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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

Power, Politics, Knowledge & Consultancy

Following Eric Miller (1985), I start from the premise that the submission of this paper - regardless of my intentions, regardless of what I write - is a political act. It involves me in a system of political relationships and relatedness that has been created by the ISPSO Conference Committee. Power and politics do not exist in the private world of 'self'; they are relational concepts that require us to have an interaction with another person or another group.In this paper I shall concentrate on the relationship between the consultant and client. Initially, exploration will focus on the various levels of political activity that are likely to affect and shape the relationship. However, the particular level of political activity that the paper will concentrate on is that which is a constant element of our lives - the inter-personal level: that which has become known as the 'politics of identity'. This inevitably requires an analysis of the conscious and unconscious processes through which the biological condition of individuality gets transformed into consciousness of individuality. And this, in turn, requires us to explore how the transformation of knowledge affects the power and politics of the consultancy relationship between consultant and client.The approach taken will be to explore the notion of knowledge under the distinctions referred to by William James: those of 'knowing about' and 'knowledge of acquaintance'. The former, which we might also refer to as cognitive knowledge, will include 'industry specific' knowledge, which will include the particular technology used in that industry. The latter, will include learning at the 'emotional' level. Faced with any experience, the emotional learning that life has given us, such as the memory of a past disastrous relationship, sends signals that streamline our decision-making process by eliminating some options and highlighting others at the outset. In this way the emotions are involved in reasoning - as is the thinking brain. It will also include the development of attitudes, beliefs and values. The primary function of values in terms of organisational behaviour is that they serve as determinants and guidelines for decision making and action. Although of necessity, values have their origins in the influence of parents or parental figures, this dynamic continues through life with societal influences becoming more influential as time goes by. Having explored something of the way that cognitive and experiential knowledge develops and the way that each 'is supported by a vast intellectual framework', which is 'composed of the stock of knowledge that results in our perceived reality', the paper continues by applying this to the politics of identity. An exploration of the effect on the consultant and client working across the boundary between 'me' and 'not me'. Here, the aim is to identify some of the problems and potentials for disaster that may arise at the vital and constant level of political activity: that which has become known as the 'politics of identity'. Throughout the paper the aim is to explore theoretical and practical aspects together and to use vignettes from consultancy projects where appropriate and helpful.'