This paper develops a dialectical critique of organizational commitments to inclusion showing how, as rhetorical gestures, such commitments are undermined by practices of over-inclusion and exclusion. It argues that these practices are not distinct but interrelated aspects of the instrumental ways in which organizations respond to encounters with difference, limiting the latter’s capacity to open up new ways of being, and of organizing. This theoretical critique is illustrated with reference to two examples of Primark’s recent treatment of LGBTQ employees and communities. The first, the company’s recent introduction of a range of Pride-themed clothes and accessories, illustrates how inclusion is pursued through an appropriating co-optation or ‘over inclusion’ of difference. The second, the company’s treatment of a transgender employee and subsequent tribunal evidence, indicates how Primark’s espoused commitment to inclusion is also undermined by an exclusionary negation. The discussion draws on insights from Judith Butler’s writing on recognition and precarity to develop a recognition-based critique of how the simultaneous pursuit of twin strategies of over-inclusion and exclusion perpetuates a reification of difference, examining the consequences of this for those involved and for the critical evaluation of corporate commitments to inclusion more widely.
- Judith Butler
- LGBTQ people