Discourse for Normalising What? The Learning Organization and the Workplace Trade Union Response

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Recent critics of organizational learning and its normative offshoot the ‘learning organization’ have posited that conceptualisations of organizations based on knowledge and learning constitute a rhetorical device enabling elites to assert different forms of control through a new ‘normalising discourse’. The paper, whilst welcoming such critique, nevertheless asks whether it is adequate to dismiss the learning organization without proposing an alternative. Moreover, a case is made for serious evaluation of the extent to which learning might contribute to progressive development of the workplace. A comparison of two cases at manufacturing plants in northern Sweden suggests that whilst ‘the learning organization’ may indeed be criticised as a ‘normalising discourse’, in practice it does appear to be of some practical benefit to unions in the design of discursive arenas for humanisation of the labour process and promoting payments systems that reward competence development.


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Sidor (från-till)407-431
TidskriftEconomic and Industrial Democracy
Utgåva nummer3
StatusPublished - 2001
Peer review utfördJa