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

We argue that an Arendtian perspective on individual freedom and the conditions for its actualization is helpful in explaining a paradoxical freedom fantasy that permeates life in organizations. Arendt’s analysis of the human condition offers invaluable insights on the mechanisms that foster the erosion of genuine freedom amidst an accelerating marketization of society. Deprived of their capacity for singularity, solidarity, and spontaneity, individuals are reduced to animals laborans, ensnared in an endless cycle of production and consumption—no longer capable “to live in the world” . As a result, the freedom to act is replaced by the freedom to perform, and the latter is nothing more than bare compliance to an ideological regime that ordains the deployment of human energies in the production of materials necessary for the pursuit of consumers’ superfuities of life. To this end, our study proposes a new corporate governance perspective based on a political conception of freedom and a turn towards workplace democracy that could free workers from social, economic, and organizational pressure by creating conditions for singular, solidary, and spontaneous actions. (p.2)


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


On Arendt

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