Learning and Health: Discourses of Reinvention

Tomkins, Leah (2019). Learning and Health: Discourses of Reinvention. In: Tomkins, Leah and Pritchard, Katrina eds. Health at Work: Critical Perspectives. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 67–82.

URL: https://www-routledge-com/Health-at-Work-Critical-...


In this chapter, we explore some of the ways in which issues of health and well-being have become entwined with both individual and organizational learning. Specifically, we:
• Interrogate the assumption that learning is automatically or necessarily good for us.
• Introduce the metaphor of organization-as-brain, highlighting how many of the most desirable characteristics of organization (intelligence, inventiveness, connectivity, flexibility, etc) take the brain and its capacity to learn as their implicit blueprint.
• Suggest that a prioritisation of organizational learning constructs the ‘perfect employee’ as someone committed to ongoing self-development and self-reinvention.
• Explore interrelations between learning and well-being, suggesting both that learning enhances well-being (learning enough to be well) and that well-being enhances learning (being well enough to learn).
• Reflect on how an emphasis on learning casts the individual as agent of his or her own employability, and hence responsible for the health benefits that continuous employment produces.
• Consider the emotional costs of discourses of learning and reinvention, such as feelings of guilt, shame and a sense that one is never quite good enough.
• Reflect on how individualised responsibility for both learning and well-being casts popular organizational tools, such as personal development plans (PDPs), in a different light.

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