This paper takes literary theory into the workplace and focusses on the acculturation of employees to institutional values through an increasing volume of corporate communication. It claims the language and structures associated with the technology-accelerated pace of living and working driven by market conditions of ‘flexible accumulation’ (Harvey, The Condition of Post-Modernity, 1990) prescribe successful worker identity within a discourse reflecting values that often differ from the employees own personal ethics resulting in a negative impact on their mental health. In particular middle-class, middle-ranking, public sector professionals fail when the competing demands of an audit culture operating in a service environment places them in a position of impossible contradiction (O’Neill, Reith Lectures, 2002) and powerlessness. A study of a range of corporate and creative literature (annual reports, employee communications, business self-help manuals, the novel, craft manuals and lifestyle autobiographies) traces the sickness/recovery dialectic. In sickness, the flexibility and fragmentation required for high-turnover productivity, prevents the linear, progressive narrative of a working career (Sennett, The Corrosion of Character, 1998; The Culture of New Capitalism, 2006) and inhibits the continuity on which psychological coherence depends. A return to health is made through engagement in satisfying, creative labour using alternative language and coherent narrative that orders experience according to the regulated organic rhythms and rituals and more productive and stable relationships of traditional cultures. The autobiographical recording of these activities is thus both a form of resistance/recovery and a bid for a more secure and comfortable identity.
|Keywords:||Autobiography, Happiness, Identity, Narrative, Professional, Work, McEwan, New Economy, Corporate|
University of Manchester, Colchester, UK
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