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Baudrillard and the Metaphysics of Motivation: A Reappraisal of Corporate Culturalism in the Light of the Work and Ideas of Jean Baudrillard

Philip Hancock

Journal of Management Studies, 1999, vol. 36, issue 2, 155-175

Abstract: This paper considers the implications of the work of the French social theorist, Jean Baudrillard, for contemporary strategies of employee management which focus upon the centrality of culture and its purposeful organization and dissemination. Starting with an exploration and consideration of the philosophical assumptions which underpin classical conceptions and models of employee motivation, it charts the ongoing refinement of these ideas, up to and including, the current fascination with the promise of corporate culturalism to deliver levels of high employee motivation and commitment. The work of Jean Baudrillard is then outlined and employed to develop a critical analysis of not only the philosophical presuppositions which continue to underlie the management of motivation but, also, the potential consequences of the current fascination with the management of organizational culture as a means towards increased levels of employee commitment and output. In conclusion, it suggests that the same postmodernizing process which Baudrillard identifies as the outcome of the intense mediatization of society is also produced and reproduced within the domain of the contemporary work organization, due to the championing of similar strategies of cultural management, especially by personnel or human resource academics and practitioners. Such a development is not, however, greeted with optimism. Rather, it is suggested that this particular diagnosis of the postmodern condition views the result as the production and reproduction of a deeply disinterested and enervated workforce; one which demonstrates enthusiasm neither for corporate goals nor indeed the furtherance of their own life‐projects.

Date: 1999
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