The Compassion Focused Work Life

Piasofia Løkke Pedersen

Student thesis: Master thesis


The phenomenon of Buddhism-inspired compassion is a growing interdisciplinary field of research. This affects areas such as neuroscience, psychology, health care, and, organizational leadership with the promise of increased mental health and stress reduction. This thesis is a critical investigation into the birth, use, and potential of compassion in leadership and work-life. In this context, the thesis also focuses on how modern-day compassion training programs operate between power and ethics. This exploration is undertaken by a Foucauldian methodology of discursive analysis and genealogy of the phenomenon of compassion, demonstrating how the modern-day concept of compassion is rooted in Buddhism. In this context, the analysis shows how the concept of compassion has shifted and changed through the meeting with modern Western science, affecting ways of thinking and reflecting on human life. The thesis also draws on the late Foucault’s thoughts on the subject and ethics, and the thesis shows how compassion training programs work as a technology of the self, situating the subject as a hybrid of compassion and resilience and the risk of producing a form of 'moral greenwashing'. Besides the empirical foundation of discursive texts, the thesis also draws on five semi structured interviews which give insight into experiences with compassion. The Foucauldian inspired analysis is thus combined with Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological take on the subject and the body, honoring how compassion is experienced as a bodily phenomenon. Besides the critical examination of the use of compassion as a focus in work-life, the thesis is also to be viewed as a contribution to the potential of the value of compassion in the creation of new lifeforms.

EducationsMSocSc in Political Communication and Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2020
Number of pages92