Stephen Kriss

Defense Date


Graduation Date

Spring 2016


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Communication and Rhetorical Studies


McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Ronald Arnett

Committee Member

Janie Harden Fritz

Committee Member

Calvin Troup


Ethics, Feminism, Globalization, Mary Parker Follett, Organizational Communication, Thomas Friedman


On September 11, 2001, terror attacks in New York City, Washington, DC and Somerset County, Pennsylvania, initiated a new global awareness and fear among citizens of the United States as well as others around the world. In this context of a flattening and fearful world described by Thomas Friedman in his two post 9/11 books, organizational communication has been responding to and participating within a widening scope of change and fear. In recognizing this tumultuous time, there's a desire to find a constructive way forward and to consider possible theorists from other historical moments who might guide our way. This dissertation examines the life and work of Mary Parker Follett who offers meaningful insight for ethical practice in such a time as this within organizational communication.

Follett's life can be understood through both her experiences and her writing along with the frameworks and trajectory that created context for her writing. In chapter two, a biographical sketch makes connections between the significance of Follett's work and the timeline and people of her life. The chapter looks at four sections. The first section features her early years and life in Quincy, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston. The second section looks at Follett's engagement at Cambridge with the Harvard Annex. The third section explores her work with neighborhood center movements, rooted in Boston's Roxbury neighborhood, but eventually taking Follett into a larger national scene. The last section looks at Follett's engagement with marketplace realities on both sides of the Atlantic that takes the narrative up to her abrupt death in 1933.

Chapter three explores the historical moment through six primary philosophical movements. Following in the tradition of Mary Parker Follett who moved across academic discipline boundaries, the chapter pulls from a variety of academic perspectives including philosophy, sociology, economics, politics and religion. Beginning with postmodernity, the chapter also looks at feminism and postcolonialism as broader critiques within the field of organizational communication. Lastly, post-industrialism, post-Christendom and post-Americanism, which are situated in particular fields and contexts, are explored as manifestations of the other movements. Underlying all of these areas is Thomas Friedman's assertion from his books that the world has become increasingly interconnected and accessible.

Chapter 4 explores Follett's writing along with the fusion of horizon with organizational communication. Mary Parker Follett was a Gestalt theory advocate believing that there was an invitation to understand things as a whole without diminishing the parts. The dissertation explores both the parts and whole of Follett's work.

The books and posthumously published lectures offer a glimpse of her life and engagement. Follett's first book The Speaker of the House of Representatives was published when she was a student in 1898. The second book The New State was published in 1918 in the midst of the Great War. The third book Creative Experience arrived six years later. Two posthumous books were published in the 40s: Dynamic Administration and Freedom and Coordination. These mostly featured her late-in-life lectures from after Creative Experience among business leaders.

The last chapter explores the fusion of horizons or intersectionality of the work of Mary Parker Follett for today's historical moment. In what ways can her "saintly" way be understood? The chapter investigates particularly where Follett intersects with popular scholarship updates in organizational communication. The dissertation then moves toward cultivating a "conscientization" of Follett for organizational communication. Lastly, the research looks for ways that Follett might be able to illuminate a little ethical way forward. The conclusions explore some of the reasons for Follett's relative hiddenness in organizational communication, then turns toward finding some of those reasons to serve as significant insights and impetus as to why Follett might be engaged.