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Constructing and Disciplining the Working Body: Organizational Discourses, Globalization and the Mobile Worker

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It has been suggested “the faster pace of internationalisation and globalisation … [has resulted] in the increased mobility of human resources and means that increasing numbers of employees spend some part of their working life abroad” (Gregerson et al., 1998: 79). Implicit in the metaphor of human resources is that the human is equated with, or placed on a similar level to, material resources, so that the working body (i.e., the physical body the individual brings to her/his work, which incorporates the sense of a functioning body also) is experienced in similar ways to financial, technical or natural resources. Such implicit meaning not only raises the value issue of equating people with material resources, but also points to the construction of very specific realities in work organizations that result from the use of such a metaphor (Dachler and Enderle, 1989). In many respects, we live in a world where “paid work” is valued over virtually everything else. As noted by the New Economics Foundation (2010), people are working longer hours today than they were 30 years ago, very much at the expense of the unpaid, private and informal aspects of our lives. Even with all the legislation that has progressively limited the paid working week, notably in the West, “paid work remains firmly at the centre of people's lives”; however, “[t]here is nothing fixed or inevitable about the way we regard work … today. It is a legacy of industrial capitalism” (New Economics Foundation, 2010: 13).

All of the above overlaps with the ongoing debate between relativism and absolutism, that is, whether there are many ethical standards that should be respected, each for its own sake, or whether there is one absolute ethical standard, what that should be and who gets to decide what that should be (Donaldson, 1996). Notwithstanding this debate, Donaldson (1996) points out that there is an internationally accepted list of moral principles that draws on many cultural and religious traditions, namely the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Indeed, from the perspective of Western ethics, equating people with material resources, to be consumed in the process of production, is to treat people simply as means to an end, contravening Kant's categorical imperative to treat people as ends in themselves (Chryssides and Kaler, 1993: 99).

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2011

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