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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

“Civilizations and their discontents”:

What does that mean for the psychoanalytic study of and work with organizations?


The Organising Committee and the ISPSO Board are pleased to invite ISPSO members and non-members from all countries to join the ISPSO 40th Annual Meeting & Symposium in Sofia, Bulgaria.
The conference runs from 1 to 7 July 2024 featuring:  
Professional Development Workshops: 1-3 July
Members' Day: 4 July, and Annual Symposium: 5-7 July. See the  Program Schedule for a full list of events.

“Civilizations and their discontents”: 
What does that mean for the psychoanalytic study of and work with organizations?

In pluralizing Freud’s title word “civilization”, we emphasize that we live in a world where multiple civilisations compete for ideologies, power, resources and territory. Whilst these conflicts are most visible in the international arena, similar dramas are playing out in organizational contexts. The fundamental context for living and working has changed. The Covid 19 pandemic, the increasing urgency of climate change, mass refugee migrations and the loss of the dream of geopolitical stability at a global level have all contributed to this pervasive disruption. Because of these seismic shifts, the underpinning context for organizational work has changed.

Radical differences challenge our capacity to act in civilized ways when there is no means to process and digest the fear, anger and anxiety that emerge when civilizations clash. Whilst it is easy to identify inter-national clashes, it is more difficult to own and digest the radical clashes that occur in everyday life, including within and between nations, organizations and communities. 

A turmoil of hope and fear churns through our lives as we experience radical disruption to many of our previously taken-for-granted patterns, routines and expectations. Can we learn, or perhaps re-learn, how to think together in a way that is embodied, intuitive, relational and emotionally congruent, whist still being purposeful? What else do we need to discover, re-discover and mobilize in order to thrive in a world of multiple civilizations and their discontents?

Therefore, what questions should we be asking about our psychoanalytic study of organizations?

The questions below are offered as starting points:

  • What are the consequences of radical disruption and the exacerbation of radical differences for organizations and how does that impact our work as researchers and practitioners? 
  • What can organizational psychoanalysis discover or uncover as generative solutions to this crisis?
  • In what ways (if any) do our basic theoretical concepts (i.e. transference, containment, projection, enactment) need to be re-examined for relevance?
  • How should our work be transformed in response to the many changes to the work context, including on-line work and the sense of vulnerability of global equilibrium?
  • To what extent is the current purpose of ISPSO still relevant?
  • How can we work with the ‘selves’ who make up organizations, and (us) who study organizations?How relevant is psychoanalysis now in the domain of organizations and in what ways?



Martin Ringer, AM 2024 Co-chair:
Antoaneta Mateeva, AM 2024 Co-chair:

Join us for The  ISPSO Annual Meeting