Article i 'Tidsskrift for arbejdsliv' no. 1 2008, page 40-55.
English resume

Politics of Knowledge and Personal Development for the Danish Workforce

Peter Khallash Bengtsen

The article is based on a study of how certain ideals for the personal development of the Danish workforce are advanced by dominant actors in Danish labour market and industrial politics. The study examines policy papers and reports from the Danish Government and Danish councils of top business managers with the purpose of describing, how the ideals for the personal development at work are determined by the understanding of knowledge in these policy papers and reports.

It is shown how the construction of self and knowledge are described as connected in three ways in this discourse of knowledge work: Knowledge understood as individual competence makes knowledge production possible only through self-development. This possibility is presented as a necessity with regard to the pressing demands of the global economy. Finally the self-development connected with the knowledge production is thought of as a goal in itself.

Competence is used as one of the central concepts that connect the development of knowledge and self, because it at the same time is used as a utilization-oriented concept of knowledge and as a concept of human capability. The connection of knowledge and self development promotes certain personality characteristics as ideals determined by the concept of knowledge economy.

Using theories of self-formation four ideals of personal development are found in the policy papers and reports. (‘Formation’ is used as translation of the Danish ‘dannelse’, which in German is ‘Bildung’. In the light of the growing individualization the theoretical perspective uses the notion ‘self-formation’.) An underlying assumption behind the ideals is that personal development is a basic characteristic of human nature as well as a premise for growth in the knowledge economy. Flexibility and ‘readiness of change’ are found to be two of these ideals, which makes personal change a more accurate concept than personal development. The third ideal can be described as ‘responsibility of succes’, because more responsibility than before is placed on the shoulders of employees. The fourth ideal is found to be ‘solidarity of development’ and stresses, that the new way of making a sense of solidarity between colleagues is by demands of new possibilites for personal development at work. Solidarity is no longer determined by class but by the needs of development built into this discourse.

This perspective of self-development at work is found to be modern with regard to the ideological and unifying view of human nature and society, but post-modern with regard to the concept of knowledge. By describing knowledge work in a very broad sense it possible to promote these ideals of personal development at work to a majority of the workforce. In this way – and because of the lack of concepts of workplace dividing lines and conflicts in the policy papers and reports – the ideology becomes a grand vision for the Danish workforce as a whole.

Tidsskrift for arbejdsliv

(Journal for Working Life)




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in Danish frontpage Nyt om arbejdsliv
editor Jørgen Burchardt