For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Introducing the French Psychodynamics of Work Perspective to Critical Management Education: Why Do the Work Task and the Organization of Work Matter?"

by Dashtipour, Parisa; Vidaillet, Bénédicte (2020)


We call on critical management education to focus on the organization of work and the nature of work tasks. Although critical action learning and both reflexive and psychodynamic approaches to management education situate learning in actual work experiences, they do not explicitly encourage reflection on work tasks and the organization of work. Our aim is to draw on the French psychodynamics of work perspective to argue that reflection on concrete experiences and processes of work is important because work has significant implications for workers? health and for society. We also use two vignettes to discuss the implications of French psychodynamics of work for the practice of critical management education.

Key Passage

As with Frankfurt School theorists (e.g., Honneth, 2009), health from this perspective is seen as the capacity for the development of autonomous subjectivity and a sense of self-worth (Dejours, 2015b). In this context, therefore, health does not mean the absence of illness, but rather the constant struggle to maintain a stable conception of the self, which can be derived from being able to do proper and good quality work, and from recognizing oneself in the product of one’s work, as well as having one’s work recognized by peers (Dejours, 2015b). The extent to which workers are able to develop this kind of health depends on the organization of work and, crucially, on whether the worker is integrated into a work collective, an important source of social bonding. FPW clearly explains the working conditions required for workers’ health and, as such, it is not a “performative instrumental” approach (Tweedie, Wild, Rhodes, & Martinov-Bennie, 2019). The consideration of the work task and the organization of work is thus important not in terms of making workersmore productive in the interest of business, but to allow them to experience their “power of acting” (potentia agendi, Spinoza, 2010), which lies in the interest of themselves and society. Only workers and work collectives can therefore determine what is healthy depending on the extent to which they are able to exercise their autonomy at work. (p.132)


Management, Education, Psychodynamics, Critical Action Learning


Dejours, Christophe, Psychological Centrality of Work, Critical Management Studies

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