For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"The limits of workplace community: Jean-Luc Nancy and the possibility of teambuilding"

by Bertland, Alexander (2011)


Jean-Luc Nancy is a contemporary continental philosopher who argues that the hope of fully unifying a community through work is problematic. This is because people cannot be reduced to their function as workers. Thus, community is, at best, inoperative. This article takes Nancy’s ideas of community and applies them to the notion of teamwork in business. It shows how in some literature on business teamwork, there is a desire to build a team through shared work experiences. It then explains Nancy’s view as to why this cannot work, and it enters into Nancy’s positive account of how a community should be seen as a web of people communicating and sharing with each other in a variety of ways. The practical conclusion the study draws is that team members need to be careful about allowing goal orientation to obfuscate the richness of the relationships that occur among team members. People need to explore all of the ways in which people share with each other rather than just those ways that advance a narrow set of goals. If the richness of those relationships is recognized, many new directions for business and for general human development may appear.

Key Passage

To bring Nancy’s continental philosophy to the problem of teambuilding may do violence to Nancy’s ideas. Afterall, Nancy is speaking at an ontological level that undercuts practical concerns of business and profit. Nevertheless, Nancy’s philosophy will suggest significant ways to rethink the idea of a team. He suggests teams, like communities, will always be inoperative. Members of a team will be able to share of themselves, but the team shall never be fully unified. At they same time, however, the team members must always understand themselves as being already within the context of the team and team members should reflect onthe myriad ways in which communication occurs. (p.2)


Community, Nancy, Continental Philosophy, Teambuilding, Teams, Workplace Relationships, Relationships


On Nancy

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