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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

Participation as a Collusive Quarrel

The following article has its basis in the respective chapter of my book entitled Work, Death, and Life Itself (Sievers, 1994). In the present article I intend to elaborate the working hypothesis that the attempt to increase and extend participation in contemporary work enterprises can be understood more than ever before as a collusive quarrel between managers and workers about immortality. The quarrel has its roots in the widespread experience of the discrepancy between the vigour with which participation in organisations is demanded and offered on the one hand and the inadequacy and limitations of its actual realisation on the other. Attempts to increase participation in a work enterprise are often confronted at an early stage with insoluble difficulties which too often lead to termination of the participation project. Although participation in general, and in work enterprises in particular, is generally seen as a paradigm (or metaphor) for integration, co-operation and democratisation among more or less equal partners, I propose the hypothesis that any attempt to practice participation will most probably lead to a situation in which management and workers get entangled in a collusive quarrel concerning.