Arts and literature can break open the stagnant chambers of management education dominated by linear thinking and binary logic.
Austrian psychotherapist and Holocaust survivor Viktor E Frankl, in his seminal book Man’s Search for Meaning, had identified in clear terms that the real problem of human beings in our modern world is not nothingness but “nothing-but-ness”. The implications of this diagnosis are deep and far-reaching. While it may appear that a kind of purposeless existential vacuum (nothingness) has engulfed the mind and life of people, a deep look at the behaviours, lifestyles and aspirations of jet-setters and go-getters among management students and corporate executives, the so-called torch-bearers of global economic progress, reveals a much deeper malaise. It stems from an uncritical bond signature to a worldview that celebrates and champions the logic of market economy, aggressive competition, linear undifferentiated growth, single-point drive for profits and relentless acquisition of material “goodies”.
The phenomenon of nothing-but-ness consists of systematic bulldozing of alternative models of progress and development in work and life that are still vibrant but beyond the margins. A random sampling of the usual language of conversations in the “educated” mainstream milieu will show an abundant use of such phrases as “great”, “perfect”, “absolutely” and the like. This often amounts to a vulgar display of arrogance that is hollow, distasteful, culturally impoverished - all pointing to a poor understanding of the life-world.
As the voice of the “other”, alternative modes of thinking and living increasingly face the peril of fading into oblivion. We hear the burning question on choosing life from German psychologist Erich Fromm: “To have or to be?” And T S Eliot makes the point sharp and clear in his three profound questions in the poem ‘The Rock’: