For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Family matters: An Arendtian critique of organizational structures"

by Gardiner, Rita A; Fulfer, Katy (2017)


In this paper, we use Hannah Arendt’s conception of praxis and her critique of family to diagnose how praxis and diversity initiatives may suffer when family is used as an organizing principle. As an organizing principle, notions of family function to promote hierarchical sameness within organizations, thereby suppressing diversity. In response to hierarchical sameness, Arendtian praxis can destabilize homogenizing tendencies, and effect social change by challenging ‘business as usual’. Further, because praxis is situated within a diverse, plural community of actors, it is able to appreciate diversity within organizations. Hence, we suggest that organizations can ‘do’ diversity better with a structure that enables praxis to emerge. In addition, we point to ways in which family as an organizational principle privileges a narrow conception of family that obscures gender, racial, sexual and class-based inequities. This project contributes to the feminist scholarship on diversity and organizational inequities.

Key Passage

Arendtian praxis encourages structures that enable diverse community members to share theirunique perspectives. It enables dominant power structures to be challenged. The potential of praxisto disrupt the status quo, however, depends on a deep and rich commitment to a plurality of individuals who, though equal, are not recognized as being the same. These structural changes enablechanges in organizational culture as well. For example, family-friendly policies for workers will beineffective in the workplace if hierarchical sameness is still embedded in the organizational structure.Rather, it is by troubling our foundational ideas about family that we may be able to think beyondthem. Arendt provides us with a useful starting point with natality and the ability of praxis to beginsomething new. If we are to rectify gendered and sexual inequalities within organizations, we alsoneed to challenge the representations of women within these organizations. (p.516)


Family, Arendt, Praxis, Diversity, Family, Community


On Arendt

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