Repository logo

Organizational disempowerment : an opportunity for personal, social and political capacity development.

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



This thesis addresses the capacity development needs of white-collar employees within large organizations. Common employee problems of violation and diminishment of potential are ignored by mainstream organizational theory and management practice. Because these problems are unarticulated in any formal sense they lack legitimacy in the mainstream discourse. I label such problems, that result from unequal social relations, as problems of "disempowerment". This labelling re-conceptualizes the large organizational context as a political community with an institutionalized capacity to disempower employees, stunt their personal, social and political development, and inhibit any challenge to the existing privileged arrangements. The re-labelling of common employee problems in this way positions the research challenge in the political domain, stimulates the capacity to redefine problematic social relations in creative ways and opens the way for different possibilities and different solutions. An analytical examination of multi-disciplinary scholarship reveals articulation of a common theme that can be viewed as facets of the problem which I identify as one of disempowerment. The main body of the thesis examines these disciplines and collates the literature of concern into a structured argument. The main thrust of the argument is that the alternative debate to mainstream organizational theory and management practice has been marginalized and lacks legitimacy. This situation allows the orthodox view, with its focus on technical problem solving and efficiency, to ignore the more humane aspects of organizational life that demand the socio-political development of employees in order for them to make a meaningful contribution. Although there is a rhetoric of empowerment in organizational development thrusts, these do not address the political challenge of organizational life. The thesis suggests that employees, in collectively picking up the challenge of their own personal, social and political development, can transform organizations into becoming more humane ones that promote capacity development as a common benefit. This initiative would require the institutionalized support of academe in legitimizing and disseminating an alternative debate.


Thesis (Ph.D.) - University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 1999.


Organizational behaviour., Organizational Effectiveness., Organizational Change., Employee empowerment., Employee motivation., Employee morale., Employee participation., Achievement motivation., Theses--Political science.