Organisation Studies (2016): Autonomy & Organisation

Awarded to Simon Stevens for his essay:

Life and Letting Die: A story of the homeless, autonomy, and anti-social behaviour


If I were to say that the architecture in our public spaces is ‘really speaking to us’, you would be forgiven for thinking this is a piece about the aesthetics of our cities. In some ways in fact, it is, but not in any artistic sense. I am not discussing a collection of monuments, town houses or grandiose buildings. Alas, the architecture I talk of is more humble and yet perhaps more sinister. There is a message encoded into it, within our parks, streets and centres, which seems to be part of a wider narrative. This essay is an attempt to read it, find out what it says, and consider how that may affect our concept of autonomy, but also, to encourage us to reflect on how we choose to read it: to think on what theoretical framework we should discuss homelessness. The aim is not to necessarily reconceptualise something then, but is more in the tradition of making the familiar seem unfamiliar: not only in what we think, but how we come to think what we do and the extent to which the former is limited by the latter. To achieve this, the leading question I therefore ask is: what does the organisation of public space in reaction to a homeless presence tell us about autonomy, and how we think about autonomy?

Simon Stevens

Postgraduate Researcher, Loughborough University