Desktop version

Home arrow Management arrow Management Education: Fragments of an Emancipatory Theory

Generic Knowledge in the Past, Present, and Future

Before outlining a generic emancipatory education reflective of the basic contradictions of managerial regimes and capitalism more precisely, a few introductory considerations need to be mentioned. The concept of generic emancipatory education is not an arbitrary working hypothesis. If it were merely a working hypothesis, initial investigations would not seek to ascertain the basic characteristics of generic emancipatory education but rather whether generic emancipatory education exists or not. In that case, one would not start with the richness of generic emancipatory education, its emancipatory significance, its plurality, its transformative potentials, or its historical composition.

While a general outlook of critical thinking remains legitimate in itself, it is also vaguely linked to the positivist idea of “verification” of the reality of generic emancipatory education. This remains not just with regard to existential experiences but also through critical consideration of the “worker versus managerial regime” relationship and the relationships between people complicit in managerial regimes and adjacent structures and ideologies of domination. Perhaps such theoretical-philosophical considerations deserve closer attention. They might start with the recognition that inside managerial regimes human beings remain alienated and incomplete. Simultaneously, people also remain the only ones capable of analysing managerial action, managerial regimes, and the ideology of Managerialism as objects of critical reflections. It is the ability to consciously reflect on one’s own circumstances that distinguishes human beings from animals. Unlike human beings, animals are unable to separate themselves from their activities and thus are unable to reflect upon it. While such a distinction might be rather basic if not simplistic, it is still capable to show some of the fundamental human-animal boundaries that limit the action of one but not the other. It is because of the fact that animal activities remain an extension of them that the results of their activities also remain inseparable from them. Unlike their human counterparts, animals cannot set objectives and transform nature according to an openly discussed plan and communicatively established agreements capable of structural and strategic engagement. Moreover, the performance of activities does not belong to them but to the species of which they are part of.

Unable to communicatively and rationally reach decisions and reflect on a rational decision-making process, animals remain unable to separate themselves and their activity. Lacking the ability to create objectives, existence means being “submerged” inside their immediate world that surrounds them and that they cannot reflect upon. Simultaneously, animals lack any conceptual understanding of ideas like last week, tomorrow, and today. Once existence is confined to today, animals exist without historical awareness and concepts such as history. Such an ahistorical existence can never reflect upon the history of a changing world (e.g. sla very^feudalism^capitalism^???). For animals, the world does not constitute a “not-I” as opposed to a conscious reflection on the “I”.18

By contrast, the world of human beings is radically different. For one, it is a historical world that includes an understanding of history and being in itself, for itself, and for others. By distinction, animals are not challenged by intellectual configurations—they simply do not confront them. Their life is not one of conscious assessments of the values of, for example, risk-taking against potential benefits—there is no structured “cost-benefit” analysis, as management would say. They are hardly aware of the potential consequences of taking risks. Risks cannot be perceived as challenges illuminated and understood through conscious reflections. As a consequence, they have no structured engagement in rational decision-making processes.

As a further consequence, animals can hardly commit themselves to pre-established goals. Their ahistorical asphyxiation disallows them to understand, challenge, and potentially change life. Because they cannot reflect on life, they can never construct and reconstruct it. As a consequence, they are unable to alter the basic configurations of life. On the other hand, they cannot understand themselves to be the destroyer of life nor being destroyed by life or expand their immediate world into a meaningful arrangement that signifies the problems and potentials of life. The symbolic realm that includes culture and history remains inaccessible.

By contrast, people are aware of their activities, symbols, and cultures inside which they are situated and upon which they can reflect. Human actions can be seen as functions embedded in predesigned objectives which they have proposed and accepted through rational decisionmaking processes based, in some cases, on communicative action. The very origins of their decisions remain located in-themselves and in their relationships to others. As a consequence, human beings can alter their surroundings through their creative presence and power. They can have a transforming effect. In contrast to animals, human beings do not just exist—they live life consciously in a historical context with an awareness of the concept of history and historical contingencies such as, for example:

  • • nineteenth-century liberal capitalism,
  • • twentieth-century welfare capitalism, and
  • • twenty-first-century neo-liberal capitalism.

People exist in a world that they are constantly reflecting upon, which they can re-create and transform. For animals, “here” means a habitat while for human beings it means to enter into a conscious relationship with others and nature, signifying not merely a physical but a historical space. Animal existence lacks self-consciousness and is totally determined by nature. On top of that, animals can hardly prevail over the limits imposed by the confinement into here, now, and there.

People, on the other hand, are aware of themselves. They recognise themselves through self-awareness and self-recognition while also identifying the world around them. Human beings are able to develop conceptual, theoretical, cultural, and scientific understanding. They are conscious beings existing in a dialectical relationship between economic, social, and natural limitations and their own ability to experience freedom from these imperatives. They can factually and conceptually separate themselves from the world and make use of the world as they objectify it. But they can also separate themselves from their own activities when locating their own decision-making processes in-themselves. By redesigning their relationships with the world and with other people, individuals can, to some extent, even overcome situations that limit them in their actions. Once people correctly analyse these—all too often ideologically induced— “limits” to their emancipation, these so-called limits move out of a nebulous background and reveal their true character of, all too often, pure inventedness and simplistic ideology. Under such an analysis, ideologies that present historical contingencies as “the given” start to weaken. People respond to these ideological challenges with actions directed at overcoming these ideologies rather than passively accepting them.

As a consequence, many issues presented as “facts-of-life” may not be as thought limiting as they are presented. They represent ideologies set up to create hopelessness, despair, and defeatism. These are deliberate ideologies that have been created so that people perceive “what is” as “the given” rather than as historical moments. At different times, different ideologies have been invented to create insurmountable barriers to human freedom while cementing domination—from a “given” religious order overseen by God to today’s equally “given” market order overseen by neo-liberalism. This is shown as follows:

Table 5.1 shows an ever-changing economic foundation, its adjacent ideologies and what is ideologically engineered as “the given” to sustain the prevailing economic structure and domination of the time. Most importantly, it shows that “the given” is by no means “eternal” as it will change over time. Set against the ideology of “the given” is critical

Table 5.1 Historical forms of domination and their stabilising ideologies



Prevailing ideologies

Forms of domination


Bread and circus

Slave and slave owner as the eternally given


Serfdom and religion

Lord and peasant as the eternally given


Consumerism and entertainment

Worker/employee and manager/capitalist as the eternally given

education and communicative action that seek the fulfilment of human potentials, hope and confidence, and develop individuals that prevail over the thought-limiting elements of ideologies that cement “the given”. Emancipation from ideologies can be achieved through communicative action upon a concrete historical reality inside which such thought- limiting ideologies have been invented by those seeking to stabilise domination. As such, the ideologically invented “given” is uncovered to be no such thing. Older situations will be superseded when new ones appear (Table 5.1: f) as an open-ended process. Despite the ideological pretence of each historical epoch, these are—at least for now—non-closing and non-ending developments (f). Thus, new situations may evoke new limitations and new options. But these come cemented by ideology. Emancipatory awareness challenges those by highlighting their ideological limits as being shaped by the ideological demands specific to each historical period.

The ideological legalisation of capitalist markets as “eternally given”, for example, contains plenty of thought-limiting situations: “TINA— there is no alternative” is one. Necessarily markets and management have been stabilised through ideologies such as “there have always been markets” and “there has always been management” that are ideologically framed as eternal and ahistorical. Similarly, the ideology of markets pretends that markets lack the ability to reach beyond their own limits. This ideology has acquired a hegemonic attitude: a separation of human beings from markets is no longer possible. This prevents transformation. Imagining life beyond markets is rendered impossible by those advocating market ideologies. Those challenging this ideology are framed as being engaged in blasphemy and seen as delusional, sad cases to be confined into a psychological ward.19

Ideologically rather than organically bound to capitalism, markets no longer need to distinguish between themselves and the world, so the Ideology of neo-liberalism tells everyone. Accordingly, markets are not limited by time and space and the appropriate role for individuals is simply to adapt to it. As a consequence, when individuals produce anything from products to culture, they no longer create something with use- and enjoyment value but merely products that predominantly have exchange value. Their productive activity is subordinated to the satisfaction of an illusive market based on stimulating “marketability” rather than on challenging markets.20 Under market ideologies only marketable products belong into the world while free human beings—now reduced to market participants—can no longer create products free of market confinements.

Virtually all non-marketable products that result from free human activities no longer belong into the world while marketable products receive the ideological seal of being worthwhile and sensible. These are the ideological dimensions that give a faked meaning to the context of capitalism and thus have become part of a world that is no longer “our” world but a world as an auxiliary to capitalist markets. Yet, human beings capable of non-market production can still establish an awareness of themselves as being “for” themselves. But under the ideology of neoliberalism, such human beings can no longer simply “be”. Being only comes through markets and markets are the sole instruments that allow human beings to relate to the world and be considered part of the world.

The difference between markets that disallow products that are detached from markets and people who—through their own action upon the world—create non-market-related realms of culture is that only the latter creates true human beings. Only people of non-market but human praxis remain reflective of truly transformative realities, a true source of human knowledge and creation. Market activities that occur without human praxis display very limited human—albeit market—creativity. Humanisation comes from transforming creative human beings embedded in their permanent relationships with reality. Unlike neo-liberal market ideologies as the ultimate instrument of everything—“One Market Under God”21—it is still the human being that produces not just material goods as tangible objects but also social, cultural, and human institutions, ideas, and concepts. Through their continuing praxis, individuals simultaneously create history and become historical, social, and economical beings.

In sharp contrast to markets that, according to the prevailing ideology, are eternal, human beings have developed a historical awareness of dimensions of time divided into past, present, and future. This includes periods of human life not defined by markets.22 These are historical periods in which the function of their creations developed as a constant process of transformation within each epoch. These epochal units have never been closed periods of time and static compartments within which people were confined.23 These non-market cases remain fundamental conditions of human history. With them, non-market-driven human life continues to interrelate with dynamic historical continuities, stretching from evolutionary times to some of today’s cooperatives.24

Historical epochs have always been characterised by complex sets of ideas, hopes, doubts, and values directed towards human emancipation. But they also existed in dialectical interaction with their opposites and forces of domination that were striving to prevent the fulfilment of human emancipation. It is the concrete ideological prevention of many of these emancipatory ideas, values, and hopes that hold back the full humanisation of people. Emancipation and domination are themes that imply one another while they remain oppositional. Simultaneously, their oppositional character indicates the emancipatory tasks to be carried out. Thus, historical themes can never exist isolated, independent, disconnected or static despite the “eternal market” ideology. As a consequence, themes such as “emancipation-versus-domination” always interact dialectically but they always do so with the telos of human emancipation and freedom. The static “free market” ideology sharply contrasts the ideology- destroying perspective of dialectical relationships among human beings and the world surrounding them. Perhaps the sum of all existing complexities and the interacting multitudes of themes of an entire historical epoch might constitute what can be termed “the human universe”.

Confronted by the “human universe” with all its dialectical contradictions, people will have to take up equally contradictory positions. Set against this scenario are those who work to maintain domination while those moving towards human freedom are challenging them. As potential antagonisms deepen between both, there develops a tendency among the former to invent ideologies that camouflage the contradictory reality of human existence, markets, and managerial regimes. Some of these ideologies are specifically designed to mystify while they simultaneously establish an overall atmosphere of irrationality even though these ideologies are rational constructs in-themselves. But their ideological mood is always set against emancipation and its deeper significance. The list of ideologies setting out to achieve this is long. Such myth-creating irrationalities tend to become hegemonic ideologies. But—and this is despite the best efforts of ideologues—they always come with opposing themes such as internal contradictions and critical emancipatory perspectives striving to unmask the reality beneath the ideologies. Laying bare the truth, unmasking ideologies can achieve a fuller realisation of the human-emancipatory task ahead.

Emancipatory themes can be located in concentric circles, moving from the general to the particular. The broadest epochal unit, which includes a diversified range of units—global, continental, regional, industrial, environmental, ideological, and so forth—contains themes of a universal character, the fundamental themes of our current epoch. This implies that these themes remain fundamental to the emancipatory project. This gives the current historical epoch its critical character.25 In order to achieve humanisation presupposing the complete abolition of dehumanising domination, it remains absolutely necessary to defeat thought-limiting situations and ideologies that reduce people to things. One way of achieving this is emancipatory education through communicative action and ideal speech, as the next chapter will show.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >

Related topics