Elgar Research Agendas
Edited by Barbara Czarniawska
Chapter 5: Humanistic management
Contemporary times, which Zygmunt Bauman (2012), adopting Gramsci’s metaphor, called the interregnum, or an era in-between working social, political and economic systems, are characterized by adiaphorization: placing of certain events and human beings outside of moral categories (Bauman and Donskis, 2013). Management is one of such domains where ordinary ethics has ceased to have spontaneous access, and has been replaced by a specialist entity called ‘business ethics’, which many students have serious problems with relating to their ‘everyday’ sense of justice, decency or moral choices. While discussing case studies my practitioner students often opt for decisions that they later admit they would never make in their ‘normal life’, outside of the business realm. Small wonder – in today’s business world, dealing with human issues has been assigned to specialists in human resource management. At the same time, management and its language have infiltrated every aspect of human life, and the popularity of management education of various kinds seems to be constantly beating its own records (Hatch et al., 2005). Millions of people from all over the globe, from all walks of life and professions, from businessmen and -women, through journalists, teachers and academics to artists, clergy and many others go through some kind of management programme in their life. Management has been, indeed, the driving force of the whole liquid modern era and it has been providing the imagery and language for almost all social contexts (Bauman et al., 2015). I believe that it, as a practice and academic discipline, now has to face a choice: either vanish, slowly or suddenly, as the bubble bursts, or take responsibility for the problems it has caused or legitimized. The first step to achieve this is a reorientation towards people, an awareness of the presence of the Other and the willingness to take responsibility for her or him, as Emmanuel Lévinas ( 1999) called for. Humanistic management, based on such an awareness and on a consciously humanistic management creed, can become a force that can work for making our world a place where human dignity and well-being are promoted in the workings of the economic system (Pirson et al., 2009; Batko et al., in press).
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