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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

The Destructive Impact of Derision in the Hyper-rational Organization

It's better to lose one's hat than one's head.' The humour of this statement, uttered in the context of the French revolution (cf Leconte's film Ridicule), helps the subject come to terms with the pain of losing an object; above all, it helps them put things in perspective and focus on what is essential, the joy of being alive. The witticism stems from the unconscious life drive, and makes a distinction between the living subject and its objects. Conversely, derision causes one to laugh not at the situation but at the subject. It puts the subject in the forefront, and then subsequently negates it it stems from the unconscious death drive. Thus from a psychoanalytical perspective, and in the light of the unconscious, Denis Vasse describes the liberating nature of joy and the destructive nature of derision on the human subject in 'Derision and Joy' (1999). What I propose to do now is to use Denis Vasse's work as a basis for a discussion, from a psychoanalytical standpoint on the destructive effects on the human subject of certain human resources management techniques (assessments, quality standardization, audits, etc) which abuse the subject's speech. By drawing a comparison between the structural similarities of these techniques and derision, for both consist in pushing the subject to the forefront and subsequently negating it. I will show how these management techniques cause the human subject to suffer, by examining the clinical work of Denis Vasse [2]. However, I do not aim to restrict myself to using derision to identify the destructive nature of certain management techniques I wish to use this standpoint to reintroduce the subject (as an end and not a means) into the question of productivity and competitiveness, and thus envisage a way of working which consists in finding the means to structure organizations without abusing the human subjects within them. In order to do this, it will be necessary to take into account human subjectivity as defined by psychoanalysis in the light of the unconscious - that is to say, to find an appropriate way to take the subject's word into consideration.However, it seems to me to be increasingly difficult to take the subject's word into consideration in hyper-rational organizations, where exchanges between subjects are likened ' according to the views of N.Wiener [3] and Herbert Simon [4] to information processing. The language at play here is not only abstract (cf. my presentation last year on the blockage to/repression of 'ressenti'), but anonymous and impersonal. This rational language helps the organization run smoothly, but, as Lacan has already observed, does not help the Subject speech 'The more functional language becomes, the more unsuited it is for speech'' (1966:180). 'The wall of language comes into conflict with speech.' (1966:162). Herein lies the very essence of the problem I would like to talk to you about today. According to Denis Vasse, the process of derision stems precisely from this impersonal, operative language: 'The violence of derision worms its way into the child's body in the form of words which say nothing because they are part of a discourse which in reality no one says to anyone.' (1999:99). 'It is possible to find a language which is functionally extremely effective in the domain of the imaginary but which doesn't actually say anything.' (1999:18). But what happens to the subject exposed to such language?'