Our New Emerging Society
With the industrialisation of the late 19th and early 20th century our society entered, what philosophers have called, the ‘modernist’ era. This has been characterised by our use of science to rationally and objectively understand the natural world so that we can exploit it in order to progress the human endeavour and increase our wellbeing. As we learnt how to build great machines, we organised our work in the same way and learnt to build great machine like organisations.
Since the 1960’s there has been a growing backlash against the modernist perspective on the world. Philosophers have described this as the ‘postmodernist’ era which is essentially a critique of modernism. Postmodernism does not accept notions of objective reality, morality, truth, reason, and social progress. Instead, postmodernism creates and accepts a pluralistic society giving space for us each to perceive and understand the world in different ways according to our own diverse values. Our machine like organisations have responded to this change, to some degree, with initiatives such as empowerment, inclusion, diversity and employee engagement. As the overall purpose of machine like organisations has not changed, the postmodernist backlash is fragmenting our society into sub-groups and we are seeing the rise of ‘identity politics’. Organisations are now exposed to numerous critical, vocal and, increasingly, activist groups.
Emergence of Metamodernism
The lack of change in our machine like organisations contributed to the global economic crisis in 2008. In response to this crisis a new perspective on life has gained ground. Philosophers are calling this the emergence of a new 'metamodernist' society. Metamodernism does not see things as being fixed, separate and fragmented. Instead it see things as continually flowing, interconnected and whole. It values acceptance and thrives in the paradoxical and self-contradictory nature of our society and takes a ‘both-and’ rather than an ‘either-or’ perspective on life. The energy of difference is used to create continuous unfolding change. Rather than seeing the world as a machine, metamodernism sees the world as an ecosystem. To survive and thrive today, organisations now need to become more aligned with the new emerging ‘metamodernist’ society. Otherwise, they will continue to lose their ‘social license to operate’.
What are the characteristics of a machine organisation? Read more …