Thanks for these further reflections and comments. Regarding Elise’s query: what I am suggesting is not just that ideas of ‘effectiveness’ are relative, but that ‘effectiveness’ is not a neutral term and is not necessarily synonymous with ‘good’. From my perspective (ethnographic) I’m trying to re-frame the normative question (what makes for good or effective meetings) as an empirical one: when, where, how and by whom is the ‘good’ of meetings recognised? So to answer your question directly, I’m not saying that people in this context (heritage professionals) think ineffective meetings are good. Rather I’m pointing to the fact there are a range of orientations to meetings and ‘effectiveness’ is not necessarily the only or overriding goal; in other words that ‘the good’ of effectiveness is differentially understood, felt and registered.
This relates very directly to the issues Chrisoph picks up on. And, yes, my point is an ethnographic one – i.e. I’m characterising the attitudes and orientations of these heritage professionals, rather than advancing my own argument (or more precisely, my argument is a conceptual elaboration from the details of this case). In fact my work has been quite directly inspired by Paul Du Gay’s work, particularly in his ‘In Praise of Bureaucracy’. The kind of ‘new managerialism’ he is arguing against is very much at work in the contexts I’m interested in, and is strongly associated with market-based (i.e. basically neoliberal) discourses of ‘effectiveness’. It’s against this that the virtues of an older bureaucratic culture are extolled – e.g. to highlight the importance of neutrality, objectivity, careful deliberation etc. in the name of the ‘public good’. One could claim that this is just a different interpretation of effectiveness (i.e. relative to different goals). However what I want to highlight is that the term ‘effectiveness’ is not neutral in this context because it has tended to be associated with the kinds of reforms that Du Gay (and Chrisoph) mention.
Incidentally, Christoph is absolutely right to highlight that there are indeed many kinds of meeting, and a huge range of orientations towards these, including some that are quite contradictory.