Esprit de corps, Work transference and dissolution: Lacan as an organizational theorist

Compared to the major impact Jacques Lacan’s theory of psychoanalysis has had on the widest range of disciplines in the arts and humanities, and in the social sciences, its reception in organizational studies has been relatively slow. This is often explained with reference to the fact that Lacan’s writings are difficult, and that he himself was never concerned with the study of organizations. In this paper, it is demonstrated that Lacan did have a profound interest in organizational life, and that it prompted him to formulate a number of key principles for establishing an “alternative” organizational structure, in which hierarchical authority is balanced against a communal, libertarian and solidaristic system of exchange. It is shown how these principles are indebted to Bion’s work with leaderless groups, and to Bion’s “first Northfield experiment” from the early 1940s. During the 1960s Lacan endeavoured to integrate these ideas in what he designated as a “circular organization”, which would operate on the basis of a series of small working groups called cartels, and on positions of “suspended authority”. It is also argued that Lacan’s eventual dissolution of his own School may not have constituted a simple case of organizational failure, but a necessary act of transformational change and permutation. The essay concludes with the proposition that a proper appreciation of Lacan’s significance for organizational studies should start with a critical analysis of his own contributions to the study of organizational life.

The Future of an Illusion: Phenomenology and Psychoanalysis

Starting from Sellars’ distinction between the manifest and scientific portrayals of man, we will develop three different philosophical readings of the possible consequences of this opposition with regard to the question of subjectivity: Dennett’s philosophical reconstruction of neuro-cognitive science; Husserlian phenomenology; and, Freudo-Lacanian psychoanalysis. Particular attention will be paid to the various ideas about the rights and limits of the first-person perspective and the issue of truth and fiction.

The Logic of the Subject in Conflict with Involuntary Commitment

Involuntary commitment and psychoanalysis: how can they be reconciled? Involuntary commitment marks something within the subject, just as a crisis does. Within the moment of a crisis, the overwhelming real is initially limited via a literal restriction of the freedom of movement. During the moment of crisis the subject often first makes a “failed” attempt to limit the overwhelming experience by way of an acting out or passage à l’acte. The subject is forced to do “something”. Freedom, both that of the subject and of society, has disappeared. A decision has to be made. In this scenario, we are very far removed from a subject with a demand for therapy or psychoanalysis. Nevertheless a certain dialectic can be initiated via involuntary commitment. The point without any dialectic is precisely the real that emerges during the moment of crisis. Using cases to illustrate, we discuss more elegant solutions. At the same time we are also confronted with the impossibility of such a clinic of the real.

Safety first: The Focus on the Body in Psychological Care

This paper was written on the occasion of the third edition of the “Prize for humane mental health care”, organized by the psychiatric hospital in Sleidinge. It is an account of my first year as a social worker in mental health care, in which I focus on the struggle one can experience while working within the rules set up to ensure “quality care”. This set of rules has a profound effect on the bodily and psychological wellbeing of the patients. Its one-sided focus on safety and organization makes it difficult for social workers to work with their patients on a psychological level. Furthermore, constant adherence to these rules seems to provoke aggression when they primarily target the body. I will present several clinical examples that describe how “quality care” does not achieve its own goals, and can lead to ridiculous situations. The conceptualization of mental health care should not be fixed, but something we have to invent every day anew.

The Wanderings of Jouissance, with the Object a in the Pocket: On Differential Diagnosis in Psychosis

In clinical practice, when confronted with a suspected psychosis, it is critical that, beyond simply providing a label, the diagnosis is verified and further specified with regard to the particular psychotic structure: paranoia, schizophrenia, mania, melancholia or autism. Each psychotic structure requires a specific kind of treatment. When this is clarified, it will allow us to take up an appropriate position in the transference and it to orient ourselves in relation to treatment. One approach is to determine the status of the object a and the jouissance within the logic of the case. For example, the paranoiac situates the jouissance in the Other, the schizophrenic will struggle with the jouissance in the body and the autistic subject will have troubles with language and the Other. In the case of melancholia we see that the subject fully identifies with the object a and finally, in mania, the object a will no longer function. Clinical examples of each of these structures are provided.

The Function of the Gaze and the Mother-Child Relationship in the Subjectification of a Physically Disabled Child

Physically disabled children suffer from the gaze of the people they meet and with whom they interact. They are confronted with their difference and are obliged to take up a position against this confrontation. First, through a review of relevant literature the author characterizes the gaze in the relation between a physically disabled child and the Other. The child’s identity is shaped through what is offered by others. At birth a child is positioned in the family, at the point where parental expectations meet reality and the child’s disability evokes in the parents feelings of guilt and shame. The author asserts that the mother’s gaze reduces the child to their disability. To understand this, the gaze is described as objet a (Lacan, 1973 [1964]). Then, the author explores the physically disabled child’s response to the Other’s gaze. Two possible responses are considered: the child may choose to adopt a seemingly passive position, whereby he undergoes the interaction; on the other hand, the child may explicitly expose him or herself to the Other, perhaps even exaggerating their dysfunction. The author concludes that speaking about the disability can help the child to find the words to talk about their own dysfunction and to take up a bearable position in response to their disability.