Resilience in Organizational Life: A Philosophical Study about the Rising Demand for Resilient Knowledge Workers in Contemporary Organizational Life

Michael Birch Jørgensen

Student thesis: Master thesis

Abstract

This thesis offers a critical and philosophical contribution to the vibrant history of resilience research and social pathologies theories.
The origins of the resilience concept come from a study in the fields of psychology and have, in recent years, gained a rising attention in the fields of sociology and philosophy .
This notion of original resilience theory refers to the theoretical and empirical research on how children develop competence despite adversity in life. Nowadays, this resilience concept refers to a rising phenomenon in contemporary organizational life (hereafter: organizational life) due to its presence in job advertisements (hereafter: job ads).
Within some contemporary theoretical perspectives and empirical research on the emergence of the resilience concept in organizational life, individuals are considered as being responsible for being resilient by turning it into a problem of personal behavior, decisions, and psychological traits of the human subject.
In this sense, job ads reduce the notion of the resilience demand to the way individual knowledge worker must find ways to cope with conditions of organizational life. I refer to the condition of organizational life, in a metaphorical sense, as a stand/run marathon to which knowledge workers must aspire to willingly or unwillingly. Not only they have to participate to it, but they also have to become the accelerators of this race.
This paradoxical stand/run marathon is linked with social pathologies theories, given the clash of the rational logics of global competition and human emotions. Organizational life is affected by global competition and therefore seeks to exploit human resources. In other words, transcending the performativity of knowledge workers makes them miserable and well off at the same time.
The emergence of the resilience concept in job ads today is an example of how organizational life articulates and actively attempts to make knowledge workers transcend boundaries of human life. These inevitable individual failures in the fulfilment of the resilience demand in organizational life affect human behaviors in negative ways because knowledge workers adopt cynical behavior and alienate from self, others and things, despite what Positive Psychology inspired self-help industry tells them.


An organizational- and managerial problem is that there cannot be any solutions, which do not automatically exclude this resilience demand as an individual problem. In other words, this thesis point to how it might be possible for managers, organizations, and the self-help industry to ‘help’ knowledge workers in their pursuit for sustaining the resilience demand in job ads, by progressively teaching individual knowledge workers to develop resilience in private life.
However, the demand for resilience in organizational life is fundamentally a challenge for the individual knowledge workers. A challenge that, unlike humans, has no boundaries given the aims of global competition.
This thesis applies a Foucauldian philosophical perspective to gain a unique understanding of how the resilience concept is affected by the logics of organizational life and associated with social pathologies theories.
This thesis attempts to demonstrate, in a diagnostic analysis, a vicious cycle of the demand for resilience when it is associated with social pathologies in late-modern societies.
Drawing on Hartmut Rosa ́s notion on Social Acceleration, this thesis outlines, a potential problematic shift in human behaviours in the emergence of the resilience concept in organizational life now.
This thesis argues and discusses how Rosa’s concept of Alienation can be an underlying social pathology to the rising mental illnesses in modern life. In a dialogue with Rosa, I suggest how we may go from there by considering ‘alienation ́s other’ that Rosa refers as Resonance to be part of a solution to alienation tendencies of late-modernity.
With Sloterdijk’s notion on Modern Cynicism, this thesis explains both how the emergence of the resilience demand in organizational life affects knowledge workers and make cynical reasoning a social pathology and how we may go from there with Sloterdijk’s call for the revival of Ancient Kynicism.
‘Where there is power, there is resistance’ Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality

EducationsMsc in Business Administration and Philosophy, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
LanguageEnglish
Publication date2017
Number of pages87
SupervisorsRasmus Johnsen