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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

The Social Character of Bureaucracy: Anxiety and Ritualistic Defense

In the analysis of the social character of bureaucracy, one must examine the psychodynamics of obsessional neurosis in the individual and ritualistic practices in the bureaucracy. Much of organization theory either implicitly or explicitly characterizes bureaucratic activity as ritualistic. Such behavior results from obsessional thinking and compulsive action in the individual aimed at defending the self from anxiety over losing control. Ritualistic individual behavior serves to contain anxiety stemming from the uncanny experience of momentary loss in self/object boundaries and identity. This may occur in the organizational recruit at the moment of entry into the bureaucracy where one acts to deny reality by 'undoing' the self-alienation that has occurred.