“Calling it a Crisis”: Modes of Creative Labour and Magic in an Elite Architect Company

  • Aina Landsverk Hagen Work Research Institute at Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences, Norway
Keywords: Organizations, creativity, architects, magic, downsizing, flexibility


In recent years we have seen a resurfacing of magic as an analytical category in anthropological literature, with particular emphasis on modern forms of occultism and witchcraft. Magic has yet to prove itself a useful analytical tool within the anthropology of organizations, and this article aims at understanding everyday work processes through the concepts of myth and magic. The discussion is based on empirical data from an internationally acclaimed architect company based in Norway, with a particular focus on a period of downsizing in the aftermath of the global financial crisis in 2008. The architects try to uphold an egalitarian, social-democratic ideology of creativity within a capitalist system and make use of a range of magical practices in order to succeed. The article shows how narrative flexibility transforms the brutality of downsizing into a mode of creative labour, and concludes that the internal dynamic between risk taking and risk reducing is inherent in both magical practices and capitalist systems.