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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

Modern Madness (Examining the dark-side of competition through the optics of psychodynamics)

As investigative keys to aspects of social standing and perhaps more importantly, social understanding, we draw upon the works of Sigmund Freud, Herbert Marcuse, Burkhard Sievers, Douglas LaBier and others, to examine the emotional fallout and clinical challenges organisations should confront as a result of a society that embraces competition as its economic driver. Freud argued for the understanding of a dual instinct theory consisting of two classes of instinct named after the life and death 'gods', Eros and Thanatos, that 'are fused, blended, and alloyed with each other' (Freud, 1923/1984, p. 381). As such, they manifest themselves in psychological representation and account for much of our behaviour that includes competitiveness and competition (Freud, 1920/1984, 1923/1984). Freud's emphasis on the constant struggle between the individual's desire for instinctual gratification and the dynamics of social repression was a crucial starting point for Herbert Marcuse. Marcuse (1955, 1964) wanted to understand the psychological embeddedness of society's antagonistic character and the manner in which this was reproduced both within and over the individual. Using Sigmund Freud's terminology and some of the same conceptual framework, Marcuse subsequently argued that each society has material conditions that operate as a reality principle that takes different forms in different societies. In capitalist societies, the reality principle is one based on a performance principle - - under whose rule 'society is stratified according to the competitive economic performance of its members' (Marcuse, 1955, p. 44). And, like many of the performance principles 'of advanced industrial societies have been based on the destructive energies of Thanatos' (Luke, 1994, p. 194).'