An Essay on the Future of Work and the Female Principle


(A profile of our times?!)

This could be an exiciting era in the development of the human kind…
Much more exiciting than it first meets the eye. I will attempt to convey my ideas on this highly philosophical subject in a brief outline as much as this article permits.

I believe, once again, history confronts us with a possibility of a Renaissance.  It is not inevitable however that there will be one.  We will have to live up to this challenge.  And we will have to change to do this.  Most of the ingredients are there; as a Turkish saying goes “we have the flour, the sugar and the butter, all we have to do now is the halva!”.  The decisive factor will be the free and full expression of the female principle by both men and women.  I will explain how.

What are those ingredients?

At least in the western world, we are closest to having handled the basic survival issues.  The working day and week are getting shorter.  There are alternatives to a strictly structured working life, such as flexi-time, such as working from home.  I can see the possibility that the social wealth created will be sufficient for the majority of the population not having to work in order to survive.The operative word in this sentence is to survive, and not ‘having to work’.  Otherwise I am aware that this statement begs the question of distribution of that wealth; however I am talking about abstractions here.

Work and our attitudes to work are in a position to transform radically from being a means of survival to an act of creation. Only in the latter case we have an opportunity to be truly satisfied.

In the pre-industrial times/societies, people sought satisfaction in the public sphere.  That being the total sum of all the institutions within which the individual participated; had to participate in order to preserve his/her social existence; such as family, hamlet, village guilds, church etc.

It is commonly believed that the industrialisation process changed all of that.  Privatised working conditions – on the whole unsatisfactory for most people- meant that people sought for satisfaction in the private sphere.  In the privacy of their homes, separate from the rest of the world; when they are on a beach, away from anyone they know; while experiencing, privately the newly bought hi-fi; records listened to in private or trips in their private cars.  No more social festivities that included the whole of the community.

The increasing intrusion and domination of mass media on our private lives through the private sphere, by TV and video especially, changed all this once again.  Now, leisure became colonialised.  It stopped being a space that people escape into from the anxieties of the working life.  Intrusion is so great that there is nowhere to escape to have a “private experience” so to speak.

This time, people are turning more and more to their workplace to create an environment wherein they can both live their individuality and experience being part of a community.  Offices in particular are becoming a synthesis of the private and public spheres.  Notice that we talk more about corporate cultures these days, than either national cultures or class cultures.

Changes in the other aspects of life also contribute to these developments.  From an industrial society, we are moving into an information or a ‘knowhow’ society.  Individuals who have skills, knowledge and expertise have a far more say than they used to in relation to the capital owners.  They no longer are dependent on the financial and structural conditions to be organised by the capital owners to express themselves or their skills.  The capital that matters now is in their heads and consequently goes whereever they go.  I think that we’ll soon see organisations similar to the Guild system appearing in order to both organise this new form of ‘free labour’ and to give them the power they need to become a social pressure group.

Individuals have more of an opportunity to contribute to the formation of the corporate culture they work.  Choices seem to be more open to each one of us.  Companies are racing to declare their mission statement, principles and ethics; what they stand for.  When people choose jobs, they don’t look for for the pay pack anymore.  They consider whether they’d like to work for a company who stands for… (whatever); whether they’ve got an opportunity to develop themselves, not just careers; whether they’ll be trained to learn new skills, technical and human skills and similar concerns.

So, there is an overall awakenning, a new awareness about the quality people want in their lives.  Other factors prevalent in the society at large, such as increased inter-marrying of people with different racial, ethnic and national backgrounds, universalisation of our taste buds through the availability of the cuisines of many many cultures, increased international travel, increased awareness of the environment, increased responsibility for the world peace and bringing together the so far discrepant worlds (such as U.S.A and U.S.S.R.), increased spiritual awareness beyond religons; all this and many other factors point out to me that:

1.      We are facing the possibility of a radical transformation of society which I call a new Renaissance,

2.      And that the potential focal point for this change is business.

Now, how is the business world reponding to all these changes?

The business world is, as usual, responding to these changes at the level of problem-solving.  It is recognised and understood that now it is a buyer’s market (not sellers) and equally employee’s market (not employer’s).

In recognition of these facts, business people and advisors to them diagnose this as a new managerial problem and therefore offer various solutions.  Most of these solutions can be grouped into two:

1.      Quality circle/Customer Care type of solutions which emphasise quality,

2.      Pulling in women to the workforce (among other things) in response to the demographic changes in the U.K., the shortage of skilled personnel and the coming competitive threat of 1992.

 I won’t deal with the first point in this article but focus on the second one.  Here, there is emphasis on flexibility (of hours etc.), recognition of women'’ special needs in order to be able to work after havinh had children and making career paths and pay packages more attractive.  The fashionable concept of the day is PRP, performance related pay, as yet another solution to “managerial” problems.

In both of the above solutions, there is also a high emphasis on the need for training on the job, need for management training (a good example is MCI- Management Charter Initiative) and training for all in interpersonal skills.

This is all fine, yet it is my contention that unless the female principle is understood, i.e. what is unique and different in women, therefore, what aspect is really that we are lacking/in need of that we are now inviting to join in – I fear that none of these changes will go beyond changing of the furniture around which will then lead onto new problems and more of the problem-dictated solutions.

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I heard, on Radio 3 the other day, someone (unfortunately I couldn’t catch his name) saying that poets like Joyce and Ezra Pound regarded Renaissance as being intelligence and power put togwether therefore making a difference.  In other words, intelligence, unless combined with power doesn’t make a real difference.  I like this interpretation.  In fact, that is one of the most important reasons why business is the potential focal point for change at the moment.  That is where power is and intelligence put into use there can make a difference.

The other reason why business is the potential focal point for change is what ý said above, about people’s search for satisfaction in the public sphere, ie, the world of work rather than ‘home’.

 Now, the kind of intelligence I believe we need to make this renaissance possible is understanding the meaning and role of the female principle.

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It (ie.e a partial, rteactive solution rather than a conscious choice) will not make a real difference to either the quality of human relations at work (which has implications for things like job satisfaction, team-building, and team-work, communication, motivation, leadership; all those things that we say are important to us in business) or the personal growth and satisfaction of women who are pulled in to the workforce once again.  In other words, we couldn’t be making use of that female aspect which contributes a different quality to that of the male aspect; but merely increasing the numbers of the workforce all forced into wearing the same uniform; dressing alike, thinking alike, behaving alike etc.

Business world is a man’s world; in fact the world is a man’s world; women can only be secondary citizens again, by taking part in a game that is essentially male-dominated in nature.  Simply because men are better at being a man than us women!  Similar to war time, when the need for women labour is over, they will be once again asked to return to their kitchens and nappies.  Because, as was the case then, and I suspect, as is the case now, women were not drawn in for what they alone could contribute, but merely as replacement for the men busy fighting.

What is this female principle then?  In its positive sense, it is that aspect which is more interested in quality and also able to provide quality relations.  It is the part in us that wants things to grow, to flourish.  It is the nourishing, nurturing elements, that which wants to do things for others, that which gives birth and respects life…the marathon runners…for whom, the texture of things, how things feel matter; it is the artistic; it is the ability to pay attention to every detail…

Naturally, many of these traits exist in some men too.  The point is that we need to understand the importance of giving full expression to these traits.  Women on the whole, possess these qualities more naturally and when they are being truly themselves, can contribute precisely these aspects to life in general hence enhance men’s ability to give expression to those aspects in themselves.

It is the very nature of the female principle that makes it so significant that it is fully expressed if we want a renaissance, not just a re-shuffling of the same old cards.

Male element is the more achievement, form orientated aspect; it is creative.  It is the one that says, things will work out, everything will be fine…When I say it is a man’s world, or a male dominated society, I mean that the prevalent motive is to create things in form; to give form to things, to achieve and have things.  And I am saying that, now we are, historically speaking, in a position to emphasise that aspect which is of the essence, which is quality.  Things can really begin to become exciting then.