Work in a spiritual place: an ethnographic study of the nature of organisational life in self-sustaining spiritual communities

Brown, Martyn David (2009) Work in a spiritual place: an ethnographic study of the nature of organisational life in self-sustaining spiritual communities. Doctoral thesis, Birmingham City University.


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This study investigates a body of work under the banner of 'spirituality in the workplace', which, although having precedents in numerous earlier writings examining the relationship between religion and organisational life, arguably began in the middle 1980's and continues to the present. The literature appears to be broadly divided into those authors promoting the idea of a more spiritually informed workplace, and those offering more critical views; this study approaches the subject from this more critical position. More specifically, where most of the literature discusses the notion of 'spirituality in the workplace', and does not engage with theological or mystical work, this study offers a critical perspective based on empirical work carried out in two self-supporting spiritual communities, and therefore represents a consideration of 'work in a spiritual place'. Furthermore, the study is supported by reference to theological and mystical writing, as well as contributions from Jungian psychology.

The empirical work takes the form of an ethnographic study of two self- supporting spiritual communities; a Benedictine monastery in Gloucestershire and a Buddhist giftware business based in Cambridge. Data was collected by in-depth interviews and participant observation spanning approximately two and a half years, and included substantial time spent in both communities. Essentially, the study finds that the form of spiritual workplace envisaged by much of the spirituality in the workplace writing differs from the experience of the people in these two communities in certain important respects. Most notably these communities do not adopt a managerial stance in regards to decision making and they also aspire to non-dualistic and non-reified orientations that contrast sharply with the emphases in the spirituality in the workplace literature. In addition, the communities studied here consciously engage with traditional symbol and ritual, and these represent the imaginal means by which the community is held together and by which the individual seeks spiritual growth. The conclusions drawn from these observations are that spiritual communities offer a rich source of understanding to organisation theory in general, and to the spirituality in the workplace discourse more specifically.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
December 2009Completed
Subjects: CAH17 - business and management > CAH17-01 - business and management > CAH17-01-02 - business studies
CAH17 - business and management > CAH17-01 - business and management > CAH17-01-04 - management studies
Divisions: Doctoral Research College > Doctoral Theses Collection
Faculty of Business, Law and Social Sciences > Birmingham City Business School
Depositing User: Carrie-Anne Bryan
Date Deposited: 13 Feb 2017 14:01
Last Modified: 22 Mar 2023 11:49

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