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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

Acheronta Movebo Motivation and Meaning as Utopia and the role of the Movie Industry. A comparison of Rebel Without a Cause, Tchapaev and The Matrix.

In this paper, our goal is to examine the representations of motivation and meaning in the motion picture both as an art and as an industry. This is of interest to us since this is the specific workplace where pictures of workplaces are made. Therefore, using a case study method, we look at three movies and each time, the braids of each 'story': the tale of the making-off, the tale told in the movie and the tale of the reception of the movie by the public. All three movies, Rebel Without a Cause (1955), Tchapaev(1934) and The Matrix (1999) are from different times and places. Yet they all deal with the issue of motivation and meaning at work. They have also been 'blockbusters' and their heroes, James Dean, Chapaev and Nemo all have the stature of a myth. Finally, they all present a very dark vision of the utopia of the modern world: motivation and meaning at work. In our view, this very criticism may account for their large public success: they look into a taboo dimension of society. We first point out that the literature on motivation and meaning in management science has largely overlooked the unconscious side of things. A tacit understanding of 'motivation' and 'meaning' may shape people's behaviour because it relates to 'what is the good/bad life' within a Soviet, American, futurist society where people are defined by their utility function and profession. Each time, a mute fantasmatic scenario is set. We then look at these notions via our case-studies, using fine-grained analysis and thick description. We finally conclude that because it is overtly a fantasma scenario, the motion picture as a popular work of art mirrors this fantasmatic scenario. It offers both sublimation and freedom from the rule of the Superego. At the same time, as a workplace in an industry, each production also deals with implication and meaning as keys assets for a successful production. In that regard, each shooting we have looked into shows a struggle between creativity and the Superego 'meaning and motivation' dominant rule. The centre of this activity is the 'workplace' which still remains, as the core representation, a 'camera obscura'. As a 'dream factory', the movie business may offer a way in and out of this 'dark room'. If each of the three movies presents 'meaning and motivation' as part of a nightmarish system, their authors may release the public from this modern utopia. They echo Freud, quoting the Aeneid (VII, 312) in an epigraph to his book The Interpretation of Dreams: 'Flectere si nequeo Superos, Acheronta movebo'. (If I cannot sway Heaven then I will stir Hell).