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Hugh Willmotts article, “Strength is ignorance; slavery is freedom: Managing culture in modern organizations”, is a harsh critique of corporate culturisms’ totalitarian attempt of ‘controlling and winning the hearts and minds of their employees, in order to secure unusual efforts.'(1993 )
The article, which was published in the Journal of management studies in 1993, tests existing theories of management, and enunciates the “narrowing of values and the a-moral dimension of corporate culture”. (Faifua, M. 199) It is aimed at theorists and academics, in order to stimulate discussions, and is not intended for practical use.
The article claims that corporate culturism, in its essence, is unethical manipulation of the individual by management. An instrument of control, working under disguise of freedom while defining limits which gives the appearance of individualism whilst enslaving the employees’ free mind. Pushing employees toward a mode, a monoculture of assorted affinity, where the employees’ are under an unconscious spell of striving to accomplish extraordinary effort in order to obtain increased corporate competitiveness. According to Faifua it theorizes “the colonisation of workers’ thoughts and feelings and the governance of workers’ values”. (Faifua, M. 199 )
Willmott advocates the detrimental effects to employees’ free will, caused by corporate culturism, and supports his claim by a preponderance of evidence. Willmott claims that “corporate culturism is the systematization and legitimizing of a mode of control that purposefully seeks to shape and regulate the practical consciousness and, arguably, unconscious strivings, of employees…To the extent that succeeds in this mission, corporate culturism becomes a medium of nascent totalitarianism,”(1993. pg. 523) an emerging system of controlled thoughts, feelings and emotions. To back up his claim Willmot introduces Meek’s argument ‘where parallels are drawn between the propagandist methods of Nazi Germany and the totalitarian tendencies of corporate culturism.’ (Meek in Willmott, 1993) Willmott ends his crusade against corporate culturism, just before the conclusion, by saying “corporate culturism contrives to eliminate the conditions – pluralism and the associated conflict of values – for facilitating the social process of emotional and intellectual struggle for self-determination”(1993, pg.540)
The logic behind Willmotts’ arguments is simple; a corporation seeks to exhort extraordinary effort from its employees by increasing their commitment to the firm in various ways, from ‘increased effort to increased flexibility,’ (Willmott) and accomplishes this by “managing what they think and feel, and not just how they behave”.(Willmott, 1993, pg.516)
Willmots article seems to be exceedingly one sided, as his claims of detrimental effects to individualistic freewill are repeated over and over again. The claim of logic behind Willmotts’ critique can be argued as Faifua articulates a counter claim by enunciating that “it would be wrong to simply oppose economic organizations to socialist collectivity, when the former and latter can be characterized by the variability of their intrinsic morality.”(Faifua, 1993, pg.) Willmott points out that corporate culturism seeks to “govern how their members should behave”(Robbins et al, 2003, pg70)