Mitchell, L (2017) Sensing dignity: embodiment and ethics. In: Standing Conference on Organizational Symbolism, 10-13 Jul 2017, Universita’ degli Studi di Roma La Sapienza, Rome, ITALY. (Unpublished)

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The prevailing Kantian concept of dignity employed in the growing workplace dignity literature and in business ethics often presents an undertheorised concept of dignity which concentrates mainly upon an absence of indignities (such as bullying or harassment) combined with a focus upon self-respect and autonomy (Mitchell 2011; 2014). In this, debates over dignity follow in the footsteps of tendencies in the general ethics literature to focus on the universal moral principles (of which dignity is one) and the rational nature of judgement according to these principles. However, numerous approaches to dignity hint at the importance of the embodied and fleshy ‘sense’ of dignity to acknowledging success or failure in its achievement. This paper extends Sayer’s (2011) contention that a social (and organizational) conception of dignity ought to go beyond a focus on disembodied and cerebral normative judgements regarding ethical and unethical behaviour. Highlighting that dignity comprises of acknowledging our vulnerability and that of others, Sayer also suggests that dignity can be signalled and experienced through the body, highlighting bodily hexis (Bourdieu 1984), functional capacities (ref) and the microinteractions of daily comportment (Goffman 1959;). In the context of bodies that are at turns effaced from the workspace through digital or globalised labour (Whittle & Mueller 2009; Mitter 1994), sexualised, stigmatised as out of place (Gatrell 2014; ), or subject to organizational control through aesthetic labour this requires further reflection. In this discussion, the importance of autonomy to dignity and the feminist critiques of this concept are brought to bear on the matter of workplace dignity, concentrating explicitly on dignity in the context of vulnerability, interdependence and embodiment. The Ancient Roman conception of dignitas is acknowledged as a source of rational conceptions of dignity and of the core historical division between the civic mask of dignity and the flesh of ‘beastly’ human tendencies (Riley 2000). However, reflecting on the role of a ‘sense’ of dignity in contemporary work organisations this paper explores the importance of aesthetic judgements (Strati 2010) as contributors to autonomy and dignity. In doing so, the aim of the paper is to go beyond existing critiques of individual embodied autonomy that highlight how differentiated and non-homogeneous bodies are impeded by universal rationalist concepts. By beginning with a focus on the ‘sense’ of dignity, the paper explores the ways in which the actions and reactions of the flesh can be understood to lay the fundamental groundwork for a form of social knowing which in turn should be acknowledged as key to the doing of dignity in organization.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > Keele Management School
Depositing User: Symplectic
Date Deposited: 09 May 2017 13:17
Last Modified: 12 Mar 2020 15:24

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