It's not just semantics LO6273

Terri Deems (
Thu, 28 Mar 1996 09:51:41 -0600 (CST)

Replying to LO6251 --

> On March 26, David posted a paper on empowerment, noting that
> >the group liked the concepts, but they have trouble with the term
> >"empowerment."

Malcolm responded:

> As an afficionado of Peter Block's _Stewardship_, I guess I'd have to
> offer MHO that your approach still makes powerful assumptions about
> the essential power to give or not give resting in management. For
> example, your *direction* definition seems to presume that someone is
> to tell the "workers" what the mission is, rather than presuming that
> they have been partners in building the shared vision.

I've lurked on this list for a little while now, and have decided that now
is as good a time as any to get my feet wet. I agree with Malcolm (and a
couple of others who have made similar remarks) that this idea of
empowerment continues to support the traditional power/interest social
systems created within our organizations. As Freire points out, the idea
of one group of people "empowering" another is still a matter of "a"
deciding for "b," and perpetuates (perhaps through a false generosity) a
system of domination. So I tend to cringe whenever I hear people talking
about "empowerment."

Is there a better term? Liberatory practice has been mentioned, but that
is perhaps too radical a term for most people to handle. Some maverick
organizations simply refer to it as "natural," emphasizing the need for
work conditions and processes that cease to be barriers to joy in work,
pride in craftsmanship, and sense of connectedness, contribution, and
meaningfulness in work. Not so much a matter of "creating" new work
environments, but that reawaken our more natural tendencies to work
creatively and with spirit--in contrast to the learned helplessness we
have created with many of our organizational practices.

I'm enjoying the dialogue on this list!

Terri Deems
Deems Associates Inc

-- (Terri Deems)

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