Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Ask?sis and organizational culture.

Halsall, Robert; Brown, Mary


Robert Halsall

Mary Brown


This article makes the case for the contribution of the cultural theory of Sloterdijk and the tradition of philosophical anthropology on which it is based to an understanding of the processes of culture formation in organizations. Rather than see culture formation as the model of an autonomous self which sacrifices or gives up this autonomy as a result of identification with the organizational culture, or retains it by resisting or distancing from the culture, the article argues that we should see organizational selves as engaged in processes of ask?sis, understood as 'systems of spiritual exercises, ... practised in collectives of personalised regimes' (Sloterdijk, 2009: 12), the aim of which is the fulfilment of the imperative 'you must change your life!' (Sloterdijk, 2009). The article illustrates the application of the theory to the formation of 'secessionist' cultures, cultures devoted to the pursuit of radical ascetic aims, by outlining the mechanisms of ask?sis in contemporary organizations: the splitting of the self into 'willing' and 'unwilling' elements which are in constant 'endo-rhetorical' dialogue; the imitation of exemplars of ascetic behaviour, or the 'perfectionist vita'; 'conversion' to the organizational culture, whether as a sudden experience or as a gradual process, and organizational cultures understood as 'cultures of observance', the aim of which are to encourage the employee to scrutinize habitual behaviour and change this behaviour in line with the ideals of the secessionist culture. The end point of ask?sis is reached when the employee conceives organizational life itself as a continual 'test' of commitment and will.


HALSALL, R. and BROWN, M. 2013. Askesis and organizational culture. Organization [online], 20(2), Available from: pages 233-255. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 12, 2012
Online Publication Date Oct 12, 2012
Publication Date Mar 1, 2013
Deposit Date Jan 22, 2014
Publicly Available Date Jan 22, 2014
Journal Organization
Print ISSN 1350-5084
Electronic ISSN 1461-7323
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 20
Issue 2
Pages 233-255
Keywords Askesis; Asceticism; Autonomy; Conversion; Formation of organisational self; Organisational culture; Sloterdijk
Public URL


Downloadable Citations