Great article from Stanford professor Jeffrey Pfeffer overturning some common myths about the beneficial affect of layoffs for organizations. Instead of increasing productivity and stock prices they often backfire.
Archive for Organization
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: http://www.pathsoflearning.net/articles_Toward_Participatory_Democracy.php, 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: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/pathological, 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/) 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 who use charm, manipulation, intimidation, sex and violence 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”. “What is missing, in other words, are the very qualities that allow a human being to live in social harmony.”
“Psychopaths are glib and superficially charming, and many psychopaths are excellent mimics of normal human emotion; some psychopaths can blend in, undetected, in a variety of surroundings, including corporate environments. 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. The consensus among researchers is that psychopathy stems from a specific neurological disorder which is biological in origin and present from birth. It is estimated that one percent of the general population are psychopaths. ”
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.” Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychopathy, 1/10/10)
In his online article, “Beware the Psychopath, My Son” (http://blogs.healthfreedomalliance.org/blog/2009/12/23/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).
A beautiful Sunday morning to you! I agree that Partnership does not need to answer to Paul, Plato or Shakespeare, although I do enjoy dialoging with them from time to time.
Thank you for sharing your deeply thought through and fresh thoughts on Paul. One observation I would add is that whatever was or was not the intention of people at the time, Christianity and Judaism –or rather, as different streams of thought converge, a variety of Christianities and Judaisms — exist today.
Because we are exploring emerging ground, we have the opportunity to consider some interesting questions, that I think have some broader applicability. One relates to focus.
Alfred North Whitehead describes how every fact “drags around with it” a universe of assumptions in which that observation or fact is both comprehensible and true. Essentially agreeing with Whitehead on this point, feminist philosphers have long observed that the practice of using fixed and firm categories — such as the often very firm boundaries between academic disciplines — to describe reality reifies a particular worldview by obscuring other potentially useful categories and the way that categories interconnect to form the “sacred canopy” of our worldview.
On the other hand, when changes do occur in a particular field, the process of cross-fertilization of ideas is slowed. (This is one reason, as you know, that trans-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary studies are presently such a wellspring of new thought and innovation). Also, being too fixed with regard to category implies a world in which all things can truly be separate and static — described by one category or model without reference to others. For example, years ago, when I was in a leadership role in organizations (before I became a coach and consultant), I was unable to immediately see the connection between emerging ideas in scie nce and emerging ideas in leadership. I thought that it was academically interesting but had nothing to do with the “real” world. Obviously, I’ve come to change my views!
The categories we use illuminate some aspects of reality and hide others. With left-brained thought and language, it’s often the connections amongst things that are hidden.
Because the paradigm we are discussing is holistic, we can’t assume that the whole universe of assumptions is known to the reader, or even to ourselves. Rather Partnership recognizes that different perspectives will “see” different patterns, and that, with a conducive social dynamic, multiple perspectives can, reflect more light on a given subject. Further, a holistic perspective suggests that reality is holographic in that nothing stands alone but is shaped by its context or world.
Because this blog seeks to explore a new paradigm of leadership and organization, it consciously oversteps conventional categories in order to describe both this paradigm we call Partnership and also the views of the cosmos, including the patterns of the stars, we each see from where we sit (both physically and on the basis of our life experience).
So, in discussing a Partnership approach to leadership and organizations, we talk about the literatures of leadership, organization, sociology, psychology (so far so good), and continue on to philosophy and theology which have been held, until relatively recently, to be separate and distinct subjects. Religion in particular has been considered a separate realm best avoided because it can raise passionate differences. “Sensible” people avoid it. By virtue of where I sit under that starry expanse, I am unable to be “sensible” in this respect because ideas in all these fields shape our view of the world. Certainly, as you have pointed out, the experience of a religious conversion or mystical insight is an example of a personal transformation which yields a sometimes radically different worldview. (My sister also described motherhood this way).
On the other hand, I appreciate that some who visit here may be put off when we venture “off topic” sharing our views of the patterns we see in that sky. In a sense, this is a microcosm of a Partnership organization. Different members sitting on the grass, looking up and being able to share what they see. And also with respect to our collective endeavors, focusing on the shared values and vision that pull us together.
As you have probably noticed, I see the coaching approach as enacting Partnership, supporting the emergence of trust, collaboration and creativity in organizations. I am very excited to mention a new project that I am becoming involved with, to bring coaching training to leaders and teams, and coaching the development of a coaching culture. I’ll write more about it in this blog, but as this is also a kind of a letter, I wanted to share it with you here.
P.S. We are having a break in the rain today. It’s cold and overcast, with the holiday lights making a nice contrast as it grows dark in the evening.
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-à-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.
Good morning, Carman. Welcome back 🙂 We are hoping for some rain today, as well — just 40% chance of thundershowers – would be great writing weather!
Your post seems to describe several dimensions of thralldom, with freedom from one form of thralldom found at the cost of subjection to another, presumably better form of thralldom. For example, there is freedom from slavery to become the servant of God and the larger vision of community, and freedom from flesh to become the servant of Spirit. As you describe, it’s framed as a matter of which master one serves. (I disagree with Paul’s dichotomization of flesh and spirit, but that view is very consistent with philosophical atomism).
And, insightfully, you make the connection to leadership (great distinction of leadership as pull and management as push) while both for the sake of something larger.
So much to respond to in this!
It’s been said that meaning is derived from the larger context. So if we are at the 1 mile mark in a race, the meaning of that accomplishment is relative to whether we are in a 1 mile race or a five mile race, and whether an act is moral or immoral depends on the nature of the universe. (As Whitehead writes, any assertion of fact drags along with it a whole universe of understanding in which the fact is true). It is my personal experience that serving a greater good is the greatest form of satisfaction. But is this thralldom or self-actualization? And what is the difference?
My initial thoughts relate to paradigm. I do share the increasingly repeated view that we are in a time of paradigm change. Considering the modern paradigm: When we think of ourselves as separate atoms, and the world as a collection of separate objects (the modern paradigm), then we think/find it necessary to control or dominate others to meet our needs. Hence, the dynamics of domination and thralldom.
In this paradigm, that which is larger than ourselves is a separate, dominating, all powerful, entity, which psychologist Jean Baker Miller correlates with the classic patriarchal father. Miller describes how subordination to the father was explicitly desribed in the childrearing texts of pre-war Germany as preparing children to assume their proper relationshp to the State and ultimately to God. In this model, there is virtue in subordination to the all powerful other. Implicit in this model is the power of the other to reward the subordinate and punish the non-compliant.
Further, in relationships of domination and abuse, there is a well-recognized psychological syndrome in which the injured party inflicts a similar injury on others, and in doing so, identifies with the dominating person or entity, and thereby obtains a temporary feeling of power and relief from his or her pain. (Hence the cycle of abuse).
Your quote from 1984, “But if he can make complete, utter submission, if he can escape from his identity, if he can merge himself in the Party so that he is the Party, then he is all-powerful and immortal-Nineteen Eighty-Four,” seems to describe freedom from the pain of the experience of thralldom through identification with the all powerful other.
These are the dynamics of domination, and a review of history shows us that these cultural dynamics have certainly shaped our approach to leadership and organization.
That said, if we look at the same issue from the perspective (or pardigm) of holism and process, then I think we reframe the question. If we are not isolated atoms — if our sense of separation is an optical illusion of consciousness, as Einstein proposed — then we are different kinds of beings than we have imagined.
If we are, indeed, not separate from the rest of the world, then we are paradoxical beings in that we have both our unique experience from a particular perspective and are also internally related to the rest of the world. We are part of the world and the world is part of us. In this paradigm, we can never be independent and separate from rest of the world. (This notion of a self that is purely independent has been described as the “soul slowly twisting in the void”). The fact that most of us would find this notion terrifying tells us something about our psychological nature, at minimum.
From a holistic perspective, our freedom is inherently always in relation to others, to the world of our experience.
(If we were to address the theological dimensions of these ideas, we might notice that although some theologies describe both a transcendent God who is separate from a holistic creatioin, theologically, holism is usually associated with immanence, the view that we are both internally related with each other and to the Sacred ( by whatever name we choose to call it — for example, God, Goddess, Cosmic Intelligence, etc.) According to the perspective of immanence, the Sacred might be experienced as the deepest, wisest part of ourselves).
The holistic paradigm offers the possibility that the small self may be informed by the wisdom of a larger intelligence within, and so expresses its unique nature towards the betterment of the whole. From this perspective, self-actualization and service are of the same cloth.
Obviously this is my personal view. For me, the experience of this paradigm and relationship to the world (to the extent that I have grasped it so far) is not one of thralldom, but rather one of empowerment and, to the extent that I feel really “in-tune”, joy. This feels very different to me than the drugs of status or “power over” in which one experiences the other side of coin of domination, or the satisfactions of certainty. (In my view, the conviction that one must be “right” and that others must therefore by “wrong” privileges only our own perspective and experience and is, therefore, egocentric and in opposition the world).
There are other perspectives that value Partnership, which see the world differently. Personally, I find a holistic and organismic approach (which sees the cosmos as a intelligent and creative), to be very coherent and workable. Also, of course, one can apply a holistic perspective to leadership and organization with interesting implications — another topic!
Thank you for raising such a provocative question!
Enjoy your day,
My apologies for my delay in responding! I appreciate your willingness to remain in dialogue with me during this period where I’m not able to respond as quickly as I would like.
Your post raises such insightful and powerful questions about organizations. First, you notice the parallel between Patterson’s description of the thrall or slave, “a body with natural movements, but without its own reason, -an existence entirely absorbed in another” [the Master] and Morgan’s description of employee in a bureaucratic organization (organization as machine). Both scenarios share the ethic of controlling others to achieve one’s ends. This ethic is common and even considered part of normal human condition in much of Western philosophy, psychology, management literature, etc.
Your openness and willingness to dig – to notice the residue of the dominator paradigm in even the brain metaphor and learning organization demonstrate intellectual courage. I agree that we need to be willing to explore beyond even such valuable contributions as these — using them as stepping stones on the road to personal and organizational self-actualization.
Thank you for introducing Dr. Tara Fenwick’s analysis that:
* “Even within the Learning Organization – ample evidence of thralldom (disposition to dominate; propensity to submit).”
* The learning organization while being “ostensibly egalitarian” remains “essentially authoritarian” in that all serves the organization “learning is technical, instrumental”
* “Critical scrutiny is deflected away from the power structures and the learning organization ideology itself, and focused on the individual”
* “The voice of the learning organization sculptors is not self-critical. The agenda and vision of the leader or educational agent is bracketed out, obscuring the partiality and positionality of the voices calling for continuous learning and learning organizations.”
This seems true on its face. Organizations are not self-existent, but exist within a larger social and economic framework. A colleague of mine has recommended business journalist Marjorie Kelly’s book, The Divine Right of Capital. Kelly’s work contrasts economic democracy with economic aristocracy, which is comparable to feudalism. (The feudal analogy is commonplace in organizations). We are all shaped, to a substantial degree by our inheritances. Therefore, many (most?) learning organizations are the convergence of these two streams. Further, leadership and organizational coaches, consultants and trainers usually serve larger organizations whose roots are in Theory X soil, and so we may emphasize how these approaches help organizational leaders serve their ends, which include the achievement of career success by delivering results to shareholders.
Based on my own experience in organizations and conversations with corporate managers and leaders, I think many contemporary leaders also share a need for meaning, purpose, self-actualization, personal growth, contribution, and despite their privileges, and also often experience themselves as constrained by the system in which they operate.
It comes back, I think, to this sense of self-searching and transformation. As Fenwick implies, this is particularly important at level of organizational leadership precisely because of the impact that the “beingness” of leaders has on the quality … and effectiveness of the organization.
The topic of organizations, effectiveness, and the self-searching and self-actualization of organizations and their members is such a large topic, that I will postpone it to another post. But, I do want to acknowledge your question about structure and the implied consideration of the nature of power (is it unilateral or co-creative?) This question is also timely as we are increasingly seeing the realities that Tom Peters described in Thriving on Chaos 20 years ago, in which the employer-employee “contract” has been substantially dissolved and the boundaries between career and entrepreneurship have become increasingly blurred… What new structures are arising?
Thank you for bringing such an interesting discussion!
“It is impossible to see reality except by looking through the eyes of the Party”–Nineteen Eighty-Four”
Ideological Inversion and Ideological Self-Deception
Lisa, thank you for ‘making the darkness conscious’ by examining the root system of slavery. I especially love your powerful and prescient comment, “In considering how perspective – especially the perspectives of the powerful – shape social structures that reinforce beliefs, it is further reasonable to assume that women and slaves, whose rational facilities were assumed to naturally “lack authority,” would be denied the educational and leisure opportunities that would enable them to effectively counter these assertions – if indeed those in power would listen, given that women and slaves “naturally lack authority.”
Why prescient? Because you reference two dimensions of thralldom that I believe parallel our modern experience: 1) Parasitism and 2) Ideological inversion of reality. Your canine companions will especially relate to threat from parasites-like fleas!
Slavery, says Patterson, is a relation of domination, a relation of “parasitism.” Patterson has much to say about parasitism. I’ll now attempt to encapsulate his treatment. I believe parasitism is one of the most important issues you and I will explore.
-Dependence may or may not entail destruction of the host
-The host may be dependent on the parasite
-The parasitism may be only a minor nuisance
As a parasite, the slaveholder camouflaged his dependence, his parasitism, by 1) ideological inversion of reality, and 2) ideological self-deception. This former technique, says Patterson, camouflages a relation by defining it as the opposite of what it really is. Isn’t that profound? Ideological inversion of reality camouflages a relation by defining it as the opposite of what it really is.
Who was responsible for creating the ideological inversion of reality? The slaveholder class. Were almost all masters insincere? No. “They genuinely believed that they cared and provided for their slaves and that it was the slaves who had been raised to depend on others.”
“Southern slaveholders,” says Patterson, “were hardly exceptional in their ideological self-deception. The same inversion of reality was to be found among slaveholders everywhere:
“We use other people’s feet when we go out, we use other people’s eyes to recognize things, we use another person’s memory to greet people, we use someone else’s help to stay alive-the only things we keep for ourselves are our pleasures” Pliny the Elder, a slaveholder (quoted in Patterson).
I’ll now attempt to epitomize the relation of parasites and their hosts.
The slaveholders (as parasites):
-defined the slave as dependent
-genuinely believed that they cared and provided for their slaves
-held that it was the slaves who had been raised to depend on them and others (this is ideological self-deception)
-believed (along with the community) that the slave existed only through the parasite holder, who was called the master
-fed on the slave to gain the very direct satisfactions of power over another, honor, enhancement, and authority
-rendered the slave the ideal human tool due to natal alienation and genealogical isolation (i.e., separated from family and kin).
“The slave, losing in the process all claim to autonomous power, was degraded and reduced to a state of liminality” (a marginal status) p.337. Parenthesis mine.
How did the slave resist her desocialization and forced service? By:
-striving for some measure of regularity and predictability in her social life
-yearning for dignity
-becoming acutely sensitive to the realities of community.
The slave’s zest for life and fellowship confounded the slaveholder class. The slave’s existential dignity of the slave belied the slaveholder’s denial of its existence.
Patterson sketches the covert antagonism between the classes thus:
-“retaliated ideologically by stereotyping the slave as a lying, cowardly, lazy buffoon devoid of courage and manliness,
-retaliated existentially: by refusing to be among his fellow slaves the degraded creature he was made out to be,
-fed the parasite’s timocratic character with the pretence that she was what she was supposed to be. She served while concealing her soul and fooling the parasite. “play fool, to catch wise.”
“All slaves, like oppressed peoples everywhere, wore masks in their relations with those who had parasitized them. Occasionally a slave, feeling he had nothing to lose, would remove the mask and make it clear to the slaveholder that he understood the parasitic nature of their interaction.”
PUNISHMENTS AND REWARDS
“However firm their belief in their ideological definition of the slave relation, slaveholders simply could not deny the stark fact that their slaves served under duress: a combination of punishments and rewards was essential.”
Slaveholders knew that incentives were better than punishments to promote efficient service.
“The well-looked-after slave redounded to the generosity and honor of the slaveholder.” The slave’s response “emphasized the slave’s apparent “dependence” and gave credence to the paternalism that the parasite craved.”
Patterson’s discussion of parasitism is provocative, is it not Lisa? As always, I look forward to your comments. Thank you for including the neglected dimensions (e.g., feminism).
Bye for now,
I hear the sea gulls squawking outside my kitchen window. I wonder what’s bothering them? It’s raining here today. I guess I better wear my Wellingtons (gum boots) on the sea wall. I could just write an ode to my boots. Though they cost less than $10, they’ve been a godsend. “Adventure in ideas.” I like the sound of that!
Thank you for this contribution. It’s so relevant to our whole discussion, I’m also posting it up here in the main blog.
Hello Denis and Lisa,
I’m not sure about the question but I believe you are asking about the odd language academics use to describe organizational culture. It’s so easy to feel overpowered by academic writing. Simply put, It has been said that “the water is the last thing the fish see.” If we imagine that organizations are fishbowls then the challenge of helping fish to comprehend their environment is obvious [if fish could think like we do!] We so often take words for granted. “Culture” is an example. So let’s go back to basics. What do we mean by “culture”?
Gareth Morgan’s excellent work “Images of Organization” [which I highly recommend] says that “culture” comes from the idea of “tilling and developing the land” (p.120) Morgan says the agricultural metaphor focuses our attention on “very specific aspects of social development.” What does he mean?
Does he mean that people are unique? Yes. Are you and I unique? Yes. But are we also alike in many respects? Yes. However, Morgan is talking specifically about “organizations.” So the metaphor of “culture” asks us to imagine that organizations are like countries and we are like anthropologists trying to understand the distinctive societies. Hence, an organization, like a country, will exhibit unique characteristics [I like to say that organizations are like fingerprints in that they both unique but exhibit commonalties].
Following are some elements of “culture”:
*Leadership: Who are in control?
*Structure-How have those in control arranged positions?
*Climate-How have those in control taught members to “feel” about one another?
*History-Who were originally in control? How did they and their successors shape the organization?
*Customs and rituals-What big meaningful events have been arranged by those in control?
*Language-How do those in control communicate with organizational members?
*Dress-How do those in control dress? How do they expect organizational members to dress?
*Beliefs-What things are accepted as true by those in control? How deeply are those beliefs held by those in control? How are those beliefs communicated to those with less control?
*Artifacts-How have those in control arranged buildings, furnishings and equipment?
*Values-What do those in control expect of those they control?
Culture is all about the creation of social reality. But power is key. Power is the ability to create or produce reality [organizations]. Here is an example from Morgan’s chapter on culture:
“We sit in the same seats, like cows always go to the same stall. It’s a real waste of time. It’s a situation where you can say just about anything and no one will refute it. People are very hesitant to speak up, afraid to say too much. They say what everyone else wants to hear” p.131.
*A modernist approach might begin by asking about the elements of culture-the big picture. For example, What elements of culture are useful in analyzing the above example? *A symbolic interpretivist approach might ask how members are making meaning within their experience. For example, How does the metaphor of the cow illustrate the member’s interaction? *A post-modernist perspective might ask about the member’s power and ability to make meaning and how the member’s perception impacts the organization [and yes, we can critique post-modernism].
My advice to those studying organizational theory is to pay attention to power and control. It’s all very well to talk about “shared” meaning and “rational” goals, for example. But in the final analysis members will say and do what they are expected to do-by those in power.
I hope this helps.
Bye for now!
I love Sundays! Thank you for the references to Solzhenitsyn. It’s interesting that thralldom figures prominently in his text: “The whole raison d’etre of serfdom and the Archipelago is one and the same: these are the social structures for the ruthless enforced utilization of the free-of-cost work of millions of slaves” (Chapter 5). I’ve been bridging concepts we’ve discussed over the months and believe I see sufficient patterns to construct a comprehensive Theory of Thralldom.
Patterson describes the slave as dehumanized being who lives only through and for the master:
“The slave was a dominated thing, an animated instrument, a body with natural movements, but without its own reason, an existence entirely absorbed in another.”
“The proprietor of this thing, the mover of this instrument, the soul and the reason of this body, the source of this life, was the master. The master was everything for him: his father and his god, which is to say, his authority and his duty…Thus, god, fatherland, family, existence, are all for the slave, identified with the same being; there was nothing which made for the social person, nothing which made for the moral person, that was not the same as his personality and his individuality”(Henri Wallon on the meaning of slavery in ancient Greece, Cited in Patterson).
Though Friere does not use the word “thrall” or “slave” in Pedagogy of the Oppressed, he does use almost identical language to describe “the oppressed”: “For the oppressors, ‘human beings’ refers only to themselves; other people are “things” (p.39). Friere says that the “oppressor consciousness” tends to reduce everything-including people-to “objects at its disposal” (p.40) Science and technology, says Freire, “are used to reduced the oppressed to the status of things” (p.114). The educational system is their “enemy” (p.16) and management is an “arm of domination (p.50).
Patterson’s decription of slavery also illuminates Freire’s statements, such as “adhesion to the oppressor,” the “boss within,” subjects-objects, and Friere’s discussion of the difference between animals and humans (thank you for your reference to dogs!). I could never quite understand why he devoted so much analysis to the distinction. Animals, for example are “ahistorical,” “beings in themselves,” “cannot commit themselves,” are “not challenged by the configuration that confronts them,” and so on (pp.78-79). Obviously, animals and thralls are subhuman, objects, things. Now I see why Freire spoke about the “ontological vocation to be more fully human-“fully human” versus “anatomical fragments” and “automata” (things).
Middle class educators reading this blog might bristle at my suggestion that we humans exist within a web of thralldom. Freire predicted such reaction when he spoke about the middle class’s “fear of freedom” which “leads them to erect defense mechanisms and rationalizations which conceal the fundamental (i.e., the conditions of oppression) emphasize the fortuitous (i.e., let’s be “positive”) and deny concrete reality” (the misery of the oppressed) p.85. (parentheses mine). Freire was clear that praxis meant reflection and action upon the world in order to transform it.
Freire’s indictment of global educational systems is understandable now given that the “educated individual is the adapted person, because she or he is a better fit for the world” (p.57). It now makes sense to me why Freire saw the need to develop a completely different “pedagogy”-a pedagogy of the oppressed, whose organs of sense perception have been switched off so long that they need educators’ help to reactivate those. I can now understand why Freire’s text appears in many graduate programs (I met “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” while enrolled in Athabasca University’s MDE Program).
I appreciate your allusion to perception Lisa. Patterson (quoting Weber) notes that slavery is built upon a power relation which has 3 facets: social, psychological and cultural. Perception, I believe, falls under the second category:
1) The use or threat of violence in the control of one person by another (Social)
2) The capacity to persuade another person to change the way he perceives his interests and his circumstances. (Psychological)
3) Authority: the means of transforming force into right, and obedience into duty (Cultural)
But how is slavery distinctive as a relation of domination? Perhaps we could discuss that later on.
Bye for now,
I would call my posts ‘messays’ because they represent mental chaos searching for coherence. Thank you for the ‘mutual flourishing’ you promote Lisa.
Slavery and Social Death: A Comparative Study, Harvard University Press, 1982
Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum, 2007.
Carman, Thank you for your note! I appreciation this whole process of deconstruction and reconstruction of ideas. It takes courage to relinquish our certainty enough to open our minds to new connections and possibilities. There is a period of chaos before new structures coalesce, which can be uncomfortable, to the say the least, but the insights we gain by allowing and processing this chaos or change can be enormously rewarding. Therefore, I appreciate Rosemarie Anderson’s term for that period, “auspcisous bewilderment”(1). One of the benefits of Partnership systems is that they are safe enough to allow the uncertainty inherent in the creative process.
As you requested, I moved our earlier conversation in the comments area of “Freedom vs. Slavery” http://www.creativeleadercoach.com/2009/09/23/freedom-is-slavery/ to the main blog to make it easier to read.
Your quote from Freire aptly contasts the difference between the experience and concept of work as self-actualization in the context of community and work as dehumanization or exploitation. These are two different paradigms of leadership and organization (social relationship), and of ways of being in the world.
The Partnership paradigm reflects an ethic of mutual flourishing. Conversely, a dominator paradigm reflects a “dog eat dog” or “dog oppress dog” 😉 ethic. Both are part of our historical inheritance, but the ethic of domination goes deep. What is our reaction when we are crossed? And then, what response do we choose…
In considering Friere’s comment, I am also reminded of philosopher Jacques Derrida’s reminder that there is freedom and power throughout the system. Even in situations of extreme oppression, such as former Soviet labor camps, Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago demonstrated that the human being could choose a perspective of self-actualization. So we have these mulitple frontiers, the social and the psychological, for moving towards more creative, adpative and fulfilling systems..
It’s a pleasure to read and post your insightful and creative essays, as always!
1. Rosemarie Anderson, “Intuitive Inquiry,” Transpersonal Research Methods for the Social Sciences: Honoring Human Experience,” eds. William Broud and Rosemarie Anderson.
Anderson includes a quote from the mystic Jelaluddin Rumi in the opening to her chapter, which speaks to this place of auspicious bewilderment and creativity: “Today like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument. Let the beauty we love be what we do.”