, I situate the problem of organizations and becoming using the concept of ‘virtualization’. For Deleuze, actualization is the expression of the virtual, resulting in an actual state of affairs, but once a state of affairs is actualized, there is a modulation or reciprocal folding, which affects the virtual; I suggest to call this ‘virtualization’. Thus, each actualization in the social – each founding of an organization – modulates the ontological conditions of future organizational events. This means that Deleuze provides not only a theory of organizational becoming, but also a theory of virtualization, or the modulation of becoming by organizations. The concept of virtualization is illustrated by drawing on organizational case studies which have implications for the understanding of virtualization: Virtualization is a process of patterning, a de- and potentialization as well as a de- and reterritorialization. Organization primarily understood as virtualization is a meta-stable process.


Process Ontology, Gilles Deleuze, Virtualization

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