Help us sharing our research, consultation and experiences

Donate Now

The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

On the Use of Psychoanalytic Concepts in Organisational Social Science

After a good many years of moving somewhat pragmatically between social scientific and psychoanalytic understanding in working with organisations, I am grateful to ISPSO for providing a framework in which one may explore these connections without the urgency and pressure that are always present when one is in the field. The first time I attended your conference I found that, free from the pressures of giving a paper, or of having to organise anything, it was a marvellous opportunity to let the mind wander over matters that have kept me interested and intrigued for many years, but that I have often not taken the time to really unpick in detail. That is the origin of this paper. At the same time, I will need to remain grounded in empirical work, not only because I think it is important to do so, but mainly because I am not capable of doing anything else.It is probably tautological to say that the psychoanalytic study of organisations brings together two frames of reference: psychoanalysis and the study of organisations. And yet it very much needs to be said, because a good deal of material one sees under this heading appears to assume that there is only one framework. In this paper I want to differentiate between the two, explore some of the links between them and at the same time also note in what ways they differ.Speaking as a social scientist who is not an analyst, let me say that the excitement of the original Tavistock breakthroughs which brought psychoanalytic understanding to bear on non-clinical situations remains with us. I trust my guts enough to recognise that this excitement means here's something there'. It is what has kept me interested over the years. But excitement is not enough. It is a necessary but not sufficient condition. It should be the trigger that leads to more rigorous investigation, and this has not often happened.