Archive for Ethics

Pathology of Dominator Dynamics

Happy new year!  Time flys when … you are busy 🙂 

I am longing to write about Partnership dynamics.  However, I recently came an article on psychopathy and power hierarchies and am reminded of another topic — the pathology of dominator dynamics.  Reviewing the various pathologies of psychopathy, sociopathy, narcisism and codependence, one can (I suggest) readily see how these psychological conditions are correlated with dominator dynamics and culture.  This blog entry quickly touches on psychopathy and sociopathy. Future posts will touch on narcisim and codependence.  Once we  begin to see how these psychological disorders have  left their imprint on organizational members and organizations, we might experience a renewed resolve to imagine and enact healthier organizations. 

To briefly review cultural historian Riane Eisler’s cultural transformation model, which outlines the concepts of Partnership vs. dominator cultural dynamics, below is an very good summary by Ron Miller, a thinker and activist in the area of holistic education (who is potentially an excellent resource for the study of Partnership approaches to learning organizations). Miller writes: 

“[Eisler] … has argued that societies make choices about how they distribute power, that there is nothing natural or inevitable about oppressive hierarchies. She has looked at how values and beliefs are shared across social institutions, from intimate relationships to the state, and found a clear difference between what she calls “dominator” cultural patterns (societies marked by violence, authoritarianism, and gender inequity) and “partnership” orientations (societies that value cooperation, nurturing, and equality). A dominator culture seizes hold of human differences in order to rank people into more or less valued social positions; a partnership culture aims to link people into diverse communities where each contributes his or her strengths and finds aid and support as needed. In any dominator-oriented society, Eisler says, one finds “hierarchies of domination” that limit individual expression and crush resistance, while a partnership orientation supports “hierarchies of actualization”-ways of organizing institutions that maximize “the collective power to accomplish things together.”  (Retrieved from:, 1/10/10)

 The term “pathological” is defined as, “caused by or evidencing a psychologically disturbed condition… “psychoneurotic” … “neurotic,” and also as “caused by … or manifesting disease,” “not exhibiting good health in body or mind.” (Retrieved from:, 1/10/10). 

Recently I came across an article by Clinton Callahan on psychopathy and hierarchies of power. Psychopathy is a personality disorder that is characterized by an absence of empathy. Quoting Wikipedia for expediency:

“Psychopathy (pronounced /sa??k?p??i/[1][2]) is a personality disorder whose hallmark is a lack of empathy. Researcher Robert Hare, whose Hare Psychopathy Checklist is widely used, describes psychopaths as “intraspecies predators[3][4] who use charm, manipulation, intimidation, sex and violence[5][6][7] to control others and to satisfy their own needs. Lacking in conscience and empathy, they take what they want and do as they please, violating social norms and expectations without guilt or remorse”.[8] “What is missing, in other words, are the very qualities that allow a human being to live in social harmony.”[9]

“Psychopaths are glib and superficially charming, and many psychopaths are excellent mimics of normal human emotion;[10] some psychopaths can blend in, undetected, in a variety of surroundings, including corporate environments.[11] There is neither a cure nor any effective treatment for psychopathy; there are no medications or other techniques which can instill empathy, and psychopaths who undergo traditional talk therapy only become more adept at manipulating others.[12] The consensus among researchers is that psychopathy stems from a specific neurological disorder which is biological in origin and present from birth.[10] It is estimated that one percent of the general population are psychopaths. [13][14]” 

Related to the disorder of psychopathy is the disorder of sociopathy. Again quoting the same article: “David T. Lykken proposes psychopathy and sociopathy are two distinct kinds of antisocial personality disorder. He believes psychopaths are born with temperamental differences such as impulsivity, cortical underarousal, and fearlessness that lead them to risk-seeking behavior and an inability to internalize social norms. On the other hand, he claims sociopaths have relatively normal temperaments; their personality disorder being more an effect of negative sociological factors like parental neglect, delinquent peers, poverty, and extremely low or extremely high intelligence. Both personality disorders are the result of an interaction between genetic predispositions and environmental factors, but psychopathy leans towards the hereditary whereas sociopathy tends towards the environmental.[38]” Retrieved from, 1/10/10)

In his online article, “Beware the Psychopath, My Son” ( Clinton Callahan draws on sources such as, Snakes in Suits by Robert Hare and Paul Babiak, to propose that because psychopaths (and by definition, sociopaths) are not constrained by human empathy yet mimic normal emotions well, that they often rise to the top of (dominator) hierarchies. He points to bloody history and to the amoral posture of many organizations to suggest that organizations are somewhat (if not more substantially) influenced by sociopathic norms.  The article is thought provoking and worth reading.  

 What do you think?  Have you ever worked with a sociopathic personality?  How did it affect the dynamics of the organization?  (Please don’t post any names or organizations).

On Parallels between Paul and Eisler, and Group Mind

Carman, It’s always a pleasure to read your thoughts. Thank you for highlighting the parallels between Eisler on Partnership and Paul. I hadn’t fully appreciated this aspect of Paul.  The opposition of “flesh” and “spirit” is a key theme in many theologies, so I read him more literally.  I do hear and appreciate that you interpret Paul’s words differently, with an interesting result.   

[12/8/09:  Carman, I’ve been continuing to mull your interpretation of Paul, and see some strong parallels with my own [process] train of thought. If we use the idea of “small self'” in place of “flesh,” I agree that these ideas do begin to describe a holistic, Partnership approach. I think the original metaphor is problematic in that it is too limited and freezes an occassionally conflicting relationship between different aspects (or intelligences) of ourselves into permanent opposition.  I think this core antagonism is paradigmatic, in a sense, of the ethic of opposition, domination and control towards others in a dominator system. If instead, we recognize difference rather than antagonism, we retain the possibility of a higher, creatively intelligent resolution which surpasses what we can  imagine as individuals.]

Another area of concern for me, with regard to Paul, is his statement in Corinthians 14:34-35 which seems to promote the subordination of women to men, which would be contrary to an ethic of Partnership:  “As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.”  That said, I’ve also read that this is often or usually interpreted to refer to a specific situation rather than as a generalization  

I know that you have some expertise on this subject.  What are your thoughts?  

I am interested to explore the key question that you have posed: “If a Partnership group were being infiltrated by dominator tendencies, how would you address the issue, especially if dissolution were imminent?”

I am drawn to the idea that a higher wisdom can emerge in groups where there is shared intention, trust, active listening, mutual encouragement and appreciation. I’ve found that in really healthy, collaborative groups there can be a kind of ” magic” — a very satisfying experience of co-creativity in which the result is clearly better than members might achieve alone.

Two quotes from Napolean Hill seem to speak to that notion:

“When two or more people coordinate in a spirit of harmony and work toward a definite objective or purpose, they place themselves in position, through the alliance, to absorb power directly from the great storehouse of the creative mechanism of each contributing mind.”

And:  “No two minds ever come together without, thereby, creating a third, invisible, intangible force which may be likened to a third mind.”

For me, these quotes bring together the very compatible principles of Partnership and holism.

Would you like to consider a particular concrete situation and reason together?


P.S.  I think we have your rain today!  The skys just opened up.

Domination-Partnership Dichotomy (Exploring Parallels)

Hi Lisa,

Why am I not surprised that serving a greater good is [your] greatest form of satisfaction? Thank you too for your invigorating treatment of the holistic paradigm.

I would like to address and integrate some of your comments, beginning with, “I disagree with Paul’s dichotomization of flesh and spirit, but that view is very consistent with philosophical atomism.”

Paul’s dichotomization of “flesh” and “spirit” is, I believe, societal rather than somatic. That is, his focus is on “group attachment” and “group integrity.” In short, he is doing sociology, not psychology. Paul’s dichotomization of flesh and spirit seems very much like Riane Eisler’s dichotomization of domination and partnership. Eisler declares: “For all their unique peculiarities, most of our attempts at civilization have had one of two basic configurations the domination system or the partnership system.” She seems to be speaking about two basic ways of looking at the world and about the systems that express such worldview.

Similarly, Paul’s dichotomization of “flesh” and “spirit” seems analogous to “domination” and “partnership” as those mindsets impact the group. (I cannot overemphasize the group phenomenon). In Galatians, Paul is counseling leaders/teachers against sub-professional conduct that undermines group adhesion. Unless he can recall them to a larger vision, the leadership group will dissolve.

Put another way, Paul is a rabbinic leader speaking to a group of rabbis about convention learning versus transformation learning. Convention learners are attempting to reintroduce their [domination] thinking into the transformation [partnership] culture. Using the domination-partnership dichotomy I will attempt to paraphrase Paul’s counsel. Let’s imagine he is addressing a leadership school that promotes partnership:

13 For you have been called to partnership; only do not [use] your liberty as an opportunity for personal ambition, but through love serve one another. 14 For all the [holistic] law is fulfilled in one word, [even] in this: “You shall love your neighbor [colleagues] as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! [I have actually seen pit bulls attempt this!]

16 I say then: Make progress in the partnership mindset, and you shall not enact the domination mindset. 17 For the domination mindset militates against the partnership mindset, and the partnership mindset is against the domination mindset; and these attitudes are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the partnership mindset, you are not bound by the domination culture.

19 Now the group-destroying behaviors characteristic of the domination mindset are evident, Sexual Deviance: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 Self-Idolatry and Narcissism: hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, casting your fellow teachers in the worst possible light, 21 envy, character assassination, drunkenness, drunken parties, and the like; of which I warn l you beforehand, just as I also warned you in time past, that those who practice such things will be expelled from the partnership program.

22 But partnership’s mindset yields the following orchard: group attachment, esprit de corps, member well-being, longsuffering toward one another, kindness toward one another, spontaneous goodness, group trust, 23 gentleness toward new members, self-control vis-Ă -vis recalcitrant members. Against such there is no legitimate prohibition. 24 And those [who are] partnership’s offspring have repudiated the domination mindset with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in partnership, let us also walk in transformed consciousness. 26 Let us not return to the domination culture by becoming conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

Lisa, in your previous post you stated: “of course, one can apply a holistic perspective to leadership and organization with interesting implications.” I would find the application of your insights to a leadership group in crisis to be very instructive. Perhaps the group scenario above will suffice. If a partnership group were being infiltrated by dominator tendencies, how would you address the issue-especially if dissolution were imminent?

Bye for now!


The rain has relented and so my sun-starved eyes may be sated today.

Freedom is Slavery

While the following may shock the sensibilities of some, I want to emphasize that I am doing sociology, not ideology. That is, I am not exalting one political system above another or indicting either management or labor. Rather, I am attempting to understand the themes of domination, exploitation, and dehumanization-recurring issues on this site. Hopefully, with your help as intellectual mid-wife, we can attempt to surface entrenched assumptions which I believe catalyze most human-to-human interaction.I learned something about the word “leadership”: “laeden” is to go upward and “schaeppen” is to create a thing of value. Evidently, the word “shop” derives from the suffix. We buy things of value in shops. However, like the Dutch word “boss,” “leader” essentially means “master.” You allude to leadership as a creative act in your question, “What steps can leaders take to create an environment of trust and safety to support open and constructive communication?” Both words connote the right to command and the duty to exact obedience.

For the past few weeks I’ve been attempting to give my vague notions about leadership more concretion-to surface and challenge my assumptions about leadership. The exercise is both fatiguing and exhilarating. I’ve also taken a deep mental plunge into Orlando Patterson’s book “Slavery and Social Death, A Comparative Study.” I am attempting to integrate Patterson’s insights into my own experience. The fruit of this synthesis is what I term

(Bondage, Slavery)



As a principle, thralldom is the condition of being entirely subject to another’s will.

As a practice, thralldom is a form of forced labor in which people are considered to be, or treated as, the property of others.

I submit that the principle of thralldom is the active force underlying virtually all relationships. It is the bedrock of all social interaction. Thralldom is complete control over someone who is subject to that one’s will. The controller is subject, the controlled is object. The controller is a person; the controlled is a non-person-a thing.
Thralldom has two dimensions about which you have spoken at length Lisa: 1) domination 2) dehumanization.
The Tree will illustrate how I see thralldom as a ubiquitous phenomenon:
Leaves and Fruit: labels, language, media, scholastic systems, products and services, which simultaneously obscure and express the reality of thralldom.

Branches: interpersonal and organizational expressions of thralldom (e.g., organization as machine, organism, instrument of domination, political system, psychic prison).

Trunk: thralldom [slavery] as social fact [reality]

Root System: propensity to dominate, legitimacy of the State and its military apparatus, ideology, tradition, forgotten history.

Thralldom is:

Mediated: by money
Modified: by the character of the organization
Mitigated: by labor relations and human rights legislation.

Based on the above, “freedom” would be the degree of “protection” within an experience of exploitation.

While the conditions of slavery vary from relationship to relationship the dimensions of domination and dehumanization remain constant.

For example:

• discipline: punishments and rewards
• subjection and submission: (inferior) status
• performance: duties performed under duress
• treatment: as objects, human tools, instruments
• perception: as commodities

If you like, I will expand on my research, which we can discuss and debate to our hearts content-time permitting of course.

Bye for now,

Carman (My new e-mail address is not yet established–please bear with)


Leadership: http://www.learning

Given the high cost of denial, how can we encourage open communication?

Carman,  Thank you for offering the example of Orwell’s Oceania, as perhaps the ultimate example of a Dominator organization. Oceania is perhaps a pure example of a direction that human organizations can take when their core value is power (money and power-over) and there are no other strong mitigating values or externally or situationally imposed limitations.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about the role of “doublethink” and “newspeak” which are both reflected in the well documented phenomenon in which organizations say one thing and do another.

This gap between public communications and action can arise for several reasons:
1) Lack of self-awareness on the part of the leader (we are not always aware of our true motives);
2) Belief in an ideal but a lack of awareness of the true costs;
3) Cynicism.

Whatever the cause, doublespeak and newthink involve both conscious or unconscious denial and projection. This gap between what is said an what is done, leads to skepticism, a lack of investment on the part of organizational members, and ultimately poor performance.

One example, would be one in which organizational leaders and corporate policy discuss the importance of product quality or customer service, while acting in ways that reduce that capacity. The pressure to reconcile the public face and actual practice tends to flow downhill to the front lines (often the least powerful members of the organization). If a person at the front lines was to express the perception that the “organization isn’t really committed to quality (or customer service – whatever it might be), there is a good chance that that person would be considered perverse, negative – perhaps a poor performer.  “After all, it is obviously company policy that we serve our customers… and we’ve asked others in the department and they don’t share your view…”

The way a company approaches public statements regarding ethics and how it ensures that the organization complies with ethical policies is particularly sensitive. In one situation I observed, team members all privately identified ethical violations in their immediate environment, but most publically stated that they did not know of any violations. The reasons they gave for not reporting the violations were: 1) Fear of possible negative consequences, and 2) the belief that the company did not really want to know.

In this kind of environment, there is a deep lack of trust, and problems can become more difficult to identify and fix…

So, leaders who want to develop healthy, flexible organizations in which members believe and are invested have a stake in creating an environment in which organizational members can share their experiences and perspectives without fear of negative consequences.

The power differential between managers and individual contributors, itself, tends to reduce upward feedback. “Newspeak” further reduces trust.

What steps can leaders take to create an environment of trust and safety to support open and constructive communication?

Tranformation vs. Change; Nelson Mandela as a Transformational Leader

Hi Lisa,Once again, your exquisite examination of the dimensions of leadership brought me to the mouth of the cave [psychic prison] and enabled me to more fully comprehend the shadows on the wall [organizations].

Because it is a recurring theme in your treatment, I would like to discuss “transformation.” Transformation, in my opinion, is not simply about change. Managers can and do effect change. Epimetheus exemplifies management as change agent-within the parameters ordained by the Olympian Establishment. Transformation, on the other hand, suggests to me a fundamental or complete change to the very character of someone or something. Prometheus, I hold, was a transformational leader. (I don’t deny that change can be profound-I’ll use the terms “transmogrify” (grotesque change) and “transform” (developmental change) to distinguish the phenomena.

In an attempt to close the gap between the oppressed and the oppressor, Nelson Mandela stole the fire from the South African Establishment. Mandela’s experience exemplifies transformational leadership, whose gain for the people brought pain upon himself. I will encapsulate an excerpt from Organizational Behaviour in a Global Context, p.495

Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress

For most of the past 200 years, South Africa was ruled by a white minority government, although blacks have made up over 75 per cent of the populace. Whites

• owned most of the property,
• ran most of the businesses,
• controlled most of the country’s natural resources,
• did not have th right to vote, and
• often worked for little or no wages.

Nelson Mandela reacted to the oppression of white-minority rule by:

• organizing a non-violent organization- the African National Congress (ANC),
• provoking demonstrations and strikes.
• promoting acts of sabotage to pressure the South African government to change-in response to the killing and injury of blacks in Sharpeville where previous riots had resulted in several whites being killed.

“Nelson Mandela was arrested in 1962, and he spent the next 27 years in prison. While in prison, Mandela continued to promote civil unrest and majority rule, for which he gained international recognition. He was offered but turned down a conditional release from prison in 1985, which was offered to him only because of the enormous pressure put on South African President F.W. de Klerk to release Mandela unconditionally. Finally, bowing to this pressure, the South African government was forced to “unban” the ANC and unconditionally released Nelson Mandela from prison. Eventually, Mandela persuaded de Klerk to sign a document outlining multiparty elections. Mandela won the 1994 national election and became the first truly democratically elected leader of South Africa.”

To return to the myth of Prometheus, the Olympian Administration feared the loss of the fire. Perhaps they resented any act that would bring their dependent creation “closer to the gods.” They did not want to share their privileged position-their sense of elevation above and separation from their subordinates.

In terms of our analysis, the Promethean fire can symbolize reason as an energy, a capacity to recognize “the unreality of many ideas that man holds and to penetrate to the reality veiled by the layers and layers of deception and ideologies” to quote Fromm. Thank you for emanating such energy today Lisa.

Bye for now,


The seawall beckons-“like a siren she calls to me”-to quote U2. In God’s Country.

Promethius and transformative leadership

Another beautifully written post by Carman de Voer:

Hi Lisa,

For the last few weeks I’ve been pruning a figurative olive tree–a Promethean task, to say the least, but one, I hope, will also “light up the mind.”

I’m not at all surprised that you would integrate love and leadership. Though we have never met I believe you are “unconditionally committed to another’s completion, to another being all that she or he can and wants to be”—The Fifth Discipline, p.285 (Senge’s defininition of love is superb, don’t you think?)

Leadership, like many ideas, has deteriorated into a mere synonym for management. The story of Prometheus speaks to what leadership really means. Prior to his rebellion, Prometheus and Epimetheus [his brother] were, I propose, managers, in that they enacted the goals of the Olympian Establishment. Essentially, they were “chosen” to perpetuate the status quo. At some point Prometheus became a leader—a radical, a [peaceful] revolutionary whose learning program became an indirect attack on the prerogatives of power-holders.

Prometheus the Leader

Prometheus envisaged a new race of beings of higher intelligence fitted to worship and serve the gods in a manner pleasing to their greatness. Prometheus and Epimetheus were chosen to complete the creation. “We will make the new beings in the likeness of the gods themselves. They shall not bend their face to the earth, but shall stand erect and turn their eyes heavenward.” Prometheus shaped the clay into a figure in the likeness of the gods. Eros imbued it with life and Athena imparted to it wisdom.

Prometheus longed to give humanity more and greater gifts, to light up the mind within it that might glow with a noble ardor; to make it lord of the lower creation; to enable the new god-like race to attain to greater heights of wisdom and knowledge and power. But no fire existed on the earth. He remembered the divine fire which could help to make humanity all-powerful—the sacred fire of Zeus.

Prometheus asked himself, “Could I steal it from the abode of the gods?” The very thought brought terror. Swift and merciless would be the vengeance of Zeus upon such a thief. More fearful would be his agonies than those inflicted upon the rebellious Titans.

Prometheus the Designer, Steward, Teacher

The thought of humanity inspired and ennobled by the divine fire quenched the reality of his own inevitable punishment and on a night heavy with clouds he stealthily ascended the holy mountain and lit the reed he carried with the divine fire. He had counted the cost and was prepared to pay it.

Prometheus revealed to humankind the divine fire and showed them

• how it would help them in their labors;
• how it would melt metals and fashion tools;
• how it would cook food and make life bearable in the bronze days of winter;
• how it would give light in darkness so that humankind might labour and travel in the night-time as well as by day.
• how to dig the fields and grow corn and herbs;
• how to build houses and cover their roofs with thatch;
• how to tame the beasts of the forests and make them serve them.

The sacred flame also gave inspiration and enthusiasm, and urged humanity on to achieve increasingly higher and greater things. The whole earth thrilled with their activities, and in their midst moved Prometheus, teaching, guiding, opening out before humanity’s delighted eyes fresh fields for effort and attainment.

Prometheus the Radical

There came a day when the points of light scattered over the surface of the earth. Zeus thundered, “Who is it that has stolen the fire from heaven?” “It is I” answered Prometheus calmly. “Why did you do this thing?” “Because I loved humankind! I longed to give them some gift that would raise them above the brute creation and bring them nearer the gods. Not all your power, Ruler of heaven and earth, can put out these fires.”

As Zeus listened to these words his rage turned to hatred of the being who dared defy his power. Zeus summoned his son Hephaestus, the god of the forge, and ordered him, “make a chain that nothing can break, and chain him to a cliff. I will send an eagle who each day shall devour his liver, causing him horrible torments day and night; each day it shall devour his liver; and each night it shall grow again, so that in the morning his suffering may be renewed.”

Prometheus replied, “So be it, O tyrant. Because you are strong, you are merciless. My theft has done you no harm; there is still fire to spare on Olympus. In your selfishness you will not share a privilege though it would advance the whole race of mankind. It may not be for long that you will sit in the high seat of the gods!”

The myth teaches me that “transformational leadership” comes with great cost. The myth’s core issue is control! The myth teaches me that the nexus of love and leadership does not take place in a cultural or organizational vacuum. The values and ideologies of power-holders will invariably be threatened. Those like Prometheus and “the good shepherd” [translation=the ideal leader John Chapter 10: 1-20] who desire humanity to have higher quality of life will pay dearly—possibly with their own lives.

Bye for now!


Making objects of people and the ethos of domination

Hi Lisa,

Thank you for the opportunity to engage in creative communion–and to make the “unconscious conscious.” I believe it was systems scholar Bela Banathy who said, “the beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names.”

I have begun to question the traditional labor market [employer-employee] nomenclature as an example of such mislabeling. When we strip away the legal lacquer and peel back the political politeness a master-slave paradigm appears to be the underlying animus.

Freire calls “domination” a “fundamental” phenomenon:

“I consider the fundamental theme of our epoch to be that of domination—which implies its opposite, the theme of liberation, as the objective to be achieved. In order to achieve humanization, which presupposes the elimination of de-humanizing oppression, it is absolutely necessary to surmount the limit-situations in which people are reduced to things.” Pedagogy of the Oppressed, p.84.

I contest the confining of domination to “our epoch.” The myth of Erysichthon and Ceres suggests that slavery is more ubiquitous and persistent than many may want to concede:

Erysichthon [Earth-tearer] was a rich and impious man who cut down a tree from the sacred grove of Ceres [mother earth] for his banqueting hall. By cutting down the tree, he had killed a dryad nymph [oak tree productive force]. The other dryads called upon Ceres [mother earth] to avenge their sister.

Ceres inflicted Erysichthon with insatiable hunger. No matter what Erysichthon ate, he could quell his hunger for more food. Erysichthon sold everything he had, for food, until he had nothing left but his daughter, Mestra [teacher]. He sold her too!

While on the seashore awaiting possession by her owner, Mestra prayed to Poseidon [the sea] to save her from slavery. She was then given the ability to shift-change—first a fisherman, then a mare, an ox, a bird, and so on.

Mestra escaped from her master and returned to her father who saw endless opportunity to make money by her. Driven by hunger, Erysichthon sold his daughter off, like livestock, into slavery, for a great deal of money to buy more food. But all the money she earned was not enough. Finally, driven to despair, he consumed himself.

Some observations and questions:

1. Is “domination” the exception or the rule? I suspect scholars have been tip-toeing around this issue.

2. The Oxford Dictionary of Current English (1996) defines slave thus: 1) captive 2) person owned by and has to serve another, 3) machine or part of one, directly controlled by another—Morgan’s Machine Metaphor immediately comes to mind.

3) Erysichthon sold his daughter off, like livestock. Our word chattel [movable “property”] originally meant livestock.

4) Moderns recoil at the suggestion of slavery as an organizational norm. “You are always free to leave,” they say. But if the assumptions underlying the master-slave, owner-owned, subject-object relationship greet the “runaway,” then how is that liberating?

Your thoughts Lisa?


Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum, 2007.

Towards a Learning Organization (A presentation by Carman De Voer Mais)

Carman De Voer Mais has developed a fresh and insightful PowerPoint presentation on learning organizations. He makes the important point that becoming a learning organization isn’t something that “patched on” to the existing organizational paradigm, but rather a transformation of both the paradigm and the players.  I’m going to try to share that presentation with you here.  This is my first attempt to provide a file link in WordPress, so it may take a few tries …

Carman, I hope your cold has lifted!


Thinking Creatively, Building Effectively by Carman De Voer Mais

Holism, Power, and the Intersubjective Nature of Joy

Hi Carman, I am glad to hear that you are feeling restored to health! It’s a pleasure to read your posts again.

Yes, I agree — Alfred North Whitehead once said that whatever constitutes a world view can be understood to constitute a religion. And, process theologian, David Ray Griffin, who interpreted and extended Whitehead’s work, observed that two key world views dominate the modern West: fundamentalist Christian theology (in which God created the world but is separate from it) and materialism — the latter deriving from the former. Ecofeminist philosopher, Charlene Spretnak, observes that these two worldviews share in common the assumption that notion that we are all separate. 

However, this notion of separation is not fundamental to either science or spirituality. My hypothesis is that the perspective that we are all separate is born of pain and fear, and engenders the same.  And when we are separate and afraid, we seek power *over* our situation and others. Because money is a form of power that gives us some measure of control, it’s unsurprising that we would turn wealth itself into a god.

New science, on the other hand, points to a more holistic, intelligent Cosmos. In my personal understanding, it points to a world in which we are all deeply interconnected and in which there are multiple levels of intelligence — from cells, to organisms, to ecosystems — including the intelligence of the larger whole, in which we all participate. 

However, because our worldviews are self-reinforcing, our culture reinforces ways of perceiving and interpreting the world that emphasize separation, which one prominent physicist called a kind of optical illusion of consciousness. However, different aspects of human experience can and do, point to a more holistic and interconnected world, and that leads us into the life world that you describe so well.

Your question on how the two employers defended the life world sounds well worth exploring. I notice that Fezziwig takes joy in the happiness of others. We are social animals, and it seems that meaning and happiness ulitmately has this relational context. Conversely, I also notice that Scrooge is not a happy person. He may take pleasure in comforts, but in serving the god of wealth, he oppresses himself as well as others. 

To this point, I recently read a quote by Booker T. Washington, which read, “You can’t hold a man [or woman] down without staying down with him [her].”  This is true at many levels, from the psychological, to the sociological, to a more holistic understanding of what some call “the inter-subjective space.” (Robert Kenny has done some fascinating, ground-breaking work on how this space applies to creative teams (  Transformational leadership thus has the potential to liberate and free the creative potentials of both the leader and the organization.

The role of the Spirits could be metaphorical or it could relate to the larger spirit or intelligence of the whole, for which people have used a variety of terms, depending on their spiritual or secular orientation.  (I think you previously raised the question of the relationship between spiritual transformation and tranformative leadership…)    

Speaking of valuing the subjective dimension of life, several colleagues and clients that I am working with in my coaching and training practice, hold the intention that their work should also be fulfilling and fun.  It’s an enriching practice to work with, as I’m sure you know! 

Have a great weekend!