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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

Review of The Meaning of Work: Papers on Work Organiztion and the Design of Jobs by Lisl Klein

Those of us who work within the family of traditions spawned at the post-war Tavistock owe a profound debt of gratitude to the social scientists and psychoanalysts who developed the ideas that have so deeply affected our professional selves. Their foundation concepts and theories created a powerful intellectual legacy of understanding that stimulated numerous offshoots, including: systems psychody- namics, socio-technical systems, action research, group relations, socio-analysis, and the transitional approach to change. While it was not until the early 1980s that Lisle Klein formally joined the Tavistock Institute, much of her career prior to that was closely aligned with the innovative thinking being done by the Tavistock researchers on the quality of worklife, the interdependence of social and technical systems, and on the behavioural consequences of control systems. The Meaning of Work, and its companion volume, Working Across the Gap, clearly demonstrate that she is one of the pioneers in what we have come to think of as the Tavistock tradition. Her work encapsulates much of what is inspiring about this tradition, and her career exemplifies many of the highest ideals that give it so much meaning.