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CHAPTER SEVEN: Corrupting the liberal ideal: diversity in organizational life

Dalal, Farhad Karnac Books ePub

Spreadsheet ethics

Increasingly, organizations are putting in place a number of diversity initiatives which aim to make organizational life more open and more accessible to people from backgrounds and groupings different from those in the mainstream. The intention is to make the workforce more diverse through employing different kinds of people. The focus of diversity initiatives is to set up processes that will allow more women, “ethnic” minorities, those with disabilities, gays, lesbians, and so on, into the structures of higher management. The wish is to make the organizational culture more inclusive. To this end, organizations employ diversity experts—consultants—to help the organization “celebrate diversity” instead of fearing and shunning it.

Rather surprisingly, it turns out that the theme of “diversity” has become almost a universal feature in the “strategic plans” of organizations large and small, public and private. Diversity has also become an integral feature of most contemporary “organizational development” initiatives. It is surprising because previously corporations had been very reluctant to engage with the prior emancipatory movements of multi-culturalism and anti-racism. So, why is it that the idea of diversity is being so readily embraced by them?

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CHAPTER NINE: The difference that dare not speak its name: the lexicon police

Dalal, Farhad Karnac Books ePub

Training the mind

How is one to reside in the space between the extremes of annihilating the other and annihilating the self? One answer given by equality discourses is, by being very, very careful with the language one uses. And the way this is to be achieved is through training. Training is big business. Organizations spend a lot of money purchasing trainers and trainings of all kinds: health and safety, customer relations, equality, and so on. In part, organizations do this in order to fulfil the legal obligations placed on them by the legislature. To this end, it has become compulsory for employees to go through a “training” in equality and diversity. Mostly, these trainings are computer based (because it is cheaper). On completion, employees are deemed to have mastered the skills of empathy and sensitivity to others. The e-based equal opportunity trainings I have had sight of are, in my view, moronic, patronizing, and tokenistic, with their primary purpose being to demonstrate that the institution has fulfilled its legal obligations. In other words, they are in the service of being seen to do good, rather than actually doing good.

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CHAPTER EIGHT: Perverting the liberal ideal: fear and control in the Panopticon

Dalal, Farhad Karnac Books ePub

Conversations about equality, diversity, and so on, do not exist in a vacuum. They are bound to draw their forms and rationales from the norms and paradigms of the milieus that they take place in, and so they reflect and reproduce them to some degree. The driving force for the equalities agenda comes from many directions. Crudely, there are three sorts of milieus (not mutually exclusive): perhaps the first impulse comes from “the street” (protestors and activists), then there is the academy (the intellectuals), and finally there are the bureaucrats. Informed by the first two, it is the last of these that produce legislation, draw up protocols and procedures, and give formal advice on how one is best to fulfil the legal requirements. The ruling paradigms of the bureaucrat are the ones that prevail in the modern organization, that of the marketplace.

The worker as castrated Kantian being

The paradigm of the marketplace has become the ruling organizing principle for most, if not all, kinds of institutions. Whatever the project, be it the education of young children, the nation’s health care, utilities, and railways, it has become the norm for every kind of institution—public, charitable, voluntary, and private—to produce a “business model” about how they intend to set about their “business”. A language of efficiencies, profit and loss, proliferates; so does the idea that all institutions should be “independent” and pay their way. Within this paradigm, the model of the human being that finds favour in mainstream organizational literature is also individualistic and mechanistic; in this view humans can be, and should be, controlled and directed by procedure and protocol. This is compounded by the belief that human beings are selfish and cannot be trusted. This situation has come about in the following way.

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CHAPTER FOUR: Manufacturing kinds of people: processes of inclusion and exclusion

Dalal, Farhad Karnac Books ePub

The legislature, as well as the equality movements, has proceeded on the basis of a particular (problematic) world view, two elements of which are of specific concern to us. First is a simplistic understanding of the social group (whatever name it goes by, race, culture, ethnicity, etc.); second is a one-dimensional rendition of the human condition. If one buys into both of them, then the problem and its solution appear to be relatively straightforward as evidenced by the heroic pronouncements found in the equality statements of innumerable organizations, public and private. According to these, it is a simple enough matter to practise inclusivity, noninterference, tolerance, and respect towards others; it is just a matter of knowledge and will. It seems to me that to try to live one’s life according to these principles is a decent and worthy way of proceeding. Problems arise when these values are treated as though they are real achievable ends, rather than aspirations. When this happens, then the values of liberalism come to be distorted and turned into instruments of fear and control. It is for this reason that discussions on these subjects so often have a defensive quality, quickly become heated, and end in an impasse.

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CHAPTER FIVE: The human condition: psychology

Dalal, Farhad Karnac Books ePub

The previous chapter has established that the cultural group is not a singular consensual entity, but an eternally conflicted and conflictual complexity. In what follows, it will become apparent that the individual is also similarly constituted.

In the beginning …

In the beginning, there was Man. He was free and lived in peaceful isolation in harmony with Nature. The trouble began with the rise in numbers, when he was forced into contact with other men. Conflicts arose between them as each tried to live according to his authentic (internally derived) desires. The only way they were able to learn to live with each other was by subjugating their natural desires. In this way, they became less free but more socialized. The cost of the accommodation was that their natures became distorted in the effort to live with others—neurosis. This is how Rousseau conceived of the human condition.

In the beginning, there was Man. Free, in his natural state, he was rapacious and greedy, taking, destroying, and devouring whatever he desired with no inhibition: the war of all against all. He cared nothing for consequences; he was all Id. This was Hobbes’ view; he thought that the only way this savage being would be able to live with similar others, was by being subject to authority of gigantic proportions and force—the Leviathan. Fear would make them behave decently, but their savage natures would always be present, erupting at the slightest opportunity.

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