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Education as Communicative Action

Many attempts to analyse dialogues as a human phenomenon have discovered what can be seen as the essence of dialogue itself: words and their meanings. The philosophy of language as well as evolutionary psychology1 tell us that words have always been more than just instruments that make dialogue possible. Accordingly, the constitutive elements of language must be clearly understood.2 With language, one finds two distinctive dimensions: reflection and action. In critical emancipatory interactions neither one can ever be sacrificed—not even partly. In critical emancipatory management education, there simply can never be a true word that is not simultaneously reflection and praxis. As a consequence, to speak true words is to transform the managerial world and engage in Habermas’ communicative action .3

Meanwhile inauthentic words are unable to transform reality. The asphyxiation of reality often comes with a faked “facts versus discussion” and “reflection versus action” dichotomy that is “positivistically” imposed upon its constituent elements.4 But when words and indeed language is deprived of its dimension of action, reflection inevitably and automatically suffers. With that, language becomes asphyxiated in redundant gossip reduced to mere verbalism that is alienating. It becomes empty while

© The Author(s) 2017 T. Klikauer, Management Education, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-40778-4_5

its emptiness is framed as “sound research” packaged in positivism’s crypto-empirical language.5 Critical emancipatory management education denounces such language because much of today’s managerial- ideological and highly positivist language renders emancipatory reflection impossible as this language no longer has a commitment to transformation:

There is no transformation without action and there is no action without critical reflection.

On the other hand, if action is over-emphasised as a form of activism to the loss of critical reflection, language becomes converted into mere activism. Activism remains action for action’s sake. It negates true emancipatory praxis and renders critical dialogue unattainable. Both dichotomies—action without reflection and reflection without action— have the ability to create inauthentic forms of awareness. They create inauthentic thought processes which reinforce the above-mentioned “double” dichotomy. Human life has never been silent: we simply

“cannot not communicate”.

Equally, human life can never be nourished by inauthentic, ideological, and false words. Life is nourished by truthful language that also transforms people and the world—managerial or otherwise. To live life humanely is to name the world in true words and change it. Once correctly named, even managerial words start to reappear correctly to those who name them as pathological problems which always require to “rename” such pathologies in a new language.6 For example, top-down profit-driven management can become “collective administration” in community-focused cooperatives. This is a humanising process because people have never been able to build a new world in silence and as isolated and atomised individuals. Instead, they have built the world in words, language, social action, collective and cooperative work, and the dialectics of action and reflection.

When speaking an authentic language and true words, this in itself already constitutes a process involving hard work. But in many cases, reflecting on managerial regimes can be just as demanding as transforming them. Perhaps realising and saying that “this is not the privilege of some but the right of everyone” demands a conscious thought process. As a consequence, one can never say a true word alone without connecting it to reality. And we can hardly ever use language as a prescriptive set of words or rob others of their words and asphyxiate them in the present. Instead, true dialogue always means an encounter between authentic human beings. It critically reflects and mediates. As a consequence, emancipatory dialogue can never happen between those who truthfully want to name the managerial world and those who do not as well as those seeking to ideologically rename the managerial world. Similarly, critical emancipatory dialogue can also never occur between those who deny others the right to speak using their own words and language and those whose right to speak has been denied by those in power. Power and domination and the proper use of language are mutually exclusive. Those who have been denied the human right to speak their words in their language and to name the managerial world properly must first reclaim

  • 1. their right to speak,
  • 2. their right to speak their language, and
  • 3. their right to name the managerial world correctly.

Above that they must also prevent the continuation of the dehumanising aggressions enshrined in managerial-communicative domination. It is only by speaking their own language that people can reflect on the managerial world and transform it. This is the way in which people achieve significance as human beings. In fact, it is what made human beings in evolutionary terms. Human dialogue was and remains an existential necessity of human life. Despite many newly invented communication devices, dialogue remains in many cases still a thoroughly “human^to^human” encounter. Inside such dialogue reflections and collective actions can occur. These dialogues address the managerial world that is to be humanised but they can never be reduced to the communicative act of one person. And dialogue can never become a simple or simplistic exchange of ideas to be “digested”. Equally, critical emancipatory dialogues are not hostile and polemical exchanges between two contenders when neither shows a commitment to name the managerial world properly and search for the truth. Instead, these are forms of communication that seek to impose their own half-truths and ideologies onto others, maintain domination, and prevent emancipation.

Because emancipatory dialogue is an open encounter among people dedicated to name the managerial world, such dialogue should never create situations where some people can claim to name the managerial world on behalf of others. Instead, critical emancipatory dialogues are collective acts of creation that can never serve domination or be dominated by crafty instruments such the rhetoric of Cicero—who was after all “the chief among Roman rhetoricians” (106—143 BC). It can never be the most canny that wins. Being cunning in argumentation and powerful in rhetoric occurs in dialogues designed for one person’s domination over others. The domination enshrined in this form of pathological dialogue is that those entering discussions as a conquest annihilate emancipation.

Critical emancipatory dialogue, in contrast, can never exist in the absence of a profound dedication to human beings. The naming of the managerial world that remains a conscious act of creating and re-creating is not possible if it is not infused by mutual and equal recognition among human beings.7 Mutual and equal recognition remains “the” ultimate foundation of any critical emancipatory dialogue between responsible subjects. Simultaneously, it can never exist in relations of domination. Social, political, economic, as well as educational domination often reveals its own pathologies in, for example, violence and even sadism displayed by a dominator set against the dominated. But because mutual and equal recognition among people remains an act of courage, it manifests a deep commitment to other human beings.

No matter where those seeking human emancipation are found, acting aligned to mutual and equal recognition shows a commitment to the cause of emancipation. And because it represents a true and authentic recognition of others, this commitment is dialogical in that it engages others at a mutual and equal level. Mutual and equal recognition can never be overtly emotional but remains an act of human freedom. It can never serve as a pretext for manipulation and domination. Instead, it must generate communicative action directed towards human freedom. Otherwise communicative action can no longer be based on mutual and equal recognition. Only by abolishing situations of domination is it possible to rediscover and restore mutual and equal recognition that has been suffocated by hierarchically ordered societies and workplaces defined by authoritarianism—structures determined to make mutual and equal recognition impossible. As long as we do not display mutual and equal recognition, we can never enter into critical dialogue directed towards emancipatory education.

Critical dialogue can never exist without humility and humbleness because the correct naming of the managerial world established through mutual and equal recognition and aligned to communicative action comes through a process that enables people to constantly recreate their understanding of the managerial world. It can never be achieved through acts of arrogance and superiority. Critical emancipatory dialogue means to encounter people addressing the task of learning. This cannot be achieved when people lack humility or through arrogance and ignorance. People can never enter into emancipatory dialogues when they consider themselves members of an exclusive “in-group” consisting of the “selected few” and presenting themselves as “owners of truth” and “keepers of knowledge”. These privileged groups tend to define non-members as “these people”, stupids, outcasts, or delinquents.

Education starts from the principle that understanding the managerial world can never be the task of privileged elites—for example, the business school professor. For them the presence of ordinary people in history is already a sign of deterioration.8 Likewise, when people are offended by contributions from others, emancipatory dialogue cannot be established. As long as people are tormented, weakened, subjugated, and dominated, there can be no emancipatory dialogue. Yet, people who have been made to never acknowledge and recognise themselves as free human beings, lacking humility and losing their individual will, can reach the point where they encounter others on the basis of mutual and equal recognition. At this point, they are no longer defined by sheer ignorance, nor are they “accomplished scientists”. The fact that they enter into emancipatory dialogue enables them to learn more than they currently know.

Critical emancipatory dialogue also requires confidence in human beings and this is found in the emancipatory powers of human beings to design and redesign, to create and re-create a commitment in the human vocation of seeking to be more fully human. This can no longer be the exclusive privilege of self-appointed business school elites. Instead, it needs to be recognised as an inherent birthright of all human beings. But dedication to humanity remains also a requirement for critical emancipatory dialogue as dialogical people believe in other people even before they meet them “face-to-face”. Such a dedication to humanity has never been a naive faith. People dedicated to mutual and equal recognition and communicative action remain critical, knowing that it is within the power of people to transform domination into emancipation. They also recognise that in some situations alienated people may remain impaired in the use of communicative powers for quite some time. But the possibility to end domination also represents challenges to which emancipatory management education must respond.

Emancipatory management education remains convinced that critical powers directed towards communicative action and transformation— even if disillusioned from certain situations—tend to be able to sustain their dedication to humanisation. Even if forced to retract, eventually a rebirth of emancipatory powers will occur—not automatically and without cause but in and through a struggle for human emancipation. When humanity is superseded by capitalist forces, that is, in bonded and slave labour, labour will unavoidably display an “undestroyable” zest to life.9 Without convictions in human emancipation and humanisation, dialogue will remain a charade that inevitably degenerates into paternalistic manipulation and eventually domination.

Founding itself upon mutual and equal recognition, humanisation, and emancipatory conviction, critical dialogue becomes a non-vertical horizontal relationship of mutual trust between participants of communicative action. It would be extremely counterproductive if critical dialogue based on mutual and equal recognition failed to produce a climate of mutual trust. Such a climate leads people involved in emancipatory management education into an even closer “human-to-human” partnership. In sharp difference, mutuality and trust remain absent in virtually all forms of non-dialogical relationships where the “knowledge-depositing” method of training regimes prevails. Meanwhile confidence in the emancipatory power of human beings remains a key requirement for all critical dialogue as it establishes trust.

When critical dialogue fails to establish trust, it might indicate that preconditions such as confidence in emancipation were lacking. More dangerously, pretended and false forms of recognition, false humility, and an unconvincing dedication to emancipation have never been able to create trust. Trust remains subject to mutual and equal recognition of others linked to truthful, concrete, and real intentions. Mutual and equal recognition can never exist when someone’s words do not coincide with action, thereby establishing hypocrisy. To say one thing and do another has never enthused mutual trust. For example, to publicly exalt democracy’s free speech while simultaneously silencing people renders free speech a farce. To maintain domination over people and negate humanity means to perpetuate hypocrisy.

Perhaps most importantly, critical emancipatory dialogue cannot exist without hope. Hope remains rooted in the incompleteness of human beings from which people can move to a constant search for humanisation. But this search can only be conducted as a collective and in liaison with others. The all-too-common managerially infused forms of hopelessness remain forms of organisational silence and of denial and a pathological attempt to escape from reality.10 Dehumanisation results from an unjust order. But the fact that domination exists can never be a cause for despair; it is a cause for hope. It can lead to the relentless pursuit of humanisation which has been so often denied by those who cement domination. The realisation of hope, however, has never meant to “fold one’s arms, lean back, and await the inevitable”. Instead, it rejects automatism and defeatism. As long as people have been fighting for humanisation, they have been moved by hope. When people seek to establish humanisation, critical dialogue cannot be carried forward in a climate of hopelessness. When communicative participants of emancipatory management education have been infused with the belief that nothing is to come out of their efforts, their hard work will be worthless. The results will be inconsequential, bureaucratic, and mind-numbing reformism.

Ultimately, critical dialogue can never be real except when it involves critical thinking that establishes mutual and equal recognition as an indispensable form of human solidarity. Critical thinking can never submit to a synthetic and often pathological dichotomy engineered to split human solidarity. Instead, it perceives reality as a process towards humanisation. It is not a static entity. Equally, critical thinking does not separate itself from mutual and equal recognition and communicative action. Instead, it constantly immerses itself in temporality without fear of getting involved. It can be contrasted with naive, traditional, positivist, and empiricist thinking.11 Such traditional forms of thinking view even history as a weight and therefore often present management knowledge without history. Being “social sorting machines”, they seek to stratify knowledge with some knowledge for some and other knowledge for others.12 It is the acquisition of experience from which the present emerges normalised, pacified, orderly, and well behaved. For traditional management training, the most important element remains an accommodation to the ideologically normalised status quo, presented simply as the “given” or the “facts of life”. For critical education, meanwhile, the importance lies in the continuation of moves towards humanisation through mutual and equal recognition and communicative action that seeks to transform reality for the sake of humanising “the human condition”.

For the naive thinker, the goal is to hold fast to the status quo that falsely appears to guarantee an assigned space and professional location. It denies the past, the present, and the future—it denies history altogether—and in its finality it denies being human. As a consequence, the “end of history” theme becomes a vital ideology. Only critical dialogue linked to mutual and equal recognition and communicative action will be able to generate critical thinking directed towards emancipation. Without mutual and equal recognition and critical dialogue there is no communication, and without communication there can be no true education directed towards humanity.

Aligned to that, emancipatory management education becomes able to resolve the “teacher versus student” contradiction as it takes place in a situation of mutual and equal recognition. Therefore, it remains indispensable to embrace the critical-dialogical character of education as the real-life practice of human freedom that can never start when domineering “teacher^to^student” relationships define an anti-pedagogical situation of pure domination. Instead, emancipatory management education might start with a critical emancipatory educator asking what a dialogue based on mutual and equal recognition can be all about. However, a faked or pretended preoccupation with the knowledge content of dialogue is all too often a preoccupation with the “to- be-tested” key learning objectives of management training programmes.

For the anti-dialogical and anti-emancipatory “knowledge-depositing” trainer, the issue of content simply concerns the training programme designed to instruct students. Such instructors tend to answer their own questions by organising their own programmes of indoctrination deceptively labelled “training modules” that rely on “key learning outcomes”. But for an emancipatory teacher/student-educator, the programme content of emancipatory management education is neither a given nor an imposition. True education is never about disconnected, compartmentalised, and modulised bits of information to be deposited in students. Emancipatory management education is about an organised, systematised, and developed representation, worked out between individuals about things that they want to know.13 It is never carried out under conditions of domination where “A^ trains^ B”; instead, knowledge is transferred back and forth between A and B under mutual and equal recognition (A^B).

Many of these views on emancipatory management education might create anxieties, doubts, hopes, and even hopelessness. But they still imply significant themes on the basis of which the programme content of emancipatory management education can be constructed. In its desire to create a “ready-to-be-consumed” blueprint, naively conceived humanism and reformism remain disconnected from the political economy of human life. They often overlook the concrete, existential, and present situation of real living under capitalism.14 Authentic humanism permits an awareness of global humanity as human beings living within the limits of our natural environment. This sets conditions and obligations for the current situation as well as for future projects. Emancipatory management education can never deny authentic humanisation. But it denies downgrading students to “knowledge-depositing” entities, memorising, for example, management concepts from an e-learning website to be tested afterwards. Infusing managerial-functional knowledge and imposing it during managerial training modules directed towards “key learning outcomes” produces “good” students. Yet, it also cements domination. By contrast, emancipatory management education contains a programme the content of which students and trainers have shaped and organised together. Too many educational plans have failed, for example, because

  • • their authors designed them according to their own personal views,
  • • they used some sort of hegemonic ideology (e.g. neo-liberalism, globalisation), or
  • • the infamous “flavour of the month” (e.g. corporate social responsibility)

while not once taking into account the historical, political, environmental, economic, cultural, and, above all, sociological “domination versus emancipation” realities of the present “man-made” situation. These training programmes—whether fully or partially failed—were presumably directed towards reform and betterment while they simultaneously enhanced domination. For a truly emancipatory educator committed to the authentic project of humanisation, the principles of communicative action remain the foundation of working together with other people. Those cementing domination are the ones who act upon people to indoctrinate them and adjust them to an often pathological reality that must remain untouched.

Unfortunately, in an actionistic desire to call up the support of people for swift actionism, some educators are all too often falling backwards onto the “knowledge-depositing” form of training aligned to the preplanning of training programmes that are organised from the top downwards. In management training, they approach students with prefabricated projects that correspond to Managerialism. These hardly ever include the views of the people “for” (!) whom these training programmes have been designed. They have forgotten that the fundamental objective of emancipation is to fight alongside others for the rediscovery and revitalisation of people’s stolen humanity. Emancipatory management education has never been about “winning the people over” to whatever side. Those terms do not belong to the emancipatory vocabulary of critical education. Instead, this is the language of those cementing domination.

Meanwhile for their ideological activities, the dominant educational elite utilises the “knowledge-depositing” concept of management training to encourage passivity, even—or perhaps especially—in those who show tendencies towards emancipation. This strongly corresponds with the pacified and submerged state of human consciousness taking advantage of passivity to “fill and refill and refill” their consciousness with ideological-managerial slogans framed as education. Apart from rendering people functional additives to managerial capitalism who accept the economic-ideological imperatives of capitalism and neo-liberalism, this is designed to create a fear of human freedom. This practice is irreconcilable with emancipatory communicative action but by highlighting domination and its system-stabilising ideologies as expressions of the pathologies of capitalism, it can help those who seek emancipation to repulse these ideologies from within themselves. After all, the task of emancipatory management education has never been pitting the slogans of domination against the slogans presented by of those who pretend to work in favour of emancipation. Emancipation is not a testing game. Emancipatory management education seeks to illuminate the ideological content of managerial ideologies and pathological forms of knowledge by analysing their capacity to achieve the three defining elements of any ideology:

  • 1. cementing domination (e.g. managerial regimes and management training),
  • 2. camouflaging capitalism’s contradictions (e.g. wealth flanked by poverty), and
  • 3. preventing emancipation (denying humanisation, etc.).

Beyond that, the task of emancipatory management education is to appreciate that those seeking emancipation become aware of the fact that by perpetuating managerial ideologies domination is cemented within themselves and that this prevents them from becoming truly human. This implies that emancipatory management education can never simply be taken to students in order to bring them a message of “salvation”. It is crucial for students to realise that the educational value of emancipation comes through dialogue. In emancipatory management education, communicative action seeks an awareness of current managerial situations in all their variations and an acute awareness of oneself and of the world in which everyone lives. One can hardly expect positive educational results from management training programmes that fail to appreciate the various views of the world held by students. Without that any training programme constitutes cultural invasion—good or bad intentions notwithstanding.15

Perhaps one of the starting points for organising the content of such an emancipatory educational programme rests on the “past-present-future” link dedicated to the Kantian dialectics of “what is” and “what ought to be” and concrete situations as found in working life and society. Such a programme should also reflect the aspirations of students and utilise the three inevitable basic contradictions of capitalism:

  • 1. Wages: there still is an inevitable and unsolvable contradiction between corporate drives to lower wages—cost-cutting and cost- leadership under the ideology of Managerialism—and the consumer- capitalist demand for high wages to sustain consumer capitalism through disposable income on the other hand, for example, spending money so that people buy things they don’t need with money they don’t have to impress people they don’t even like;
  • 2. WorkingTime: there still is an inescapable and unsolvable contradiction between the corporate drive to increase working hours, extending exploitation and workers’ demands for off-time (rest periods, breaks, no night work, holidays, annual leave, etc.); and finally
  • 3. Working Conditions: there still is an unpreventable and insoluble contradiction between corporate drives to provide only minimum l evels of the most basic working conditions based on the prevailing managerial ideology of relentless cost-cutting set against workers’ aspirations for decent working conditions including the much acclaimed but still rather illusive “work-life balance”.16

Emancipatory management education needs to pose these fundamental contradictions as existential, concrete, and inextricably linked to the past, present, and future of managerial regimes. It should be posed to students as fundamental problems challenging them together with managerial capitalism. All this might require several responses: not only at a critical level and an intellectual and educational level but also at the level of social-moral action. Emancipatory management education should never reduce this merely to a problem of an illusive scholarly discourse or as a post-modern playground for “knowledge-power” games.17 Instead, these contradictions must lead to provide people with educational programmes that have much to do with their own preoccupations, doubts, hopes, and fears. But such emancipatory education programmes should also provide tools of critical analysis to engage “with” students.

It has never been the task of emancipatory education to speak “to” students about the managerial world or impose a specific worldview onto them. Instead, emancipatory management education is found in a critical dialogue with students about their views, utilising the above-mentioned contradictions to ensure that worldviews remain manifested in actions as reflections on working situations and society. Emancipatory communicative action that remains unaware of these contradictions and presents managerial situations “as given” runs into the danger of regressing into the “knowledge-depositing” form of management training. At times, even emancipatory educators have failed to understand this, for example, when using overtly intellectual language that is not attuned to the concrete situation of those students they sought to reach. As a consequence, their quasi-intellectual “speeches” and rhetoric alienated students. As much as the language used by emancipatory education must be able to reach students, it can never exist without critical thought. Equally, critical emancipatory language and thought as well as communicative action can never exist without a structure to which they refer. In order to communicate effectively, emancipatory educators must understand the structural conditions in which thoughts and the language use of students are dialectically framed. This remains the concrete reality of managerial regimes that mediates students, including their perception of that reality and the views held by educators. It is from this base that emancipatory management education reaches out to find its programme content.

Any critical emancipatory investigation into the realities of managerial regimes includes the complexities of generic themes (e.g. the three aforementioned contradictions). This launches the communicative action of emancipatory education as a practice of ascending human freedom. The technique of such an emancipatory investigation must likewise be based on communicative action because it provides opportunities to discover generic themes of managerial regimes while also inspiring critical awareness. Consistent with such an emancipatory communicative process, the objects of investigation can never be atomistic fragments of knowledge neatly catalogued and shelved under the ideology of Managerialism. Instead, the language used by students to refer to managerial regimes, the intellectual levels at which they perceive managerial regimes, and their worldviews of these regimes are sourced from, for example, the aforementioned contradictory themes.

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