working to learn

This is an extract from Learning to work and working to learn by Ronald Barnett, published in 1999. It is even more relevant seventeen years later.

“In this chapter, I shall suggest that, in understanding their relationships in the contemporary era, work and learning can profitably be placed against the background of wider societal and even global shifts. I shall suggest that we live in an age of supercomplexity. That is to say, we live in an age in which our very frameworks for comprehending the world, for acting in it and for relating to each other are entirely problematic. We live in a world characterised by contestability, challengeability, uncertainty and unpredictability.

My argument is that, under conditions of supercomplexity, work has to become learning and learning has to become work. These imperatives – as they have now become – arise out of the fragility of the supercomplex environment in which we are all placed. We cannot escape the conditions of supercomplexity which face us in ‘the global age’ (Albrow 1996). As a result, learning in work takes on a new urgency. Equally, learning has itself to be seen as work, as a set of activities which stand, to some extent, outside of individuals and which yields value beyond that of the individuals’ efforts. Only through taking work and learning seriously in these ways can we begin to address the age of supercomplexity in which we find ourselves.”

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