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

A team can have a common purpose and a moral code. Yet the team must realize that it can neither be fully unified nor control the future. A team is a group of people brought together in a historical context and their relationship will shape them in ways that cannot be predicted. Thus, a manager should not put a team together solely to fulfill a specific task. According to Nancy, a manager should put a team together and then wonder about what the future will hold. This may seem frustrating in the business world where profit is important but, given that no team can ever be fully controlled, there is no better way to live. (p.7)


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


On Nancy

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