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Passion, Knowledge and Motivation: Ontologies of Desire
University of York, UK
University of Leicester, UK
Abstract. In this paper we address some neglected ontological issues regarding the ideas of passion and knowledge in the contemporary western context. We argue that passion as a concept can be understood in two main ways. The prevalent interpretation in organization studies is teleological, that of a powerful, purposive motivation to achieve an end result. The second is an ontological understanding of the nature of desire, which in itself is double-sided. Using the ideas of Foucault and Bataille, we suggest desire can be read as lack but also/alternatively as a free-ﬂowing creative force operating behind the quest for knowledge. Through the power effects of discourses like knowledge management and motivation theory, this ﬂow of desire is curtailed in its ability to make meaning through nonknowledge as well as knowledge. This entails that formless, unpredictable desire is discursively condensed into functional motivation, whilst at the same time the protean, curious urge to connect to the externality of the world becomes structured into the instrumental, conservative management of knowledge. We reﬂect here on both of these discursive trajectories, as well as on some of their implications. Key words. desire; discourse; knowledge; management; motivation; ontology; passion
Organization 14(3) Article
Introduction: Etymologies of Passion and Desire
The title of this special issue might seem at ﬁrst sight paradoxical—after all isn’t passion about emotion and knowledge about reason, which we are accustomed to considering as opposites? In what follows we take this question seriously, exploring the meaning of passion, its relation to desire and the ways in which these concepts are connected. We then consider contemporary approaches to knowledge and its management, and relate these to the very different approaches to desire that have emerged in philosophical work. We do this with particular reference to the concept of motivation, and the work of Michel Foucault and Georges Bataille. But before our discussion can begin, it is necessary to engage in some etymological exploration to clarify two of our key terms; passion and desire. The etymological origins of the contemporary English word ‘passion’ lie in the Latin patiore, meaning ‘to bear’ or ‘to suffer’, and passio, meaning ‘suffering’ (Höpﬂ and Linstead, 1993). It is also related to the idea of the passive, such that one deﬁnition offered by the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (accessed 30 August 2006) is ‘the state or capacity of being acted on by external agents or forces’. Merriam-Webster goes on to suggest that passion represents an ‘intense, driving, or overmastering feeling or conviction’. Literally, then, passion is something that is neither the property of nor controlled by the bearer—instead it is imposed upon them, whether we understand it as an enthusiasm or preoccupation that cannot be shaken off or in terms of the terrible suffering that was the Passion of Christ. Passion is certainly not a wholly pleasant concept. It may involve pain and, in its more obsessive forms, can consume, displace, even destroy the self—and/or others—in the pursuit of something external or transcendent, a sacriﬁce that gives access to the sacred. The apparent mass suicide of 900-plus People’s Temple members at Jonestown in November 1978, for example, was attributed to their passionately held conviction that they would subsequently be transported to another planet for a life of eternal ecstasy. IRA Volunteer Bobby Sands’ self-destructive passion led to his 65 day hunger strike in the Maze prison in Northern Ireland, and his eventual death in May 1981. We can also consider kamikaze pilots and Al Qaeeda suicide bombers—who, of course, take as many others with them as possible—in this context. Certain types of passion may therefore require the ultimate sacriﬁce. Passion is also connected to the concept of desire. This connection is not by any means trivial—indeed they are inseparable. The etymology of desire originates in the Latin desiderare; de + sidu meaning ‘heavenly body’ or ‘star’ (as in sidereal, meaning ‘relating to stars or constellations’). Desire is clearly aspirant—Merriam-Webster deﬁnitions include ‘to long or hope for’, ‘to express a wish for’—and also has the intransitive meaning of ‘to have or feel desire’ rather than a yearning for anything speciﬁc. Other sources make reference to ‘an object of desire or deep interest’. Certainly this last sense coheres with our theme of ‘the passion for knowledge’, but the pursuit of knowledge also involves being in the grip of powerful forces, and entails
powerful emotion. As an alternative. Western thought also tends to treat passion in relation to the concept of desire—certainly this was the case for Plato. Burrell’s (1984: 103–110) tour de force review of the roots of Western organizational desexualization extends back to the emergence of the notion of obscenity in the 15th century against a wider contemporaneous backdrop of the ‘civilizing’ of sex. Boulêsis however is always thought through and. it is also associated with bouleuomai—to ‘deliberate’ or ‘take counsel’. But at the same time its experimental and non-purposive character explains why feeling. we contend. It is a passion for something or someone. and it causes humans to reach out for something or someone—indeed one who does not reach out. lies beneath our basic curiosity about and willingness to engage with the world. whilst recognizing that there are differences. play and chance are also important dimensions of our ability to experience the world—and therefore why we act on the basis of things we do not and can never know ‘for sure’.Passion. This desire allies itself to practical reason in order to be worked out. This dark side demands organization—it must be identiﬁed and regulated if the dangers to social life are to be minimized. for Aristotle. passion (thymos) and will (boulêsis). for Augustine and for most continental philosophy since Hegel. as a ﬂowing and shapeless creative/destructive urge. of which we use Bataille as a key exemplar. moreover. passion may be creative or destructive. 347 .1 This amorphous urge. Aristotle uses the general term orexis to indicate desire. thymos—meaning passion—carries the sense of ‘heart’. although its meanings are ‘wishing’ and ‘willing’. As we have seen. whereas desire stands for something more general and intransitive. whilst simultaneously being connected—and it is through this connection that we wish to explore the concepts ontologically as well as etymologically. Sexual passion in particular has long engendered a requirement that it be controlled. Aristotle distinguishes three sub-forms of desire—appetite (epithymia). we will therefore use the term ‘desire’ to subsume that of ‘passion’ with passion broadly indicating a focused. although also implies lust for a person. but its speciﬁc sense is the natural human desire to know. ‘courage’ or ‘spirit’ in relation to life and strong feeling. we suggest—in extending Foucault’s commentary on sexuality—that such readings can be understood as the power effects of prevailing discourse. or has no desire. Epithymia usually indicates a desire for something. It is therefore in its intransitive sense that desire differs most signiﬁcantly from passion. gut instinct. Knowledge and Motivation: Ontologies of Desire Stephen Linstead and Joanna Brewis suffering. and because of its dark side is always potentially dangerous. is anorexic. As such it underpins the pursuit of knowledge about that world—as Aristotle would argue. The reconceptualization of desire as ﬂow therefore allows for ‘non-knowledge’. emotion. passion always stands in relation to otherness. we offer an interpretation of desire. Indeed rather than arguing in traditional Platonic fashion that desire signals lack. intuition. Importantly. and further to the edict of celibacy for monks and nuns as handed down by the medieval Catholic Church. In this paper.
as we go on to suggest in our substantive analysis (see From passion to motivation). and provide us with wisdom beyond knowledge—our dimly sensed and rarely voiced sensibility that in the ﬁnal analysis we will always perish. 2001: 196). is a means for making sense of and coping with—perhaps even resolving—externality and difference. at the very least. verbally or even semiotically. Thus. any object-oriented desire desires its own death in the quest to be satisﬁed. This deathly taint. These phenomena give our existence meaning beyond that which is easily communicated in writing. with accumulation. the more we can locate them in relation to our own so that. can be known but not known of and thus carry within them the taint of death. also brings us in relation to otherness. 1995). social rules for the possession and transfer of knowledge tend to develop in seeking to ensure the maintenance of human stability and progress. Similarly. The concept of meaning—even in the sense of a meaningful life—likewise turns into a surrogate. It is the product. like passion or desire. The more we know about the material or phenomenological worlds of other people. of the simple. and by turns into the future-oriented concept of motivation. then. as is also the case with desire. desirefuelled curiosity that in the ﬁrst instance reaches out to the otherness of the world just as a child might grab for a brightly coloured toy. Indeed it hardly needs to be remarked that social systems depend on degrees and levels of secrecy to function. regardless of how ‘primitive’ or ‘advanced’ they are (Luhmann. just as the possession of knowledge may convey power. and at worst threaten to overwhelm or imperil us. as that must always remain incommunicable. as we have already suggested above.Organization 14(3) Article ‘the passion for not knowing’ (Bataille. which establishes the categories of data that state organizations must provide if a member of the public submits a request. a narrow and inauthentic substitute that we can only associate with outcomes. One instance is Western legislation such as the UK’s Freedom of Information Act (2000). with personal and/or organizational advantage (Sievers. 1986). Thus the ultimate knowledge remains a non-knowledge. Motivation thus comes to stand in for both desire and meaning. but at the same time includes a lengthy list of types of knowledge which are not covered. may explain the discursive channelling of desire into desire-as-lack. likewise. To desire to know what is beyond life is inevitably to desire one’s own death. ‘Shareable’ knowledge therefore needs 348 . This entails that knowledge lays the foundations for social community and simultaneously increases our individual freedom and personal sovereignty—but also adds to our ability to control and dominate others. which Bataille associates with other ‘abject’ phenomena—those which. Knowledge. we are able to act in relation to them without personal risk. just as does all living matter on Earth. Knowledge. whereby we are drawn to things around us even when they seem at best ambivalent or counterproductive. The knowledge that death is inevitable cannot be the knowledge of death. Knowledge cannot be freely shared without risk for. it also carries with it vulnerability—and the sharing of knowledge renders one especially vulnerable.
Brown and Duguid. First we explore the channelling of knowledge. may be accomplished without distortion: to transfer is not to transform. as contributing to the reproduction of corporate Situation Normal. Knowledge and Motivation: Ontologies of Desire Stephen Linstead and Joanna Brewis to be manipulated—and its use and movement regulated—by the powerful. The social regulation of knowledge for ‘the maintenance of human stability and progress’ is therefore very much embedded within—and central to the continuation of—the status quo. who seek to constrain methods of its acquisition whilst elaborating their own. beginning with the key organization studies exemplar of knowledge management. We then examine the process by which passion and desire become motivation. This leads us to the claim that what we know as knowledge is for the most part another surrogate—this time for the organic power that Nietzsche recognized (and his interpreters distorted) in will-to-power. and always compelled by curiosity about and experimentation on the variegated world-out-there. and the sort of knowledge that is always in relation to its other. as well as emphasizing that it is extremely difﬁcult to effect straightforward knowledge transfer. Our argument will now proceed as follows. non-knowledge. moreover. drawing on Foucault and critiquing motivation theory. always open to its own deep disconﬁrmation. Indeed the darker. which treats knowledge as practically synonymous with information created. In other words. 1991) can be understood as conservative. According to Gherardi (2000: 213) the dominant view of knowledge management rests on the assumption that it is relatively distortion-free or ‘lossless’: The reiﬁcation of knowledge has grown more overt with the ‘objectiﬁed transferable commodity’ envisaged by the knowledge management approach.g. the knowledge management discourse undoubtedly bears all the hallmarks of the social regulation to which we have referred above. services and systems … The transfer of knowledge [in this view of the world]. What we add to their argumentation is our use of Foucault—and his ‘genealogical period’ in particular—to suggest that the discourse of knowledge management generates the functionalist conviction that knowledge is a managerial commodity. Our treatment of a sample of the relevant literature suggests this representation is perhaps something of a straw man—that many accounts of knowledge management distinguish between knowledge and information. we agree with Contu and Willmott (2003) that even the more intellectually sophisticated analyses (e. wilder sides of both passion and knowledge are rendered invisible as a result of these processes of discursive regulation and some of the more intractable ontological issues are swept under the epistemological carpet. before drawing some conclusions as to how we might fruitfully interrogate the passion-power-knowledge relation in future. Thirdly we explore an alternative formulation of desire informed by our reading of Bataille.Passion. disseminated and embedded in products. Still. 349 .
chaotic ﬂow. and self-actualization’ (Boje and Rosile. our intention is to tell a series of what Sawicki (1994) calls ‘cautionary tales’—to tease out the implications of contemporary organization studies renderings of knowledge and passion. esteem. means that we are always chasing after something we can never attain. with motive. Linear models of organizational change. such a preference for particular routes through the knowledge jungle is typical of organization studies more generally. once scratched. the sense in which our preoccupation with lack. love.Organization 14(3) Article Our excursus through Foucault’s ‘middle period’ is thus undertaken in order to argue that there are inevitably opportunity costs to the commodiﬁcation of knowledge in organizations. n5). although this is rarely if ever acknowledged in contemporary renderings of motivation. we move onwards and upwards to seek safety. 2005). as by Maslow. accumulation or the ﬁlling of gaps. Extending Foucault to suggest that the desire-as-lack thesis is in itself a power effect of the modern discourse of sexuality. with securing what is ‘missing’. It is as if life is always taking place elsewhere. But the particular way in which the desireas-lack thesis has been taken up by this body of thought is also profoundly one-sided. 2006. But what is also central to our argument is the melancholy that runs through his work. Indeed. but instead squandering the excessive amounts of desire (/passion/energy) available to us. In sum. And. Motivation is typically depicted in relentlessly positive terms. motivation theory in fact ceases to make any sense at all. Our central claim is 350 . Our inspiration here is Bataille’s thesis of the general economy. purpose and instrumentality. who makes a similar anti-hodological2 argument in criticizing the obsessive study of organizational pathways. traditional notions of career and modern notions of purposeful networking and the ambitious accumulation of social capital all illustrate how the metaphor of the journey as progress from A to B pulls us back from wanderings of thought and practice and ignores the potentially fertile and exciting ground that lies ‘off-road’ (Linstead and Pullen. and it is these opportunity costs that the knowledge management discourse seems largely to disregard. is rendered as ‘not much more than a biological itch that needs to be scratched. But again there is more to it. We then proceed to examine our second trajectory—the process by which passion or desire becomes motivation. Here we argue that motivation theory is ontologically rooted in the conceptualization of desire-as-lack. This asserts that the central human dilemma is not replenishment. and sex where mentioned. such that it has to do with self-completion/-nhancement/-fulﬁlment and not self-annihilation or disappearance into the ‘other’ that is ‘lacking’. ten Bos. according to ten Bos (2004). Read through Bataille. 2006: 72. we go on to propose a different reading of desire altogether—as unruly. There is certainly no reference in the existing theory to the death drive. On the one hand this makes the concept of motivation difﬁcult critically to ‘unlock’ because the idea that desire is always lack is so thoroughly embedded within it. hierarchies of authority.
as summarized by Brown and Duguid (2001). for example. incompleteness and so on. Polanyi. For Fahey and Prusak (1998: 269). is the imperative to move tacit ‘best practice’ around within organizations while at the same time preventing it from ‘leaking’ beyond organizational borders such that it is imitable. as manifest in what Gherardi (2000: 212) calls the ‘welter of publications on the subject’ from the 1970s onwards. The question of desire is perhaps the most important of these. McDermott (1999: 105–106) agrees that knowing something involves being able to utilize information in the most appropriate. 351 . Another oft-rehearsed claim is that knowledge is more than data or information. ‘Knowledge is about imbuing data and information with decisionand action-relevant meaning’. Nonaka and Takeuchi. the work of Bataille is much less well known. lack of context sensitivity. for us drawing on Bataille in addressing the ontology of desire provides the necessary basis for taking the analysis of the passionpower-knowledge nexus forward in organization studies. Here then we see warnings against anthropomorphizing organizational knowledge repositories as if these inanimate systems can themselves know. Nonaka. that it is not a static commodity which can be captured and passed on in any straightforward way.3 ‘Knowledge’ and its ‘Management’ There is an undeniable—and persistent—passion for knowledge in organization studies. 1966)—and a related problematic. context-speciﬁc way. and considers certain ontological issues upon which Foucault bestows less attention. 1995. Indeed given that Foucault reads desire only as a power effect as opposed to a primary force. One key preoccupation is the extent to which tacit knowledge can be ‘externalized’—rendered explicit and thus transferable to others (Leadbeter.Passion. However. which recalls our earlier point about the intersections between knowledge and vulnerability. as well as a rejection of the assumption that ‘stories that support learning-in-working and innovation … [can] be simply uprooted and repackaged for circulation without becoming prey to exactly those problems that beset … abstracted canonical accounts’ (Brown and Duguid. 2000. so information becomes knowledge only when it is used in the service of the organizational bottom line. McDermott (1999: 108–109) also emphasizes the role of the knowledge ‘community’ in suggesting that we do not acquire knowledge on our own. Brown and Duguid also argue that knowledge ‘sticks’ for other reasons than its ‘tacitness’—not least of which are unequal power relations. It is also worth noting that. Knowledge and Motivation: Ontologies of Desire Stephen Linstead and Joanna Brewis that we cannot understand the passion for knowledge—whatever form it takes—without reﬂecting on the ontological question of desire. and it is a secondary contribution of this paper to bring a focus on desire into the contemporary discussion of power/knowledge in the analysis of organization [though see also Munro (2005) for a similar consideration]. whilst Foucault’s argumentation has become increasingly signiﬁcant in organization studies. 1995. 1991: 54)—irrelevance.
adding value. such that any attempt to manage knowledge in organizations needs to respect this. which need to accommodate changes in the knowledge ‘stock’. and (ii) the argument that such communities originate organically. alongside many other knowledge management commentators. is the following: knowledge involves both knowing that and knowing how. in line with wider modern Western discourses of progress. So it is not possible to say anything at all at any time—what can be said (i. quoted above.e. formal “expert knowledge’’’ (Brown and Duguid. will be familiar to readers of this journal. The prevailing episteme therefore establishes how these things can be known (Foucault. His work. Relatedly. use value. But what is also clear is that. This is the basis of our suggestion that Gherardi’s rendering of the knowledge management ﬁeld. the notion that knowledge is more than just information actually underscores this instrumentalism in the corollary claim that knowing that is pretty useless without knowing how.Organization 14(3) Article but instead are socialized into ‘a territory already occupied by others’. Here the use value of knowledge is itself one-dimensional—being to do entirely with the bottom line. What stands out for us from this literature. knowledge transfer is best facilitated by hands-on practice and face to face communication. we now turn to Foucault. and knowledge managers also require a sensitivity to organizational realpolitik. and more particularly: (i) its emphasis on ‘becoming an insider’ rather than simply receiving ‘explicit. what is accepted as true or valid) varies across epochs and cultures. He also asserts that the answers generated are speciﬁc to the episteme in operation at the time. the sociohistorically located set of assumptions regarding the relationship between things in the world and our knowledge of those things. then. effective knowledge management is supported by but not reducible to data capture/dissemination systems. 352 . knowledge here is understood as a tool or a commodity—within the ‘knowledge of knowledge management’. 1970). rationality and means-ends thinking. Foucault (1982) claims that human enquiry throughout history has dealt with two central questions—who we are and how we should live. 1991: 48). McDermott (1999: 104) and Fahey and Prusak (1998) counsel against over-reliance on technology and formal systems in organizational knowledge dissemination. is all. knowledge is therefore thinkable only in highly circumscribed and functionalist ways. but we provide a short exegesis here nonetheless in order to clarify how his ideas connect to our argument. Here. as noted. extant organizational processes so as to maximize corporate return. is something of a straw man. Perhaps ironically in the light of Gherardi’s earlier-cited comments. Purpose. ‘harnessing’ informal. In order to theorize this discourse of knowledge management and its construction of knowledge as something to be managed in the service of organizational objectives. he invokes Lave and Wenger’s (1991) concept of ‘communities-of-practice’.
architectural arrangements. practices and procedures which underpin and perpetuate them. as in the modernist account. but also simultaneously delimit our possibilities. Power. philosophic propositions. do and think—we circumscribe what we are capable of becoming by ‘knowing’ ourselves and others. So knowledge management consists precisely of the social regulation of knowledge transfer to consolidate the organizational status quo. The power effects of discourse are all that we know or can know of ourselves and the world-out-there: we are in fact lived embodiments of discursive regimes (Foucault. and at the same time excluded other ‘worlds of possibility’ (Calás and Smircich. all of which have been taken up in the organization studies canon as potentially 353 .’. Instead Foucault (1977: 194) instructs us that ‘power produces reality. and thus are powerful (Foucault. how we talk and write about what it is to be human structures what we are. Thus there is no such thing as enduring or universal knowledge: it is always a creature of its time and place. 1980: 131). 1986: 54). morality. the latter’s emphasis is on designing training and innovation programmes which enable ‘continuous learning to be engendered and work performance to be enhanced … increas[ing] employees’ capability of addressing technological and market changes’. In other words. values and norms. Returning to the discourse of knowledge management. As Contu and Willmott (2003: 289. 1988: 206) such that the only form of organizational knowledge worth managing is that with corporate utility.Passion. aesthetics. sexuality. ‘institutions. then. The other important aspect of Foucault’s argumentation is that it rejects the modernist notion that we have to be ‘free’ to ‘know’—he has no truck with the contemporary Western epistemic opposition between power and knowledge. spirituality and emotion. Instead he writes these two variables as power/knowledge. regulations. 293) indicate in their critique of Brown and Duguid (1991). In other words. speciﬁc knowledges form the basis for the emergence of discourses—sets of interlocking relationships. It is also worth pointing out that this utilitarian channelling of knowledge evokes for us similar renderings of phenomena such as social relations. laws [and] administrative measures’ grow up around these ‘scientiﬁc statements. symbols. this speciﬁc regime has established a set of parameters around the concept of knowledge. Knowledge and Motivation: Ontologies of Desire Stephen Linstead and Joanna Brewis Neither does Foucault see movement between one episteme and another as teleological. Instead he regards such shifts as breaks with established ways of knowing—and nothing more (Foucault. Foucault (1980: 194) goes on to suggest that. does not inevitably obscure or warp what we know. policies. 1982: 213). So the effects of power/knowledge regimes both enable and exclude—they render us able to act on the basis of a particular way of relating to the world. philanthropy etc. it produces domains of objects and rituals of truth’. as an inextricable couplet in that prevailing discourses produce the way in which we think about ourselves and the world around us. as certain forms of knowledge become accepted as truth (despite their historical or cultural speciﬁcity). Moreover. material artefacts.
1995. If everything is dangerous.Organization 14(3) Article relevant to the bottom line if regulated in the appropriate ways. or indeed that there are alternatives. These regimes are worthy of interrogation precisely because they are just that—contextual. Fineman. then. 1992. What counts as knowledge enhances the three Es of efﬁciency. are suppressed. But other ways of thinking about organizational processes—and organization itself—are certainly being marginalized in knowledge management economies. it assumes the objective qualities of a commodity. but that everything is dangerous. 1986. Critical management studies has also had much to say on these renderings—which include corporate culture change programmes. thus replicating the very channelling we have argued against. In sum. so that the ‘work arounds’ of the employee looking to fulﬁl their quota faster and render their shift easier as a result. emotional intelligence and ‘funky’ workplace redesign—in terms of their ‘air-brushing’ out of any threat to organizational proﬁtability and the mechanical. Hence Foucault’s key message. Warren and Fineman. effectiveness and economy. those that create and shape its epistemological status as a form of subjectiﬁcation and delimit the ways in which we relate to knowledge. and it is in the nature of such economies that this should be so. 2004. Warren. From Passion to Motivation In this section we develop our understanding of passion as an approximate synonym for desire in proposing an ontological reading which suggests that desire can be understood either as based on a lack of someone or something or as a non-instrumental ﬂow of energy. hyperreal representations which result (see for example Bell and Taylor. say. At the same time the subjective dimensions of power. then we always have something to do. can be appropriated in the name of shareholder value. Willmott. is that the discourses which currently structure our lives narrow the range of our possibilities in ways we might not even register. So my position leads not to apathy but to a hyper. 1993). Sinclair.and pessimistic activism. My point is not that everything is bad. 2005. As he remarks. forthcoming. for us. as knowledge becomes epistemologically ‘sanitized’ under knowledge management regimes. 2005b. What this two-sided reading enables 354 . Hancock. 1986: 343) We might therefore ask what is lost in the commodiﬁcation processes described above—whilst being aware of the potential for inviting a further reﬁnement of the commodiﬁcation process to make good the gap. which is not exactly the same thing as bad. 2004. arbitrary and constructed. It therefore becomes difﬁcult to see what the alternatives are to knowledge-as-organizationalcommodity. (Foucault. Ray. Burrell. In the second half of the paper we move from Foucault to Bataille to explore an ontology of desire that illuminates similar problematics around the discursive production of the concept of motivation. 2005a.
and is associated with an ontology of scarcity or absence of unity. cited in Bataille. so as to enhance what-is-yet-to-come. positivity. to the way in which the modern idea of ‘sex’ allows an ‘artiﬁcial’ bringing together of parts of the body. deriving from the ontological conﬂict between self-identity and the compulsion to unite with the other. different self-consciousnesses. this desire is also object-driven—it is desire for someone or something that propels us into the future. for example. Knowledge and Motivation: Ontologies of Desire Stephen Linstead and Joanna Brewis us to do in the ﬁrst instance is argue that desire understood through the former lens is always purposeful. what makes us determined or determines us and the course of our actions. In fact the conceptualization of desire as lack has a long history: it is precisely the drive to reunite and to replenish which Plato (1994) discusses in his thesis of the androgyne. Indeed as Linstead (2005: 29) has already suggested. negativity. At the same time it represents an ontological burden to be carried. so does one become more aware of precisely how one is oneself and not other. [is] the integrity of determination’ (Hegel. It turns upon adding to the present. Foucault. Hegel suggests that desire is therefore the desire for continuity with or recognition from those around us. Hegel (1977) subsequently draws upon these ideas to suggest that human consciousness inevitably demands that one identiﬁes oneself as one self—and not an other (another). as we suggested earlier in our discussion of patiore as one of the etymological roots of the term passion. Thus our very individuality is also always a lack—of otherness—and freedom to be ourselves means that there is an inescapable discontinuity between different individuals. Foucault (1979: 154) refers. 1985: 171—emphasis removed)—such that negativity (lack) is what drives us onwards. perhaps loss of being. the human compulsion to seek one’s missing gender complement. however. In terms of sexual desire at least. A profound tension haunts this reading of desire. a nagging sense of incompleteness or a feeling of loss. different subjects. an imposition. distinct and therefore lacking (discontinuity). he suggests that this conceptualization has been established by the discourse of sexuality as a key aspect of the human condition. behaviours and feelings under one discursive sign. ‘Desiring that which we are not means risking loss of control. bodily functions. life) and Thanatos (dark. and so is always tinged with dread. to lose oneself in the other. death)—as well as in the structuralist modiﬁcation of his work by Lacan where the primary lack is the lack of language (see note 3). He writes that ‘Negativity. monadic. This conceptualization of desire as lack re-emerges in Freud and his identiﬁcation of the two animating forces of the human condition—Eros (light. Just as one seeks recognition from the other (continuity). in other words. loss of self. argues that desire-as-lack is not a primary existential force. and more particularly future-oriented. Here there is an explicit recognition of our materiality and of the ways in which our bodies react under certain circumstances.Passion. to bring together male and female ‘halves’ into a ‘whole’. but the corollary is Foucault’s rejection of the modern ‘truth’ of these experiences 355 .’ Moreover.
Further. Porter and Lawler. Maslow. In other words. hard and fast.Organization 14(3) Article as ‘sex’. directed at more or less appropriate others. 1966. apparently. in process theories—which on the face of it are more cognitivist in their sensibilities and thus make greater room for difference—the accent is still on seeking beneﬁcial outcomes. Whether this goal is to work smart. 1961. an achievement of goals or the attainment of a personally ‘valent’ reward (Adams. appearing in mainstream organizational behaviour textbooks and forming the basis of many contemporary management techniques. discourses around motivation appear when work no longer fulﬁls or satisﬁes—when there is. and high employment levels during the 1960s in particular. 1972. Indeed Sievers (1986: 338–339) argues that: Motivation only became an issue—for management and organisation theories as well as for the organisation of work itself—when meaning was either lost or disappeared from work … motivation theories have become surrogates for the search for meaning. McClelland and Burnham. something innate in human beings which can be expressed in more or less healthy ways—that is to say. In both accepting and extending Foucault’s claims. Herzberg. The understanding of desire as always having a metaphorical eye on the future. 1943. McClelland. or to minimize effort and maximize reward. these outcomes motivate because 356 . 1963. 1959. 1968. where the result of motivation is the satisfaction of universal human needs (Alderfer. For us therefore motivation does not exist a priori: rather it is a mask or surrogate for a discursive process. if we extrapolate from this to return to our discussion of desire more generally. 1954. we could say. Vroom. Indeed. the basis for the idea that we humans are motivated to direct ourselves at some kind of eventual purpose. the question becomes one of isolating the point at which these disparate elements discursively combine to become ‘sex’. long-established reading of desire-as-lack also underpins contemporary conceptualizations of motivation—those routinely taught in business schools. a lack. improving standards of living and concomitantly increased employee expectations. Indeed another name for this body of thinking is needs-deﬁciency theory. as we and others have already argued. such that changing jobs in a quest for more satisfaction was straightforward. our actions are always. fairly obviously. Whether understood in terms of a restoration of equity. This being the case. we can suggest that prevailing discourse creates the idea of a lack which is then fastened upon by post-Hegelian social and post-Freudian psychoanalytic thought. Locke. and identifying the implications. intended to achieve an end result. is. 1964). This ontological infrastructure of desire-as-lack is particularly visible in content theories. 1968. Herzberg et al. motivation as a concept in organization theory and practice developed against a twentieth century backdrop of Taylorism’s far-reaching effects on job design. Nonetheless. the next move we wish to make is to suggest that this discursively powerful. on some ideal state of unity or plenitude. 1976).
Vroom) would seemingly not spur an employee on to further efforts. and thus that motivation is a power effect of a power effect. in ways which are largely unheeded. as clearly present in the philosophical treatments of desire-as-lack discussed above and our argumentation concerning passion’s self-destructive potential. a goal already achieved (Locke) or a reward attained (Porter and Lawler. But the emphasis here is nonetheless on motivation set against absence or paucity and directed at fulﬁlment. if we accept that desire-as-lack is itself a power effect. (Brewis et al. we can extend our understanding of desire by consulting Bataille. desire is actually an almost totally neglected construct within subsequent theory development and is studiously avoided. although the western motivation discourse has its genesis in the pleasure principle and therefore in desire. 2006). Likewise. as with knowledge management. To be sure. equity does not motivate—but inequity (the lack of equity) does.. process and reinforcement theory. such that its invocation makes it difﬁcult to think beyond the idea that individuals are motivated by some form of internal need-deﬁciency or external stimulus … [or] a rational calculation of the outcomes of their behaviour. According to Adams. the failure to acknowledge a speciﬁc ontology of desire (-as-lack) as what lies beneath motivation in the bulk of established theory makes it difﬁcult to open up the very concept itself for critical scrutiny. What we are suggesting here is that motivation as it tends to be understood in organization theory and practice is in fact a surrogate for desire. prevailing conceptualizations of motivation tend not to acknowledge this theoretical legacy—as Westwood (2006: 38) has it. Indeed. Bataille outlines 357 . Again. to disappear into Hegelian continuity. Knowledge and Motivation: Ontologies of Desire Stephen Linstead and Joanna Brewis they are in the ﬁrst instance absent. we can therefore see how the discourse of motivation sits against a wider discursive backdrop of modern western instrumentalism. there is an important occlusion in these popular readings of motivation. to die both metaphorically and perhaps also literally (Westwood. Indeed the idea of motivation itself is somewhat stultifying … discursively imbued through and through with the assumptions of content.Passion. achievement or restoration. Motivation stands then. for something which is much more ambiguous than examination of its surrogate would imply. This is the overwhelming sense in which motivation is a positive force for the good— leading to a ﬁlling up or completion—as opposed to any sense in which our (passion/ desire/) motivation is actually to lose ourselves. Furthermore. 2006: 19) Even when we unearth their ontological commitments. But prevalent understandings of motivation occlude more than just the fact that the desire-as-lack thesis is characterized by shades of darkness as well as light. at least when conceived of as lack.
one which is a good deal more wild and creative. that the life force of desire is always available in excess because. excretion—the most extreme or radical form of which is death. although living organisms utilize energy to subsist and to grow. consciousness of our impending death—which other organisms do not share—terriﬁes us to the extent that we spend our lives trying to stave off our demise. but as purposeless. in its restoration to ‘the power of nature’ (Bataille. As well as this alternative rendering of desire-as-ﬂow. because in dying we make room for others (Bataille. As Bataille (1985: 7) explains in a characteristically poetic passage. and one which. 1997: 243). Bataille’s theory of general economy conceives of desire. not as driven by lack. like these other organisms. given that we are all tied together by the same immanent circuit of energy and we. The erotic cloud sometimes becomes a storm and falls back to earth in the form of rain. The simplest image of organic life united with rotation is the tide. moreover. instead of being preoccupied with fulﬁlment. and this milk may also be extracted for the nourishment of human beings. such that there is always energy to spare. Bataille suggests. The rain is soon raised up again in the form of an immobile plant. The human ‘project’ is therefore one of endlessly building a future. endless. importantly. the cow generates milk to suckle its young. while lightning staves in the layers of the atmosphere. disposal. will inevitably die. But the ﬁrst form of solar love is a cloud raised up over the liquid element. they cannot expand unhindered by the physical limits of the spherical earth: yet the sun continues to shine. we should in fact recognize that our key social dilemma is expenditure. which he alternatively renders as energy. and more generally perhaps for the wider Western preoccupation with utility and instrumentality. From the movement of the sea. moving forward in productive and acquisitive activities. Thus. We might progress this to suggest that the plant is then eaten by a cow. production and accumulation. has been distilled through various forms of discursive regulation so as to produce the surrogate or mask which we know as motivation. originates from the sun and binds together all life on earth. anticipating the ‘authentic being 358 . Indeed desire here. The birth of any living creature therefore represents only a temporary break from this ongoing circuit of desire—one that unfailingly ends in death. uniform coitus of the earth with the moon. protean. we can draw on Bataille for a potential explanation for the discursive strength of the desire-as-lack thesis. This animal produces faeces which fertilize the growth of more vegetation. 1997: 246).Organization 14(3) Article a very different ontology of desire. 1997: 256) oeuvre we see references to the ‘play of living matter in general’ and ‘the desire that relates to the total movement of life’. Similarly. comes the polymorphic and organic coitus of the earth with the sun. elsewhere in Bataille’s (1991: 23. In addition. While we as humans are no more and no less than the other organisms that populate the biosphere.
is expanded into a consideration of ecstasy as necessarily tinged with the threat of self-annihilation. is a life that is always being lived elsewhere. 1997: 244) because. with its tripartite structure of direction. this ‘forgetting’ creates a 359 . In Bataille we can also see the aforementioned but largely unacknowledged melancholy of the surrogate motivation writ large. a life driven by motivation. is not supportable by reference to the ontology of desire-as-ﬂow. If we follow the dictates of reason and try to acquire all kinds of goods. motivation as a concept. But when the fever of sex seizes us we behave in the opposite way. because he is always in a state of anticipation. can therefore be deconstructed as follows. to dance wildly or to have uninhibited sex: Erotic conduct is the opposite of normal conduct as spending is the opposite of getting. Moreover. Our status in the social order is based on this sort of behaviour. we work in order to try to increase the sum of our possessions and our knowledge.Passion. given that it functions as a discursive surrogate for passion. (Bataille. Its premise that our behaviour is always directed at that-which-will-be represents the importance that the future has for us whilst also serving as ‘proof’ that we have a future. On the other hand. This emphasis on behaviour as purposeful seems to form part of our project of convincing ourselves that we are above and beyond the unthinking mass of animal and plant life. 1986: 170) Indeed for Bataille pleasure is ‘puny’ unless it also invokes the shadow of death. 1997: 316—emphasis added). And so. We recklessly draw on our strength and sometimes in the violence of passion we squander considerable resources to no real purpose. Witness his suggestion. when we are in receipt of all possible valued rewards. if we have a future. As we suggested earlier. where (job) satisfaction is total. that ‘Man is always more or less in a state of anguish. of discontinuity and continuity. we are continually tormented at the most instinctive level of our being by the ‘accursed share’—the excess energy (/desire/passion) which must somehow be spent. where there are no more goals to achieve. an anticipation that must be called anticipation of oneself’ (Bataille. by this inauthentic discursive substitute for passion/desire. death is deferred—at least pro tem. Motivation theory. to gorge ourselves with food. for example. But even in this future-oriented. Our present is inevitably anguished because it is by deﬁnition deﬁcient when compared to this unattainable future. we use all means to get richer and to possess more. the better to forget our inescapable death. Pleasure is so close to ruinous waste … Anything that suggests erotic excess always implies disorder. and the management practice with which it interacts. apparently lack-driven world. Here Hegel’s dialectic of life and death. to sob or laugh hysterically. where equity reigns. understood here as desire. effort and persistence. from time to time and despite the social taboo that haunts these behaviours—wasteful according to the prevailing utilitarian perspective where accumulation is all as they are—we give in to the urge to get drunk. at some future point. Knowledge and Motivation: Ontologies of Desire Stephen Linstead and Joanna Brewis which [we] never [are] in the present time’ (Bataille.
46). Critical management studies. then we always have something to do. he also avers that we can choose how to waste the excess which is available to us. 31. given the burgeoning of work on knowledge management and to a lesser extent the organization’s position within the knowledge society. to incomplete economic calculations. however. Importantly. Humanity is letting itself be led the way a child submits to a professor. They make sense only in the short view that obtains in ofﬁcial discourse. there is little that we could consider more dangerous to the future of organization studies than the continued neglect of ontology and desire as we embrace the contradictions and possibilities of the 21st century. a feeling of poverty paralyses it. perhaps because he didn’t consider them dangerous enough at the time. 1991: 24. war—which reconnects him to Aristotle’s bouleuomai and Foucault’s later work on ethics. Mainstream organization theory. truth and power (Bataille. say. In this paper we are trying to take Foucault at his word and—not to conﬁne his arguments to the realm of epistemology alone—to pursue issues of power and knowledge into areas that he didn’t concentrate on. but energy abounds and fear doesn’t stop anything. has tended to suppress this appreciation in favour of a more normative view consistent with management and organization as a form of science and a functional practice following from that. To accept Bataille’s claim that the free ﬂow of desire is intrinsic to being human. is not quite to shake the practice of organizing to its foundations.Organization 14(3) Article double occlusion which renders the concept of motivation anodyne at best and dehumanizing at worst. of passion. on the other hand. whether implicit or overt: certainly Taylorism. Indeed he refers to the project of work and its building for the future as ‘servile’ and ‘hateful’—because it does not allow us ever to luxuriate in what we have produced—and posits instead the possibility of an existence where we live for the moment. Indeed organization is founded on precisely this understanding. Indeed Bataille (1997: 259) argues that Everything that ‘justiﬁes’ our behaviour needs to be re-examined and overturned … [such thought] is the subordination of the heart. for example. or energy is lacking. had a clear idea of what its other represented. choosing a more ‘acceptable loss’ (such as those described above) over. Conclusion: Exploring the Desire for Knowing? Let’s do a double take—if everything is dangerous. But those general interests that it alleges are valid to the extent that fear prevails. has arguably concentrated on the exposure of and forms of resistance to control techniques rather than addressing their ontological aspects—or its understanding of ontology has been framed in terms of a more restricted 360 . and not just an outcome of discourse or other systems that position us as social and psychological subjects and ‘motivate’ us to act in politically and economically acceptable ways supportive of the latest mutation of the status quo into its virtual successor. From our more limited perspective.
Styhre (2006). there are two very broad traditions in thinking about desire. in Lacan. channelled and focused—which is different from Bataille’s cultural reading. though for Foucault—whose criticisms of Freud are legion—this is achieved in discourse where language. As our abstract suggests. However. Bataille. he shares with Lacan a view that desire is a language effect. A brief summary of the differences between some of the thinkers we mention in this paper is perhaps in order. Foucault’s reading of Nietzsche and Bataille leads him to an awareness of death. with the subversion inherent in the everyday living of lives. sacriﬁce and the importance of prohibition but.Passion. As beﬁts one of philosophy’s more signiﬁcant concepts. Lacan’s reading of Kojève. knowledge processes and their organization. and. against Freud. meaning ‘road’ or ‘way’. one that is mediated by culture and communication. 1. 2. 361 . Freud’s father. with surprise. As a result. For him the unconscious is structured like a language and is the ground where self and other are constituted. and there is no room for us to convey them all here. Heidegger. 3. Which is. Through these the rhizomatic ﬂow of desire is temporarily caught. power and knowledge intersect. inﬂuenced by readings of Hegel by Nietzsche. Derrida. Deleuze and Guattari share with Bataille the view that desire is primary. we know more than we can ever say. becomes the ‘name of the Father’—a more adaptable concept. offer a fruitful way forward for a better understanding of motivation. leads him to position desire as a lack. with ordinary creative processes and the continual emergence of novelty (Chia and King. 196–203). Knowledge and Motivation: Ontologies of Desire Stephen Linstead and Joanna Brewis realist account than we are proposing here. This we call the desire-as-lack thesis. and extended by Freud and Lacan. O’Shea (2002). whilst we perpetually say more than we know. 1998) and with the fact that we routinely accept that. Butler (1999). we believe. Bataille’s reading of Nietzsche against Hegel leads him to read desire as a primary force. in a more strictly philosophical vein. all to do with that which we don’t know and what we desire. of course. Linstead (2005). Notes We are extremely grateful to the three anonymous Organization reviewers for their detailed and constructive criticism of the original version of this paper. Thanem (2006). but one that is created by language in the unconscious. From the Greek hodos. Foucault and Deleuze and Guattari inter alia is the desire-as-ﬂow thesis. One via Plato and Aristotle is picked up and signiﬁcantly developed by Hegel. For the second thread Bataille’s response to Kojève is pivotal and exerts an inﬂuence on all subsequent authors—Derrida. as well as to Mike Bresnen for his help with sources. rejecting its conceptualization as lack. the arguments are many and the differences subtle. neither can adequately deal with the unexpected. Foucault and particularly Deleuze and Guattari. The other. and see symbolic conjunctions such as language acting to form various ‘assemblages’ that they call desiring-machines. interested readers can ﬁnd them explored further in Brewis and Linstead (2000: 174–83. as we have said. Bringing together ontological concerns derived from Bataille with an epistemological critique based on Foucault does.
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identity and processes of organizing. York. method and practice. of which DIY is deﬁnitely amongst the former. dance to cheesy anthems and read chick lit.uk] 365 .ac. Address: The York Management School. Knowledge and Motivation: Ontologies of Desire Stephen Linstead and Joanna Brewis Willmott. including the playful. But not necessarily all at the same time. Stephen Linstead is Professor of Critical Management and Organization Theory at the University of York.Passion. Nevertheless he has this nagging feeling that his life may be ﬁlled with rather to many activities and too few passions. University of Leicester. Hugh (1993) ‘Strength is Ignorance. [email: sl519@york. UK. Heslington. His research interests involve various approaches to dissolving the boundaries between the arts and organization studies in theory.uk] Joanna Brewis is Reader in Management at the University of Leicester. watch football. University Road. or teaching research methodology. Slavery is Freedom: Managing Culture in Modern Organizations’. Journal of Management Studies 30(2): 515–52.ac. Albuquerque. or running the BA Management Studies programme. Leicester LE1 7RH. YO10 5DD. UK. University of York.brewis@le. she likes to buy shoes. When not researching the intersections between the body. and Visiting Professor at the University of New Mexico. [email: j. Ken Edwards Building. Address: Management Centre. sexuality.
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