Follow by Email

OGUN AND MANAGEMENT SCIENCE

It seems rather abrupt to move from myths and myth makers to modern theories of management and organization. But there is a warrant for it. While monotheists, and ideologically correct defenders of secular culture may be hard put to allow a discussion of the gods within their paradigms, theories are emerging from the most unlikely sectors which suggest that a knowledge of the gods may be more of service today than is usually supposed. The knowledge is steeped in religiosity, but as part of a way of engaging
problems of organization in modern secular society  in schools, hospitals, barracks, factories, farms, government or private sector -  there is hardly a more germane repository of axioms for the purpose of achieving organizational effectiveness. In particular, Management theorist, Charles Handy, one of the gurus of Prime Minister Tony Blairs  futurist platform, has brougHt to form a way of reasoning about the gods which may befuddle the uninitiated but invites a way of deploying the Greek pantheon to remove organizational failure. In his books Understanding Organizations  and Gods of Management (Arrow Books,1995), Handy provides a creative retrieval of an old hermeneutics based on Greek and pre-Christian paganism which indicates how the conclave of the gods makes sense beyond the religious context within which they are usually discussed. He situates them firmly within the realm of management science. Based on the principle of equifinality which posits that there isnt only one way to organize -  that we can arrive at the same goals from different directions  he looks at four archetypal gods of management, Zeus, Apollo, Athena., and Dionysus. Zeus, almost like but not quite an Orisanla figure, is a patriarchal personage who brings order in situations of  fluidity; a deity positioned to take quick decisions, but generally bored by routine and prone to a person-culture in organization. Charles Handy pictures the format around this god as The Club Culture exemplified by  a spider web. The second archetypal god of management is Apollo, the god of rules and order, a true god of the bureaucracy, a god of, more or less, settled times when what happened yesterday may well happen tomorrow, a follower of precedents with skills for counting and numbering, but not very helpful in turbulent times.  Apollos is a role culture, which defines the job to be done rather than the personality that would do the job or perform the role. Its  picture is a Greek temple, for Greek temples draw their strength and their beauty from the pillars. The third god of organization is Athena, a young woman, the warrior goddess, patroness of Odysseus, that arch problem-solver, and of craftsmen and pioneering captains. The format is: First define the problem, then allocate to its solution the appropriate resources, give the resulting group of men, machines and money the go`-ahead, and wait for the solution. Judge performance in terms of results, solved problems. The picture of the Athena culture is a net, because it draws resources from various parts of the organizational system in order to focus them on a particular knot or problem. Power lies in the interstices of the net, not at the top, as in the Apollo culture, or at the centre, as in the Zeus organization. The organization is a network of loosely-linked commando units each being largely self-contained but with a specific responsibility within an overall strategy..The culture recognizes only expertise as the base of power or influence. Age does not impress, nor length of service, nor closeness of kin to the owner. To contribute to your group, talent is what is needed, and creativity, a fresh approach and new intuitions.(p.28). Athenas is a task culture, dealing with research, development departments, consultancies, even advertising. Variety, not predictability, is the yeast of this kind of management. The fourth god of management, according to Charles Handy,  is Dionysius, god of wine and Song. He represents the existential ideology among the gods. Existentialism starts from the assumption that the world is not some part of a higher purpose; we are not simply instruments of some god. Instead, although the fact that we exist at all is an accident, if anyone is responsible for us and our world, it is ourselves. We are in charge of our own destinies. This is not a reason for self-indulgent selfishness, for Kants categorical imperative applies, that whatever we ordain or wish for ourselves must be equally applicable to the rest of mankind. Wine and orgies wont work unless someone makes the wine, and that someone must potentially include us. Handy states the organizational implications: In all the other three cultures, the individual is subordinate to the organization: the style of the relationship may vary, but the individual is there to help the organization achieve its purpose and is paid in one way or another by the organization for doing that. In this fourth existential culture, the organization exists to help the individual achieve his purpose(p.32).The Dionysian culture belongs to professionals; it exists for its participants, a commune culture of mutually independent stars who recognize no boss.

The impression we get, after Handys introduction of the four gods is that we have always known them. The difference is that, from the standpoint of management science, the commitment that people make to the different gods is outside the ponderous, religious overhang of the old pantheon. Charles Handy deepens the secular edge and utility of his proposition by drawing attention to their everyday involvements in management problems. Organizations, he argues, always tend to put the common good before individual need and so they tend to try to translate Dionysians into Athenians, the existential into the task culture. In the end,  as he also reasons in Understanding Organizations, it becomes obvious that no god is able to live without the other gods. In essence, organizations are generally obliged to have to mix the cultures in order to achieve goals. It does not follow that any mix will do. Some mixes, it turns out, are more relevant and effective than others. Nor is it about being married to or committed to a patron deity. The aim is to ensure a fit between the nature of the problem to be solved and the god who is appealed to, for solutions. Difficulties arise, and organizational failure results, when the wrong gods are invited to the work-table.

A remarkable feature of Handys scheme is that it does not need to be much revised or panel-beaten to agree with the animist praxis that Soyinkas Ogun upholds. The Dionysian, we might propose, is an Ogun figure with enough frenzy to meet and correct the ossification of social reflexes. But there are days for Apollo, the Obatala figure, the role-player, lord of the formal, bureaucratic ethos; there are forms of organization which conform to the will of Narcissus, self-luxuriating god; or the more eclectic forms which tie up with Athenas task culture. The Esu figure would be coincident with the Greek god, Hermes, a god of pure technie, task oriented, or as Debray has called him, a jack of all trades, who is generally viewed in the  Yoruba pantheon as beyond good and evil. All the gods, in essence, embody concerns buried within the pantheistic, animistic or what is incorrectly described as  pagan traditions. In Charles Handys creative retrieval of the old gnosis, the purpose is not to graft extraneous matter on the behaviour of the gods but to follow the rituals of the gods, their characterolgical attributes. For effect, the gods, depicted in terms of the understanding they represent in the  management of organizations, are not so much summoned, as recognized, appeased and given their due.

 Ogun, for instance, may be a personal god chosen as a matter of temperament, or ideological orientation. But, as the Italian semiotician, Umberto Eco discovered in Brazil, and as he reports in the essay Whose side are the Orixa on?, (Travels in Hyper Reality), you do not so much chose but are chosen. He, for instance, was told by different pai de santos, patriarchs of umbanda shrines, that he was a child of Ozala (Obatala). In effect,  it is not so much a choice that ones culture makes - although a culture may be predominantly of one god than the other at a particular time. It is a choice that one represents within a culture. The choice of Ogun, for that matter, may amount to the choice of a strategy, a typology of action, which could meet some situations but not necessarily others in the face of a culture attuned in other directions. Handy posits, for the benefit of modern management science, that as not only individuals but also organizations can be of one god-type or culture, individuals who are Athenians can find themselves in Dionysian organizations just as Zeus figures may function within Apollonian organizations. The consequent mix may lead to success or failure depending on the problem at hand. In the circumstance, the task of management is not just to learn to recognize its own god, but to consider which personage fits the task at hand. Problems of routine are generally ceded to the Apollonian-Obatalan figure. Those which call for initiative, the breaking of logjams in difficult situations, in particular, problems involving a confabulation of equal citizens in a political organization or trade union or  echelon of professionals - not only iron workers and soldiers now but also others -  are necessarily in the region of Ogun-Dionysius.

All the gods, quintessentially, function within what Nietzsche describes as the chthonic realm: Soyinkas fourth stage, a zone in mythic space, distinct from but encompassing the world of the living, the dead and the unborn, an-in-between world, in which all the agonies of gods and humankind are experienced, transformed and re-incribed for the fortification of human will. Although both Nietzsche and Soyinka resolve the chthonic realm into a religious force-field in which the distance between men and gods may be reduced and the differences between the gods are made known, resolved, terrestialized  or superseded, we may  also  view it in a secular light as a zone of hard decisions in which uncertainties are breached which thereafter affect the present and  reshape how we relate to the past and the future. The chthonic realm  in essence is  a zone of contingency,  indeterminacy and risk, where critical decision-making takes place; where the arts and the sciences may serve as limbs deployed to determine or pre-determine outcomes! That is, depending on how the gods mix or are mixed. Even within this secular understanding, it retains its primeval attributes: the critical decisions that it engages fall within a typology, already prefigured by a past event, repeated in age after age, offering the basis for fore-knowledge of the way things are or  could be. Mostly, we are dealing with human Will, stripped to a prong for the mastery of eventualities -  the processes of change and of becoming, the cycle of the seasons, the eternal returns of mornings noons and evenings in the life of people and projects; the fact that people are born, grow old and die. Of course, immersion in the chthonic realm is supposed to change a lineal perception of time in the pursuit of goals:  visualizing situations in terms of life circles, yet, accommodating respect for  chronologies in order to map the grounds for effective individual and collective action. The implication is that there is an everyday chthonic realm or fourth stage in the affairs of the world outside the big decisive happenings in history.

 In  politics, it may be mapped by institutions created for the purpose of absorbing changes or  simply swimming with the tide. In any circumstance, those intent on breaking the normal rhythm of things need to be aware of the score in terms of the gods that must be appeased. Knowing that eventual decay or ossification is the fate of all phenomena, what god must be appeased to obviate the imminence of, shall we say, violent change when what were once solutions become crying problems? This is a question that many polities have found answers to in periodic elections -  liberal democracy as a means of social renewal. Chairman Mao in China thought otherwise and sought to avoid ossification and social decay through Cultural Revolutions. But the trauma of seasonal upheavals, answerable to no known procedures but the whims of the secular Promethians, could not produce the requisite Apollonian/Obatalan modus for handling recurrent ventures. It may be recalled that Maos positioning on the question of the Cultural Revolution was an advance on the theory of Permanent Revolution, a theory that assumed the linearity of commitment to proletarian consciousness irrespective of the cultural pressures, ideas, events, and changes in the structure of the population. The unconscionable commitment to this linearity partly explains the demise of the Soviet Union. On the other hand, the repudiation of a permanent revolution - and suggesting some kind of cultural determinism - explains why Obafemi Awolowo in his The Peoples Republic  accepted almost every plank in the Marxist notion of society but affirmed periodic elections, and rejected the idea of a stateless society . The state as a means for expressing human will, he reasoned, would not wither away,  whether at the level of the village, the tribe, the nationality, the continent or the supra-supra of a World Government. The exercise of human will was thus affirmed as a constant requirement for the defence of decent life on earth. How to bring will to the fore? This  let it be argued  is, eternally, the political question, and the central problem at the heart of social and political organization.

We encounter variants of the problem in Soyinkas works. In The Interpreters,  Egbo has to decide, as the Odemo of Isara in Soyinkas hometown had to, whether to serve his country in the civil service, in the urban maelstrom or move to his hometown, essentially to the backwoods, to become a traditional ruler. Lazarus in the same novel, the most political of the characters although cast in a religious light, gathers the down and outs of society together, but what is he to do with them? Fuse them into a movement or  simply let the synergy of their being together lead where it will? The answer would appear to have come in the follow-up novel,  SEASON OF ANOMY.  Pa  Ahime, the Mao-Orisanla figure, in the novel represents a life-affirming ethic whose missioners are intent on moving the country away from a violence-prone cabal  towards humane directions. Failure dogs the missioners he sends out to proselytize the hostile, unequally yoked cultural geographies of the country. What grounds may be threshed for  the sharing of empathy and deploying commonalities of intent and action? When one family union, led by a wise benign patriarch, pursues a political mission as such, what are the principles that must cement its relationship with other family unions? How does one family union transform itself into a means of awakening for another without becoming itself a bastion of reaction and a threat to the integrity and self-will of the other? How create a nation out of a multiplicity of tribes and moieties? In KONGIS HARVEST, the Prince turns revolutionary. What are the institutional forms that would ensure the survival of the new ethic if the old order, remains the platform that grants legitimacy to new ventures?  Or to bring Death and the Kings Horseman down to its rootedness in living history! We encounter a people who had witnessed the death of one King after another in circumstances that pointed to the Kings Horseman as the serial murderer. The community decides that the only way to prevent the consistent disruption of succession to kingly authority, and the instability created in society as a result, is for every Kings Horseman to die with the King. The Horseman who wishes to live long must therefore make it his business to keep his King alive. Meanwhile, every Kings Horseman is granted all the privileges and sumptuousness, artfully ritualized, while he is on this side of the metaphysical divide. Then comes this Elesin Oba, who after enjoying all the privileges of his station, weighed down by the sweetness of this world, is unable to make the supreme sacrifice at the end of the day. Not unlike many contemporary leaders who, without a thought to the dangers posed to the community and to succeeding generations by such dereliction of duty, see public office as a feast of self-aggrandizement rather than an opportunity for hard work, service and sacrifice for the common good! No doubt, the custom of killing the Elesin or requiring him to commit death is barbaric! But how sustain the boggled will of the community without dealing with the original crisis that led to communal insistence on the necessity for the Kings Horseman to ride with the King to the other side of the metaphysical divide! How in such a situation to ignore the ethic of vigilance and creativity that constitute the will of Ogun? The short of it is that conceiving a world that can subsist without an Ogunnian ethic is to imagine a world without politics or difficult choices. Where Ogun supervenes, there is a presumption of creativity untrammeled by fear, a necessity to celebrate individuals and groups who possess the requisite sense of initiative and dare.  Ogun is a god constantly seeking, through daring acts of will or song and dance, to break away from, or dissolve the jams, strictures and immobilisms that become life-destroying in society. The gods propensity to excess is however well known. It is a function of the incompleteness which humankind shares with deities. To seek to reduce it, is the beginning of wisdom; wisdom that is supposed to be covered by the Apollonian/Obatalan capacity for institution-building. This is why the parable of Oguns bloodbaths, the drunken bouts of Obatala, and the constant mischief of Esu testing reality beyond good and evil, is at the heart of the narrations of the animist pantheon.  By outing  the intrinsic incompleteness of the gods, ample room is allowed for humankind to exercise creativity and dare.

We need to watch out however on the tendency to treat the gods of management  only as personalities, as individuals. They could also be imagined as a class, as institutions, as nations. This gives us Dionysian-Ogunnian leaders and organizations, Apollonian-Obatalan nations and institutions, in the sense in which  talks about Asian Tigers have emphasized what are called Confucian values. Which ever is the case, whether pictured as individuals, groups or institutions, there is a problem of primeval proportions to deal with: an individual makes performances within a group; and a group may accede to a common cause as if it is an individual. The key term here is as if, a construction that must never be forgotten, for once forgotten that it is a  construction, it disrupts what needs to be constantly willed and defended -  the capacity for collective self-affirmation and creativity. This, the eternal political question, is resolved by Plato at the feet of the philosopher-king. Machiaveli gave the ace to the Prince. Rousseau celebrated it in the idea of the Legislator backed by a political religion. Nietzsche made it a factor of the Overman, a Zarathustra, beyond good and evil. They all raise the kind of questions that Gramsci faced when he reasoned that The Modern Prince cannot be an individual but must be a political party, an organized group. Whether a party or not, as the case of the Communist systems showed in the 20th century, the wisdom supplied by the animistic code  suggests that no group is beyond decay, deterioration, debasement, or the hardening of arteries that turns once innovative bodies into grumpy conservative outfits. Once the circle of decay or debasement sets in, the world sooner than later gets a Stalin, a Hitler, a Kongi or some such variation on the theme of impunity, according to the iron law of oligarchy. Needless to say, in Africa, barring a few exceptions, we seem to be always on the verge of having Dionysus, the Prince without the political party and therefore the Modern Prince without a sense of the larger nation. Crude individualism has tended to be at the heart of  collective action. The mass parties have often been dominated by the personalism and patrimonialism of the Boss-type or incompetent messianic figure who, like  military dictators across the board, refuse to acknowledge that their success at democratization lies in working for the condition of their own irrelevance. The late twentieth century approach to this possibility was to say that, since every concerted programme eventually produces a Stalin, a Hitler, or a Kongi, the world must do without a party or trade union with a social programme. The paradox is that among the most anti-stalinist rhetoricians of the twentieth century was Mrs Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister of Britain who left behind her the image of an authoritarian leader who did not believe in society. She is a good example of how any principle pursued to its limits turns in the opposite direction; and proof that a society deprived of core-will may forfeit it to an individual. It may be argued that British society was protected against her liability to excess by a pre-existing Appollonian-Obatalan frame which was re-affirmed when she fell from power. The lesson is that a Kongi, unguarded by the requisite frame of routinized authority, pitches every society into the chthonic realm to slug or slough through the primeval gulf.

Understandably, there may well be a tradition of seeing the primeval gulf as an outlandish outpost through which Ogunnnian personages deploy a will of iron to clear paths to solutions. The secularization implied by management science terrestializes it however so that it could involve the perception of organizational strategy, not just as a plan or a programme of action: but, as organization theorist Henry Mintzberg has proposed, the pattern that emerges from a stream of decisions. The consequence of this proposition is to view the activism of the gods as manifest not only in critical situations but in responses to work-a-day circumstances. This resolves the common tendency, in the face of hard and difficult times for a country, to put the notion of a revolutionary break permanently on the agenda. No doubt, without breaking the mould that constrains the affirmation of life, one trashes in vain for therapy, harmony and lasting deliverance within the frames of ossified power. But it is also quite crucial to appreciate the animist intimations which suggest that, for it to stand, any revolutionary break, requires an ethic,  ritualized (formalized in everyday terms) rather than flightily or gratuitously, acceded to, in grand theoretics. So to say, organization may be the weapon and the best protection of the weak, but only if the frenzy of Oguns creativity can be normalized through the serenity of Obatalas  accession to rules, ordered action, bureaucracy. It is the self-revising way, within the animist intimations of the pantheon, to neutralize excess. This is why, in the end, it is illusionist to set gods against one another. Setting the gods at each others throats amounts to creating dogma where cooperation and inclusiveness (at least, on the divination tray) constitute the media of problem-solution. Where however the  gods, for reasons of ambition, sheer imperviousness or willed deviation, do not cooperate, or go against their assumed nature or attributes by breaking into areas where they have no competence, it seems to me normal that there should be argument, debate, and in the final analysis, confrontation. Soyinkas repudiation of proselytizing religions appears to be no way out. Anyone reading ART, DIALOGUE AND OUTRAGE,  and his trenchant response to his many, rather unfair, critics will agree that his distaste for proselytizing religions is not even skindeep. The reality is that although there may be no one way to organize, and different routes may lead to a common destination, it is not every way of organizing and not all routes, yield organizational effectiveness from the standpoint of social reconstruction. Contexts, for that matter, do generate the rationale for proselytization when differences between gods yield divergent rituals.  In a world in which sociology and anthropology may not allow art and analysis their innocence,  the ideal is, first of all, to accept dissimilarities as normal between people, then  seek balance on the basis of commonalities to ensure that every difference does not necessarily yield or imply antagonisms. All the same, since the Ogunnian ethic is mostly about taking hard decisions, making choices, within the absolute recognition of the co-existence of a creative and destructive essence in social being, it obliges devotees to appeal not to dogma, whimsy, artifice, or mere prophecy, but to some form of inter-subjectively accessible experience which can carry, or be  tested, across religious and cultural differences. The emergent knowledge is assumedly one that can be applied in running a shop, a school, a barracks or a shoe factory while awaiting the realization of prophecy. In effect,  the activism of the gods is placed  on a secular counterpane that approximates a proto-science  as in the social sciences  - which tests arguments and claims against a referent out there in the more objective world thus reducing, in relative terms, the circularity and hence dogma of contending claims.

All that I have said so far is, properly speaking, to make a case for and argue a basis for such a proto-science. In particular, I think that the feats of the historical Ogun authorize devotees and non-devotees alike, to visualize a model nation-builder whose temper may not be coincident with modern demands but whose strategy of grasping and making use of knowledge wherever it could be found remains a standard to be emulated. The distinguishing practice of Oguns reign, of seeking out people with outstanding capabilities, and creating for them a conducive atmosphere for the prosecution of their special skills, is not dissimilar to the current practice of the United States of America which sources skills from all over the world for the aggrandizement of her industries, her arts and sciences. To pursue such a path with zeal is to have a view of knowledge which does not allow prejudices of nationality and the biases of religions to over-determine knowledge acquisition. It also implies a certain level of civic responsibility on the part of the state for the  protection of  the faithful as well as dissentients, strangers as well as indigenes. It offers a challenge to modern day nation-builders in Africa especially those who make a fetish of the distinction between the West and the rest of us thus creating an irresolvable culture-clash in the building of Knowledge Industries. The Ogunnian ethic, as it works out, takes Knowledge as One, with diverse roots feeding the common, universal, tree. It posits the necessity to revise the notion that African traditional religions, based on ancestor-worship or the animistic tropes around gods and goddesses, are necessarily anti-science or pre-scientific. The disparagement of the religions, pressed beyond certain limits, merely exposes the monologue of Western assault on subjected peoples which appropriates for its uses the very elements that it decries in other cultures. Or, rather, it belongs to the genre of bad science, which is not just about witchcraft, juju, or magic, but the absence of an inter-subjective rationale or approach  to knowledge acquisition. If nothing else, such bad science makes it axiomatic: that the conquered who fail to acquire the knowledge with which they were conquered may be re-conquered again and again. Those who do not want to be re-conquered, in my view, have something to learn from Soyinkas Ogun who I insist is the fifteenth century Oba of the Edo Kingdom, deified. The Edo people in the 15th century stood by the hermeneutics of their King, and prospered. If the country of which the Edo are now a part dares to learn from that past, the travails of  the Edo Century, as I have described it,  will come to an end.

0 Response to "OGUN AND MANAGEMENT SCIENCE"

Post a Comment

Search This Blog