Managing Professional Identities: Knowledge, Performativity and the "New" Professional

By Mike Dent; Stephen Whitehead | Go to book overview

11

‘New age’ religion andidentity at work

Catherine Casey

Introduction

The world of work has undergone profound changes in recent decades. These changes, much explored by social analysts of work, continue to present implications and consequences in diverse arenas of social and personal life. Indeed, many regard the technological and organizational changes in production and work as composite of complex patterns of social and cultural change in modern society more broadly. The intersection of changes in the institution of work with changes in the practices and processes of self-identity constitutes a dynamic arena of contest and creativity as well as fragmentation and uncertainty. The means and rudiments of self-identity creation are in flux, generating possibilities, and dilemmas, for self creation in unprecedented ways and forms.

Among the many sites and dynamic processes in self-identity construction are those of workplaces and work organization activities. My research on these activities and workers brings to light some significant emergent practices among highly skilled and professional employees in contemporary organizations. These practices contest and oppose modern rationalities typically expected in modern bureaucratic and technocratic organizations. For instance, the current emergence of diverse religious expression in corporate workplaces—from ‘new age’ idiosyncratic reconstruction of fragments of older traditions, to revitalized orthodoxies, and ethnic revivalism—is an unexpected counter-modern occurrence. These diverse practices offer competing rationalities and insubordinate discourses which may enable self-identity constructions among professional organizational employees that are contestational to those traditionally corporately, professionally, designed and desired. In this chapter, I discuss and analyse these developments and consider the ways in which some of these neo-religious goings-on in formal organizations and among professional employees are enacted and effective.


Identity, work and profession

Questions of self, identity and social institutions have long engaged the attention of thinkers and scholars. Such interest, evident from classical times to the

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