Thuistezien 58 — 18.05.2019

Reason and Unreason
Torkild Thanem

Working from home has become a big part of our ‘new society’, which has both mental and physical consequences for the working people. These consequences are not just temporary, they will still have effects in the distant future. New insights can be created by unusual situations. What does it mean for our working bodies, to not be in the presence of colleagues, and what is the effect of the limited livingroom/workplace? How does the body serve to our work performance and ambitions? And what limits should we set for ourselves, before the body is exploited for better profitability?

These questions are at the center to Torkild Thanem’s field of research. Thanem is a Professor of Management and Organization Studies and the director of the MSc program in management studies at Stockholm University. It is part of Thanem’s work to generate and analyze empirical material using ‘Embodied Research Methods’, in which the body is involved in the research process, without there being a distinction between the physical and the social. In the lecture ‘Reason and Unreason’ during the two-day international symposium ‘Spinoza & the Arts Passionate Reason’, Thanem gave us some examples from the field research at Swedish sportswear company Björn Borg, an organization where prophecy and rationality are combined with contemporary business and management. They claim a physically fit employee would perform better at work, or in other words, fitness would stimulate company performance. A compulsory sports hour became part of the work routine, therefore the office closes every Friday at 11am to exercising together. In addition to the sales goals the staff also has fitness goals, and to be able to measure these, there is a mandatory fitness test twice a year. The management of Björn Borg endorses the desires of the employees to be strong and fit, and therefore achieve the company goals and sales numbers. Using Spinoza's work, Thanem discusses the possible positive and negative effects, the reason and unreason behind a business organization such as that of Björn Borg.

Tomorrow, on Wednesday 20 May 2020 at 3 p.m., Baruch Gottlieb will talk to Torkild Thanem about the changed circumstances by Covid-19 and the consequences of this for the (working) life. The interview can be followed free of charge via