Emptiness and Work: a Meaning-Making Perspective
- 375 Downloads
This paper aims to put forward the foundation for building a theory of meaning-making based on emptiness. The theoretical perspective underlying the discussion is the cultural psychology of semiotic mediation. According to this perspective, meaning-making is the result of the process through witch human beings use signs to build their relationship with their environment. Three topics unfold in the paper. First, emptiness is defined as a potential absence. Second, the paper identifies the two ways in which emptiness enters into the meaning-making process, either fostering it or, to the contrary, blocking it. When it fosters meaning construction, emptiness acts as a catalytic factor, that is, as a reservoir of possibilities, in the sense of a future-oriented set of new meanings to be built by the agent. However, when emptiness plays the role of a blocking or anti-catalytic factor, emptiness become a hyper-generalized sign, i.e., an empty meaning. Third, this paper illustrates the applicability of these theoretical reflections on emptiness through the example of work. Specifically, both the burnout and the so-called “placardisation” phenomena are analyzed in terms of the anti-catalytic factors at play in work, which lead to feeling it as empty.
KeywordsEmptiness Meaning-making Work meaning Empty work Burnout Meaningful work
I am grateful for feedback on an earlier version of this paper from Jaan Valsiner.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
This study was funded by Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES) (Grant number: 99,999.007367/2015–05).
Conflict of Interest
The author declares that he has no conflict of interest.
This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by the author.
- Aristotle (1862). Physique: De l’espace, du vide et du temps (Livre IV)(J. B. Saint-Hilaire, trans.). Paris: A. Durand. Retrieved from: http://remacle.org/bloodwolf/philosophes/Aristote/phys4.htm
- Beckett, S. (1954). Waiting for Godot. New York: Grove.Google Scholar
- Bendassolli, P. F. (2016). Work and culture: approaching cultural and work psychology. Culture & Psychology. doi: 10.1177/1354067X16682939.
- Bergson, H. (1998). Creative evolution (A. Mitchell, trans.). New York: Dover Publications (Original published in 1911).Google Scholar
- Bion, W. (1967). Second thoughts. New York: Aronson.Google Scholar
- Bitbol, M. (1998). L’aveuglante proximité du réel. Paris: Flammarion.Google Scholar
- Braverman, H. (1974). Work and monopoly capital. New York: NYU.Google Scholar
- Camus, A. (1985). Le mythe de Sisyphe. Paris: Gallimard.Google Scholar
- Cederström, C., & Fleming, P. (2012). Dead man working. Alresford: Zero Books.Google Scholar
- Chang, R. S. (Ed.). (2009). Relating with environment: a new look at umwelt. Charlotte: Information Age Publishers.Google Scholar
- Clot, Y. (2009). Travail et pouvoir d’agir. Paris: PUF.Google Scholar
- Herbst, D. P. (1995). What happens when we make a distinction. In T. Kindermann & J. Valsiner (Eds.), Development of person-context relations (pp. 67–79). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
- Josephs, I. E., Valsiner, J., & Surgan, S. E. (1999). The process of meaning construction. In J. Brandtstater & R. M. Lerner (Eds.), Action and self-development (pp. 257–281). London: Sage.Google Scholar
- Kant, E. (1998). Critique of pure reason (Guyer and A. W. Wood, trans.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (Original published in 1781).Google Scholar
- Klinger, E. (1998). The search for meaning in evolutionary perspective and its clinical applications. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
- Lange, K. (1907). Apperception: a monograph on psychology and pedagogy. Boston: Heath.Google Scholar
- Leontiev, A. N. (2009). The development of mind. Ohio: Bookmasters.Google Scholar
- Lepisto, D. A., & Pratt, M. G. (2016). Meaningful work as realization and justification: toward a dual conceptualization. Organizational Psychology Review, Online First. doi: 10.1177/2041386616630039
- Lhuilier, D. (2002). Placardisés: Des exclus dans l’entreprise. Paris: Seuil.Google Scholar
- Marx, K. (1999). Stranged labor. In M. Waters (Ed.), Modernity: critical concepts (pp. 40–51). Londres: Sage (Original published in 1844).Google Scholar
- Maslach, C., & Leiter, M. P. (1997). The truth about burnout. Palo Alto: Consulting Psychologists Press.Google Scholar
- Pascal, B. (1970). Oeuvres completes (Tome II). Paris: Desclée de Brouver (Original published in 1779).Google Scholar
- Peirce, C. S. (1935). Collect papers. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Pratt, M. G., & Ashforth, B. E. (2003). Fostering meaningful-ness in working and at work. In K. S. Cameron, J. E. Dutton, & R. E. Quinn (Eds.), Positive organizational scholar-ship (pp. 309–327). San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.Google Scholar
- Rothlin, P., & Werder, P. R. (2007). Boreout! Overcoming workplace demotivation. London: Kogan Page.Google Scholar
- Valsiner, J. (2007). Culture in minds and societies. London: Sage.Google Scholar
- Winter-Lindqvist, D., & Gang, J. (2016). Nothingness. New Jersey: Transaction Publishers.Google Scholar
- Zawieja, P. (2015). Le burn out. Paris: PUF.Google Scholar