“I Used to Care but Things Have Changed”: A Genealogy of Compassion in Organizational Theory

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Citation:
Journal of Management Inquiry, 2014, 23 (4), pp. 347 - 359
Issue Date:
2014-01-01
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© The Author(s) 2014. We explore the use of compassion as a technology of power and subjectivity within organizations. Using a genealogical method, we trace the history of concern with compassion in organizations as a mode of employee discipline. The article applies a perspective developed from Foucault, focused on power/knowledge relations and the role that they play in the formation of the subject in organizations. Organizational compassion has been constantly re-defined and re-evaluated according to changing organizational objectives for shaping employee subjectivity. While one may think of compassion as a “good” phenomenon, we counsel caution against doing so in all contexts as a generic endorsement of a “positive” agenda. As we show, compassion may be a mode of power.
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