Heidegger's Contribution to the Understanding of Work-Based Studies.
Article Type: Book review
Subject: Books (Book reviews)
Author: Mandic, Mo
Pub Date: 01/01/2012
Publication: Name: Existential Analysis Publisher: Society for Existential Analysis Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Psychology and mental health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2012 Society for Existential Analysis ISSN: 1752-5616
Issue: Date: Jan, 2012 Source Volume: 23 Source Issue: 1
Topic: NamedWork: Heidegger's Contribution to the Understanding of Work-Based Studies (Nonfiction work)
Persons: Reviewee: Gibbs, Paul
Accession Number: 288874183
Full Text: Heidegger's Contribution to the Understanding of Work-Based Studies Paul Gibbs. (2011). London: Springer.

In this book, Paul Gibbs applies Heidegger's work to his own professional field of interest, namely, work-based learning and education. In order to move on to highlight aspects of the book that I feel are more interesting and hopefully more relevant to therapy, however, I need to immediately raise one concern that I have with it. There are some very basic errors in spelling in the text, which I am sure can be pushed to one side and explained as typographical errors. I cite here only one example of what I mean, namely the heading for chapter 12, which has in its title 'phenemological' instead of 'phenomenological'.

The 154 pages that comprise this work are arranged in 13 chapters, and divided into two parts. Part One attends to the context, as Gibbs sets it out, exploring the field of work and the workplace using Heidegger's philosophy. Particular attention is given to bringing out an understanding of the role and place of the employee, with reference to Marcuse, Arendt and Jiinger as well as Heidegger. Part Two, however, moves to issues that bear on the study of work-based studies, as well as other themes that the author seems to feel are pertinent to the domain of work, such as learning, our technological way of being and consumerism, time and the phenomenon of boredom, and the purpose and direction of education when compared to Aristotle's idea of 'phronesis', or practical wisdom.

At the beginning of the book, Gibbs introduces us to an understanding of learning as knowledge of being-in-the-world, and he ties this to the Aristotelian picture of action that draws on the idea of our development as responsible learners. We do this not through a formalised, institutionalised education, but by developing phronesis. The Heideggerian aspect to this is that we do this through relatedness rather than the existing transactional and instrumental way in which we use learning and knowledge. That is, at this time in our culture, we have moved in our understanding of being from 'poiesis' to 'techne', a change from a craft-like way in which we have previously engaged with our world to one of technical skill.

Gibbs argues that we need to widen our understanding such that we 'dwell' at work in a way that reflects our 'phronemos', and that the workplace becomes an opportunity for a site of learning. He applies such terms as machination (Machenschaft) and calculative thinking to his critique of the state of our higher education practices, and claims that we need to re-claim our concern for quality and trust rather than codifying and subsuming our activities in education and the work world under precepts that aim to exert some form of measurement and control. Gibbs pays attention to the way in which the mood of boredom in our times reflects a need to listen to this and respond to it positively. Cultivating a sense of 'phronemos', he thinks, is a way that we can restore ourselves to a more authentic path in our learning and engagement in the world of work.

Gibbs is ambitious in his scope, and this is reflected in the range of ideas that he wishes to incorporate in the book, and also the hurried style that he seems to adopt in the very way in which he writes. The effect is that he jumps rather quickly from one idea to another, without really providing enough attention to teasing out the deeper ramifications of his points. I was left with the feeling that more concrete detail could have been provided about the way in which his suggestions could be put into practice. For example, we are urged to see how teaching quality has become compromised by our current need to measure 'customer satisfaction' and promote overall efficiency through other forms of control, while the experiential elements of teaching and being engaged in work somehow fall away from view. Here, Gibbs could have focused on the pleasure of learning and our acquiring and applying skills, as we gain experience, such that we come to see a more compelling picture of education and its effect and influence on the workplace.

What makes this book so important to us as therapists? Whilst not written specifically for our profession, the book allows us to focus more closely on the particular way in which our clients i.e. employees--and, of course, employers too--can become estranged and alienated from their jobs, careers and ambitions. In some cases, such clients experience a significant 'world collapse', and it becomes difficult for them to regain the original sense of 'groundedness', or world, that they experienced prior to this. I agree that this may not be anything particularly new for any of us in the course of our work, but I think it is helpful to engage with this theme on a phenomenological level in order to be clearer on the factical as well as possibility-oriented aspects of the work world and the employee's relation to, and experience of, it. I think this book has also left me with an awareness of the need for us to focus much more on the way in which moods play a crucial role in our work. The moods of resentment, resignation, sadness, indignation and anger all come to mind when I recall clients' struggles in their experiences at work, and the fact that this informs the themes of our conversations.

A number of ideas, I feel, stem from the Dreyfusian approach to reading Heidegger (or as Dreyfus's colleague, John Searle describes it, 'Dreydigger'), drawing additionally on the skill-acquisition model that Dreyfus developed under the strong influence of Merleau-Ponty's writings. I find this conducive to my own way of understanding Heidegger, though readers might need to be aware that this has been considered an American Pragmatist reading, and that other ways of adapting Heidegger's ideas to the educational and workplace domains might be just as compelling, if not more so.

All in all, I was very much taken by this book for its focus on worlds that I think are troublesome for many individuals, whether they be related to education, learning or work. I am also grateful to Gibbs' own work for bringing me back to the question of how we can invite clients to think about and engage with these worlds in more resourceful ways.
Gale Copyright: Copyright 2012 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.