Bakhtin’s Heteroglossia and Leadership as an Aesthetic Activity

Year: 2016

Author: English, Fenwick W., Ehrich, Lisa C.

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper involves the continued investigation of leadership as an aesthetic construct. According to the philosophy of Mikhail Mikhailovich Bakhtin (1895-1975), identity is inextricably embedded with dialogic interaction with others. Identity is co-constructed and involves the interaction with inner and outer worlds of a leader. A leader can only become part of a culture through the perception of others and in Bakhtin’s view this is essentially an “aesthetic activity” and involves the production of an aesthetic object. “However it is not only the body that becomes an aesthetic object in such activity, but also the individual psyche: a coherent individual personality is dependent upon the perception of the other from without” (Brandist, 2002, p. 45). Leadership is thus a culturally bordered activity that involves the necessity of the outsider in creating a kind of co-experienced reality.“Heteroglossia” has been defined by Bakhtin as a blending of perspectives through language which creates unity from a hybrid of speech acts. A leader traffics in the world inbetween himself/herself and the world of the other. Consciousness is thus created enabling the creation of the “I” and involves both objective and subjective elements. This creation can be considered a work of art or an object of art. The connection involves a co-experienced reality in which:…the ‘I’ projects him-or herself on to the other and emphasizes actively, but then withdraws to the original position outside the other and brings the experience to consciousness. This return to one’s own unique position in being, from which the other can be objectified, constitutes ‘aesthetic activity’ (Brandist, 2002, p. 39).It is this dynamic between leader and others, or self and others, that Holquist (1990) observed that “Aesthetics is the struggle to achieve a whole, but a whole must first of all be understood as a purely personal or relative construct” (ppp. Xxvi-xxvii).The paper will propose a Baktinian framework in which leadership, as co-dependent construct, is portrayed as an aesthetic activity and as such contains both objective and subjective elements. Bakhtin has argued that “aesthetic activity is a timeless moment of phenomenological intuition in which the essence of an ‘event’ is realized” (Brandist, 2002, p.65). ReferencesBrandist, C. (2002). The Bakhtin Circle: Philosophy, Culture and Politics. London: Pluto Press.Holquist, M. (1990). Introduction in M.M. Bakhtin Art and Answserability (pp. ix-xlix). Austin, TX: The University of Texas at Austin.