Senge's Learning Organization: Democratic Transformation or Neoliberal Practice? Identifying the Contradictions and Conflicts

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Mallory, Krista
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Peter Senge's "The Fifth Discipline" offers hope for the democratic transformation of modern corporations into learning organizations. This vision sees corporations as true citizens of the world, deeply aware of the effects of their decisions on their members, communities, and society at large. Senge acknowledges that existing structures stand in direct opposition to the principles of the learning organization and provides a theoretical framework to enable the required transformation, but does not adequately deal with them in practice. This thesis explores the power structures of the traditional corporation in order to identify the contradictions between the democratic principles of the learning organization and the neoliberal practices of the corporation. This demonstrates how the learning organization discourse is ultimately being interpreted and used to increase productivity from workers to the continued exclusive benefit of the professional managerial class, the de facto rulers of the modern corporation. Through the Foucauldian lens of governmentality, the power relations in large, publicly-traded corporations are laid bare, thereby showing where the true power is held in the organization. This provides an analysis of who will control how the learning organization is practiced in this context. Finally, you will be provided with a precise explanation of the structural reasons that the implementation of the learning organization's democratic ideals can and do fail in modern corporations. Ultimately, the failure of Senge's "Fifth Discipline" to deal with these structural barriers leads to the learning organization being used as a management tool rather than as a fundamentally transformative practice that encompasses democratic reform.
Intellectual capital , Organizational effectiveness , Organizational learning