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Management Training and Domination-Free Speech

Workers and minor supervisors inside managerial regimes, training regimes, and even business schools are often made to experience themselves as mediocre when, for example, students of such management training programmes and business schools subserviently address instructors of functional-ideological business knowledge as “professor”.24 This enhances the ideological belief system that these professors of management and business studies are the ones who have “the” knowledge and to whom they should listen. The principles of managerial knowledge imposed on these—quite often working- and middle-class—students are the principles and practicalities of business capitalism depicted as a seamless stream of the infamous but highly ideological homo economicus to individualism, the free market, and the “invisible hand”. But this is something nobody has ever seen with the exceptions of Adam Smith, Herr von Hayek, and Milton Friedman.25

The ideological purpose of all this is to never make students realise that they, too, are able to “know things”. If workers would be condemned to not knowing, why would there be “report upward” forms of communication inside managerial regimes? To dominate others, management relies on what is euphemistically called a hierarchical “reporting culture” inside companies. This might also explain the prevalence of eternal meetings held by management. Meanwhile, in the crypto-academic field of business studies this is ideologically framed as “organisational discourse” even though managerial regimes are not socio-philosophical seminars. But the “reporting upward” communication used by management also explains the so-called self-assessments used in key performance indicators for performance management. With these tools, management gathers knowledge about workers in order to dominate them. In many cases, this sort of “knowledge management” is not directly but can be used against workers and lower managers when dominating them. Perhaps, first of all, workers need to de-learn those relations that define the world of work and their relationships with others. But given the conditions in which they have to produce and reproduce their actuality (Hegel), it might be only instinctively that workers distrust management. Worst of all, and this remains a key task of ideology, they sometimes distrust themselves.

Meanwhile in critical dialogues, it is not infrequent that management students begin to discuss managerial-ideological themes in a rather lively manner. It is striking, however, to observe how a previously installed selfdepreciation can alter with changes in an overall situation set against the asphyxiating effects of standard management training programmes. But as long as ambiguities and ideological belief systems continue to exist, many will remain disinclined to resist managerial regimes that enhance domination as they have been made to lack confidence in-themselves. This is made worse when a diffuse and almost magical and mythical belief in the invulnerability and power of those cementing domination has been moored deeply into their beliefs. The ideological force of managerial power holds particular sway inside managerial regimes and management schools. It is for that reason that those seeking emancipation must use examples of the vulnerability of those cementing domination so that contrary convictions to managerial power and its perceived superiority of knowledge can begin to emerge from within.

Until this is achieved, the dominated—just as the ideological apparatus of capitalism wants it to be—will continue to be disheartened, they will remain fearful, downbeaten, and fatalistic. As long as those seeking emancipation remain unaware of the true causes of their conditions, they will accept exploitation. For this to continue, the ruling elite has set up a monstrous ideological apparatus in the form of global corporate mass media that daily and hourly re-enforces the ideological attitudes of capitalism and its prime sustaining ideology of neo-liberalism. The task of this apparatus is to ensure that people are passively accepting their alienation even when confronted with the necessity to struggle for human freedom. But despite the best efforts of this gigantic, well-financed, and efficient apparatus, in some cases and little by little some tend to try out new forms of resistance and rebellious action against domination. Working towards emancipation, one must never run into the danger of overlooking the passivity that is moored into many people’s consciousness by the ideological media apparatus. Equally, one should never fail to see the moment of awakening when passivity turns into resistance and those who have been made to accept everything from above start questioning the very foundation of

  • • the “above and below”,
  • • the “upstairs and downstairs”, and
  • • the “slave and master” system.26

With an emerging authentic view of the world as a colossal monster constructed of “slave versus master”, “worker versus manager”, and “educator versus non-educated”, those seeking emancipation can no longer be made to feel like “things” managed by those who further domination and for whom “to-be-is-to-have” and “to-be-more-is-to-have-more”. This comes almost always at the expense of those who have nothing.

Those who further domination see the world as a zero-sum game—your wage increase is my loss in profits. Meanwhile at a certain point in their increasingly humanising experience, those seeking emancipation no longer resemble and mimic those who further domination; they no longer see themselves to be “under” and “depend” on them nor do they “accept” this as a given. Accordingly, those seeking emancipation become emotionally independent of the wishes of their masters.

Meanwhile the business manager remains dependant. He can never say what he wants—he has to say what business wants, what capitalism demands, what his superiors tell him, and what his ideology instructs him to say. Before he discovers his own dependence, he will continue to suffer and be alienated. But his alienation as business manager is all too often also transported into his privacy. He “lets off steam” at home where he shouts at his children, beats them, is depressed, drinks, and fights with others. He complains about his spouse and relatives and thinks everything is dreadful. But he can never “let off steam” with his boss because he is made to believe that the boss, in fact all bosses, top management, and in particular the CEO, are superior beings.

Rafts of managerial training courses on leadership, books, articles, and tabloid-TV make sure that the hallucinogenic belief in the “Great Business Leader” is maintained. In many cases, middle managers—now reduced to followers or worse: mini leaders—seek to escape their sorrows by drinking—commonly framed “workplace” alcoholism as if it had something to do with the physical “place” of work rather than with domination and the structural violence that define managerial regimes. The factual dependence (job insecurity) on the managerial apparatus and “your immediate boss”—may it only be until the next (un)favourable performance management review—can lead to “auto-destructive behaviour”, that is, the destruction of one’s own life and that of others.

It is only when those seeking emancipation clearly conceptualise domination and get involved in an organised struggle for their emancipation that they begin to believe in their own ability to work towards the fact that “another world is possible”. And this is despite neo-liberalism’s prevailing ideology of TINA—there is no alternative. But this sort of selfreflection, socio-economic awareness and self-discovery can never entirely be academic. Instead, it must involve organised action. Simultaneously, it can never be restricted to spontaneous activism but must be based on genuine self-reflection. It is only in this way that praxis directed towards emancipation can be established. Such praxis is established when emancipatory critical dialogues are conducted in the understanding of “free speech”.27 For that participants in emancipatory education must adhere to certain rules so that an “ideal speech situation” can occur. Roughly, these five key rules are as follows:

  • (a) Every subject with the competence to speak is allowed to take part in a discourse.
  • (b) Everyone is allowed to question any assertion.
  • (c) Everyone is allowed to introduce any assertion whatsoever into the discourse.
  • (d) Everyone is allowed to express their attitudes, desires, and needs without hesitation.
  • (e) No participant may be prevented, by internal or external coercion, from exercising the rights as laid down in (a-d).

The concept of “ideal speech” presupposes that such organised communicative action must always be conducted with those who seek emancipation as well as those who show potentials of moving into this direction. This is to be carried out with an awareness of the stage of their struggle for emancipation. The content of such “communicative action” (Habermas) will differ in accordance with historical-political and socio-economic conditions and, of course, the level at which those who seek emancipation assess the present stage of reality of their movements towards emancipation. Communicative action seeks to establish an “ideal speech” situation for which four components remain essential:

Table 3.1 shows that communication used in management training can be normatively analysed by comparing the language used during management training programmes. This indicates the point when the demands of communicative action and ideal speech correspond to the way management training programmes are communicated. These investigative tools enable students to understand not only “how” communication is used/ misused in management training but also “why” things are communicated in specific ways. This understanding prevents students from being trapped

Table 3.1 Four principles of ideal speech

Checklist: Basic questions on whether ideal speech can exist


  • • Does management training communicate work-related issues comprehensively, so that everyone can understand what in fact is happening at the business level and beyond the borders of an enterprise (e.g. community, moral, social, environmental issues)?
  • • Is the communication used in management training precise, inclusive, intelligible, complete, and broad enough to form a thorough and ample view?


  • • Does the communication used in management training offer sincerity?
  • • Is communication done in good faith?
  • • Is there no scope for manipulation left?
  • • Has management training avoided misleading people?
  • • Does communication used in management training lead to guided decisions as opened up under conditions of rational choice, that is, decisions that offer choices within management training organised confinements?


  • • Is management training's communication legitimate?
  • • Does one's acceptance lead to a legitimisation of Managerialism?
  • • Does management training further hidden legitimacy of a corporate judgement covered in professionalism?


  • • Is the communication used in management training based on truth?
  • • Can one believe and trust in what has been said?
  • • Is there any evidence supporting the claims that have been made?
  • • Is the evidence good enough?
  • • Is the offered information upon which one acts or reaches a decision truthful or untruthful, even unintentionally?

in the Orwellian but also very managerial dictum of: “I understand how— but I do not understand why.” Apart from realising why communication inside management training must—quite often and almost necessarily— remain distorted, such distortions can be unmasked and their ideological content exposed.

But managerially distorted communication in management training can also be analysed by comparing teaching issues to ideal speech. Significantly, ideal speech has to include “all” four principles (Table 3.1): comprehensibility, sincerity, legitimacy, and truthfulness. Testing communication in management training along these four principles can highlight deficiencies found in many management training programmes.

However, communicative distortions can also be corrected by transferring comprehensibility, sincerity, legitimacy, and truthfulness into a critical emancipatory matrix that allows reflections on management training and on those communicative and managerial tools used to dominate.

Authoritarian speech, self-serving monologues, managerial slogans, corporate communiques and fashionable weasel and buzzwords will never assist those seeking emancipation. They will need to create communicative instruments set against engineered forms of managerial domestication, corporate media power, and the structural violence found in managerial training. Equally, any top-down engineered form of communication attempting to emancipate those seeking emancipation without their input, their sharing, and critical self-reflective participation in the act of emancipatory communication means to see those at the receiving end from the position of domination. It means to (mis)-treat them as “objects of power” and will—unconsciously or consciously—enhance domination while asphyxiating them inside authoritarian and populist pitfalls. In the worst- case scenario, this will convert them back into the unconscious mass that has already been manipulated by corporate mass media.

At all stages of the emancipatory process, those seeking emancipation must see themselves as people engaged in the moral occupation to become more fully human, to move towards humanism, and to become emancipated human beings. At this level in the emancipatory process, selfreflection and “positive communicative and social” action merge more and more to become movement oriented imperatives. This will also lead to emancipatory attempts that create unity between the moral content of humanisation and its historical actualisations found in many emancipatory institutions and organisations.28 People must come together with an engaging persistence in self-reflection and critical assessment of the current stages of affairs. Such an assessment of their concrete situation can never be an academic and illusive “armchair” activity. To the contrary, it must be emancipatory reflection

  • • on oneself as a critical and self-reflective person,
  • • on the stage of emancipatory movement,
  • • on the moral imperatives of the “ethics of resistance”, and
  • • on the counterforce of domination set against emancipation.

On the other hand, when a situation calls for what the “Russian Prince”— Kropotkin—once called “direct action”,29 such emancipatory action can and will form authentic praxis. But it will achieve this only when the outcome of such emancipatory action—in turn—will be critical emancipatory reflection and self-reflection. In that, such an emancipatory and action-oriented praxis cannot just establish a new raison d’etre for those seeking emancipation but it can also lead to further moral steps in the ascendancy towards an “ethics of resistance”. It is only available to those seeking self-critical involvement. Without this, any action directed against domination will remain plain activism that, in its final consequence, might prove counterproductive to the project of emancipation.

To accomplish such a level of emancipatory praxis linked to the “ethics of resistance”, it remains imperative to trust in those who seek emancipation and in their ability to employ critical reasoning as advocated by theorists from Kant to Hegel and Marx, from Habermas to Dussel, and from Arundati Roy to Slavoj Zizek.30 Those who lack this level of trust in-themselves, in emancipatory movements, and in the raison d’etre of the “ethics of resistance” will be doomed to fail their engagement in communicative action, critical self-reflection, and the application of domination-free speech in management education. Instead, they will remain asphyxiated in the use of slogans, corporate communiques, and managerial directives that pretend discourse while monologue reigns, thus delivering top-down instructions that disable rather than enable. Many uncritical and self-reflection avoiding forms of communication—par- ticularly pretending to be “reform-oriented”—carry this danger within them. Meanwhile any emancipatory action must always be educational action. And this should be understood in the authentic sense of such words as “emancipatory” and “education”. As such,

communicative action remains imperative for emancipation

just as

emancipation remains imperative for communicative action.

Emancipatory forces should refrain from taking advantage of the emotional dependence of those who are still under the influence of domineering ideologies while seeking to emancipate them—and themselves—from domination and those ideologies that sustain domination. Seeking independence from domination is often the fruit of an awareness of this domination which sought to asphyxiate people by distorting their perception of reality and by creating fictitious worldviews. Emancipatory education can never exploit dependence to create even greater dependence. Asphyxiating people in dependencies remains one of the more hideous manoeuvres used by those cementing domination.

Set against this, emancipation recognises dependence as a weak point while—through an educational process of critical self-reflection—seeking to convert dependence into independence. But not even the very best form of education can “grant” independence as a gift handed down by the powerful to the weak. Independence and autonomy can only be achieved through critical emancipatory education as an act. As such, emancipatory education remains an ascending process of critical reflection. But emancipatory forces should also recognise that this can never be an individual process. Nobody will ever emancipate themselves in a lone effort, nor will it happen through others. Emancipation remains a collective, distinctively non-individual, and, above all, educational process. The “dependency^independence” progression also remains patently human and can never be achieved through external forces. Any attempt to treat people as “those-to-be-made-independent” will only dehumanise them further and cement domination but it will not lead to independence. Many people remain dehumanised because of decades of being forced to internalise domination, starting from authoritarian parents and moving to the domination in kindergarten, schooling, and managerial regimes. It may be because of this trajectory that any process directed towards emancipation can never rely on dehumanising, propagandistic, and leadership training methods exploited to enforce domination.

Perhaps the only truthful practices to be employed in the task of emancipation are those not employed by propaganda.31 Equally, emancipatory education is never to be found in leadership that seeks to “instil” the idea of an externally invented role of a leader or some form of non-human freedom (e.g. market freedom). The only authentic approach to emancipatory education is a complete rejection of domination in all variances of hierarchy, top-down methods, leadership, instructions, propaganda, and so on. Emancipatory education relies on critical-reflective dialogue among those engaged in the process of self-emancipation. As a result and along the way towards emancipation, domination will put up confrontations in order to preserve its position of power over people. Quite inevitably, many will recognise that they have to struggle for their own emancipation. Emancipation will never be an offering donated by some sort of leadership—to the contrary, managerial, just like any other form of leadership will cement domination. An anti-leadership move—whether in management or elsewhere—will be the result of an educational process that develops one’s own critical faculties.

Leaders in whatever shape, form, and disguise have long recognised that their own passion for winning fights to establish and sustain domination was not given to them by anyone else but their power. These leaders may pretend to work towards humanism but their working has never been, and can never be, authentic and sincere. The very idea of “leader” always comes with its own negation, namely in the “follower”, and this, in turn, always means domination. As a consequence, emancipatory awareness can never be packaged up, sold, and implemented from above. But it can be reached by means of critical emancipatory self-reflection created by those who mutually and equally recognise each other—horizontally, not vertically as leader-followers do. Only non-leadership in support of people’s own critical involvement in reality with an historical awareness can lead to an ability to recognise and to criticise domination with an aspiration to convert it into humanisation.

Simultaneously, those seeking emancipation may not engage themselves in emancipation except when they are convinced that there is a need to end domination of human over human. Unless domination exists, they might not make a commitment to the emancipatory project. They must always reach this passion as subjects, not as objects of power asphyxiated inside regimes of domination. Perhaps “what we owe to each other”32 as human beings is to critically interfere in those situations that foster domination. These situations still surround many of us and they are camouflaged by a gigantic propaganda machine set up to maintain domination.33 While an emancipatory confidence about the requirement for such an anti-domination struggle remains indispensable, it becomes successively a necessity for those entering communities that seek emancipation. All this remains imperative unless one intends to carry out such a transformation “for” others rather than “with them”. But it is only the latter form that carries validity.

The main purpose of illuminating these reflections on domination and emancipation is entirely to preserve the pedagogical character of the emancipatory project.34 Many engaged in emancipatory transformations have confirmed that those seeking emancipation must engage in the fight against domination for their own emancipation. As a necessary condition—and this might be rather obvious—many have recognised the critical-pedagogical and emancipatory educational aspects of such a “dominations tosemancipation” transition. But perhaps unconsciously or based on insufficient reflection, many of those engaged in such a transition have also shown signs of still employing simplistic “training” methods previously used by those who further domination. These domination-cementing training methods always deny critical pedagogical action during emancipatory educational processes. And they continue to use propaganda.35

Therefore, it remains imperative for those seeking emancipation to recognise ideologies and propaganda. It remains equally imperative to recognise the fact that when they engage into a struggle against domination, propaganda and ideology and when they dedicate themselves to humanisation, they also accept that from this step onwards they resume a responsibility for the emancipatory struggle and understand that they are fighting not merely for human freedom and against the continuation of domination but for freedom to create and construct what lies beyond present-day institutions and domination. But human freedom always requires that individuals are active, responsible, self-determining (Kant), and self-actualising (Hegel). They are

  • • no longer in “voluntary servitude”,36
  • • no longer mere slaves in managerial and consumerist regimes, and
  • • no longer well-entertained cogs of the global “Megamachine”.

It is never enough that people are freed from serfdom, slavery, and other forms of domination. If socio-economic and managerial-consumerist conditions still further the existence of numb cybernetic machines and “automatons”37 trotting along a pre-booked pathway from schooling to working to consuming and finally to dying, the result will not be humanity but destruction, inhumanity, sadness, depression, and death. But even those on emancipatory pathways who were once indoctrinated and formed by the “cult of domination”38 must find ways to reaffirm humanisation set against forces of domination. These pathways can never be found simply in having more, accumulating more, owning more, or using more.

Very unfortunately, there have been numerous cases where even those who sought emancipation have been destroyed by the forces of domination exactly because they have been reduced to things. In order to regain humanity that had been lost by being turned into an object of power, formed by domination, and the existence as a thing, the idea of being a thing or a human resource must end. This remains a central critical emancipatory requirement. Nobody can ever enter into a struggle against domination and for humanisation by being a “thing”. Perhaps emancipatory struggles begin with recognising what has been destroyed inside human beings, inside society, and inside the human environment. Corporate propaganda, “mass deception” (Adorno/Horkheimer), new(ish) ideologies such as Managerialism and neo-liberalism, manipulation through schooling and universities, in short, “all” forms of factual and ideological domination can never be instruments and agencies of humanisation. As such, humanisation might be achieved through emancipatory education in which people can establish a permanent relationship of critical dialogue among all those seeking to end domination. Only inside such emancipatory humanising education, teaching methods cease to be instruments by which trainers can manipulate students.39 Perhaps this is because these emancipatory methods no longer further domination but express the critical consciousness of students themselves.

The use and application of emancipatory educational methods become manifestations of forms of consciousness that take on the fundamentals of critical intentionality. The essence of this is a being with the world— not an owning of or being above the world. This informs attitudes and behaviours that become permanent, unavoidable, and, in its finality, also irreversible. Consequently, a critical emancipatory consciousness becomes the essence of a way forward, never stationary, and trapped in the asphyxiating “right versus left” dichotomy. It is neither status quo maintaining nor is it reactionary to go back to the hallucinogenic “good old days” because much of them were not good days at all. Above all, looking back critically and reflectively is hardly ever a process that favours domination or being above others. Instead, it can make one realise that nobody can be outside of oneself and outside of human society. We are all surrounded by a still non-capitalist lifeworld and by capitalism. But we can apprehend both worlds—the lifeword and capitalism—by means of critical self-reflection. Critical and self-reflective consciousness becomes—almost by definition—“the” emancipatory method for forward moving educational processes.

Those seeking emancipation will have to practise forms of “cointentional” education in which teachers and student’s co-intend, co-debate, co-develop, and co-work towards an existence without domination. In these educational processes, both teachers and students have to become subjects. This is fundamental because one of the prime emancipatory tasks remains the unveiling of the managerial realities of domination that turn human beings into objects of managerial power. By becoming subjects of the process, they will start to comprehend the managerial world in a critical way. This enables them to reflect on the tension between domination and emancipation, the dialectics between Herrschaft (master) and Knechtschaft (slavery, serfdom, and servitude), the contradiction between workers and management, and the oppositional character of a human lifeworld and a market-driven profit-oriented economy. It remains the fundamental task of emancipatory education to re-create this sort of knowledge. People will arrive at this level of emancipatory knowledge on the reality of domination through critical reflections on present structures of domination. They discover—and rediscover—themselves as permanent re-creators of a domination-free lifeworld. In all this, the authenticity of those seeking emancipation in struggles against domination and for “their” emancipation will be manifested through committed involvement. How these initial ideas can be translated into reality in the settings of managerial training is the task of the next chapter.

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