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The particularity of autonomy

By Eric Lomax Newbigging


1. The nature and scope of this thesis is the meaning and possibility of personal\ud autonomy for the contemporary self embedded in a complex of changing\ud organizations.\ud 2. Its contribution is in relating philosophy to the study of complex organizations.\ud 3. The research is based upon the relevant literature and empirical studies informed by\ud the writer's organizational experience.\ud 4. The thesis is structured in two parts with the following arguments. Part I (The\ud Situated Self of Sensible Reasoning) sets out a checklist for personal autonomy as\ud positive freedom and rejects a universalist concept of autonomy as moral autonomy\ud for its neglect of the self s particularity - its situation, sentiments and contingency. A\ud midway position combines the principle of detachment with an evaluatory\ud understanding of the nested self of cognitive sensibility. The self's coherence and its\ud perspective are embodied in a unique narrative which governs the portfolio of the\ud individual as agent in its relations, roles and aims. The sells portfolio constitutes the\ud choices of its nestedness and its autonomy: it's not here, not there but where I choose\ud to locate it.\ud Part II (Managing Contingency)explores different types of organizations and their\ud members' behaviour to identify those which enable the individual to confront\ud contingency in its own terms. The final chapter examines how the current\ud organizationa disembedding process forces the individual to confront its autonomy in\ud a contemporary world of change.\ud 5. The main conclusions of the thesis are:\ud (i) There is a workable concept of personal autonomy, understood sul generis, ie\ud in terms of its own particularity ;\ud (ii) Those organizations enabling the individual to confront contingency in its own\ud terms offer the best hope of autonomy ;\ud (iii) The architect and the entrepreneur are key in illustrating the role of autonomy in\ud a creative relating of order and contingency;\ud (iv) The demise of the metanarrative of permanent and full employment are Inter alla\ud forcing upon the individual the choices of heteronomy (captured in another's\ud metanarrative as consumer and viewer), anomie (whim or chance) or personal\ud autonomy

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