Spirituality, Organization and Neoliberalism
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Spirituality, Organization and Neoliberalism

Understanding Lived Experiences

Edited by Emma Bell, Sorin Gog, Anca Simionca and Scott Taylor

This book brings together analyses from across the social sciences to develop an interdisciplinary approach to understanding spiritualities and neoliberalism. It traces the lived experience of social actors as they engage with new and alternative spiritualities in neoliberal contexts. The purpose of the book is to provide specific insights into how neo-liberalism is resisted, contested or reproduced through a transformative ethic of spiritual self-realization.
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Chapter 3: Expressive individualism in the new spirit of capitalism: mindfulness and outdoor management development

Liza Cortois

Abstract

In several management training programmes, the prevalence of expressive individualism and its central value of authenticity can be observed. ‘Authentic leadership’, outdoor management development (OMD) as a way to uncover your personal leadership style, mindfulness or other spiritual courses to rediscover yourself are no exceptions in the sphere of work today. This is framed as part of a broader ‘new spirit of capitalism’ in organizations in contrast with older spirits that emphasize utility and control. Some authors in organization studies point out that authenticity can become a new mechanism of control. However, it remains unclear whether this is always the case and, if so, which forms this control takes. In this chapter, we ask the question as to how people interpret and apply expressive individualism in management training programmes that relate to the work context. Two of these work-related courses were studied by means of participant observation and in-depth interviews, a mindfulness and an OMD course. Thirty course members of a mindfulness programme and 15 middle managers that participated in an OMD programme were interviewed. On the basis of Merton’s anomie typology, four categories of applying expressive individualism in the organizational context could be distinguished. This typology forms an addition to the literature in the sense that it shows a diversity of applications of expressive individualism as a mechanism of organizational control. On the other hand it shows that there is also a more critical interpretation of expressive individualism as a search for authenticity beyond the neoliberal organization.

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