Shape Shifting Capital: New Management and the Bodily Metaphors of Spiritual Capitalism



There is a burgeoning and increasingly institutionalized discourse within organizational theory and business practice dedicated to exploring the intersections of “religion” and “spirituality” at work. Turning especially to the broadly influential management theory of Margaret Wheatley, I locate “spiritual” management within a contemporary management ethos characterized by both an increasing interest in transitive phenomena and pre-conscious understanding and the wholesale deregulation of industrial metaphors for society in favor of holistic, cybernetic and global metaphors for a networked society. Turning to the phenomenological and existential anthropology of the anthropologist, Michael Jackson, I argue that social theories, whether industrial or post-industrial, can never claim a full and final grasp over the total processes of life itself. Methodologically, I argue that we might seek to attend to the personal and social dimensions of new “workplace spirituality” contexts by paying careful empirical attention to the practical deployments and personalizations of the lived metaphors of “spiritual” capitalism, considered for these purposes to be important “patterns of intersubjective experience”. What Jackson refers to as “phenomenological and existential deconstruction” has a political edge to it because it always seeks to force abstract theory into a more empirically grounded relationship with life as it is actually lived. As Marx and various critical theories have suggested, the particular experiences of workers often resist and confound the sanitized and universalized ideologies of capital.