For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Escaping the Fantasy Land of Freedom in Organizations: The Contribution of Hannah Arendt"

by Shymko, Yuliya; Frémeaux, Sandrine (2021)


This article examines why and how workers adhere and contribute to the perpetuation of the freedom fantasy induced by neoliberal ideology. We turn to Hannah Arendt's analysis of the human condition, which offers invaluable insights into the mechanisms that foster the erosion of human freedom in the workplace. Embracing an Arendtian lens, we demonstrate that individuals become entrapped in a libertarian fantasy-a condition enacted by the replacement of the freedom to act by the freedom to perform. The latter embodies the survivalist modus operandi of animal laborans (1) who renounces singularity, by focusing on the function of supervised labor, (2) who renounces solidarity, by focusing on individualist and competitive labor, and (3) who is deprived of spontaneity, by focusing on the measured productivity of labor. Therefore, we propose a new corporate governance perspective based on the rehabilitation of political action in organizations as the best way to preserve human capacity for singularity, solidarity, and spontaneity.

Key Passage

Arendt’s work contributes to the business ethics literature by explaining how and why individuals abandon civic behavior and moral agency in the workplace. First, individuals renounce their singularity—and endorse the organizational notion of professional success—by taking a survival perspective in the function of laboring. Second, individuals renounce solidarity by prioritizing visible and objective achievement and succumbing to the imperative of hyper-competitiveness. Third, individuals are deprived of spontaneity by constantly monitoring the pace and quantity of their own labor and by taking on new responsibilities—thereby zealously participating in the production of expected results.  (p.10)


Acting, Freedom Fantasy, Neoliberalism, Performing, Singularity, Solidarity, Spontaneity, Arendt


On Arendt

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