The Reflective Citizen: Organisational and Social Dynamics

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The Reflective Citizen: Organisational and Social Dynamics

I CHAPTER TITLE THE REFLECTIVE CITIZEN The OPUS Reflective Citizen Series Lionel Stapley (Series Editor) Published a

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The OPUS Reflective Citizen Series Lionel Stapley (Series Editor) Published and distributed by Karnac Books

THE REFLECTIVE CITIZEN Organizational and Social Dynamics Edited by Laurence J. Gould, Aideen Lucey, and Lionel Stapley

First published in 2011 by Karnac Books Ltd 118 Finchley Road, London NW3 5HT

Copyright © 2011 to Laurence J. Gould, Aideen Lucey, and Lionel Stapley for the edited collection, and the individual authors for their contributions.

The rights of the contributors to be identified as the authors of this work has been asserted in accordance with §§ 77 and 78 of the Copyright Design and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A C.I.P. for this book is available from the British Library ISBN: 978 1 85575 816 2

Edited, designed and produced by The Studio Publishing Services Ltd e-mail: [email protected] Printed in Great Britain






PREFACE by Aideen Lucey


CHAPTER ONE The Merchant of Venice: a tale of modern times Margot Waddell CHAPTER TWO Tolerating discrimination: discriminating tolerance Farhad Dalal CHAPTER THREE Drawing down the blinds on reflection: what is to be shut out, or in? Jinette de Gooijer







CHAPTER FOUR Memory lost and memory found: a reflection on the place of memory in the group relations network and conferences Judith Levy CHAPTER FIVE Early international group relations symposia: from Oxford to Belgirate What has been learnt and how do we keep the lamp trimmed and burning? Siv Boalt Boëthius and Stefan Jern CHAPTER SIX Institutional abuse: caught between professional vocation and system’s efficiency Eduardo Acuña and Matías Sanfuentes




CHAPTER SEVEN Is recognition a prerequisite for citizenship for managers? Maryse Dubouloy


CHAPTER EIGHT Reflective citizenship: an organizational perspective James Krantz





Eduardo Acuña is Professor at the Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, University of Chile; Sociologist, Catholic University of Chile; MA in Organizational Change, University of Leeds, England; Director of the Masters on Management of Persons and Organizational Dynamics, University of Chile; an organizational consultant working with private and public institutions. He is co-editor, with Matías Sanfuentes, of the book Coaching: Análisis del Rol Organizacional, Santiago, Chile. He is also a Member of the International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organizations (ISPSO) and the Organization for Promoting the Understanding of Society (OPUS). Siv Boalt Boëthius, Professor Emerita, Stockholm University, psychologist and psychoanalyst. For many years she was principal of a university college in Stockholm (Erica Foundation), then visiting professor, Copenhagen University, and president of EFPP (European Federation for Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy). Her present work is in organizational consultation, training programmes in organizational psychology, and research on group and organizational development. She is a Member of AGSLO (former president vii



and vice president) and of ISPSO, and a staff member and conference director for group relations conferences since 1977 in Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Israel, Finland, Denmark, the UK, and the USA, and also a member of the editorial board or international advisory board for three group and organizational journals. Farhad Dalal, PhD, is a psychotherapist, supervisor, and group analyst in private practice in Devon. He also works with teams and organizations. He is a clinical supervisor and training group analyst for the Institute of Group Analysis (London). For some years he was an Associate Fellow at the University of Hertfordshire’s Business School. He has published numerous papers on psychoanalysis, group analysis and racism, as well as two books. In Taking the Group Seriously, he argued against individualism and for the relational nature of human life. In Race, Colour and the Processes of Racialization, he developed a theory of racism grounded in a mix of psychoanalysis, group analysis, and sociology. Maryse Dubouloy, PhD in Organizational Sciences and Masters in Psychology, is Associated Professor in Groupe ESSEC (French Business School). A socio-psychologist and psychoanalyst, her research deals with the links between individuals and organizations, and mainly in situations of transition (careers, mourning, rites of passage, change, etc.). She is the author of several articles, which have appeared in a number of journals, and book chapters on those topics. As consultant (Réseau-Pluridis), she settles individual and collective change accompaniment systems and she coaches managers. Jinette de Gooijer, PhD, consults to organizations on understanding the hidden aspects of organizational culture and their effects on business performance, with the view to developing work cultures that promote creativity and prosperity for the organization, the individual, and wider society. She is the founder and Principal Consultant of Innovative Practice Consulting Pty Ltd, Melbourne, Australia, an associate of the Creative Organisation Systems Group at RMIT University, President of Group Relations Australia, a Member of the International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study



of Organizations, and Associate and National Representative (Australia) of OPUS. Laurence J. Gould, PhD, was a former Professor and Director, the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program, the City University of New York; Director of the Socio-Analytic Training Program, the Institute for Psychoanalytic Training and and Research (IPTAR); founding Co-Director, the Program in Organizational Development and Consultation, and Research Fellow, the Sigmund Freud Center, Hebrew University; a founding member of the International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organizations; and the recipient of the American Psychological Association’s Levinson Award, for outstanding contributions to the theory and practice of organizational consultation. He was in the private practice of psychoanalysis and organizational consultation in New York City. His recent publications include The Systems Psychodynamics of Organizations (with Lionel Stapley and Mark Stein) and Experiential Learning in Organizations (with Lionel F. Stapley and Mark Stein), and he was the Co-Editor of Organizational and Social Dynamics: An International Journal for the Integration of Psychoanalytic, Systemic and Group Relations Perspectives. He passed away in 2010. Stefan Jern is Reader in Group and Organizational Psychology, Lund University, Sweden, and Associate Professor at Strömstad Academy—an institute for advanced studies-where he teaches psychological consultation, organizational and group psychology, professionalization theory, and ethics. His research areas are in new models of group development; professionalization processes— strategies and identity issues; group training as a field of influence; anxiety management and social defences in organizational hierarchies. He has been a partner in a consultancy firm, Arcana, since 1979, and is former president and vice president of AGSLO (the Swedish Foundation for the Study of Leadership and Organization). He has been a staff member and conference director of more than seventy group relations conferences since 1980 in Sweden, Finland, Norway, France, the UK, and the USA. James Krantz, PhD, is an organizational consultant and researcher from New York City. He is Managing Director of Worklab, which



concentrates on strategy implementation, senior team development, and work process design. Dr Krantz has a PhD in systems sciences from the Wharton School and a BA in Philosophy and Economics from Wesleyan University. He is a founder and past president of the International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organizations (ISPSO), a Fellow of the A. K. Rice Institute, and an OPUS Associate. Currently, he is serving as Director of the Socio-Analytic Program in Organizational Development and Consultation at The Institute for Psychoanalytic Training and Research (IPTAR). Judith Levy, PhD, lectures in English literature in the Department of English at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where her interests are the post-colonial novel and psychoanalytic theory, and the way literature can illuminate organizational and group phenomena (see Organizational and Social Dynamics, 8(2) [2008]). She is also an organizational consultant and executive coach. She is the Chairperson of OFEK (the Israel Association for the Study of Group and Organizational Processes), an OPUS Associate, and a member of the ISPSO. Aideen Lucey is an independent organizational consultant and executive coach. Her areas of interest include leadership, group dynamics, and how meaning is lost and found in organizations in contemporary times. She is a visiting leadership consultant at INSEAD business school in France and IMD business school in Switzerland. She is also an associate at the Tavistock Consultancy Service, where she was previously a principal consultant. She is a member of the International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organisations. She is an associate of OPUS and has been a member of the OPUS Conference Organising Committee for many years. Matias Sanfuentes, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and individual and group psychotherapist. He is assistant professor at the Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, University of Chile. He is an organizational consultant working with private and public institutions, and co-editor, with Eduardo Acuña, of the book Coaching: Análisis del Rol Organizacional, Santiago, Chile. He is a member of the International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organizations (ISPSO) and the Psychoanalytic Group Psychotherapy Chilean Association (ACHPAG).



Lionel Stapley, PhD, is the Director of OPUS, an organization providing a psycho-social understanding of societal dynamics promoting “the reflective citizen”. He is an organizational consultant working with individuals, groups, and organizations in the public and private sectors. He heads the OPUS Group Processes Programme and co-directs the Advanced Training Workshops. Currently Chair of the Editorial Management Committee of the OPUS International Journal, Organisational & Social Dynamics, he is a Chartered Fellow of the CIPD, a Chartered Fellow of the CIM, and a Member of the ISPSO. He has a particular interest in organizational and societal culture and has written and presented several papers and provided workshops on this topic over a thirty-year period. His most recent publications are Individuals, Groups, and Organizations: Beneath the Surface, and Globalization and Terrorism: Death of a Way of Life (Karnac, both 2006). Margot Waddell is a Fellow of the British Psychoanalytical Society and a child analyst. After reading Classics and English at Cambridge and taking a PhD on the work of George Eliot, she has been, for over thirty years, a consultant child and adolescent psychotherapist at the Tavistock Clinic, London. She is a widely published author, and teaches both nationally and internationally. Evident in her publications is a life-long interest in the relationship between internal and external worlds, between being an individual and, at the same time, a group animal. Evident, too, is her long-term interest in the work of Wilfred Bion. She has co-edited, and now edits, the Tavistock Clinic book series since its inception in 1998. An extended edition of her book, Inside Lives: Psychoanalysis and the Growth of the Personality, was published by Karnac in 2002. Understanding 12 to 14-Year-Olds was published by Jessica Kingsley in 2005.


OPUS (an Organisation for Promoting Understanding of Society) was founded in 1975 and is a registered educational charity and company limited by guarantee. It is an organization of people who believe in the importance of developing—individually and collectively—an understanding of organizational and societal processes in order to assume authority and responsibility in their various roles. OPUS exists, therefore, to promote the development of the reflective citizen and to facilitate the study of conscious and unconscious organizational and societal dynamics through educational activities, research, consultancy, and training, as well as the publication and dissemination of these activities for the public benefit. The overall conception of the late Sir Charles Goodeve, FRS, when OPUS was founded in 1975, remains unchanged. He believed that if we were better able to understand processes operating in society, and particularly issues of conflict, in industry and outside, then we would be able to take more rational decisions; in the long run, we would become more effective as citizens in managing ourselves and society. Essentially, therefore, OPUS is concerned with increasing the understanding of such processes and with fostering maturity in individuals in their various roles: as producer xiii



and consumer, as employer, employee, or self-employed, as a member of a family and community, and as a citizen. Its mission is, therefore, educational in the broadest sense. In establishing OPUS as a non-political organization, with charitable status, Sir Charles was supported and encouraged by the Tavistock Institute and the Industrial Society. It was recognized that the study and promotion of a better understanding of society (how it works, how the individual relates to it), with a particular emphasis on conflict, formed a distinctive field of endeavour which could most effectively be tackled from an autonomous basis. In its overall aim, therefore, and in particular in its focus on helping the individual to act with authority and responsibility in the role of citizen, OPUS is not seen as duplicating the work of other bodies. OPUS is also distinctive in the mix of interlocking activities through which it tries to perform its task. The operational programmes that have been and are being developed include the following:

The OPUS programme of public events ● ●

OPUS Listening Posts—national and international—aimed at developing an understanding of societal and global dynamics. Scientific meetings, workshops, debates, lectures, and seminars aimed at developing a deeper understanding of organizations and society. The OPUS International Conference, “Organisational and Social Dynamics”, aimed at providing a learning opportunity through the presentation of papers seeking to achieve the integration of psychoanalytic, systemic and group relations perspectives.

Consultancy and training ● ●

OPUS Consultancy Services is a service made available to client organizations, groups, and individuals. Group Relations Learning Programme. This programme consists of a one-day workshop, “Learning About Group Processes”, a four-day workshop, “Making the Difference”, and a three-day workshop, “Advanced Training in Small Group Processes”.



Through working in these ways, OPUS reaches specific sets of people, such as client organizations and community groups, and the experiences so gained leads to the third and crucial task.

Dissemination: to the public at large and to selected audiences. In addition to “direct contact” with specific sets of people, be they consultancy or group clients or those who attend the various regular public events, OPUS also publishes reports and other papers on the website at and in the OPUS International Journal Organisational and Social Dynamics. The aim of this series of volumes is to make selected OPUS material available to a wider and different readership, which will include those many sophisticated members of society who are interested in knowing more about their society. The volumes will be particularly interesting to those reflective citizens who wish to gain a deeper understanding of their own involvement in the development of societal and organizational dynamics. Not least, we would hope that the volumes will be of interest to those responsible for the management, leadership, and administration of political, economic, religious, and social institutions. The current volume will focus on a selection of papers from the International Conference, and volumes that follow will focus on any of the broad range of OPUS activities. Lionel Stapley Director, OPUS London


This volume marks the tenth anniversary of the OPUS International Conference, “Organisational and Social Dynamics”. This is an annual event that provides a forum for people to share and develop thinking about organizational and social dynamics. The conference promotes the study of conscious and unconscious processes and draws on a body of knowledge arising from systemic, psychoanalytic, and group relations thinking. It provides opportunities for advancing thinking by those experienced in the field, as well as nurturing a new generation of thinkers. It is the specific concern with social as well as organizational dynamics that gives OPUS its unique identity. In these times of rapid change and complexity, it is important to have opportunities to make links between the experience in organizations and the wider social context. Technological developments and globalization have significantly changed the way that society operates. Some of these developments have led to creative ways of engaging and communicating, but they have also resulted in considerable anxiety and instability. The recent financial crisis and the way that this has impacted on the global economy is a pertinent reminder of the instability of our times, as well as global interdependence and all that this brings with it. xvii



This context is important for understanding what goes on in organizations, but, paradoxically, the confusion and complexity of the environment can often make the experience in organizations feel difficult to understand. By providing a forum where links between the social and the organizational can be thought about, the OPUS conference aims to provide a space for meanings to be made. This systemic aspect of the thinking that OPUS champions recognizes that human enterprise and organizations are part of interconnecting systems. Very often, these connections are denied, distorted, or destroyed, leading to a loss of meaning. When connections are made, old meanings can be restored and new meanings can emerge. It then becomes more possible to take authority in our roles, responsibility in our lives, and to adopt an ethical stance that recognizes the Other and our dependence on each other. It is this search for meaning at a societal level that characterizes the reflective citizen. Another important aspect of the OPUS philosophy is the study of unconscious processes. This is not confined to the original domain of individual therapy or analysis. There is now a significant body of knowledge relating to groups, organizations, and the wider social, cultural, and political context. Much that is happening around us and within organizations is driven by irrational processes, yet there is an over-reliance on the rational by business and political leaders, as well as by the wider community. This makes it very difficult to learn from our experiences, and contributes to a state of meaninglessness. One basic example of human irrationality is the way that accumulation of wealth, which is clearly a major driver in our society, creates hardship for many and even threatens the survival of the planet, yet it continues to wield a fierce hold over us. One of the offshoots of psychoanalysis was Bion’s work on groups, which led to the development of the group relations movement. Group relations conferences have been running in the UK and internationally since the 1950s. They are temporary learning institutions set up to study group and organizational processes by focusing on the here and now. The design of the conferences allows unconscious material to emerge, which often reflects preoccupations within organizations and wider society. Access to unconscious systemic processes allows connections to be made that otherwise would not.



Recognizing and advancing the study of unconscious group and societal processes is a central plank of OPUS thinking and an important part of the way that meaning is sought. We hope that this book will contribute to the wider dissemination of this way of thinking. This volume contains a selection of papers from the tenth anniversary OPUS conference, and covers a number of themes related to organizational and social dynamics in our current times. Contributors are drawn from an international membership—they are from Australia, Chile, France, Israel, Sweden, the UK, and the USA. The themes and international representation are typical of the content and membership of the conference. We did not set out with specific topics in mind, other than those broadly defined by OPUS concerns, but a number of overlapping themes emerged which might say something about current preoccupations. An overarching theme is the tension between the pull towards destructive forces in individuals, organizations, and society and the endeavour towards more rewarding and ethical ways of working and living. Many of the authors point to some kind of alienation or distortion in the organizational and social settings they describe, resulting in lack of fulfilment, inhibition of growth, perpetration of inequality, or, in the worst cases, corruption and abuse. Several of the authors look to changes in the way that society operates associated with globalization and technological developments as important contributing factors. They include: the move from more collective to individualistic ways of functioning, performance as opposed to engagement work cultures, and highly diverse and complex work environments. There is a striking consistency in the authors’ responses to this situation. All discuss, in one way or another, the importance of reflection, self-knowledge, and engagement as part of the endeavour towards more rewarding and ethical ways of living and working. Citizenship is explored by several of the authors as a valuable concept for reclaiming a sense of collective concern. Various notions of citizenship are proposed for our times, including reflexive citizenship, organizational citizenship, and deliberative citizenship. In Chapter One, Margot Waddell looks to The Merchant of Venice as a meditation on “our own parlous times”. This play, she tells us, can be seen to be about the quest to achieve self-knowledge to



ensure the future of the social fabric, as well as about the incapacity to hold out against forces of greed, perversion, power, and hatred. She asks what kinds of relationships, individual and collective, support, in some, the courage to know themselves and, consequently, to be able to combat decadence and, in others, quite the reverse. She stresses the importance of “getting to know” ourselves rather than depositing our own unwanted parts in others for the development of an inner and outer world guided by a moral compass. In a critique of the equality movements, in Chapter Two, Farhad Dalal proposes true engagement as the way towards a more equal society. Self-knowledge may be a part of true engagement, but, according to Dalal, knowing oneself or the Other does not go far enough in challenging inequalities. He highlights the importance of power relations in understanding inequality and shows how the absence of attention to power relations in the conceptualization of inequality within multi-culturalism and psychoanalysis has led to confusion and misunderstanding. He describes true engagement as a mutually transformational process that is terrifying and does not take place on a level playing field, but in a field of power relations. Drawing on her work in organizational consultancy, in Chapter Three, Jinette de Gooijer encounters something terrifying in a client and demonstrates the difficulty of trying to know oneself through reflection. In her exploration of the concept and practice of reflection she asks, “What is it to reflect?” She draws our attention to the benefits as well as the difficulties involved. She suggests “engaging people . . . to reflect on their work experiences is a social and political act that arouses feelings of vulnerability for the individual and the group”. This can result in a defensive response, which she calls “drawing down the blinds”, but it can also lead to meaning being made, opening up possibilities for change, including, where power relations are made visible, subverting the established order. In Chapter Four, Judith Levy muses on the absence of memory in organizations and, more specifically, in the temporary organization of the group relations conference. She points to an absence of collective memory in the group relations tradition, which she also sees as a broader cultural phenomenon of the twentieth century. Here, too, we encounter the difficulty of knowing oneself when the absence of memory becomes a social defence. “To ‘forget’ the past



means we do not have to confront the anxiety of temporariness and fear of loss”. By retrieving her own memories related to a number of conferences, she provides a rich and convincing argument for a place for collective memory in group relations and, indeed, in contemporary organizations generally. In Chapter Five, in their account of four international group relations symposia between 1988 and 1998, Siv Boalt Boëthius and Stefan Jern demonstrate how the collective memory in group relations can be given a place. This chapter documents some of the ideas and undercurrents in society and in the group relations world that were picked up in these events. They highlight issues to do with gender, nationality, authority, competition, envy, institutionalization vs. transformation, and individual and institutional conflicts. The authors draw our attention to an underlying dimension the conferences demonstrated about group life; how “people sometimes are willing to sacrifice quite important parts of themselves in terms of thinking and acting” for the need to belong. In Chapter Six, Eduardo Acuña and Matías Sanfuentes write about an extreme form of self-sacrifice in an account of institutional abuse in a Chilean geriatric hospital. In this painful but sharply observed piece, they show how failure to mourn historical losses to do with the institution and current losses to do with the patients, combined with an excessive focus on efficiency, has led to what they call a psychotic institution. It is clear that memory and selfknowledge have no place here, and that this is detrimental to staff and patients alike. Staff look for a cathartic outlet to deal with this sad state of affairs, but Acuña and Sanfuentes stress the importance of a reflective space where the current institutional complexity and the gloomy, traumatic history might be metabolized. In Chapter Seven, in a very different context, but not an entirely unrelated scenario, Maryse Dubouloy describes insecurity and powerlessness experienced by business managers in their professional lives. She talks about the “profound dependence on the gaze of the other”, and how unmet demands for recognition lead to failure of engagement in the business world. When recognition is not provided, individuals are unable to find self-recognition and, consequently, are incapable of becoming “social subjects” and “reflexive citizens”. She defines social subjects as people who are self-aware and are able to take responsibility for themselves and others, and are



able to influence their own lives, the lives of others, organizations, and society. Dubouloy makes clear that failure of recognition is a symptom of our individualistic hypermodern times. She makes a plea for reflexive citizenship, which she sees as a collective concern; it is about engagement as opposed to performance and it requires courage, critical thinking, and self-knowledge. In the final chapter, James Krantz explores the concept of organizational citizenship. He defines organizational citizenship as people’s connection to the enterprise that goes beyond their work role. He maintains that organizational citizenship has particular significance in the current times because of the decline in importance of work role. Organizational citizenship “links people dynamically to the political realm . . . which is increasingly important in globalized, highly diverse organizations”. It provides an opportunity for people to participate in, and influence ownership of, the enterprise. He proposes deliberative citizenship as the kind of organizational citizenship that is needed for twenty-first-century organizations. This book will be of interest to managers, leaders, clinical and business professionals, consultants, and all those interested in, and concerned about, the state of our society and organizations. It aims to provide a picture of society and organizations in our time. In common with all pictures, it offers a particular perspective. It does not flinch from some troubling aspects of society and organizations, but we hope it provides a way of thinking about them that is illuminating. We also hope this book will encourage a kind of thinking and engagement that can be like the marriage “that betokens growth and development, one that symbolically offers some sense, albeit imperfect, of birth and renewal”, to use Margot Waddell’s metaphor drawn from the Merchant of Venice. Aideen Lucey

This volume is dedicated to the memory of: Laurence (Larry) J. Gould 8th February 1937–26th June 2010

For our loved and much admired co-editor, Larry, who died before the completion of this volume. It is perhaps fitting that his last publishing activity should have been in assisting the development and birth of this new Series, which will be a reminder for many of the generous and talented person that Larry was. It will also be a warm memory for us, his co-editors, of the pleasure of working with him. Aideen and Lionel




The Merchant of Venice: a tale of modern times Margot Waddell

“Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey Where wealth accumulates and men decay” (Goldsmith, 1770)


s many will know, the title of the late Professor Tony Judt’s final book about the pursuit, both individually and collectively, of material self-interest was taken from Oliver Goldsmith’s poem, quoted above, The Deserted Village, to which I shall return. The financial, institutional, organizational, and personal predicaments of our time are no new ones. As my own title suggests, I shall be drawing on The Merchant of Venice as a tale of modern times, of our particular time. At the heart of the play is a stark social and psychological polarization, that between the raw materialism and greed of Venice’s Rialto, and the reflective, generous thoughtfulness of Belmont. It is, among other things, a play about two worlds: one that knows much about wealth, international trade routes, the market, profits, and usury, but lacks an internal moral compass, the other that senses what it means to learn from experience, to acquire 1



that moral compass, one that represents a culture of inner learning. That very distinction is also central to Bion’s thinking: the contrast between knowing about things and knowing from experience. The mercantile opportunism and decadent values of the Rialto (it is silk and spices that the merchant, Antonio, stands to lose) are, currently, all too familiar. What needs to be considered is what kind of relationships, individual and collective, support in some the development of the personality, the growth of the mind, engender in people the courage to be themselves, and, for example, combat decadence in the name of fair trade, and in others, quite the reverse. How can the modesty of the former modify or modulate the latter? I do not think it is merely fanciful to find these themes to be as central to The Merchant of Venice as to our own parlous times. The themes are embedded in the perennial conflicts, differently weighted and freighted, between man as an individual and as a social animal, between the human potential for growth and development and the social and cultural vagaries and necessities that have an impact upon that. Many of these conflicts are epitomized in this much-misunderstood play of Shakespeare’s. It is my reading of it that I want to share. It is a multi-layered “Opus”, or “task”, with an emphasis, as the word suggests, on the significance of artistic composition. Intrinsic to many of Shakespeare’s dramatic narratives is the quest to achieve sufficient self-knowledge to ensure the future of the social fabric, whether personally, in terms of integrity, humility, love, and honour (usually represented, symbolically at least, by marriage), or more publicly and historically, in terms of, say, kingship or succession. Usually, the two are inextricable. The Merchant of Venice is also, importantly, about the failure in some of such a quest, about the incapacity to hold out against forces of, for example, greed, perversion, power, hatred, and vengeance. It is an uncomfortable play, and in this sense I would designate it more of a Problem play than, as more usually, one of the Comedies. In the crudest terms, The Merchant of Venice addresses the relationship between internal values and principles and external societal and cultural mores, rules, and conventions. It is about internal and external reality, in other words, and the relationship between the two, about harmony and dissonance, love and hate, about the process of coming to know oneself and others, and the difficulties



of so doing, about the differentiation between different kinds of knowledge: the genuinely exploratory purpose of the acquisition, on the one hand, and the questionable use to which it might be put, on the other—what Bion (1962) was to designate, respectively, K and K. The unifying distinctions in this series of dualities are played out in the polarized cultures of Belmont and Venice. One of my focuses will be on the shape and form of the adolescent process as represented in the play. Not that there was any conception of “adolescence”, as such, among the Elizabethans, but the prerequisites for, and the nature of, the transition from parental authority to sexual and coupled maturity lies at the heart of many of Shakespeare’s plays, engaging as they so often do, with the meaning of that “maturity” and with the move, at whatever age or stage, towards adulthood. This is a move, if not blighted by adverse forces from within and without, that can be described in terms of the development of inner capacities, be they for separation, for marriage, for selfhood, for, as already suggested, kingship, for succession, or, more generally, for valued contributions to the common weal. Although growing up is a life-long process, somehow what is involved in that process is intensified, perhaps even caricatured, certainly epitomized, during the adolescent years. There is a chronic and contradictory pull, both personal and cultural, between progression and regression. Yet, such “pulls” may not be as contradictory as they can seem. Individually, they are often intimately and intricately related, as Bion’s (1963) two-way PS↔D formulation makes so clear (p. 102). For the catastrophic anxiety that attends any development in the personality is inevitably also related to the painful relinquishment of aspects of the self that need to be given up in order for the person to move forward. This regression, then, is not a simple matter of reculer pour mieux sauter. It involves the capacity to explore, or to get to know, aspects of the self which may hitherto have been felt to characterize other people, the capacity to recognize them as belonging to the self, and to find a way of accommodating them in the increasingly, though perhaps resistantly, “known” personality. This process of “getting to know” is as much a challenge for organizations as it is for the individual, though in the former, collective dragging of feet may pose problems that can be even more complex than those of the consulting room.



In Bion’s terms, the group and organizational consultant has to work both with each and every individual’s disturbance, and also with the collective manifestations of the group setting—the “work” being forever undermined by forces famously described by him (1962)—the unconscious “basic assumption” mentality of any group setting. What organizational consultants, as well as one-on-one clinicians, forever encounter is the fundamental institutional and personal resistance to change, however awful the status quo may be felt to be. No wonder that Bion called such change “catastrophic”. I am exploring the interplay of factors that both promote and prevent change. I am seeking to link the action of The Merchant of Venice to all ordinary attempts to hold out for what might be termed one’s “best self”, attempts which are based in coming to know oneself (Bion’s K), under the guidance of what I would describe in terms of Keats’ “thinking principle”, here represented by Portia: a thinking principle that is neither perfect, nor static, but willing, as we shall see, to “work and to be wrought upon” (Keats, “Ode to Psyche”). The setting for this is crucial. It is, as so often in the “Comedies”, in a world apart: Belmont, aptly named, for as the play draws to a close we see, in full, the moonlight on the bank and we hear the music, the harmony of the spheres; Belmont, the fount of aesthetic beauty. The Merchant of Venice is a narrative of love and hate, of gain and loss, from a literary and social as well as a psychoanalytic point of view. What, of the enormous number of issues that are raised in the play, are of special interest to my central question, that of the relationship between psychoanalysis and the nature of political, economic, and cultural reality, of group functioning and collective and organizational thinking and practice? My own point of view is not, of course, that psychoanalysis can bring anything to Shakespeare and his extraordinary insight into the “way the world wags”, but, rather, that the aesthetic of the play, in finding form for hidden or as yet unknown aspects of human life and feeling, enables such things to be thought about, and, in being thought about, to be learned from. Psychoanalytic theory gathers up, and draws on, insights that have found poetic form and have been expressed in literary terms over the centuries, as is so clear in The Deserted Village. So, the issue is, what can we learn from this play?



A central aspect of the Comedies, and one much commented upon, is that they are about exploring issues that need to be sorted out before the kind of marriage that betokens growth and development, one that symbolically offers some sense, albeit imperfect, of birth and renewal, before such a “marriage” can come about. Can the necessary conditions for faith in the future, the ongoing march of society, be established, or, in the current climate, be re-found and promoted? The Merchant of Venice has much to say on these issues: with integration and self-knowledge as common goals, psychoanalytic practice and poetic dramatization of the process of “growing up” on the inside, as well as on the outside, share a number of congruencies. One aim of the psychoanalytic and consultative processes could be described as seeking to make available to the patient, client, or organization more and more aspects of the self, whether in group or in individual terms; so, too, the artist, the parent, the sociologist, or the moral philosopher. In this sense, the parental task of helping someone to grow up and the imaginative versions of these struggles to grow and to know have similarities with what one tries to do in many different work settings. Yet, any such task occurs in a particular culture and in a particular climate of thought, external as well as internal. The effort, for example, to establish true values, as opposed to counterfeit ones, is especially hard in a setting where external appearance, the trappings of wealth, of luxury, and of power, and currently of celebrity and “success”, have influence, and their domination holds sway. This is all too evident in social terms, but privately, too, the sway is over internal values of truth, of meaning, and the capacity to think for oneself. Today, there seems to be a distinct dominance of “personalities” over person, clearly to the detriment of the latter. Here are the opening lines of the play: ANTONIO:

In sooth I know not why I am so sad, It wearies me, you say it wearies you; But how I caught it, found it, or came by it, What stuff ’tis made of, whereof it is born, I am to learn: And such a want-wit sadness makes of me, That I have much to do to know myself.



Thus speaks the eponymous Merchant of Venice—”I am to learn: . . . I have much to do to know myself”. What we learn in the course of the play is something about the complacent, primitive, vengeful, infantile, and increasingly reactive aspects of human nature that Shakespeare describes, and that we encounter on a daily basis, whether personally or institutionally. We learn about the propensity to disown and find in others attitudes, thoughts, and feelings which do not sit comfortably with preferred self-conceptions. To start with, Antonio seems to believe himself (we might venture, omnipotently) to be totally “insured” against any experience of loss, as expressed by his friends, also denizens of the Rialto, Solanio and Salario’s suggestion that he is anxious about the trading vessels, or, perhaps, anxious about love. He just finds himself mysteriously depressed. The threatening allusion is to how a wealthy, proud ship—laden with the luxury goods of the dominant mercantile world—can become “worth nothing”. “All his fortunes are at sea”, but it is his emotions, too, that are imperilled: the potential wreck or wrack is also a personal issue of being completely “at sea”. Yet, as W. H. Auden (1963), looking back on the whole play, puts it: It occurs to us that we have seen two characters do this, [hazard all he hath], Shylock, however unintentionally, did, in fact, hazard all for the sake of destroying the enemy he hated, and Antonio, however unthinkingly he signed the bond, hazarded all to secure the happiness of the friend he loved. Yet it is precisely these two who cannot enter Belmont. Belmont would like us to believe that men and women are either good or bad by nature, but Shylock and Antonio remind us that this is an illusion: in the real world, no hatred is totally without justification, no love totally innocent . . . [p. 154]

And this is a lesson that Portia has yet to learn. Commenting on usury, Auden points out that Like prostitution, usury may corrupt the character, but those who borrow upon usury, like those who visit brothels, have their share of responsibility for this corruption and aggravate their guilt by showing contempt for those whose services they make use of. As he says, the commodities with which the Venetian merchant deals are not necessities, but luxury goods, governed by social prestige— there is no question of a Just Price. [ibid., p. 152]



In the world of pyramid lending, hedge funds, and the rest, the question of a “Just Price” has not, until recently, been on the agenda. In The Merchant of Venice, the nature of such deals is essentially the main axis of the Christian–Jew theme, in which, as the play proceeds, the similarities between the Christian, Antonio, and the Jew, Shylock, become increasingly striking. This highly emotive and apparently polarized racist issue represents matters of internal conflict quite as much as external political and religious controversy. Painful feelings—for example, of jealousy, of hatred, and of desire for revenge—are shown to be much more easily locatable in others, and they stir in the individual the impulse to persecute them there, rather than to learn about them in the self. This is the stuff, the daily bread, of organizational consultation, so clearly laid out in the play, in terms of what mediating and temporizing forces are needed. Here, we come to know the wise-crack and the bully mentality; we come to learn about the need to find scapegoats; about the difficulty of acknowledging and tolerating these unacceptable characteristics, and about the necessity of so doing. We learn a lot about the sadomasochistic bind; we also learn a lot about those who would always rather mock and persecute someone else than take in, or take on, the true measure of their own anxiety and sense of social exclusion (Solanio and Salerio); about those who would rather “talk dirty” than engage with genuine pain (Gratiano); about those who feel so wronged and persecuted, abused, and bereft, that all they can do, in an attempt to assuage such humiliation, is to inflict it on others (Shylock), and this only eventually after, in his case, the unspeakably bitter loss of his daughter, Jessica, who has eloped with the Christian, Lorenzo, taking with her not just considerable amounts of money, but the precious ring given to Shylock by his beloved late wife, Leah. It is this concatenation of losses that converts the “principle” of the bond into a deadly serious actuality: a life and death issue of what amounts to ritual murder. We learn, too, about those who need to enact their adolescent rebellions before they are, belatedly, able to take in something of an adult sense of responsibility and an awareness of truth and beauty (Lorenzo and Jessica). This couple, in Portia’s absence, are left in charge of Belmont, being entrusted to care for it, even to “husband” it, and to learn from the experience of so doing. That is, in the



course of the play, the couple learn to discriminate between their adolescent/infantile, prodigal, and cruel selves and some much deeper and more harmonious capacity to acknowledge the wonder and modesty of genuine love, so far from that which is carried on the “strumpet wind”, that of the chancer mentality of Antonio’s limited knowledge of himself, or, at this point, of the world. This is what is meant by an “opus”. It is a way of addressing, and finding expression for, the relationship between social and cultural processes on the one hand, and the necessity of taking into consideration the nature, put simply, of what people are like on the other. The two are obviously inseparable. In the trial scene, as the complexities and the questionable devices of Portia (now disguised as a young male advocate) make clear, it becomes evident that the road to wisdom is in no sense a straight one. Even she has to encounter in herself, as well as in the cut and thrust of real-politik, unexpected emotional realities: those of the ugliness of jealousy, the fear of loss of face as well as of goods, and the possibility of anticipated betrayal. She had not expected the pain and harshness of such feelings, ones that confronted her with the necessity of “thinking under fire” (in Bion’s terminology). Having been brought up in the harmonious setting of Belmont, far from the tough realities of the Rialto, she had not encountered these feelings in herself before, nor had she had to draw on methods— the silver-tongued sophistry of the clever lawyer—which, hitherto, she had neither registered nor needed. But more, to the internal considerations had to be added serious external ones, those of the maintenance of the economic and social fabric of the city-state. An odd and often missed detail is that of where Portia spends the time between the trial scene and her return from Venice to Belmont. She strays with Nerissa, we are told, among holy crosses where she kneels and prays, accompanied by a hermit, perhaps attesting to her private need to reflect on the relationship between the public events of the cross-dressed Balthazar version of herself and the private reality of her deeply feminine, devoted relationship with Bassanio. As so often in Shakespeare, despite formal marriage, this relationship is still unconsummated because there remain elements, in terms of trust and commitment, as yet unresolved on either side. Before any such commitment can be made, Portia needs to let Bassanio go to Antonio in order to sort



out the meaning of their relationship, just as she needs to commune with herself about the significance of the internal and external events of the world in which she now finds herself. One wonders, too, in the light of the leaden casket signifying death, whether the facing of that ultimate dimension of things is also a necessary component of maturity, not so much in line with the current denial of ageing as of the acceptance of death as part of the life-cycle. Portia’s father’s will had stipulated that her future husband be he who rightly chooses, among the three caskets, the one that contains her portrait—neither the golden, nor the silver, but the leaden. But that said, there is a certain “something” which underlies Portia’s role in the play and which finds expression in her relationship with her “waiting woman” Nerissa, and that is a something which psychoanalysts find very difficult to pin down, one which also pervades a true analytic relationship and is certainly evident in the group relations setting. It is this: it may slowly become possible for one person to take in and to think about those very issues or contradictions which have hitherto been felt to be impossible to engage with, or, indeed, may not even have been known about. The process was designated by Meltzer (1978) “the most important and most mysterious concept in psychoanalysis”: introjective identification (p. 459). For example, it is possible with one part of the self to betray that to which, with another part, one feels oneself to be utterly committed. Bassanio and Gratiano are tricked/persuaded by Balthazar/Portia and Nerissa to give away the rings that the young women had entrusted to their new husbands. But Portia and Nerissa come to see the wisdom of Portia’s father’s will. In the process, they grow up from being boisterous girls into married women, from being able to understand not just flirtation and infatuation, but passion. After all, they go through a great deal together in the course of the play, and much can be learnt about their mutual development as the swift repartee of the early prose blossoms into the beauty of the poetry of their respectively deepened perceptions towards the end. What may, this being comedy, look like some kind of merely manipulative testing of Bassanio and Gratiano (the issue of giving away the rings) can, in fact, represent a deeply serious test of commitment, which, at this point, both young men fail. Shakespeare seems to be suggesting something of the awesome nature of



the true, internal commitment that needs to be made, and how hard it is to develop such a capacity, and, in turn, what an impact it might have on the public weal, the values of Belmont possibly moderating those of the Rialto—group relations on a societal level, indeed! The allusion made earlier to a narrative of love and hate, of gain and loss, engages with something that is repeatedly found at the heart of the psychoanalytic relationship, and is enshrined in its practice. Yet, Bion’s early work notwithstanding, the thinking has tended to be limited by being held within the consulting room and its “internal world” focus. It needs to be widened further to embrace the social, political, and cultural setting—something that Bion himself always wanted to return to and which seems so pressing, indeed crucial, in current times. The Merchant of Venice explores, powerfully and inescapably, different kinds of loss and the nature of their impact, both personally and societally. Among these losses are the wreck of Antonio’s ships, of Bassanio and Antonio’s special relationship, of Jessica to her father Shylock, and, ultimately and drastically, the threat of the loss of the Merchant Antonio’s life. In the internal world, then, this play does present a life and death issue: the conflict of those elements which are on the side of personal and collective psychic life, or, by contrast, of death. In the play, these become actually life and death issues, but, in Shakespeare, they also metaphorically represent the life of the mind and its all too possible slow and incremental demise, and the life of a society, too, one that might manage to be prosperous without becoming decadent. Its demise, here, lies in the danger of succumbing to the values of the Rialto, a culture, as already noted, dedicated to outward show where, indeed, “wealth accumulates and men decay”; a culture also dedicated to an investment in economic risk, one that, as becomes clear in the trial scene, is willing to collude with whatever is deemed necessary to uphold trading relations with the rest of the mercantile world. This is by contrast with the empire of the “soul”, one that is dedicated to those inner principles that Portia seeks to uphold, despite finding herself in so complex and compromising a position, a position of which the trial scene is so powerful an emblem. Initially, it was Antonio’s body that was forfeit; in the end, as he so clearly states, it is his soul:



. . . I once did lend my body for his wealth . . . I dare be bound again My soul upon the forfeit.

This contrast between the merchant at the beginning and at the end of the play is a central theme: some of the characters, through their contact with what is represented by Portia and Belmont, do, like Portia herself, learn about themselves; a shift does occur from a predominantly K frame of mind to a K one. For Belmont favours those states in which emotions, genuinely undergone, can, despite resistance, be known and thought about truthfully, especially those of mercy, grace, and forgiveness. Some characters become truly capable of gratitude and sincerity, if only in the last Act. The play engages, then, with the possibilities of putting a cycle of competition and revenge to rest. If this is to be done at all, it was to be through internal changes of a kind that bears on external relationships. Interestingly, as in other comedies, that capacity to change tends to be found in the women rather than the men. We could, for example, look in detail at Portia and Nerissa’s banter the first time we meet them, and then again at their enhanced aesthetic capacities on the return to Belmont, the last time we encounter them alone. The play is, as always with Shakespeare, about internal and external realities simultaneously, and this is what I mean by the perennial conflict between “man as an individual” and as a “political animal”. It is about social, political, cultural, and religious issues in the form of very contemporary debates and conflicts which would all have been as familiar to Elizabethan audiences as those portrayed in, for example, Enron, are today. But these issues also represent complex dynamics between the self and others, as between social systems, dynamics of which the manifestations are timeless, despite belonging to very different phases of social history. The notion of marriage is, again recognizably, underpinned by the actions in the play which have led to the marriage, or marriages, being possible at all. What is it really that contributes to the internal capacity for the kind of marriage, both personal and political, which will strengthen the individual and the social fabric, the bearing of children, the ongoing march of the generations? In this play, Shakespeare is taking on something very difficult (evidenced in the controversy which has surrounded it, and still



does surround it), something more challenging, in some ways, than we are used to in the other Comedies. In terms of gender identity, for example, we engage here, too, with cross-dressing, as part of an adolescent bisexual “sort out” (As You Like It, Twelfth Night), and also with the generational struggles between individuality and parental authority (A Midsummer Night’s Dream). In such plays we become involved in the processes prerequisite for maturity, for the kind of engagements with, say, the painful conflicts around establishing gender identity, the general range of youthful conflicts that are a necessary part of the transition towards the capacity to take responsibility for the future. Here, then, we are in relatively familiar territory. We know, from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, or from The Forest of Arden in As You Like It, or from the dramas on the shores of Illyria or of Bohemia, and now, of Belmont, that a deep processing of emotional experience can only occur in areas of the mind which are apart from the day-to-day settings where people pursue their ordinary, casual and contractual lives. In Shakespeare, these are, more generally, in the “Green Worlds” of the Festive Comedies. The Merchant of Venice is a bit different, but here, too, one can see a parallel between the world of Belmont and of the consulting room, or of family or institutional consultation, or group relations events. The local predicaments enacted in such settings often very precisely echo, or re-present, those of contemporary Elizabethan, or, indeed, twenty-first century England (for “Rialto” read investment banks or stock exchange, for example), but they are also not merely narrowly locatable or pin-downable. For they belong, too, to inner vision, to the meaning of internal reality, a reality which has only recently found a groping, and often rather dissonant, expression in theoretical psychoanalytic formulations. The Merchant of Venice takes on some of the ugliest aspects of human nature—the most primitive, bestial, prejudiced, and vengeful—and makes it clear that those very aspects have to be recognized and are, on some level, present and active in even the most apparently acceptable aspects of human nature and discourse more generally. They have to be faced, recognized and owned if there is to be any fruitful integration of a constructive, rather than a destructive, kind. What appears to be so polarized—the values of notional Belmont vs. those of, all too real, Venice; what the Jew vs.



the Christian stands for—becomes, as the play proceeds, but different aspects of one and the same and, as Auden (1963) points out, the attraction to Belmont is also questionable. The apparent polarizations do not stand up to scrutiny. They can slide into a kind of reflexivity, the one of the other. There is a sense that those internally repudiated and split-off parts of the self have to be faced for what they are before any honest union can occur, and this is true for almost every character in the play. Indeed, the play can, as so often, be thought of in terms of a collection of parts (the characters) of the whole (the drama). The action challenges and regroups the parts towards, or in the name of (this being comedy), a reasonably good outcome. But for some the cost is very high. In psychoanalytic terms, it could be argued that the form of the play itself “contains” (in the sense of having the capacity to hold multifold heightened emotional states) a collective and symbolic representation of deep and enduringly conflictual and contradictory states of mind: those embodied by the various characters. It could also be argued that the plot encompasses an extreme version of “splitting” between good and bad and the “projection” of that good or bad into cultural, religious, or personal representatives. Yet it is, at the same time, about introjection—introjection of a specific kind: what is the nature of the legacy of the older generation to the younger? What, in the end, does Portia’s father bequeath to her, internally, rather than externally? What does Antonio, in the end, bequeath to the lovers, to Jessica and Lorenzo, in such contrast to his original, unthinking, even compulsive and misguided generosity to Bassanio? Belmont takes him to his uttermost. When the text is perused with some care, the goodies-andbaddies divide collapses and something much more subtle, in terms of the difficulty of coming to know oneself, slowly becomes established. This is precisely, as I have said, where the play begins. As we saw, the eponymous Merchant states that he neither knows nor understands himself: In sooth I know not why I am so sad, It wearies me, you say it wearies you; But how I caught, found it, or came by it, What stuff ’tis made of, whereof it is born,



I am to learn: And such a want-wit sadness makes of me, That I have much to do to know myself.

There could be no clearer a statement of the main theme of the play: it is that of self-knowledge, of links in K of a kind which have to take account of the most infantile and destructive aspects of the personality in order to establish any basis for a social and political future which is founded on principles and values rather than on outward show, in however subtle, but also crude, terms, legally and theologically, that show is represented. We know that the issue of growing up, at every age and stage, and of the symbolic significance of marriage, involves growth in the parent, too: the kind of growth which allows parents to let their child suffer; to “grow and to go”, on their own terms and not as the bearer of the parents’ projected needs, fears, desires, or aspirations. Among such mixed feelings may be the belief that they, the parents, can protect the child from the consequences of their own behaviour; that they can encourage him/her forward while really holding them back; that they can, despite all, let them become themselves and make their own choices and mistakes. As Shakespeare so often makes clear, much rests, personally and socially, on the nature of the parental example, and of their legacy to the younger generation. The contrast may be between the authoritarian or repressive on the one hand, or, on the other, the authoritative and the growth promoting. It may be between mindless indulgence and the necessity of keeping reasonable boundaries. Such dualities pervade The Merchant of Venice. I shall touch on but one. It could certainly be argued, for example, that the legacy of Portia’s father does not necessarily represent the dead hand of tyrannical control beyond the grave, as initially seems to be the case. It represents, rather, some process whereby Portia slowly takes on, or takes in, values which, in terms of the play as a whole, would be those of genuine love, rather than of show; the struggle for truthfulness in the internal world rather than the taste for glitz in the external; of humility rather than the phallic swagger of male arrogance. Let us dwell on the last scenes of Act II and the first of Act III. It is well known that this play greatly interested Freud (1913f). Not only did he write a short paper on “The Theme of the three



caskets”, but he also drew, specifically, on Portia’s verbal slip as an illustration of the “psychopathology of everyday life” (1901b). He describes how Portia is wracked (a resonant image here) in conflict by the fact that she wishes Bassanio to know that she loves him but is bound by her loyalty to her dead father to abide by his will in accepting whichever lover chooses the right casket. She actually inadvertently gives the game away. Despite herself, she does say which suitor it is whom she favours. Freud quotes the following lines: I pray you tarry; pause a day or two, Before you hazard: for, in choosing wrong, I lose your company; therefore, forbear awhile: There’s something tells me (but it is not love) I would not lose you . . . . . . I could teach you How to choose right, but then I am foresworn; So will I never be; so may you miss me; But if you do you’ll make me wish a sin, That I had been foresworn. Beshrew your eyes, They have o’looked me, and divided me; One half of me is yours, the other half yours— Mine own, I would say; but if mine, then yours, And so all yours.

I quote Freud: The thing of which she wanted to give him only a subtle hint, because she should really have concealed it from him altogether, namely, that even before he made his choice she was wholly his and loved him—it is precisely this that the poet, with a wonderful psychological sensitivity, causes to break through openly in her slip of the tongue; and by this artistic device he succeeds in relieving both the lovers’ unbearable uncertainty and the suspense of the sympathetic audience over the outcome of the choice. [pp. 97–98]

In the second of his Introductory Lectures, Freud (1915–1916) adds a further comment: Observe too, how skilfully Portia in the end reconciles the two statements contained in her slip of the tongue, how she solves the contradiction between them and yet finally shows that it was the slip that was in the right:



But if mine, then yours, And so all yours.” [p. 38]

In relation to the casket scene, Empson (1947) describes Portia’s father’s “devastating scheme”. I would think of it somewhat differently—by no means devastating. The third casket is the right one— third time lucky. The implication could be, as suggested, that something has to be learned from the first two. In Seven Types of Ambiguity, Empson states (p. 128), as does Freud in his discussion of the three caskets, that lead represents a fundamental aspect of humanity. Eventual death must be accepted, must be chosen, before one can get what one wants and can go on with the creative possibilities and poetry of the play. So, parental legacy is of utmost significance. But I want, in conclusion, to touch again on the interesting delay in the consummation of the final marriages. Portia and Bassanio are effectively only legally married. A further learning process has to occur before the couple can properly get together. Is it that Portia herself needs to engage with the questionable, contradictory, and far from salubrious dealings of the “real” world of Venice? In other words, has she briefly to leave the exclusive harmonies of Belmont and, as it were, dirty her hands, before she is internally ready to marry Bassanio? My sense is that it is only on their return from Venice that Portia and Nerissa are able to appreciate what Belmont and Portia’s father’s will really stand for. The high moral ground is not Portia’s exclusive territory, as she learns in the trial scene. She, like everyone else, has to learn. To return, in conclusion, to The Deserted Village and the unspeakable current, though differently sourced, burden on the poor of a crushing fiscal legacy; the loss, for so many, of the wherewithal to support a decent life: Goldsmith, towards the end of the poem, picks up a now altered theme, “Thus fares the land, by luxury betrayed . . .”. The parental role of good government and governance has failed its subjects. We need to return, too, to Judt’s concluding words in this, his last book, a kind of rallying cry, so clearly articulating his objection to what is going on in these modern times and urging all to look critically at our world and how we live. He quotes Tolstoy, so aptly expressing the passivity that characterizes the status quo: “[t]here are no conditions of life to which a man cannot



get accustomed, especially if he sees them accepted by everyone around him” (p. 237). What a challenge to organizational consultancy, whether that of families or wider institutions. As Judt, echoing Marx, so rightly stated, philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it. Finally, I want to return to the task of “Opus”: that we need those who can think, the “philosophers”, and, crucially, those who will act. Most will be trying to combine the two, will know about the hazards of the developmental path, about the uneven balance between progression and regression, whether personally or institutionally, between social and political advance or collapse. It is in this sense that The Merchant of Venice is a tale of modern times. So, just as Oliver Goldsmith knew the power of poetry to reach the depths of what, propositionally, can be very hard to think about, the last words must be Portia’s. For it is she who delivers one of the most compelling speeches about human values ever uttered or penned. The quality of mercy is not strain’d, It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest, It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes, ’Tis mightiest in the mightiest, it becomes The throned monarch better than his Crown. ... Though justice be thy plea, consider this, That in the course of justice, none of us Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy, And that same prayer, doth teach us all to render The deeds of mercy.

Acknowledgement With grateful thanks to the late Rozsika Parker and to Liane Aukin.

References Auden, W. H. (1963). The Dyer’s Hand and Other Essays. London: Faber & Faber.



Bion, W. R. (1962). Learning from Experience. London: Heinemann. Bion, W. R. (1963). Elements of Psychoanalysis. London: Heinemann. Empson, W. (1947). Seven Types of Ambiguity. London: New Directions, 1966 (reprint). Freud, S. (1901b). The Psychopathology of Everyday Life. S.E., 6. London: Hogarth Press, 1955. Freud, S. (1913f) The theme of the three caskets. S.E., 12: 289–302. London: Hogarth Press. Freud, S. (1915–1916). Parapraxes. S.E., 15: 25–39. London: Hogarth Press. Goldsmith, O. (1770). The Deserted Village. London: Simpson Low, Son & Co, 1861 (reprint). Judt, T. (2010). Ill Fares the Land. A Treatise on Our Present Discontents. London: Allen Lane. Keats, J. (1988). John Keats. The Complete Poems. Harmondsworth: Penguin Classics. Meltzer, D. (1978). A note on introjective processes. In: A. Hahn (Ed.), Sincerity and Other Works. London: Karnac, 1994. Shakespeare, W. (2000). The Merchant of Venice. The Arden Shakespeare edn. London: Routledge.


Tolerating discrimination: discriminating tolerance Farhad Dalal

The problem


ver the past few decades, large sums of money and much time and effort have been dedicated to the task of dismantling the structures and processes of inequality. And, although many changes in society have indeed come about because of these efforts, it is also the case that, to a large degree, racism, sexism, and the like continue to flourish. For example, recent statistics show that, despite these enormous efforts, pay differentials between men and women have actually widened in the last few years. Other sets of official statistics show that in the five years from 2004–2009 there has been a 70% increase in the numbers of Black and Asians stopped and searched on the streets of Great Britain. At the same time public, private, and voluntary bodies publish “Race Equality Schemes” and make proud public pronouncements in Equal Opportunity statements that they subscribe to the values of inclusivity, non-discriminatory practice, and so forth. There is quite a gap between what institutions say they are doing and what is actually happening. It seems to me that the situation has in part (but only in part) been brought about by the equality movements themselves. I will 19



argue that the difficulties with certain strands of the Equalities agenda lie at a fundamental level; not just with the solutions they have proposed, but in the way in which the problems have been conceptualized in the first place. Given that my chapter is going to be a critique of aspects of the equality movements and, in particular, the recent turn to the “celebration of diversity”, I want to make clear that, unlike some rightwing pundits, I do think that there are many anomalies with regard to equality in our society that urgently need addressing. To my mind, there is no question that there are very real issues regarding how and why only some “kinds” of individuals appear to make the grade and other kinds hit “the glass ceiling”. My intention is not to attack in order to dismantle the equalities agenda per se. Rather, it is to strengthen these emancipatory movements by critiquing their conceptual confusions. To use an arboreal analogy, I consider this work as analogous with pruning rather than felling. In what follows, I look at some of the thinking emanating from the equality movements, as well as the assumptive frames that this thinking is based on. Following this, I examine some of the practical consequences of this way of thinking, and, finally, think about a way forward.

Ignorance: multiculturalism and psychoanalysis Perhaps the most well known of the explanations for these sorts of problems is the idea of ignorance. It is claimed that we naturally fear the unfamiliar and so treat it badly. This is the viewpoint that is at the root of the multiculturalist agenda. In their view the solution consists of a process of familiarization—education if you will— of learning and understanding the ways of the Other. The belief is that when we become familiars, then we will no longer be prone to treating them badly. We will accept them in their difference; thus, the adage “different, but equal”. What psychoanalysis adds to this picture is the idea of projection. The thinking here is that the empty space, the realm of ignorance, becomes readily available for projection. Elements of the self that are disparaged, feared, or just plain difficult are split off from consciousness, the knowledge of their existence is repressed, and they are projected into various Others. This results in “them”



coming to be experienced as contemptible and frightening. “They” being the containers of all the unwanted aspects of the self, it is important that they be kept at a distance from “us”. If one thinks that the problem is essentially a psychological one, then so must be the solution. The solution is the psychological work of understanding and coming to terms with the denigrated parts of oneself. Now, the Other, no longer burdened by negative projections, is more likely to be seen for who and what they are. We can see then that both the multiculturalists and the psychoanalysts think that knowledge and information is key to the solution of the problem of the unfair treatment of Others. The difference between the two positions is that the multiculturalists think that it is through gaining knowledge of the Other and their ways that change follows, while the psychoanalyst thinks that it is through gaining knowledge of the Self that change will occur. The realm of the former is the conscious world, and that of the latter the unconscious world. There is much to be said for these paradigms, but in themselves, neither is sufficient nor full enough. For example, take the question of ignorance and strangeness. The females of a society are not strangers to the males of that society; they share lives of intimacy and are part of the same culture. Yet, we find that women are marginalized and do much less well than men in the job market. Whatever the causes of this, it is not to do with “ignorance” about their exotic cultures, as the multiculturalists would have it. I would agree that psychological understandings do shed light on the marginalization process, but only at the level of specific individuals. For example we might well come to be convinced why and how it is that this particular individual (because of their life history or/and instinctual makeup) ends up despising this or that group. To this way of thinking, the hatred is a manifestation of the particular individual’s psychopathology. And this might well be true. But what these individualistic ways of thinking cannot answer is how it is that the projective mechanisms of entire societies come to be so finely synchronized that a great many come to aim their projections in the same direction and all come to choose the same group to be the receptacles for their projections. Why, for example, choose Jews and Black people and not nurses?



The usual answer given to this challenge is that we project into groups that are already socially sanctioned as deserving of negative projections. That is so. But it avoids two deeper questions: how do these groups come to be socially sanctioned in the first place, and who is the “we” that has just been referred to? It is also the case that both paradigms are singularly apolitical, with neither making reference to power relations.

Anti-racism and diversity In the 1970s, this was exactly the critique that was levelled at the multiculturalists by the movement called anti-racism. They said that the problem was not ignorance, but the unfair use and abuse of power. They came up with the formula racism = power + prejudice. Their militant agenda was to expose and redress power differentials. Anti-racist militancy did, in fact, force considerable changes in the legislature and also started to raise the threshold regarding what sorts of views one was able to voice in polite company. Perhaps encouraged by the small victories of the anti-racists and feminists, other marginalized groups who were not spoken for by these prior movements also wanted to get into the act. This is where the diversity movement comes in. It positions itself as all-inclusive, as attending to and speaking up for all differences. But even as it took this step forward, it took another, far more problematic, step backwards by declaring itself apolitical. For the diversity promulgators, it is a point of pride to claim that they are not in the business of political change, but in the business of appreciating “differences”. The diversity movement reframes differences from “problems” to “assets”—assets to be welcomed and celebrated. And this is exactly why the diversity movement has been embraced, while the previous egalitarian movements had been shunned, particularly by the corporate world. One reason for this is as follows: the anti-racist agenda calls for a redistribution of resources. If the cake is finite, then the more it is shared out, the less each will necessarily get. Unsurprisingly, this ethos did not find favour with those in the boardroom. In contrast, diversity theology claims that if its doctrine were embraced, then the cake itself would



get bigger and everyone, including the already well-to-do, would get more. It is primarily on this basis that Diversity has been taken up by profit-making institutions. In the literature, one finds many references to ideas of diversity being “lucrative”, a “commodity”, an “asset” to be exploited in the service of increasing profit, and so forth. This is the basis on which diversity is sold to the boardroom—that is, in the service of “doing well”. Meanwhile, diversity is sold to the public on the basis of it “doing good”, of inclusivity, of acceptance, of respect. But, most worryingly, not only does the rhetoric about inclusivity come to serve as a cover for the profit motive, at times it becomes utilized as an instrument of fear and control: you must accept and appreciate the ways of others, else you are being oppressive. How have we ended up here, given that all the paradigms referred to have their genesis in the spirit of liberalism—the promotion of dignity and freedom? To understand this, it is instructive to review the genesis of liberalism.

Liberalism As you will know, the Enlightenment took up the cause of the universal individual, stripped of all particularities, status, gender, origins, and so on. Royal and commoner were equal in the eyes of the law. The Enlightenment urged all individuals to think things out for themselves and not blindly accept the pronouncements of the authorities. In time, the Romantics came to think that the Enlightenment’s emphasis on the mind was mistaken, and replaced it with an emphasis on the heart. Each individual was thought to have his or her unique essence. It was the duty of each individual to embrace lives of authenticity, which entailed the expressing of, and giving life to, their internal essence. The focus of both the Enlightenment and the Romantics was the individual. They both agreed that the individual had rights over their property and a right to privacy in their homes and minds. While the Enlightenment emphasized the commonality of individuals, the Romantics became the champions of the differences between them. Liberalism came to embody both sets of values by



granting individuals the right to their unique differences in the private sphere. But in the public sphere, they are all considered to be equal to each other. Different but equal, as the adage goes. But then, in the nineteenth century, the later Romantics took this picture of individuals and the rights and duties accruing to them and transposed it wholesale on to entities called “cultural groups”. Now, cultures were deemed to be living things with rights over their property, which comprised their beliefs, their customs, and ways of life. It was the duty of cultural groups to live according to their conventions, else they would not be being authentic. This, then, is the picture before us: we have a series of encapsulated, mutually exclusive cultures, each different in themselves, but each of equal merit to all others. This transposition throws up many anomalous but interesting complications. For example, although cultural beliefs and practices (ways of dress, dietary requirements, religious beliefs, and so on) “belong” in that they are the private property of that culture, they necessarily take place in the public sphere and so necessarily have an impact on others. When the practices of one group affect, and are in conflict with, the lives of others, then the issue becomes one of rights. Multiculturalism says that each culture has the equal rights to express itself, as no one culture is intrinsically better or of more value than another. But a key problem with “us” accepting “their” ways is that neither “we” nor “they” are coherent homogeneities. “They” are no more of one mind than are “we”. Englishness, or Britishness, is a conflictual and conflicted entity. The British National Party, Cameron, Brown, Christian fundamentalists, radical atheists, all claim to speak for British Culture. Similarly, the Untouchable has a very different experience of Hindu culture from that of the Brahmin. When Untouchables try to leave Hinduism through conversion, as it determines the desperate lives they are obliged to lead, local Brahmins often resort to bloody violence to prevent this. Women seeking to step out of their allocated subservient roles are similarly beaten down everywhere, because, it is said, they are going against “our” authentic ways. Similarly, there is no single spokesperson for the Muslim community in the UK, only spokespersons for particular interest groups. Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is one



such, and Iqbal Sacranie another. Mr Blair’s racialized mind-set, being blind to this conflictual “diversity” within the so-called community of Muslims, granted the Imam the privilege of speaking on behalf of all Muslims in the UK. For some reason, Mr Blair did not grant the Archbishop of Canterbury the same privilege of speaking for all the “indigenous Christians” of the UK, and, indeed, when the Archbishop has presumed to give a view, he has been severely reprimanded for interfering in politics. There are four points I want to underline from the foregoing: first, we begin to get a glimpse of how social groupings are created through and by power-relations. Second, we can also see that cultural practices are never innocent. Among other things, they are systems of domination and oppression that have been institutionalized as cultural practices, as our ways of doing and believing. In other words the distinction that the diversity agenda seeks to make between culture and politics is clearly unsustainable. Third, cultural practices, although decreed private and attributed with meaning, its real function is to publicly signal where the “us” ends and the “them” begins. And, finally, we can see now that one cannot simply respect “their” differences from “us”, because in respecting some of “them” and their values, I will inevitably fall foul of others of “them”, as well as any number of “us”. In sum, there is no possibility of taking a position of benevolent neutrality—the very premise that the liberal ideal rests on.

Discernment and discrimination Let me come at the problem from another direction. First, human beings are social beings. By this I mean that as we grow up, we imbibe the social conventions we are born into and they become internalized and constitute the Self. This is the basis of our habituated ways of being—particular ways of seeing, experiencing, and interacting with the world. This happens, not uniformly, or universally, but sufficiently broadly for us to be able to speak of “ways of life” relatively meaningfully. In a manner of speaking, we more or less “mindlessly” follow one sort of world-view and not another—mindless in the sense that it is the



unreflected norm we inhabit. Call it ideology, discourse, or the social unconscious. So, in one sense, we are cultural sheep. But it is also the case that humans are thinking beings that are capable of questioning, testing, and enquiring into the conditions of their existence. This was exactly Kant’s requirement for humanity: that we did not just meekly accept the world we find ourselves in, but interrogate it through the light of human reason. There is a complication, however. To begin with, the capacity to think is a process of discrimination. Thought is not possible without discernment. Thought is discrimination. However, our processes of discrimination and discernment are never value-free; they are deeply patterned not only by the particular psychosocial developmental process that an individual has gone through, but also (and perhaps more fundamentally) by the conventions and norms that one inhabits. Not only is this patterning outside the scope of consciousness, it comes to actually constitute consciousness. These patterns are enabling constraints. It follows that our processes of discernment cannot be objective and neutral; they are forever compromised. It is this realization, that there is no pure objectivity, that lies behind the collapse into relativism, where anything and everything goes. It may be that their way is different to my way, sometimes a way that I do not like, but if anything goes, then accept it I must; I must value their difference, and if I did not, then I would be being oppressive. But how am I to do this without causing injury to myself? Consider, among other things, that the social conventions that we imbibe are systems of morality. They inculcate in us a profound sense of what is right and wrong to make us ethical beings. It follows, then, that the only way that I would be able to accept a way of life that goes counter to my own ethics is by shutting down my processes of discrimination, my sense of right and wrong. If I do this, then I negate the integrity of my being, my very humanity. This is the human predicament: despite our best efforts, when it comes to the exercise of our faculties of discernment, we humans are intrinsically biased. Our minds are partisan. This is the human condition. All the strategies of the equality movements can be thought of as ways of dealing with this predicament: that, despite our best rational and emotive efforts, we cannot help but take sides.



It is to counter this human frailty that institutions have increasingly come to rely on procedures rather than human beings in their decision-making processes. The problem, though, is not discrimination, but unfair discrimination. This distinction is not kept sufficiently in mind, and so it seems that the only way to stop unfair discrimination is to stop discrimination per se. This key slippage is everywhere in the equalities literature, one example being from a well-established mainstream text (into its fourth edition), aimed at social workers; the author Neil Thompson (2001, p. 33) defines “discrimination” as: “unfair or unequal treatment of individuals or groups”. In my view, many of these procedures (grievance, complaint, selection processes, etc.) incorporate this slippage, and so end up being draconian and silencing in their effects. The mounting weight and number of these procedures come increasingly to stifle creativity in organizational life. In this sort of culture, the responsibility of individuals becomes not to do good, or to think (as Kant advocated), but to follow procedure precisely, and for this to be demonstrable through documentation. The focus so far has been broadly in the region of ideas; I now turn to look at what happens when these ideas are put into actual practice.

“Race” in the legislature Much of the thinking in this arena proceeds by taking the existence of particular human groupings as unproblematic givens (race, culture, ethnicity, gender, disability, etc.), and concerns itself with ensuring that no one grouping is unfairly discriminated against. But, as I have already indicated, human groupings are made before they are found. One such division is that of “race”. Much of the day-to-day life in the UK comes to be organized on the basis of this category—in other words, by racism. Over the past fifty years, the legislature in the UK has tried to combat racism by putting in place a number of laws called the Race Relations Acts (RRAs) and their amendments. Given that these Acts seek to police how the races should and should not relate to each other, it is astonishing to note that the Acts have assiduously



avoided naming any of the races as well as defining “race”. Of course they cannot, because there are no such things as the races. (For substantive arguments on this matter, see Dalal (2002), particularly Chapter One.) The notion of race is itself an invention born in the midst of a particularly pernicious history. While “race” masquerades as objective taxonomy, its primary purpose has always been in the service of marginalization and exclusion; its primary function has always been to generate various “Others” in order to marginalize them. In other words, the term “race” is generated by the problem we call racism. “Race” was the Imperialist’s way of dividing up the world into the haves and must-not-haves, and its legacy continues to bloom in the UK today. Despite “race” having no objective existence, it nevertheless comes to have a life as a social, psychological, and political category, which informs how people experience and treat others as well as themselves. Given the embarrassment that the central term does not objectively exist, the legislature passes the buck and leaves it up to the courts to establish whether or not a grouping is a ‘race’. This has resulted in a number of very peculiar anomalies arising. For example, the Law recognizes Gypsies, Sikhs, and Jews to be “races”, but not Christians, Muslims, or Hindus. The 1976 Act begins with the statement that it is unlawful for a person to discriminate against another on racial grounds. When this happens, then it is called racial discrimination. Next, it defines racial grounds to be one of five categories, those of “race, colour, nationality or ethnic or national origins”. (para. 3(1)). (A further curiosity— why is “culture” missing from this list?) Notice two things: first, the tautology: racial discrimination occurs when someone discriminates on racial grounds; second, notice how the term “race” has been smuggled into the statute books through the definition of racial grounds. It seems to me that the effect of installing the reification “race” in the legislature has been to perpetuate and reinforce some of the processes of racism, rather than help to dismantle them. Anyhow, this is the law. But in order to utilize the protection afforded by the RRAs, a complainant has to establish first that they do indeed belong to a “racial group”. In 1983, a Sikh family, the Mandalas, filed a case of racial discrimination. Initially. they were unsuccessful. The courts said that



they might well have been victims of discrimination, but as they were not a racial group, they could not call on the services of the Race Relations Acts. The case eventually went to the Law Lords who decided that Sikhs could after all be construed as a racial group by virtue of being an “ethnic group”. They defined ethnicity as “having a long shared distinctive history and a distinctive cultural tradition. Further common characteristics included a common geographical origin, common language and religion, common literature, and being a minority within a larger society” (Barnett, 2004, p. 548). But notice the confusion of categories: The Sikhs, a religious group, are considered to be a racial group, by virtue of their ethnicity! Through other similar court cases, it has come to be established in UK law that Jews, Romany Gypsies, Irish Travellers, and AfroCaribbeans are also races. But when the Rastafarians tried to join this elite squad on the same grounds as the Mandalas (not wanting to cut hair), the Law Lords decided that that Rastafarians did not “fall within the meaning of racial group, for their ‘shared history’ is only of some 60 years duration (compared with that of Gypsies, whose history is of over 700 years duration)” (ibid., p. 549). The fact that the law is written in this way actually encourages the further racialization of society; it encourages and pushes people into thinking of themselves and others in racial categories. This problem is then compounded further in the following way.

Ethnic monitoring In order to try to capture evidence of institutional processes that marginalize some groupings and favour others, in 2000 the Amendments to the Race Relations Acts obliged institutions to gather data and generate statistics. While I agree with the idea of collecting this data, I think there is a problem with the kind of data being collected. Individuals are asked to self-ascribe their “ethnicity” by ticking one of sixteen boxes that have been generated by the legislature. The content of the form is as follows:



What is your ethnic group? Choose ONE section from A to E, then tick the appropriate box to indicate your ethnic group. A: White:  British;  Irish;  Any other White background (please write in)______ B: Mixed:  White and Black Caribbean;  White and Black African;  White and Asian;  Any other mixed background (please write in) _____ C: Asian or Asian British:  Indian;  Pakistani;  Bangladeshi;  Any other Asian background (please write in) _____ D: Black or Black British:  Caribbean;  African;  Any other Black background (please write in) _____ E: Chinese or other ethnic group:  Chinese;  Any other (please write in) _____ Not stated:  (This last option is not available to the person filling out the form.)

Confusions and conflations: the race–ethnicity fudge What a strange mish-mash of categories this form consists of, two colours (Black and White), a continent (Asia), a nation (China), and, most disturbing of all, the idea of people who are allegedly Mixed. By countenancing a notion of “mixed” as one of the categories of ethnicity, the legislature gives succour to the racists, as it implies that there exist ethnicities that are “unmixed”, or pure. We have to ask, where and when in this world has there ever existed a pure ethnicity? Next, given that the requirement to collect this data has been written into the legislature in a Race Relations Act, it is curious, is it



not, that the process is called ethnic monitoring and not race monitoring. Why is this? The answer, in part, has to do with a confusion and a fudge: a confusion regarding the purpose of the questionnaire itself, and a fudge as to whether the data being collected is subjective or objective. To begin with, what exactly is ethnicity? This advice is given by the Department of Health (2005, par. 31) to those administering the questionnaire; they are told that “Ethnicity is subjective: a person should self-assign his or her own ethnic group. While other people may view an individual as having a distinct ethnic identity, the individual’s view of their own identity takes priority”. But the thing is that self-ascription, although it has its own validity, actually misses the point. Racism, sexism, prejudice, and the like are driven not so much what I think of myself, but by what you take me to be, particularly if you are more powerful than me. It matters little if a person thinks of themselves primarily as a Cambridge graduate, brain surgeon, lawyer, middle-class, or British, if they are perceived first and foremost by more powerful others as Jew, Black, or Woman, and this is the point, treated on that basis. We also have to ask, how meaningful is the collection of subjective ethnicities? In my case, I could put up a legitimate argument for genuinely entering myself into the “any other” category in A, B, C, D, or E. (B on the basis that we are all “mixed”, C on the basis of being Indian, D on the basis that in the current socio-historic context I think of myself as Black, E because I was born a Parsee. And A because many Parsees think of themselves as being of “Aryan” descent and see themselves as White.) And here is the point: the place I would locate myself would very much be context dependent. In sum, although the purpose of the questionnaire is to reveal the processes of marginalization at work, all it actually supplies is a picture of the range of ways that people think of themselves in a particular moment (subjectively), and how these are distributed over the social scape. This has little to do with race and racism. The fudge is that self-ascription is being used instead of other-ascription. In this way, the questionnaire cannot do its real work. If one were to really grasp the nettle here, one would have a racial monitoring form, and it would be filled out through the racialized eyes of the Established. One can see why this is disquieting,



given the sorry history of scientific racism in Britain, South Africa, and elsewhere.

Training The RRAs place legal obligations on institutions to put resources into ensuring that the culture of the institution is inclusive, and so forth. This is generally done by putting employees through mandatory training in equality and diversity. Often, this training is computer based. The e-based equal opportunity trainings I have sight of are, in my view, simplistic, patronizing, and tokenistic, with their primary purpose being that of the institution demonstrating to the authorities that it has fulfilled its legal obligations. In other words, they are in the service of being seen to do good, rather than actually doing good. This is demonstrated by the fact that, despite the ubiquity of trainings, in many places things have become worse.

Etiquette Large parts of these trainings focus on how not to cause offence to Others. In effect, they are trainings in etiquette. I am not against fairness or courtesy. However, it completely misses the point with regard to processes of exclusion. The more “culturally” sensitive manager might well provide a multi-faith prayer room for the devout among their employees, but this has little effect on the colour-coded and gendered hierarchical structures, which continue as before. In my view, this kind of cultural courtesy is actually patronage by another name. If institutions were really serious about attending to the needs of their marginalized employees, one simple thing that would make the biggest impact would be the provision of a crèche. And this, it has to be pointed out, has nothing exotic or mysterious about it.

Language The key to the art of not causing offence is training in the use of language. One of its purposes is to make it clear that it is unac-



ceptable to utilize sexist or racially abusive language in the workplace. This aspect seems to me to be perfectly sensible. But there is also another aspect, which relies on the premise that language is not just a passive means of apprehending a pre-existing reality, but that it is critically active in forming and informing the way that reality comes to be apprehended. Language structures experience. This is indeed so. But the next steps in the argument lead us into a conceptual morass. For example, it is true that people belonging to the category “the elderly” are unfairly discriminated against. Thompson (2001, p. 35) observes that “it is through the identification of differences that discrimination . . . take[s] place”. Next, the fact that categories are utilized to carve out a group of people who are discriminated against leads to the strange suggestion that one ought not to use those categorizations. The reasoning is that without the categorization, there can be no differentiation; without the differentiation, there can be no marginalization. For example, Thompson says, “Terms such as ‘the elderly’, ‘the old’, ‘EMI’ are commonly used but are, none the less, very dehumanising—they depersonalize the people to whom they refer (Thompson, 1995, pp. 11–12). “We should avoid grouping people together according to age . . . abandon the ‘us–them’ mentality” (Thompson, 2001, p. 102). I agree that the elderly are often treated in shabby ways; they are the “them” to the mainstream “us”. But to then suggest that, therefore, one should not utilize the categories “the elderly”, or “old people” is, to my mind, nonsensical. It seems obvious to me that the categorization “old people” is useful. They (and I know that all too soon I, too, will become a part of this “they”) do have very particular needs and requirements, which ought to be catered for. To treat the elderly and infirm like everyone else would surely be an exercise in negligence. Surely, society ought to be discriminating in favour of them receiving more resources of a certain kind than the rest of us. I want to stress that I do not dispute the view that “the elderly” are, in many ways, treated as second-class citizens. But not using the categorization is not likely to change that particular situation. Moving on.



We have just been advised that as categories create a “them”, which are then marginalized, we ought not to categorize; if we do not name “them”, then “they” will not exist, and so they cannot be marginalized. But now, when it comes to some of the other groups that are marginalized like Black, or Woman, then we are told to do the exact opposite: to respect and celebrate the category rather than remove it from the lexicon. Why is this? Thompson’s rationale on this occasion is the diversity one, that we ought to “emphasise the differences between individuals and across groups . . . [because] such differences are best seen as assets to be valued” (Thompson, 2001, pp. 34–35). Nowhere have I been able to find an explanation as to why the argument that applies to “the elderly” does not apply to Jews, women, Blacks, or “trans” people (“trans” refers to people who have gone through a medical procedure which changes their gender from male to female or vice versa): Sardar says that “Trans people should be respected as a discrete group” (p. 33). In my view, the reason for this anomaly is the taken-for-granted belief that some groups are artificial, merely artefacts of ways of thinking, while other groups are real and have an objective existence. In proceeding in this way, they are falling foul of what philosophers call the “naturalistic fallacy”, wherein one takes the world as one finds it to be a natural state of affairs and not requiring questioning. To question the natural would appear as pointless as Chico Marx asking Groucho in the film The Cocoanuts: “Why a duck?” (Chico mishears Groucho’s reference to the viaduct as “why a duck”, and existential mayhem follows.) It is beholden on us to ask not only “why a duck” but “how a duck”. Even a cursory historical analysis shows us how groups and their names come into being through the exercise of power, and then, as context changes, they fade away. As ever, we have to remember the asymmetry: some have the power to name, and others get named, and there is always the struggle between the two. It seems to me that it is precisely because the tweaking of surface language leaves deep personal experience, as well as the socio-political reality, untouched, that spoken language becomes so closely policed in public life. This in turn works in the direction of creating an atmosphere of paranoia, suspicion, and silence. Definitely not what the anti-discriminatory project is all about.



I would agree with Sardar when he says, “We should make visible what language renders invisible”, for example, to avoid the use of Man to stand for all of humanity, as it renders invisible the presence of women. Attending to language in this way makes sense to me. But, worryingly, it is also the case that this ideology also works in the direction of rendering invisible what is already visible, the category “old” being a case in point. But even more is to be rendered invisible. Sardar says, We should avoid the use of the word Islam . . . and instead use Muslims. Islamism, often used to describe extreme ideology, is an unclear term with negative connotations, so it is best avoided. Given that ‘fundamentalist’ is always pejorative, frequently offensive and a blanket term, it should also be avoided. The best terms to describe Muslims with literalist or socially conservative views is ‘pious’ ‘devout’ and ‘politically motivated’. [pp. 30–31]

I find this kind of proposal not only problematic, but also highly dangerous. I would agree with Sardar that the notion of fundamentalist is pejorative. But that is exactly what I intend when I use the term fundamentalist—I use it in the pejorative sense. I would be being disingenuous if, instead of fundamentalist, I used the terms “pious” or “politically motivated”; this would be PC speak of the most dangerous and troubling kind.

The question of offence and tolerance There is a distinction between deliberately being offensive and of causing offence, a distinction that is often collapsed so that offence itself (like discrimination) becomes the culprit. Further, offence works in both directions. “They” might be offended by my way of life, and I might be offended by theirs. Understandably, the equality movements have primarily attended to the occasions when it is “they” that have been offended. What I want to focus on here is on the other side of the fence: what am I to do when I am the offended party? My first problem is that I am unable to trust my response. Is my antipathy towards them a racist response or an ethical one? And



even if it were an ethical response, ought I to subjugate (tolerate) my disapproval, or ought I to push through the liberal taboo and “interfere” by saying something? On what basis do I make that decision? What is the correct thing to do? But notice: I am deciding what to tolerate and what not to tolerate. In other words, the exercise of tolerance requires the engagement of one’s discriminatory process; tolerance is not the opposite of discrimination. Indiscriminate tolerance, of the kind that the diversity celebrators advocate, is dangerous nonsense. But the decision as to what we will or will not tolerate is not by any means solely rational; neither is it fully ethical. I am much more likely to tolerate the annoying behaviour of a large, frightening man, and much less likely to tolerate the same behaviour from someone I am not intimidated by. These decisions, it has to be said, are, in the main, subliminal or unconscious; what I will be aware of is the rationalization for my decision.

Liberalism in practice: live and let live Having established that discrimination is necessary to the activity of tolerance, let us ask a deeper question: just what is tolerance? To begin with, if one finds oneself readily able to accept and respect “their” differences, then the activity of tolerance is unnecessary, as there is nothing to tolerate. Tolerance is the activity of continuing to put up with a state of discomfort due to something that continues to disturb one’s equilibrium in some way. The activity of tolerance consists of the subjugation of an internal response, of some aspect of the self. Tolerance is hard work, because to be tolerating something is to be in a state of tension, a tension born of conflicting demands. This tension has its genesis in the values of liberalism, which happen to point in two different directions at the same time. First, is the duty to be true to oneself, of authenticity. Second, is the duty to others of non-interference and of fairness. Both are perfectly captured in the simple but powerful phrase “live and let live”. But what happens to the principle of “live and let live” in practice? The imperialists, and some kind of fundamentalists, collapse the tension by doing away with the duty to others; their principle is not “live and let live”, but “my way or no way”. As the imperialist is



mostly convinced that their way is the right way, then they need feel no guilt or any shame at riding roughshod over the other. Meanwhile, the diversity enthusiasts collapse the tension by ignoring the injunction to be true to oneself, and so end up practising a version of “I defer to your way, and celebrate it”. This sort of person is controlled by guilt. Any doubts about whether “their” way is the right way would bring up feelings of guilt which would work in the direction of burying the doubts born of their own sense of right and wrong. But, as they crush and abandon their own sensibilities, there must arise in them feelings of shame at negating and abdicating their ethical selves. My guess is that what happens now is that these feelings of shame are defended against by generating a state of manic positivity—doggedly respecting the Other come what may. In effect, difference becomes fetishized. And, finally, a certain kind of liberal does manage the feat of abiding by both duties, but only by the device of having very little to do with “them”. If “our” world does not intersect too much with “theirs”, then it is easy enough to remain true to oneself, as well as not interfere with “them” and allow them the freedom to live according to their ways, as neither impinges on the other. But this strategy creates ghettos, and what is actually being practised is not “live and let live”, but “live and leave well alone”. This is the scenario that is most prevalent in our society. This stance can breed a kind of smug complacency born of the fact that as one is not doing down the other or oneself, there is no necessity to feel guilt or shame. Let me return to the troubling issue that I cannot truly trust the basis of my negative response to this Other. Just because my response really truly feels right does not make it so, as the Romantics would have it. And just because my response seems rational, this does not make it fully objective, as the Enlightenment would have it, because, as we have seen, rationales are always, to some degree, rationalizations. How do I test the ethic of my response?

A way forward That in itself is the first clue—my response has to be “tested”. Testing takes place in the territory between deification and



denigration. It is through dialogue and engagement with the other that testing occurs. Although the idea of dialogue and engagement sounds banal, it is far from banal. True engagement is terrifying. Engagement requires me to allow your world-view into me, so that I may cognitively and empathically come to know something about where you are coming from. It also requires you to genuinely countenance my world-view. This kind of engagement is more than a debate and more than an exchange of rhetoric. This kind of intimate engagement consists of the exchange of ideological fluids. The danger, of course, is that as I let your view into me, then there is a real possibility that I will be changed, I will become something that I did not recognize a moment ago. If my identity shifts, then I will have become Other to myself, and this is why true engagement is not only profound, it is terrifying. But this is also the hope: that engagement is a mutually transformational process. This picture, although terrifying, is benign. What makes it less benign is the fact that the “engagement” does not take place on a level playing-field. This is what the whole equalities project is about, after all. The protagonists are positioned in a field of power relations, and one will have more power and status than the other. The struggle, the engagement, is mostly initiated (to use Norbert Elias’s terms), by the “outsider” who demands to be recognized by the “established”, who demands recognition as a full human being, of equal status and so deserving of the same opportunities. There is no symmetry between the parties regarding their motivation to participate in this struggle; in fact, the established are likely to be extremely reluctant to participate at all. Although the strategy that I have just advocated has moral merit, it is somewhat idealistic and remains individualistic. What of the larger, systemic picture? Institutions and people in general have become good at performing anti-unfair-discrimination by the ritualized use of rhetoric and procedure. Meanwhile, in the arena of actual practice, there continue to be real problems of marginalization in the workplace and society as a whole. Perversely, many of the attempts at grappling with inequality at the organizational level have made things worse rather than better. For example, there is nothing wrong in organizations creating mission statements about the values that they aspire to—say, that of inclusivity. The difficulties arise when these proclamations are



treated as achievable absolutes. Inclusivity then comes to mean that no one should be excluded. But we are always making decisions as to who and what to include and exclude. Inclusion without exclusion is meaningless. But to the simplistic mind-set, the activities of exclusion, judgement, and discrimination are crimes per se, crimes that can set in motion the complaints procedure juggernaut. The effect of many of these procedures is to silence and inculcate a culture of fear, rather than a culture of genuine enquiry and conversation. The lethal mix of the use of “race” in the legislation, the presence of “mixed” in the ethnic monitoring process, and the way that funding is dispersed to the disadvantaged, all push people into further differentiating themselves, as well as others. In the current situation, it becomes imperative to be known and be recognized by the legislature by a particular name, as a category, as a kind of people. This is because once a category comes to be officially recognized as such, then not only does it gain a legitimacy in public discourse, but now it is deemed to have certain “rights” in relation to other similar entities. You are only counted (and therefore you only count) when you are of a certain kind of human being. Oversimplifying, we can say that there are two kinds of problems: marginalization (racism, sexism, etc.) and culturalism, which tend to get conflated. The problem of marginalization is located in the Established, the more powerful, the marginalizers. They are the beneficiaries of institutionalized processes that centrifuge some kinds of people to the periphery and so disenfranchise them. Multiculturalism is no answer to this mechanism. Meanwhile, the more powerful among the dispossessed, the traditional authorities in the so-called ethnic minorities, hijack the real problem of racism and put it in the service of culturalism to bolster their positions of privilege within “their” communities. They use it in two ways: to dismiss any challenge that certain cultural practices and beliefs are unethical, and to legitimate certain kinds of oppressions as culturally sanctioned. When faced with the culturalist, the liberal from the Established is often paralysed for the reason mentioned before: they cannot trust the basis of their response; they are not confident of the ethical status of their response, and fear that it might be born of their racist attitudes. And, rather than risk exposing that, this kind of liberal remains silent and uses the liberal value of non-interference



to legitimate their silence. In the guise of not offending the other, they protect themselves. There are two further conundrums I am still left with. First, what am I to do when faced with an intolerant Other—say, a fundamentalist who refuses to engage in dialogue? We have to ask is it possible or even sensible for the liberal to continue trying to live by the principle of “live and let live” when the protagonist proceeds on the basis of “my way or no way”? I should add that in speaking of fundamentalists, I do not mean just religious ones; they come in all guises, political, culinary, ecological, fiscal, cultural, and psychoanalytic, to name just a few. To this sort of situation, in which it is the views and ways of the Other that are problematic, the diversity advocates and multiculturalists have given no answer. They have avoided thinking about it by the tactic of simply ignoring it. And it is ignored because it is embarrassing to the liberal sensibility which succumbs to what Bertrand Russell has called “the fallacy of the superior virtue of the oppressed”, which supposes that suffering has ennobled the oppressed (referred to by Cohen, 2007). The reality is more nuanced. One nuance is that, in many ways, I, too, am a fundamentalist. In saying this, I am confronted with my second conundrum: what am I to do when faced with views that are anathema to me? I find that, in some instances, I do not even want to countenance a dialogue because what is proposed is so counter to my fundamental ethical values: the world-view of the pederast, for example, or that which promotes the mutilation of female genitalia. Am I wrong in this? To these two conundrums (ought I to try to tolerate the intolerant and ought I to try to tolerate what I find the intolerable?), there are no glib conclusions to be found. But I do know a few things. First, it is my ethical duty to keep thinking, in other words, to keep discriminating. What I am arguing for is more discrimination not less. But I cannot rely fully on my discriminatory processes, as, in part, they are constituted by values (some of which are self-serving) that are taken for granted and, therefore, invisible to me. The encounter with the Other is essential to opening up and making visible the takenfor-granted for both parties. This encounter is full of potential, of potential gain as well as profound loss. Just think of the psychic



earthquake that must follow when a life-long belief in the existence of God collapses. Much of what was previously thought to be important is, in an instance, transformed into detritus. I also know another thing: just because I have caused offence to another does not necessarily mean that I am bad or wrong. Even as I write this, I can hear a cry from off stage: but that is just your judgement about them, made from your belief system, and so is not valid. Or, as it is often said in the colloquial: “It’s all relative innit?”. Many, convinced by this argument retreat into paralysis and silence. But this is exactly what I want to hold on to— my right, no, my duty, to hold on to my ethical values and to speak and not be rendered silent. Respect without discrimination is meaningless. I cannot simply respect “them”, but have to decide which of “them” I am to respect and why. My argument is that in order to exercise the faculty of respect (which I am keen to do) I have to discriminate. If I cease discriminating, then I cease to be human. To misquote Descartes: I discriminate, therefore I am.

References Barnett, H. (2004). Constitutional and Administrative Law. London: Cavendish. Cohen, N. (2007). What’s Left: How the Left Lost its Way. London: Harper Perennial. Dalal, F. (2002). Race, Colour and the Processes of Racialization. Hove: Brunner-Routledge. Department of Health and Social Care Information Centre/NHS Employers (2005). A Practical Guide to Ethnic Monitoring in the NHS and Social Care. statistics/Publications/PublicationsPolicyandGuidance. Sardar, Z. (2008). The Language of Equality. Manchester: The Equality and Human Rights Commission. Thompson, N. (1995). Age and Dignity: Working with Older People. Aldershot: Arena. Thompson, N. (2001). Anti-Discriminatory Practice. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.


Drawing down the blinds on reflection: what is to be shut out, or in? Jinette de Gooijer

“When I look I am seen, so I exist. I can now afford to look and see. I now look creatively and what I apperceive I also perceive. In fact I take care not to see what is not there to be seen (unless I am tired)” (Winnicott, 1971, p. 114)


hat is it “to reflect”? What does it mean to reflect on experience? When, as consultants or managers, we ask people to reflect on their experiences at work, what are we actually inviting them to do? I work as an organization consultant. Part of my colleagues’ and my practice is to invite groups to reflect on their experiences of working together in the group or the organization of which they are members. We may ask this as part of a role exploration activity, a workshop process, or when consulting to a meeting of executives in the spirit of a double-task intervention. I can still hear the high-pitched squeals from one client group as they protested in mock horror at the thought of now having to reflect on the group’s 43



behaviour. As if we had asked them to do something altogether untoward. But, perhaps we had. It was after working with another client that I began to ponder on this question. During a meeting at which a colleague and I presented a working note on the results of a culture diagnostic, we experienced a punishing response from the four executives in the room. Feelings of horror, shame, and guilt swept over us. At the time, we felt we had committed a terrible sin for speaking something unthinkable, for saying what was not to be said in public. Our apparently benign hypothesis had touched a political nerve, and I saw the blinds come down in the eyes of the most senior executive present. It led us to reflect deeply on our own actions and experiences. In contrast to this experience of sharing reflections is that of our consulting group’s fortnightly practice meetings, and of my experiences chairing a committee that meets for a day every 3–4 months. In both, the groups begin their meeting with an hour’s open reflection. Dreams, thoughts, reflections on experiences of individual role and group practice (among other things) are invited. What is served by this practice is that preoccupations are given space and time to be worked with, amplified, and linked to the work of the group. It helps to create the working environment for the group, articulates symbols of union, and builds deeper insight into the conscious and unconscious processes of the group at work. When the group then turns its attention to its formal agenda, discussion on business is more informed, more focused, and not so prey to individual distractions. My colleagues and I invite people to reflect on experiences in roles in organizations so as to get in touch with unconscious mental processes. We say that by seeking to understand the mental life cocreated by members of an organization or group, we can better assess the conscious processes in the organization and, by implication, build a better work environment. When we ask people to explore the nature and function of the phantasies that present themselves in their relationships at work, we are engaging them in a social act with others. Our invitation to reflect invites people to engage socially. Simultaneously, they experience the dynamics of the group within its social context. When the group’s members are all employed in the same organization, power



relations are potently present. This presents a dilemma to the individual: to accept an invitation to reflect in a group depends on some working level of trust in others. What can we know of any individual’s experiences of trusting or being trusted by others to handle personal or intimate thoughts? What trusting experiences has a group had of intimacy and power? The concern of this chapter is on the use and experience of reflection in organizational work, whether this be from the role of consultant or manager. Its purpose is to examine the concept and practice of reflection from the perspective of social and political relations in organizations, and to consider the unconscious processes which may transpire from consultancy engagements. My working hypothesis is that engaging people in organizations to reflect on their work experiences is a social and political act that arouses feelings of vulnerability for the individual and the group. The first part of the paper presents a case vignette of a consultancy assignment with a public sector organization. The consultants’ experiences of reflecting with the client on the dynamics of intra-organization collaboration appeared to invoke fear and terror of the political forces present in the organization. A discussion of definitions of reflections then follows, beginning with a general definition of reflection as “an action that follows incidence”—it shows back a situation, an event, an image of what is or has been. Reflection specific to organizational work can take several forms: it may be a process, a potential space, or a form of democracy. I then discuss the psychoanalytic and political meanings of reflection under four themes: maternal reverie (Bion, 1984, 1994); the symbolic significance of seeing and looking (Wharton, 1993); the mirror role in infant development (Lacan, 1977; Winnicott, 1971); and the political implications of reflecting upon organizational life (Hoggett, 2006; Vince, 2002). The second half of the chapter discusses the topic of reflection in consultancy, looking at various ways that consultants may use reflection and reflective space so as to “keep the blinds up” on the reality of organizational life. The chapter concludes that organizational reflective practice is to find and create meaning to work experiences, and that while reflection may not resolve organizational problems, it assists people to see things as they are: their realities, as such.



Case vignette: political fears of reality What follows is a brief detail from a longer and complex case study of an organizational consultancy with a public institution. It illustrates some of the social and political dimensions of articulating one’s reflections to others. The consultancy worked with a business unit that provided internal HR, finance, IT, and media services to staff of a state government department. The department is responsible for community development and planning across the state. The task is wide and diffuse, as it engages with the range of communities in regional and metropolitan populations. The complexity of the task—providing policy development and planning at a whole of population level—is exemplified by its complex organizational structure. The department reports to ten parliamentary ministers, each with their own style and modes of working. The diversity of ministerial responsibilities (for example, age, race, and place) represents the complexities also of collective endeavours across society. During the course of our consultancy, a story about one of the department’s ministers hit the news media. It was reported as a scandal of deception and falsehood in the approval by the minister of a building planning decision. An email from one of the department’s media advisers had suggested a strategy by which the minister could be seen to have consulted the community, without actually ever doing so. The minister denied all knowledge of the communication; the media adviser was sacked. Our client, the executive director of the business unit, was often called away during the consultancy to deal with the internal ramifications from this event. When we first met with our client, we were told that “The department is big on collaboration, and our role is to help make it happen.” As an election was also occurring later in the year, the client added that “It will put pressures on the group [the business unit as a whole] to respond to Ministers, the media and Treasury. We can’t put aside the possibility of another machinery of government change either.” Our work began with an organizational culture diagnostic, specifically to consider experiences of roles and inter-group collaboration. We invited a number of staff to reflect on their experiences of working together in the central support services function. About



thirty staff members were involved in either one-on-one interviews or work group discussions. The consultants analysed the results of these discussions in the form of a working note to present at a workshop. The note included our own reflections, couched as working hypotheses, the intent being to deepen the understanding of the way the division worked collectively together, so that developmental growth and change could occur. As is our practice, we prepared a draft of the working note for preliminary discussion with the project directorate. Our hypotheses touched on dynamics of political survival, anxieties about differentiation of functions, feelings of disconnection from the department’s task, diffused authority, and fear of collaboration. We began well enough, the expression on people’s faces eager and interested. But as we progressed in our presentation, we could see the face of the executive director fall into a frozen expression. An awful air of dread seemed to fill the room. We were told that the words anxiety, danger, fear “felt too strong” to describe the dynamics in the unit. We appeared to have touched upon something so terrifying as to be unmentionable. At the time, my colleague and I felt overwhelmed by feelings of shame and guilt for having judged the group in some way. What finally emerged as the source of their terror was the fact that we had written these words down, not that we had said them as such. Their fear was that real experiences of the department would be placed on the public record. At that moment, we felt shamefully naïve to have created a working note on “what might really be going on here”. The client’s vulnerability to keeping their position in a political system could find purchase in our vulnerability to remaining engaged for the next stage of work. We became painfully aware at this juncture that two political realities existed in the system—a written reality and a spoken reality, and these two were to be kept absolutely separate. As consultants, we had not been mindful enough of this political dilemma for the group. In response to the group’s reactions, we redesigned the planned workshop with all thirty staff, so that they could engage with the raw data of our findings (drawings and themes in interviews) for themselves and thereby formulate their own working hypotheses. This proceeded well enough until the point at which the group was to develop working hypotheses. We were then approached by two members of the project directorate, who were



in a state of agitation. They demanded that the group get on with action planning, “We need to get actionable outcomes from today.” We held our ground, asking them to trust the process and allow the staff time to digest the data and make sense of it. At the end of the workshop, the same two people approached us to say that they were pleased we had stuck to our process as it enabled the “real concerns of staff to be expressed”. Coincidently and unfortunately, the executive director had left the workshop before those feelings emerged. It is interesting to note that the unit was referred to by the executive director as the “glue of the department”. I surmise that our work on group dynamics threatened this glue becoming unstuck, and that what was called “collective work” was, in reality, “collusion”. As one executive said to us, “One has to find one’s own rationale to work in government.” For many we interviewed, this meant accepting the frustrations of public service in order to fulfil personal ideals and values of helping to build a better society.

Defining “reflection” The word “reflect” is given thirteen meanings in my Australian dictionary (The Macquarie Dictionary, 1987). It says that its derivation is from the Latin reflectere, meaning “bend back”. Five meanings stand out for me: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

to cast back (light, heat, sound, etc.) after incidence. to give back or show an image of; mirror. to throw or cast back; cause to return or rebound. to think carefully; meditate on. to serve to give a particular aspect or impression, as in “his speech reflects badly on his candidacy”.

I am struck by the very first meaning given, of reflection being an action that follows incidence. When I think of my work with clients and students, and the invitation to them to “reflect on their experience”, it is an exhortation to cast back on the incidence of feelings and behaviours. Of course, what these students and clients are engaged in is self-reflection, in which they do “cast back light on



incidence” in order to illuminate their experiences; the process of which involves the fourth meaning above—that of thinking carefully, or to meditate on. In the first instance, we can think of reflection in terms of what is shown behind a situation, an event, an image; more than a mirror image, I think, but something close enough to it. In the case vignette, the consultants cast back a reflection of the situation through a working note. Their image of reflected realities was not desired to be captured in this way. At that moment, the vulnerability of the individual within a political system was revealed, an experience known to all in the system, but not to be revealed to the outside world. Metaphorically, the blinds came down to shut this image out of view. Returning to the dictionary meanings, the first three describe the act of reflection as a communication of sorts between “external object” and observer. This is the kind of reflection I frequently ask of groups: to notice their observations of events and behaviours, and to reflect back their thoughts and feelings to others in the group, for confirmation of hypotheses, perhaps, or for extending the data in the room about shared experiences. They are very active definitions of reflection. To think carefully or meditate on experience is a process or method of reflection. There is an element of introspection at work here, too, in that reflecting on personal experience requires a capacity to be introspective. It is an interesting question for organizational reflection practice: how does one reflect? I assume that thinking, per se, is something we all know how to do, just that we do it differently, as a physicist will think differently from an architect, and as a psychodynamic consultant thinks differently to those who are management consultants. To some extent, these factors may underlie reactions I experience from clients: that our assumptions about the process of reflection differ; that what we regard as reflection in order to understand thinking processes at a group level are felt to be “just navel gazing”. Moving on to definitions of reflection in the field of organization study and learning, three concepts are generally well known to organizational consultants: reflecting on “here and now” experiences, the “reflective practitioner”, and the reflection step that is part of an action learning cycle.



Reflecting on here and now experiences is derived from psychoanalytic clinical practice and its examination of transference processes. It is an interpretative practice, seeking to make sense of what is presented and experienced consciously as to what this may represent of hidden meanings—the unconscious drivers of behaviour. This kind of reflection engages with our internal world, working with transference and countertransference, listening with a “third ear”, as Krantz and Gilmore (1991) put it, attentive to language and signs. It is what I call “analytic reflection”. It is the kind of reflection that explicitly seeks to be open to what passes between fantasy and reality—it works to illuminate the situation, especially when the blinds are drawn down to keep the two separate. Here and now reflection is linked to action learning and related models for “learning by doing” in which reflection follows action or implementation. Revans’ (1980) theory of learning informs the application of action learning in many settings. He states this as a formula: Learning = Programmed knowledge + the ability to ask insightful Questions, or L = P+Q. The model usually applied in organizational and educational settings is that ascribed to Kolb (1984) who developed a theory about experiential learning. Reflection in Kolb’s model and the learning process described by Revans are both part of an instrumental process for implementing changes and improvements to individual practice or in the workplace. I think of this as “practice-based reflection”. It is commonly used in educational and workplace training situations, focusing on what has been learnt. Schön (1995) coined the term “reflective practitioner” to describe a necessary skill of managers and leaders, to be able to reflectin-action. His focus is on the individual’s capacity for selfawareness and openness to self-enquiry. As I understand it, he speaks of a cognitive skill that can be learnt and practised, its application being an instrument for enquiry and learning, leading to the development of professional learning. To summarize, reflection in the normal course of everyday life carries several meanings: a mirror on events and objects, a state of being, a method of learning; it is both an individual and social action, and a perceived competency for management. It is not a neutral act. Interpreting experiences, asking insightful questions or



reflecting-in-action will encounter deeply held beliefs, values, and unconscious impulses. The potential resistance to reflection—or what I have coined in the title of this paper as “drawing down the blinds”—has its source in psychic and political drives.

Psychoanalytic and political meanings of reflection Four themes are discussed here, that of: (1) Bion’s maternal reverie, (2) the symbolic significance of seeing and looking, (3) the mirrorrole in infant development, and (4) the political implications of reflecting upon organizational life.

Maternal reverie . . . reverie is that state of mind which is open to the reception of any “objects” from the loved object and is therefore capable of reception of the infant’s projective identifications whether they are felt by the infant to be good or bad. [Bion, 1994, p. 36]

The state of mind Bion terms reverie is also referred to by him as “negative capability” (Bion, 1984; French & Simpson, 1999). Reverie is not usually thought of in the same terms as organizational reflection, but it does describe the state of mind to enable reflection without irritable reaching after fact and reason. Bion’s concept of reverie links to reflection as meditative thinking, with the distinguishing feature of it being a transformative state of mind. Through reverie, a mother can help her infant “transform feelings and learn to tolerate frustration, and thereby permit itself to have a sense of reality” (Bion, 1994). In organizational settings, reverie and negative capability might be thought of as reflective states of mind conducive to facilitating transformation of felt experience. A reflective state of mind enables thoughts to be formulated from the emotional matrix of organizational experience (French & Simpson, 2010). In the case vignette, the group’s emotional state is infused with terror at the thought of their real experiences being exposed in a written record. Such an event would risk political repercussions, such as demotion or sacking. In a countertransference, the consultants are filled with shame and



guilt. These feelings alerted us to what it must feel like to work in a pressured political environment where one’s knowledge of reality has to be kept hidden, kept out of view from others, both a shutting out and a shutting in. It is at the moment of an “emotional storm” in a group that the capacity for reverie is needed if the whole group is to transform its emotional state to a thinking state. It is a vulnerable moment for the group and the consultants who are to facilitate that transformation. As Amado (2009) puts it, the consultants’ state of reverie is their capacity of paying attention to others, and, at the same time, their own unconscious processes, without giving them predominance.

The significance of eyes and seeing Wharton (1993) alerts us to the significance of the eye and of the “network of interconnections between eyes, looking, light, power, consciousness, differentiation” (p. 79). Her interest is stimulated by analytic patients for whom being seen by, or looking at, the analyst is filled with powerful emotions. Wharton states that a more desirable state is reached for such patients when “they trust that they will find a benign enough reflection in the eyes of the other . . . When ego has developed sufficiently to enable a growing relationship between ego and self” (p. 84). Seeing is utterly implicated in the conception of reflecting. To look at oneself in the mirror, to see one’s reflection there, involves the “eye” and the act of looking. Wharton writes of the eye as a potent symbol of the dual aspects of penetrating and containing, possessing something of the genital qualities of both sexes. Its destructive aspects are expressed in “the evil eye”, “looking daggers”, “if looks could kill”, “black looks”, and, from the Book of Job (16:9), “Mine enemy sharpeneth his eyes upon me”. These are representations of the eyes as a sharp and penetrating weapon. Conversely, the eyes also hold libidinal meanings as in, “to eye up”, “make eyes at each other”, and “giving someone the glad eye”. We can begin to see from this that the eyes are linked to internal processes, that we have outer and inner eyes in a constant interplay of seeing and communicating. Interestingly, the word envy is linked to the eyes. It is derived from a Latin word invidia, meaning “upon” and “to see”. Eyes both



express the self and elicit responses in others, of love and power, envy and desire, fears and hopes. Reflecting with others in organizational settings will probably invoke these symbolic resonances. When, in the case study, the consultants present what they have seen (in the form of reflections and hypotheses, and in a written note), they invoke the symbolic significance of looking. As in the analytic situation, the consultants are seeing the client, who hopes for a benign enough reflection. Hopes turn to fears when the reflection is reified in writing, for all to see. Feelings of vulnerability to political repercussions are consequently aroused. The issue of being seen in the reflections of others is of crucial importance in client– consultant relationships. I say more on this later in the chapter.

The role of mirroring in child development From the significance of the eyes to the material of what they see brings me to the role of the mother’s gaze and mirroring. Lacan’s theory of an infant developing a subjective mental apparatus is based on the moment when a child first sees its own image in a mirror, and seeks confirmation from the adult as to what the child perceives there. In his seminar on transference, Lacan took the mirror as a metaphor for the Other’s gaze (Lacan, 1977). Lacan identifies for me the idea of the mirror as symbolic of intersubjective relations. A working note in organizational consultancy serves a mirroring purpose, as per Lacan’s concept. Winnicott (1971) termed the gaze between mother and infant as the mirror-role of mother and family in child development. For Winnicott (who acknowledges the influence of Lacan in developing this idea), the precursor of the mirror is the mother’s face. He notes that a baby will also experience times when the mother’s face is not responsive—is not a mirror as such. If this is the usual state of affairs for the infant, then the mirror is “a thing to be looked at but not looked into”. I link this to the process of reflecting in organizations when experiences are not explored for meaning, not looked into. It might go further than this, too. Winnicott reports a patient saying to him, “Wouldn’t it be awful if the child looked into the mirror and saw nothing!” (ibid., p. 116). A truly terrifying thought.



The political Two aspects of the political domain are of relevance to my discussion: (1) reflection as a democratic process, and (2) the political task of public institutions. The political dynamics of reflection are concerned with what is subversive of the established order. Reflection in an organizational setting invites people to take up their personal authority, and recognizes, acknowledges, and legitimizes the individual as an autonomous being. Political institutions are the quintessential establishment, and even under the guise of reform (radical or not) their own existence as an instrument of power is deeply rooted, whether in democracies or not. The invitation to look might be anathema to the system, because it is dangerous to see what is really there and might subvert the establishment. This aspect is present in the case, in the implications of seeing what might really be going on. To make this visible to others has the potential to subvert an established order and personal careers. Vince (2002) regards reflection as an organizing process for organizational learning and change. This takes it away from the focus on the individual as a reflective practitioner (as per Schön, 1995). He states that, as an organizing process, it is informed by collective practices of questioning assumptions that underpin organizing. By so doing, power relations are made visible. Additionally, they provide a container for managing the anxieties raised by making power relations visible, and, thereby, contribute towards democracy in the organization. This is reflection as political process, used for the purpose of working on power relations in organizations. It is, therefore, not a neutral social process, having deliberate intent to effect change in the political environment of workplaces. Reflective practices in group settings, I would argue, are unconsciously experienced as relational and operating within a political power dynamic. Who speaks or not, what they say or keep silent about, and when things are raised may be the overt manifestation of power relations, but they also give expression to the irrational field of group mentality. When it is predominantly the leader who reflects (the one in power and empowered), then it is politics that is speaking. This is particularly cogent to political institutions and government administrative



units where power relations are the “dominant logic” (Vansina & Vansina-Cobbaert, 2008). The second aspect I explore draws on Hoggett’s (2006) views of public organizations as sites of continuous contest of public purpose, and as receptacles for containing social anxieties. He argues, convincingly, that public institutions are engaged in managing primary dilemmas. The concept of a primary task sits less comfortably when the purpose of such institutions are not to survive per se, but, rather, that the public value of their task continues. When value ceases, so does the institution. Hoggett’s notion that public sector institutions have a primary dilemma to manage is apposite to the case vignette. Consultants who focus on “primary task” alone as the organizing principle are at risk of being blind to its contestability in the public sector. This is because the sector is actively engaged with society’s structures of power, which, of themselves, are inherently changing, government elections being a primary case in point. Active reflection in public sector institutions connects not only with the power relations within groups or the organization, but also with the power relations of the organization in the political system more widely; in this vignette, a state population. What, on the surface, may seem relatively benign—a draft note presenting hypotheses for group exploration and reflection—may be experienced at another level as profoundly threatening to the political system. The vignette also alludes to survival of public value as linked to organizational members’ experiences of personal value in a political system. For a politician, for example, it means being re-elected (or not). For members of the case study organization, it means a career in influencing public policy and power relations, while upholding a personal vision for “the common good”. Equally, it also means keeping private what may be subversive of power relations and the establishment. In other words, keeping the blinds down. Reflection may invoke anxieties about bringing private thoughts into a public political arena. An individual faced with this situation may well feel vulnerable. Furthermore, reflection may get us in touch with the “enemy within”. Active reflection in a group—a social act—is the articulation of the individual’s thoughts and associations. What I call “social reflection” assists with containing paranoia for individuals and groups. But what if that paranoia is a



deeply embedded quality of the system, a paranoia mobilized by power relations in political systems? How can the group reflect upon its power relations if the very act of doing so will invoke intense anxiety? The workshop activity that invited staff to formulate working hypotheses touches directly upon this question. The executive group’s immediate reaction was to close down examination (draw down the blinds) and push for “action planning”. Feeling vulnerable in the face of their own staff’s emotional realities, their impulse was to curtail reflection and move to “implementation”. Thus might real discussions be avoided, or shut out. Where there is a foreclosure of dialectic resonance that might generate meanings that feel dangerous, the poles of reality and fantasy are dissociated. The prohibitions to think freely in some big organizations today are linked to this process. [Amado, 2009, p. 266]

Amado alerts us to the deep splits that exist in some contemporary organizations. The case vignette illustrates how dissociated reality and fantasy can be. Reflection can enable integration of such splits. The significance of looking or being looked at referred to by Wharton (1993) helps me think about the political development of an organization’s identity which cannot withstand being seen by outsiders, that is, the Other’s gaze. This recalls Winnicott’s patient who exclaimed, “What if there is no image in the mirror?” This question might be rephrased as, “What if the desire is for no image to be reflected?” I link this to an aspect in public sector institutional cultures that privilege “documenting rhetoric” over examining real experiences. Spin-doctoring and manipulating media communications is the most obvious example. This is another way by which the blinds can be drawn down on reflection—a false image is presented, but reality is not to be reflected back. Hoggett’s analysis of public organizations is useful to return to here. If, in a public institution, the task is contested and changes in line with changes to governments, ideologies, and policies, then organizational identity is potentially experienced as a dilemma of itself; no mirror image can be held, or if so, it may only be of an impermanent, ephemeral kind. Organizational members dismiss the reflection in the mirror, not because it is not real, but because it may be too sharply real and unbearable to see.



Inviting staff to reflect on organizational dynamics is frequently an invitation to reflect on what is, and to identify the potential for change. Staff members, empowered by their new insight and authority for action, may face considerable resistances to new ideas, thoughts, and actions from encounters with the entrenched power structures and networks of relationships. In such ways may reflection be seen as subversive and shut out of normal business meetings.

Reflection in consultancy Consultants regularly ask individuals and groups to reflect on their experiences. They invite people to look at themselves from two perspectives—the outer world of action and participation, and the inner world of felt experience. A consultant working from within a systems psychodynamics framework is working explicitly on this social boundary of group–individual relations. While it involves an element of introspection, it is, in the main, directed at analysing experience in order to create meaning and inform future actions. As I have argued so far, the process does invite individuals to share a private world with others, who may be experienced as distant observers, whose eyes convey a receptive or hostile power. This is individual experience coupled with the social character of the work organization. The social domain being also a political domain, as I have argued, casting an eye over social context may invoke fears of exposure to others who are outside the control of the insiders. Taking Winnicott’s concept of mirror-role to the client–consultant relationship, the question arises: what does the client want to see in the consultants they choose? Do they see a non-participant observer, a voyeur, who looks from a distance, or one who invades the private space of intimacy that shame is meant to protect? The meeting of looks is often felt to be dangerous, for example, avoiding the glance of a passer-by in the street, “as if I can pretend that one or the other, passer-by or myself, does not exist if I can avoid the acknowledgement which meeting the eyes of the other means” (Wharton, 1993, p. 84). Politically, this might mean a client wants the consultant to know and hold their experience, but not to name



it. Political institutions cannot tolerate reflecting on the reality of their power relations within and with their constituencies. On the other hand, reflection is a form of potential space in organizational consulting. It works in it, on it, and to it. Symbols originate within potential space and, hence, imagination can develop, and growth and capacity for learning can flourish. “Without it, there is only fantasy” (Amado, 2009, p. 266). It may be that shutting down the blinds on reflection is a way to keep reality out and fantasy alive within. Reflection and reflective space provide the necessary potential space for play and creativity in organizations. This is reflection as a learning process, when the blinds are drawn up, open to new ideas, insight, and illumination. Bain (1998) talks of a kind of consultancy that “wakes the organization from its sleep” through the use of reflective space for organizational learning. The reflective space he alludes to is a consciously constructed space for common reflection on everyday business and special projects. It allows for a developing awareness of the whole organization and its interconnected parts. If these spaces are to operate as learning spaces, where reflection can be experienced as illuminating and open to insight, certain essential features need to be in place, as listed below. 1. The agenda for the work in these learning spaces is largely derived from organizational members themselves working on the organizational tasks. 2. The space is not filled up by the CEO or equivalent. 3. The group accepts silence at appropriate times rather than filling it with talk. 4. Stronger connectedness between individuals and the organization is developed. 5. Resistances to change emerge in the relationship between organizational members and consultants. By enabling transferences to take place, and working on these, helps to deepen insight into work processes and decrease the power of damaging projective systems. Thereby modifying social defenses against anxiety. This process increases the group and the organization’s capacities for discerning and managing reality. 6. As social defences against anxiety are modified or changed, the organization concurrently develops a capacity to learn and develop. [Bain, 1998, p. 423–424]



As Bain notes, a reflective space in organizations is a container for change, in that it enables containment of organizational experiences, increases organizational awareness, and holds potentiality for creating new thoughts and different actions. Such a container enables the individual and group to engage with the reality within the organization system and outside of it. Reflection becomes a process of keeping reality in view, and of testing fantasies. Feelings of vulnerability in a group are then able to be acknowledged, examined, and systemically understood. From a political perspective, reflection is a collective practice of questioning and critique of the social order. It is easier, however, to contain power relations when organizations are orientated towards individualism (Vince, 2002). Notwithstanding that, socio-analytic consultancy engages in collective practices of questioning organizational systems (a form of social order) through practices such as: ● ●

Peer consultancy groups, in which reflection acts as a mirror on the organisation. Role analysis, where reflection is used as a means to reveal unconscious dynamics through observing parallel processes between the material in the analysis and experiences of the organization. Group relations conferences, in which staff and members have the opportunity to study and reflect upon a collective emotional experience of establishing an institution.

As Vince depicts it, group reflection is a social action that makes contact with the boundaries of a political system embedded in the organization’s task, roles and authority structures; a contact potentially fraught with risks, challenges, and the possibility for transformation. A boundary position is a vulnerable place. Reflection, by its nature, is a form of communication about system boundaries. What it communicates may inspire hope, fear, relief, or anxiety. This is the dilemma faced in the case vignette by my colleague and I: how were we to take up authority for the work we had been engaged to do; how to be containing of anxieties in the group; how to deal with a perception that the executive director was politically compromised from reflections captured in our draft written note; how to be true to our values and integrity of our methods; how to honour the open discussions with the staff who had participated in



the diagnostic process. In short, how to manage not our primary task, but the primary dilemmas of our task, and to be of “public value” to this administrative division. As it turned out, we could resolve most of these dilemmas and design a workshop that authorized staff to create hypotheses for themselves and collaboratively diagnose their experiences. We were able to transform our experience of their political terror into an understanding of their dilemma. However, we were not further engaged by the client. We were left to reflect on our experiences, to create meaning from them, and to identify developmental actions for ourselves. Our reflections were shut out. We could only surmise that working on the group’s processes and dynamics of collaboration might have risked their position as the “glue” of the organization. There is a postscript to our engagement. Very recently, the department was again in the news concerning improper behaviours of its ministers (Austin, 2010). When challenged on various actions and decisions made within their portfolio responsibilities, these ministers claimed “not to know”. The headline of the article, “Don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t know” is apposite to this paper’s hypothesis. Or perhaps, in other words, to survive in a political institution, reality must not be seen or talked about so that it cannot be said to exist. Our role as consultants working with reflection as a method for revealing and making sense of reality is made all the more complex in such institutions.

Conclusion In this paper I have speculated on various meanings of reflection and reflective practices in organizations. I have postulated that reflection is a level of thinking that uses multiple processes: registering feelings, rational deduction, analytical thought, and interpretation of human experience. I have argued that it can be experienced as analytic, practice-based, social, reflexive, and political. It engages our inner and outer eyes in an act of seeing and looking on experiences that may be filled with an intensity of emotions. Reflection occurs after incidence. It is not a neutral activity in organizational life, and may be designed to be deliberately subversive of the established order.



Through the example of an organizational consultancy in a public sector institution, I have explored the idea of reflection as a social and political act that can be fraught with unconscious dynamics of surviving in a political system. The challenge for reflective practitioners is to work with group dynamics when political meanings dominate. Containment of people’s vulnerability to social and political dynamics enables the process of reflecting to occur with “the blinds drawn up”, so to speak, allowing the light of reality through. My final remarks concern the purpose of organizational reflection. What, essentially, do we seek from reflecting on our experience? I think it is more than the overused and common phrase of learning from experience; it is instead what Armstrong (2010) refers to as emergent meanings that come from the interplay between group or organizational members (with or without a consultant present) when they engage in linking their here and now experiences to a wider organizational dynamic, so as to open up new layers of meaning. The purpose of reflective practice in organizations is to find and make meaning of work experiences, so that new or different actions will be taken in the future. I like what Winnicott has to say about the value of psychotherapy because it speaks to me of the responsibility of the organizational consultant role. Psychotherapy is not about making clever and apt interpretations; by and large it is a long-term giving the patient back what the patient brings. It is a complex derivative of the face that reflects what is there to be seen. [Winnicott, 1971, p. 117]

I like to think that organizational consultancy in the systems psychodynamic frame is like that too—a long term complex reflection of what there is to be seen in organizational life. As Winnicott also says, even when our work does not resolve the problems, dilemmas, and conundrums brought to our attention, it is possible that a client is deeply grateful and helped at our seeing them as they are.

Acknowledgements My appreciation and thanks to colleagues who helped me develop my ideas on the subject of reflection and their expression in this



chapter: Rob Cairns, Stan Gold, Brigid Nossal, Jan Seneshen, and members of the Group Relations Australia ‘Refresh’ meeting, where I first aired the paper. My thanks also to Aideen Lucey and Lionel Stapley for their keen editorial eyes.

References Amado, G. (2009). “Potential space”: the threatened source of individual and collective creativity. In: B. Sievers (Ed.), Psychoanalytic Studies of Organizations: Contributions from the International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organizations (ISPSO) (pp. 263–283). London: Karnac. Armstrong, D. (2010). Meaning found and meaning lost: on the boundaries of a psychoanalytic study of organisations. Organisational & Social Dynamics, 10(1): 99–117. Austin, P. (2010). Don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t know: John Brumby and his ministers have a nasty habit of courting ignorance when scandals erupt on their watch. The Age, 7 October, p. 17. Bain, A. (1998). Social defences against organizational learning. Human Relations, 51(3): 413–429. Bion, W. R. (1984). Attention and Interpretation (reprint edn). London: Karnac. Bion, W. R. (1994). Learning from Experience (reprint edn). Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson. French, R., & Simpson, P. (1999). Our best work happens when we don’t know what we’re doing. Paper presented to the International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organizations 1999 Symposium, Toronto. French, R., & Simpson, P. (2010). The Angel of History and the Ghost of the Future: Psychodynamics and Organisational Change. Paper presented at the ISPSO Annual Meeting 2010. Hoggett, P. (2006). Conflict, ambivalence, and the contested purpose of public organizations. Human Relations, 59(2): 175–194. Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. Krantz, J., & Gilmore, T. N. (1991). Understanding the dynamics between consulting teams and client systems. In: M. F. R. Kets de Vries (Ed.), Organizations on the Couch: Clinical Perspectives on Organizational Behaviour and Change (pp. 307–330). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.



Lacan, J. (1977). The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-analysis [translated from the French: Quatre concepts fondamentaux de la psychanalyse] A. Sheridan (Trans.). London: Hogarth Press. Revans, R. (1980). Action Learning: New Techniques for Management. London: Blond & Briggs. Schön, D. A. (1995). Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action (new edn). Aldershot: Arena Publications. The Macquarie Dictionary (1987). St Leonards: Macquarie Library. Vansina, L., & Vansina-Cobbaert, M.-J. (2008). Psychodynamics for Consultants and Managers: From Understanding to Leading Meaningful Change. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell. Vince, R. (2002). Organizing reflection. Management Learning, 33(1): 63–78. Wharton, B. (1993). The eye and the “I”. Journal of Analytical Psychology, 38: 77–85. Winnicott, D. W. (1971). Playing and Reality. London: Tavistock/ Routledge.


Memory lost and memory found: a reflection on the place of memory in the group relations network and conferences Judith Levy


hen I began to do the research for this chapter, I was astonished to discover that none of the books I own on organizational theory and practice from the systemspsychodynamic perspective had an entry in their indexes for memory. Although there can be no doubt that psychoanalysis developed from a preoccupation with memory, and although unconscious memory in the form of transference, projection, projective identification, and such is central to our approach to organizational consultancy and group relations, memory in its conscious or semi-conscious aspect and, more particularly, in its social and collective dimension plays a very small part in our thinking about organizations, and, indeed, in our practice of consulting to organizations, including the temporary organizations of group relations conferences. Modern organizations at large, as Sievers (2009, p. 27) has written, “focus primarily on the relatedness of the future to come”. In more cognitive approaches, organizational memory has to do with the retrieval and retention of information from an organization’s history (see, for example, Walsh and Ungson, 1991) and, in the group relations world, memory enters into the conferences only in an underground way, through the unconscious. My 65



suggestion in the following discussion is that this absence, like all absences in psychoanalysis, demands attention and exploration. The aim of this paper is to open a space to reflect on the place or absence of memory in organizational existence, an issue that, I believe, involves all aspects of organizational life, from individual performance to organizational culture. My own rather narrow focus will be the special case of the group relations network and conferences and my hypothesis will be that not only are organizational memories lost, but that memory itself and its uses have been denied or repressed. I will suggest that this absence of memory is both part of a broader cultural phenomenon of the late twentieth century and, in the group relations context, perhaps a social defence. It is, then, the aim of this chapter to explore the place of memory in group relations theory and practice, particularly its absence, and to consider the ramifications of that absence. Freud’s “art of memory” has been seen by sociologists as part of a broader cultural phenomenon of the twentieth century, which has been coined by Terdiman (1993) as a “memory crisis” which is still ongoing. This memory crisis was engendered by the cultural, social, and economic changes in the West beginning with the industrial revolution, which resulted in a radical rupture with the past in terms of traditions and the continuity of a way of life and a subsequent “loss of memory”. Terdiman cites the French revolution as an event that created a profound severance from French history, but the same is true of the process of urbanization that cut whole populations off from their rural past. This disruption of memory led, paradoxically, to its opposite—an intensive preoccupation with memory, or, in the words of Whitehead (2009, p. 122), “too much memory” in much late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century thought and literature, and continued into the late twentieth century, for example, in psychoanalysis and its spin-offs, such as trauma studies and the obsession with childhood sexual abuse, and in the proliferation of memorializing, on which much has been written in the past few decades, including in systems-psychodynamic theory (Gould, 2003). The Holocaust created its own special kind of problems regarding memory, on which much literature exists. In what follows, I take the idea of too little memory, in the sense of a disruption with, or denial of, the past, and too much memory, in the sense of the present being overburdened with the past, into



the sphere of the group relations network and conferences, and to reflect on the place of memory in this form of group life. In so doing, I borrow one or two concepts from sociological studies on memory, which developed especially in the early twentieth century, and which I would like to introduce briefly. While individual memory—its substance, place in the mind, manner of imprint, and retrieval, etc.—has been the object of study since antiquity (a survey of which is beyond the scope of this chapter), in the early twentieth century, with the rise of sociology as a discipline, a distinction began to be made between individual and group or collective memory, a concept introduced by sociologists such as Durkheim and elaborated upon by Halbwachs and later commentators (cf. Durkheim, 2001; Frow, 1997; Halbwachs, 1992), creating two contrasting trends. In one, the central place accorded to memory by the Romantic Movement in literature and by nineteenth-century German and other philosophers, where individual memory had been seen as a central component of the self and self definition, as well as the single most important source of truth and meaning, was continued into the twentieth century and taken up intensely by philosophers like Henri Bergson, by Freud, and by great modernist writers such as Marcel Proust, James Joyce, and Virginia Woolf. In the other, the twentieth century saw the idea of the unique, subjective self undergoing radical deconstruction and reconstituting as a subject created by language and by social and ideological forces. As part of this revision, sociological thinking had, in part, turned to the group as the holder and container of memories, rather than the individual and to collective memory as a crucial dimension in the formation of the identity of groups, whether on a national, communal, or familial level. Freud as a thinker is, of course, the embodiment of the preoccupation with individual memory and is at the centre of the twentieth century’s “prolonged and intense fascination with the power of the past over the present” (Whitehead, 2009, p. 100). His ideas about the unconscious and his disturbing insight that human beings are not the masters of their of their own will or even destiny, constituted a serious blow to previously held convictions on the autonomy of the self and the durability of truths and traditions. In Freud’s use of memory, the past, in the form of unconscious memories, dominates our existence, and yet memory itself, on a conscious



and present level, is almost absent (Whitehead notes that Laplanche and Pontalis’s Dictionary of Psychoanalysis has no entry for memory). As we know, Freud spent much of his life thinking about and revising his models about the location and quality of unconscious memory in the psyche, but I think it is safe to say that, for Freud, waking life memories are usually a cover or a displacement of the unconscious memories of childhood. In “Screen memories”, for example, he shows how early childhood memories are often not the memory of important events, but, rather, a displacement of the original memory, which the subject resists remembering (Freud, 1899a). Furthermore, Freud’s thoughts about memory changed over the course of his life and writings. From his early idea that forgotten, painful memories could be brought out into the open through hypnosis and, thus, the patient’s symptoms could be relieved, Freud moved to focusing on the “talking cure”, the understanding that the past cannot be revived as it was originally experienced, but only reconstructed through the analytic process, and given shape in light of the acting out of the repressed memory in the present (for example, Freud, 1914g). This emphasis on the present process (further developed in later schools of psychoanalysis) increased the sense of the inaccessibility of the past (in the unconscious) and, hence, the absence of memory on the one hand, while, on the other hand, it created a present which had not only to hold the past, but recreate it in order to have meaning. Another important contributor to the thinking about memory was Bergson, a French philosopher of the early twentieth century. Bergson (1913) distinguished between two kinds of time: the one free from all alloy, the other surreptitiously bringing in the idea of space. Pure duration [duree] is the form which the succession of our conscious states assumes when our ego lets itself live, when it refrains from separating its present states from its former states . . . Nor need it forget its former states: it is enough that, in recalling these states, it does not set them alongside another, but forms both the past and the present states into an organic whole . . . [Bergson, 1913, quoted in Gillies, 2003]

Bergson’s definition of duree, then, enhances the focus on a present that encompasses the past.



The conceptualization of the way the past dominates and shapes the present while, at the same time, being accessible only in an involuntary, fragmented way, had a profound impact on the literature and philosophy of the early twentieth century. Modernist writers, for example, rejecting the traditional portrayals of character of Victorian literature, were seeking for a way to redefine notions of self and identity mainly through the idea of consciousness as a chaotic flow of impressions drawn from external stimuli and snatches of internal feelings and memories simultaneously. As Woolf put it, The mind receives a myriad impressions—trivial, fantastic, evanescent, or engraved with the sharpness of steel. From all sides they come, an incessant shower of innumerable atoms; and as they fall, as they shape themselves into the life of Monday or Tuesday, the accent falls differently from of old . . . [Woolf, 1925]

In this way, the present moment is not an instance in the linear progression of time, but, rather, a subjective experience of becoming in which past, present, and even future are embodied. Here, too, we can see that memory, from an object of willed recall, becomes a constitutive element of the present, inextricable from experience. When traditional beliefs and values were seen as inadequate to sustain modern life, this fluid, uncontrollable rush of experience became the primary source of the meaning and truth of existence. In contrast to the preoccupation with the place of memory in individual experience, sociologists of the period, as noted, saw human beings as drawing their identity from the group, and tended to downplay the role of individual memory, seeing it as triggered only in the context of group experience. Collective memory expresses itself in the system of concerns and practices that are common to a group of people. Halbwachs, for example, relegated non-social individual memory to the sphere of dreams, and described all other memories as socially triggered and contained. As Whitehead puts it, The group memory itself comprises a body of shared concerns and ideas. In the foreground are remembrances of events and experiences that are of concern to the greatest number of members, while those concerning very few members or individuals fade into the



background. Although it reflects and is refracted through the lives and personalities of individual group members, the collective memory represents the group’s most stable and permanent element, and is sufficiently general and impersonal to retain its meaning when individual members drop out of the group and are replaced. [Whitehead, 2009, pp. 128–129]

In this context, memory is also distinguished from history, in that memory comprises the lived experiences that are consigned to history, a predominantly written account, when the immediate experiences disappear. When collective memory, the account of lived experiences handed down through the generations, is lost, it becomes a dead historical narrative. For Halbwachs, collective memory is the mass of ideas and practices that engages a group and gives it its identity, essentially its culture, but it usually comprises those ideas and practices that are within living memory. Once that living memory is gone, the past becomes history. The notion of collective memory is useful to my discussion in that it offers a kind of memory that is parallel in many ways to what we would call the systemic, but relates to the wider and more overt social framework, is not necessarily unconscious, and its expression is in the concerns, beliefs, and practices of group life, which we would also call culture. It is also distinct from the written accord of group history. To my mind, it complements and overlaps the understanding of group life which focuses on the unconscious memory that is expressed in transference, projection, and projective identification, yet it does not exclude it. It is against this dual background that I look at the place of memory in the group relations world, specifically in group relations conferences. * * * In 1922, the renowned modernist poet, T. S. Eliot, published his famous poem The Wasteland, which evoked a twentieth century modernist, fragmented panorama of futility, with its equally famous opening lines: April is the cruelest month, breeding Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing Memory and Desire, stirring Dull roots with spring rain. [Eliot, 1922]



For Eliot, April is a cruel month because it produces the signs of spring, of new beginnings and becoming, but these cannot be realized in the spiritual and material wasteland that is post First World War western civilization. April is cruel because, although the land is dead, it produces beautiful flowers, and, although the human spirit is busy with creating a sense of continuity by mixing memory and desire, the act of looking back with the act of looking forward, this renewal is blocked. Past and future are a cover-up for the emptiness of the present. For Eliot, as he demonstrates throughout the poem, the past is often a lost and irretrievable ideal against which the present is evoked in all its meaninglessness and futility, and yet the poem is saturated with the past: it is famous for its learned allusions to past masterpieces, such as Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Dante’s Purgatory, and Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Anthony and Cleopatra, as well as to the Bible (the prophecies of Ezekiel), Greek mythology (the legend of the Sybil, Philomel, etc., to mention only a few, and to two ground-breaking works, The Golden Bough by Frazier, and From Ritual to Romance, by Weston. These last two demonstrated how Christian beliefs and practices grew out of ancient seasonal fertility cults. In The Wasteland, then, the past heavily permeates the present, but the present is empty and dead—it cannot draw its lifeblood from the past and, therefore, cannot look to its future. The collocation of memory and desire is, of course, known to us from Bion’s famous dictum “without memory and without desire”, which he developed in two works: “Notes on memory and desire” (1967) and a later elaboration in Attention and Interpretation (2007). The fact that Bion admired Eliot immensely is documented by Dartington in her article “W. R. Bion and T. S. Eliot” (2010), and it would seem clear that Bion was thinking of Eliot when he coined the phrase “no memory, no desire”, although I could not find any concrete evidence for this (another instance of “forgetting” the source or the past). Bion used “no memory and no desire” for the purpose of defining the attitude that should be adopted by the analyst in relation to the analytic session. He distinguished between memory—that conscious effort to recall, which should be suppressed—and “evolution”, the process of something coming into existence out of the void created by the absence of memory and desire. This evolution could involve memory, but of an involuntary,



unstructured kind, perhaps similar to that of dreams. Desire was, for Bion, an anticipatory stance regarding the future, and memory and desire together were seen as emerging from the world of the senses and constituting a block against getting hold of that which was not of the sensuous world of sight, hearing, taste, or smell, but of those things that do not partake of the senses but can be intuited, such as anxiety, depression, and fear. The result is a complete focusing on the present to achieve an understanding which is out of specific time and memory, yet which, nevertheless, encompasses all time and all memory. In this, as we can see, Bion is in tune with the broader cultural thinking about time and consciousness of his era. Much of what we call today group relations theory developed out of Bion’s “no memory, no desire” dictum. In consulting to organizations, it is the preferred stance of the consultant in relation to the organization and the consultees, and it is at the basis of the notion of learning from experience and the “here and now”, which is central to group relations conferences. However, while Bion used this, as I have already indicated, to think about the stance of the analyst in the analytic session, in group relations theory “no memory, no desire” has assumed a much wider application, almost a blanket notion for much of the experience in the conferences, from the stance of the consultants in the small and large study groups, to a saying that captures something of the culture of the conferences in general. Of course, the “here and now” is a central concept of group relations conferences. And, as noted above, memory in its unconscious form—transference, projection, projective identification, and the like—is at the heart of the work. But it is my contention that the adoption of the “no memory, no desire” stance as an expression of the culture of the conference is also a social defence in which memory itself, in its more social and semiconscious aspects, is repressed or denied. In the way Bion’s dictum is used in group relations lies a paradox: on the one hand, it aids in the learning from experience by putting us totally in the present, working towards a “becoming” of the group experience. On the other, it brings about a very complex and ambiguous relation to collective memory that I would like to discuss briefly here. One is the loss of the conference institution as a social group with a collective memory, its temporariness notwithstanding, a memory that is both brought into the conference and



evolves throughout the conference, but is kept outside the systemic work. The other is the use of this denial of memory as a social defence. Just as Armstrong (2005) has reminded us in his article on Bion’s work group that the work group is just as integral part of group life and unconscious as the basic assumptions, I am claiming that in recognizing only unconscious memory as our work, we are seeing only a part of the picture of the conference institution. The conference institution is an organization, and as such it has a collective memory that is reflected in its culture and practices. The first point, the collective memory at work in the conference institution, seems to go against the idea of the temporary institution that is a fundamental of group relations conferences. A temporary institution has no memory; at least that is the assumption. Litvin (2008) has written about the complex relationship between the permanent organization that, in most instances, “gives birth” to the temporary one (Leicester, Ofek, etc.), and I would like to broaden that notion and to suggest that group relations conferences carry the collective memory of the group relations network through the upheld beliefs and practices that we call “tradition” and through the staff members, who bring their individual memories of previously attended conferences to bear on their work. While this is, perhaps, a fairly commonplace idea, it is also a fact that these memories are rarely worked with in the sense of being incorporated into the emerging systemic world of the conference, and tend to remain located in individuals. It is as if the idea of the temporary institution, the focus on the emergent organization, blocks the possibility for the collective memory to be acknowledged. One could claim that a group memory is created during the group relations conference itself, and to acknowledge the past, the collective memory brought into the conference, would perhaps hinder that process, in this sense adopting Bion’s position. However, at the same time, to ignore collective memory is not only to dismiss a part of the systemic phenomena, but to perpetuate the disruption between the past and the present. An illustration of this phenomenon is the total autonomy of staffing and design accorded the directors of group relations conferences. While, in reality, there clearly is a very strong collective memory on which each director draws in planning a conference, and directors hold the tradition of group relations very strongly in



their minds, the practice is as if the conference is really a single event without a past. Certainly there is no “home organization” where the history, the primary task, and the vision for the future is contained or recorded. Halbwachs, for example, emphasizes the importance of place for group identity. This might explain the attachment to places, like Leicester, or Ramot in Israel, as the continued site of the conferences, which compensates for the lack of a permanent home base. Changes in structure and design enter the broader framework mysteriously, as if “belonging” to the individual directors who instituted them; there is little opportunity during conferences to work systemically with the effect of change as change in relation to past practices (although the staff is expected to carry the knowledge of the ways things are done from conference to conference), or with the networks of former relations among staff members and between staff members and participants, marketing strategies, and so on. The lack of written records of conferences, beyond the obligatory director’s report, creates a total reliance on the transmitted group memory from conference to conference, and yet nowhere in the conference is this memory addressed. This ambiguous relation to the past brings me to my second point: the suggestion that the “lack of memory” regarding the past in group relations conferences acts as a social defence. A social defence, as we know from Menzies, and later others (Menzies, 1960), is a systemic defence which operates in organizations in the name of the primary task, but in fact as a defence against the anxiety that the primary task evokes, thus actually hindering it. Some have even broadened the notion of the social defence to include any practice that comes to defend against organizational anxiety that gets in the way of the primary task. But what anxiety does the absence of memory defend against in group relations conferences? One possibility is that it paradoxically defends against temporariness, or the loss of the past. By denying or ignoring the connection of the past with the present, the group relations network, or the conference, defends against the anxiety created by its very essence: lack of place, an essential component in group life; lack of holding structures in the broader framework; a lack of debate and thought about its development (except for the Belgirate conferences that play an important role in this; see Aram, Baxter, and Nutkevitch (2009); Brunner, Nutkevitch, and Sher (2006)) and hence its fragility;



the possibility of disintegration; the uncertainty of its future. At the conferences, we learn from experience about unconscious group phenomena in which the past is ever present through the transference, the basic assumptions, and projection. What is defended against is the place of the past in the present of the conference institution as part of the group relations network, whether on the national or the global level. I would like to bring three examples of the complex place of collective memory in group relations conferences. In all instances, the important work of collective memory was recognized only in hindsight. In an international group relations conference held some years ago, a participant had a breakdown and had to leave the conference. Later, it became apparent that the same participant had had a breakdown upon leaving a previous conference. This information had not been recorded (as it never is), and, as there is no mechanism for the transmission of information down through conferences, the “memory” did not filter down to subsequent directors of conferences to prevent the participation of this member a second time. The concept of a casualty in conferences is, of course, a fascinating topic in itself, but my interest in this paper is only on the question of memory, or, to be more exact, the question of this “forgetting”. To take this further, it is not even the forgetting of this actual event that I want to explore, but rather to use this example as a kind of metaphor for what I am talking about. It is not only that the memory was repressed in some way, but that memory itself is repressed. By not having a structure for the transmission of “memory” from one conference to another, I would claim that memory itself is being denied a place in group relations. There are two consequences to this, at least, and then there is the question why memory is repressed. I would like to address all three. One consequence is, of course, on the practical level: important information is “forgotten” with possible dire consequences. Another consequence is that memory returns not as the memory itself, but as an enactment. In this case, the breakdown that happened on the boundary of the first conference was brought into the conference the second time in a much more threatening and destructive way (to the conference itself, not only to the participant). Third, there is the question: why



does memory itself get repressed? It seems to me that the metaphoric casualty here was memory itself. And the defence was against the fear of disintegration and even extinction. To “forget” the past means we do not have to confront the anxiety of temporariness and the fear of loss. This anxiety is relevant also to organizations and societies at large. The world of instantaneous knowledge, the diminishing of process, has made the past almost redundant in many organizational settings. But at what cost? The second example demonstrates the important part played by collective memory in group relations conferences, a part often overlooked, as it becomes the blind spot of the here and now (as in this case). A year and a half ago, I directed, the first time for me, Ofek’s “Israeli” conference, which is held every two to three years in addition to the international conference held on an annual basis. While the international conference includes staff members and participants from abroad (including a regular representative from the Tavistock as part of the long-standing professional association between the two organizations), and is conducted in English, the Israeli conference is conducted in Hebrew, and participants and staff are all Israeli. The relations between the two conferences within Ofek have always been sensitive. The international conference has always modelled itself closely on the Tavistock tradition and, until recently, has been slow to change or innovate. Like many offshoots of an original, it tends to adhere more rigidly to the model than the original does. The Israeli conference has, in the past, also adhered closely to the Tavistock model, but nevertheless suffers somehow from a lack of prestige, not having the presence of the representative of the “mother” organization present, perhaps, and being conducted in Hebrew. In addition, although it is an Ofek conference, it does not have a formal professional association with the Tavistock Institute as the international conference has. This, it would seem, could also allow a certain degree of freedom for the Israeli conference, but, until now, has not been acted upon. It seems as if the Israeli conference has something to prove. The attitude to the Israeli conference within Ofek is also a little split: there are those who are adamant that it should not be considered as a “second-class citizen” and insist that it should be a replica of the international conference,



and there are those who see the Israeli conference as an opportunity to create something uniquely Israeli. The Israeli conference is generally held in the south of the country, on the edge of the Judean desert, rather than the north, and tries to appeal to a broader range of participants by keeping down the costs. This is achieved largely through choosing a less expensive venue and, of course, by not having staff members from abroad. In my first directorship, the Israeli conference of 2009, I also decided to make the conference four days, rather than the six days of the international conference, thinking that this, too, would enable a broader range of participants to take part. In every other way, the design and structure of the conference followed the classic model with little deviation. Throughout the conference, and, indeed, already in the planning stages, I was preoccupied with the question, what is an Israeli conference? Is there something that distinguishes it from any other group relations conference? Rather than thinking in terms of culture, I suggest looking at this from the perspective of collective memory: the sum total of individual memories as well as the practices, beliefs, and behaviour that reflect that memory and create a group identity. As noted above, I see the collective memory of any conference as the body of knowledge, practices, beliefs, and experiences of the group relations “network” that is brought into the conference by the director and staff and is expressed through the design and structure. What is to be gained by regarding design and structure as evidence of group memory rather than just a model of working? Models of working do not carry with them the burden of the past. The lack of the external framework in the group relations network puts the burden of memory on the staff, design, and structure of the conference. As it has no place from which it emerges and to which it returns, the model, in the form of collective memory, is all it has. It is this collective memory, I would claim, that is always a strong component of the group culture that develops in a conference, and in an international conference it is really the only strong collective memory there, as participants and staff are assembled from different parts of the world, and, while they bring with them aspects of their own collective memories, which become part of the evolving culture, these do not form a coherent, given identity.



To come back to the Israeli conference I directed: in retrospect, it seems to me that two clashing kinds of collective memory came into play there. As I have already noted, the structure of the conference was a classic one. However, as it developed, I became aware of a pressure, which at the time I was not able to define. In hindsight, I called it the power of “personal relations”. It came into my consciousness very strongly for the first time in the final plenary, where many participants thanked consultants individually and by name for their work. This highly unusual phenomenon set me thinking back into the conference, and it linked with other seemingly minor events that all suggested that there was a strong penchant for the personal during the conference that was in conflict with the systemic model which we had come to practise. This was not a conflict between two models of working, as there is no “personal” model of group relations, but, rather, as I have said, between two collective memories. One was the collective memory that forms Israeli culture; the emphasis and dependence on personal relations at all levels of society, often in disregard or even defiance, not only of the law itself, but of any structure of authority. This was in contrast to the group relations culture collective memory, which, in the light of the lack of territory and place, puts enormous emphasis on the adherence to the collective expressions of the group relations theory and practice. Further reflection yielded deeper layers to the conflict. One is the layer of Ofek–Tavistock relations, and the fact that the Board of Ofek had decided that the formal Tavistock association be reserved only for the international conference. I believe that the Israeli conference carries, in this respect, conflicting memories: the group relations memory, carried by the director and staff, and the group memory of the Israeli participants. Ofek has always seen itself as a disseminator of the group relations model, but has also, perhaps, harboured some rebellious tendencies which only the Israeli conference can express (the international conference is shielded by the presence of foreign staff members, including a representative from the Tavistock, and by the English language). Another layer, I believe, goes all the way back to Israel–UK relations, to the time of the British mandate in Palestine, perhaps representing the relationship of Israel to all of western Europe: the desire to be recognized by, and as part of, the West, and accepted into the fold without



question, and the contrasting desire to assert one’s independence, to buck the tradition, and to forge a different identity based on our own group memory. The location of the conference, on the route taken by pilgrims to Masada, the bastion and emblem of Jewish rebellion against the Romans, was probably not accidental. It seems that my own role, first as director, the chief carrier of the Tavistock memory into the conference, and second, as being English born and speaking, made this conflict more alive in myself than in other staff members. However, as I have already noted, this understanding arrived too late to be able to be worked on in the conference itself, where it entered the system in various ways: in the response of the members to the “Tavistock method” and to being in that particular location; in a tendency among the staff to work a little too personally; and in one or two incidents on the boundary between members and staff which implied a questionable permeability. Perhaps not seeing this also acted as a defence against the possible destructive outcomes of confronting this conflict. The third example, which is related to the second, is the case of in-house conferences. These are conferences in which the participants attend the conference as part of a course they are taking at a given institution. In my experience of working as a staff member on two such conferences, I can say that in both there was a definite clash between the collective memory of the course, including the host organization, and the collective memory being formed and emerging from the temporary institution of the conference. This clash can have a very powerful impact on the systemic picture, as can be imagined, but in both conferences there was little or no attempt to examine it; in both cases it felt as if confronting the impact of that collective memory in the here and now would contaminate it in an unproductive way. The result was a kind of collusion to keep the memories of the course, with its dynamics, practices, and culture, located only in individuals. The present could, thus, only “become” without reference to the past. As these examples demonstrate, it is my belief that collective memory can serve us as a tool in group relations conferences and, thus, enhance the effectiveness of our work. It is not at the expense of the systems-psychoanalytic perspective that forms the core of our approach, and, in fact, it overlaps with it in various ways. But it may constitute a vehicle for connecting the past with the



present, a rupture that seems to be at the heart of the postmodern condition.

Acknowledgements I wish to acknowledge gratefully the help of my friends and colleagues Gabriella Braun, Daphne Leighton, Ilana Litvin, Avi Nutkevitch, and Dorit Szykierski in thinking about and formulating some of the ideas presented in this chapter.

References Aram, E., Baxter, B., & Nutkevitch A. (Eds.) (2009). Adaptation and Innovation: Theory, Design and Role-Taking in Group Relations Conferences and their Applications. Vol. II. London: Karnac. Armstrong, D. (2005). The work group revisited: reflections on the practice and relevance of group relations. In: R. French (Ed.), Organization in the Mind. London: Karnac. Bergson, H. (1913[1910]). Time and Free Will, F. L. Pogson (Trans.) London: George Allen and Unwin. Bion, W. R. (1967). Notes on memory and desire. The Psychoanalytic Forum, 2: 272–273, 279–280. Bion, W. R. (2007). Attention and Interpretation. London: Karnac. Brunner, L. D., Nutkevitch, A., & Sher, M. (Eds.) (2006). Group Relations Conferences: Reviewing and Exploring Theory, Design, Role-taking and Application. London: Karnac. Dartington, A. (2010). W. R. Bion and T. S. Eliot. In: C. Mawson (Ed.), Bion Today (pp. 247–254). London: Routledge. Durkheim, E. (2001). The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, C. Closman (Trans.), abridged with an introduction and notes by M. S. Cladis. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Eliot, T. S. (1922). The Wasteland. London: Faber and Faber. Freud, S. (1899a). Screen memories. S.E., 3: 303–322. Freud, S. (1914g). Remembering, repeating and working-through. S.E., 12: 147–156. London: Hogarth. Frow, J. (1997). Time and Commodity Culture: Essays in Cultural Theory and Postmodernity. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Gillies, M. A. (2003). Bergsonism: time out of mind. In: D. Bradshaw (Ed.), A Concise Companion to Modernism. Oxford: Blackwell.



Gould, L. (2003). Collective working through: the role and function of memorialization. Presented to the conference, “Memory, Memorials & Collective Working Through”. Annual Meeting of the New York Freudian Society, co-sponsored by Pace University, Downtown NYC, Psychology Department, 8 February (unpublished). Halbwachs, M. (1992). On Collective Memory, L. A. Coser (Ed.). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Litvin, I. (2008). Director’s Report. Kav Ofek, Vol. 9. Menzies, I. E. P. (1960). Social systems as a defence against anxiety: an empirical study of the nursing service of a general hospital. In: E. Trist & H. Murray (Eds.), The Social Engagement of Social Science, Volume 1: The Socio-Psychological Perspective. London: Free Association Books. Sievers, B. (2009). ‘Pushing the past backwards in front of oneself’: a socio-analytic perspective on the relatedness of past, present and future in contemporary organizations. Organizational and Social Dynamics, 9(1): 21–42. Terdiman, R. (1993). Present Past: Modernity and the Memory Crisis. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Walsh, J. P., & Ungson, G. R. (1991). Organizational memory. Academy of Management Review, 16(1): 57–91. Whitehead, A. (2009). Memory. The New Critical Idiom. Oxford: Routledge. Woolf, V. (1925). Modern Fiction. Reprinted in The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Vol. 2 (8th edn). New York: W. W. Norton, 2006.


Early international group relations symposia: from Oxford to Belgirate What has been learnt and how do we keep the lamp trimmed and burning? Siv Boalt Boëthius and Stefan Jern


he aim of this presentation is to recapture and reflect upon the history of early international group relations work by presenting some aspects of the first four international group relations symposia. These intended to offer space for international co-operation, scientific and professional presentations, and experiential work in a frame where transference was to be minimized in favour of collegial work. The possibility to understand and manage interinstitutional transference, rivalry, and conflict was probably also on the hidden agenda. These events took place between 1988 and 1998. They were: The International Symposium in Oxford (1988), The Temporary Learning System in Spa in Belgium (1990), The International Group Relations and Scientific Conference in Lorne, Australia (1993), and The International Group Relations Symposium in Maryland, USA (1998). All of these events may be characterized by the ways they were initiated and designed and by their dynamics. Each may be seen as representing a development of various ideas, which, to a certain extent, have been integrated in the present Belgirate Conferences. Since 2003, there have been three conferences in Belgirate. 83



One or both of the authors have participated in all of these early conferences, as well as the three Belgirate conferences. We have also taken part in the planning of all of the events except for the Oxford Symposium. Different persons representing different organizations took the initiative for each of them. Their co-operation was carried by strong personal and organizational links, which have sometimes been strengthened and sometimes broken. This presentation builds on the rich documentation we have from, for example, initial contacts, the design of the programme, working notes, and lists of participants. We focus on the links between individual and organizational issues and how these can be traced throughout the four events. First, we present them in some detail, identify central ideas and issues, and then try to analyse what can be learnt from them.

Oxford symposium, 15–18 July 1988 Background and pre-symposium work The first effort to establish a tradition of international symposia separated from “group relations conferences” was the International Symposium in Oxford 1988, with the subtitle “Contributions to Social and Political Issues”. In the proceedings from the symposium, the editors, Gabelnick and Carr (1989), write that the symposium, co-sponsored by the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations and the A. K. Rice Institute, was the brainchild of Dr. Margaret Rioch. She and Dr. Eric Miller organized and co-directed the symposium which attracted distinguished participants from more than 18 countries.

The task of the symposium was “to examine how the conference model and associated concepts can contribute to understanding contemporary social and political issues”. The programme consisted of “four days of papers and discussions”. Eleven speakers from seven countries were invited in August 1986 to present papers to the symposium. Apart from these plenary presentations, space was offered for a limited number of additional papers, and, to the amazement of the organizers, thirty-five papers were sent in and



accepted as parallel presentations. Of a total of forty-six presentations, twenty-nine were included in the above-mentioned volume of proceedings from the symposium.

The symposium In the invitation to the symposium it was stated that “Interested people will be invited to come and participate as individuals or as representatives of organized groups. A small number of persons, including yourself, are being asked to contribute a paper bearing on some aspect of this general topic. There will also be time set aside for papers volunteered by participants who have not been invited to present” (Rioch, 1986). The programme consisted of an opening address by Margaret Rioch and Eric Miller, plenary presentations, and parallel paper sessions. The programme also contained the film produced by Gordon Lawrence “Who’s in charge”, as well as optional meetings, including a “Possible formation of an international association”. Margaret Rioch led the closing plenary, which ended with the question about future symposia. An interesting item is that in the information provided before the symposium, the publications committee, consisting of Wesley Carr (UK) and Faith Gabelnick (USA), was mentioned. In his opening address, called “Leicester conferences after thirty years”, Eric Miller said that the first Leicester Conference, with the title “Exploration in human relations”, was held in September 1957, and mentioned that “at least one of its membership is also a participant in this Symposium”. He raised a number of questions concerning “why the Leicester Conferences have survived for thirty years—a period of considerable social and cultural change, nationally and internationally”, and questions why there are not many more institutions running conferences every year. He also talked of the paradox that the Leicester Conferences, which are, in their aims, essentially subversive of the Establishment, have themselves become an established institution, with the attendant risk of losing sight of their task. As a whole the symposium was a great success and attracted considerable interest. The 192 registered participants came from Australia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, India, Ireland,



Israel, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Scotland, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK, and the USA, which says something about the need and wish for international contacts in connection with this kind of work.

Implications The Oxford Symposium built on plenary presentations and parallel sessions in small groups with lively discussions. Apart from the presentations, it also stimulated gatherings of people engaged in group relations issues in their own part of the world. And some of these gave rise to later co-operation, nationally and internationally. One such event was that involving AKRI women directors, who met in order to discuss their work in the USA. The symposium offered many possibilities to get to know others with different experiences of group relations work. It meant, for instance, that those who were presidents of group relations organizations could get together and exchange experiences in a way that was difficult in their own countries. The symposium stimulated strong needs for more international contacts and opportunities to work more in depth with issues we had encountered. The Oxford symposium was sponsored by the two main organizations in the group relations world: The Tavistock Institute, where it all started, and AKRI, with its national centres. Both Margaret Rioch and Eric Miller were prominent figures in the group relations world and their co-operation gave rise to hope for future international arenas where group relations work could be discussed both theoretically and in connection with experiential events. In terms of representation, the focus of the organizers was on organizational representation; for instance, with regard to those invited to give presentations. When contact was established with the two codirectors, the correspondence became more personal. As mentioned above, however, the invitation was also directed to individual persons, and in the work during the symposium there was, among the majority of the participants, hardly any attention paid to issues around organizational representation. On the whole, the dominance of the Tavistock Institute and AKRI and their representatives was very clear, and, as we see it, for many participants also a little overwhelming. Towards the end of



the symposium, the question was raised about the possibility of a second symposium, but was left as an open question. In September 1989, Margaret Rioch, “ in her capacity as former co-chairman of the First International Symposium at Oxford in 1998” sent a letter to ten persons representing eight group relations organizations in Europe, India, and Israel, asking if any of these organizations would be interested in arranging a second International Symposium. She also suggested, that in case no one else wants to take the responsibility for a second international symposium, we would like to consider it in July 1990, or later, perhaps in 1991 or 1992, at a location on the east Coast of the US, which would be convenient for foreign visitors.

AGSLO discussed the proposal at a board meeting, but the conclusion was that the resources for such a large enterprise were lacking. However, the board supported the idea and answered that 1991 would be possible. The board explained that the reason for their decision was that a project group consisting of members from the three organizations AGSLO (Sweden), IFSI (France), and MundO (Germany) had been formed, with the intention of preparing for an event in August 1990 in Belgium. In a way, it was sad that the initiative from Margaret Rioch was turned down and her idea of arranging it in the USA did not go any further. If we may speculate, it might have been due to her failing health, as well as the succession process within the A. K. Rice Institute, which seemed to be an underlying issue among the AKRI participants. Looking back, it is understandable if the turning down of Margaret Rioch’s initiative evoked some disappointment among the Americans, who had been very active in Oxford. Margaret Rioch mentioned in her letter that “a number of us in the US (both in and out of official positions) would like to see the idea of an international meeting carried further”. One of the participants at the Oxford symposium, Vivian Gold, concludes about twenty years later that it “became clear that no international organization would develop out of the Oxford meeting, and that Margaret Rioch would not live to see her dream of an international movement take place”. At the same time, it was evident that several of the group relations organizations represented by different persons in Europe expressed



a need to find out among themselves what it was like to work in their own countries, in their own language, and their own culture.

The temporary learning system in Spa, Belgium, 24–28 August 1990 Background and pre-system work Ideas for this symposium began circulating even before the Oxford Conference was held in 1988. The first informal contacts were made in 1984 by Burkardt Sievers and Karsten Trebesch (members of MundO, Germany), who contacted Stefan Jern (then vice president of AGSLO, Sweden) on a personal level. They expressed a wish to form alliances between group relations organizations on the European continent in order to balance what they perceived as an Anglo-Saxon dominance in the field. It could be noted, then, that Tavistock, founded in 1947, had sponsored group relations conferences since 1957, AKRI was founded in 1970, AGSLO in 1974, IFSI in 1978, and MundO in 1982. For a rich account of the TLS and its roots, see the text by Boalt Boëthius (1999). Slowly, this initiative was transferred from the personal to the institutional level, and a planning group with two representatives each from AGSLO, IFSI, and MundO began its work in March 1989, and met four times. The group was named AIM, from the initials of the three organizations, and was careful not to become institutionalized. It is interesting to note that the representatives were president and vice president of their respective organizations: Siv Boalt Boëthius and Stefan Jern (AGSLO), Gordon Lawrence and David Gutmann (IFSI), and Burkardt Sievers and Karsten Trebesch (MundO). Perhaps as an effect of the Oxford Symposium, the initial competitive and confrontational stance expressed in a continental anti-Tavi axis was moderated and other leading ideas formed. If Oxford had been focused on scientific exchange, this one would not be of a scientific nature, so no paper sessions were planned. Rather, the idea of collegial learning from experience surfaced as a central leading ideal. Gordon Lawrence drew together and developed the diverse ideas of AIM into a planning document (Lawrence, 1989). The orga-



nizers wanted to provide opportunities for using the different experiences in Europe. Boalt Boëthius (1999), writing about TLS, stated: “What we wanted to do was to provide opportunities for using the different experiences in Europe to develop something new with the possibility to go some day beyond Bion”. From the programme: Our distinctive understanding of the world of ‘groups’ begins with the thinking of W R Bion and A K Rice. Now, we conceptualize more in systemic terms. We are also more able to experience and interpret the psychic, political and spiritual dimensions of living in systems of whatever size. Over the years there has been an expansion of the kind of thinking about groups functioning as systems . . . As explained in the TLS brochure, the central hypothesis for TLS is that through the Basic Assumptions, systemic thinking, and psychoanalytic insights, individuals’ experiences of being in systems or not is communicated. What the system is construed to be is presented through a spoken ‘text’ developed by the participants in that system by exercising their responsibility and authority to experience their experiences of events and interpret them. The text will be a selection from the potential ‘condensed material’ contained by the participating individual.

Apparently, this was based on a feeling of a long standstill in the group relations tradition. The wish was strong to move on, and to invent something different. Focus would be on open systems, to provide containment, and to decide whether, with a minimum of resources and structures, a management structure would be necessary. Further, the TLS should address issues such as: (1) working with former staff members’ “condensed materials” from conference work, (2) working with social interpretations of dreams, (3) working as colleagues with a diminished emphasis on transference and resistance, (4) working on the notion of systems rather than of groups, and (5) working across national and cultural boundaries.

The system The schedule of the system built on three types of events: The Social Dreaming Matrix, The Praxis Matrix, and The Monitoring Matrix, which was to be the collective system management.



Membership was restricted to individuals with conference experience in managerial, consultancy, or administrative roles. System management should be minimized to the AIM-group as pre-system management. AIM would dissolve itself at system start and authority would be transferred to the colleagues. Invitations in the form of a short folder in English were to be distributed to institutions and individuals. We received thirty-eight applications, resulting in thirty-five colleagues (twelve women) from fifteen countries, with ten different languages, attending the event. All had staff experience. The countries were Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Israel, India, the UK, and the USA. The Tavistock Institute and AKRI were represented by two and one persons, respectively, and at the time they were only marginally associated with their organizations, even though one of the Tavistock representatives later was to become director of the Tavistock Group Relations Programme. We found that, with the primary task and basic structures given, the system was able to manage and contain itself through the Monitoring Matrix, which engaged most colleagues present. It also became clear that the shift from groups to systems and working in matrices facilitated different perceptions and new understandings of life in social systems. The AIM group dissolved at the opening of the event, and consequently could not collectively analyse, reflect upon, or write anything about the TLS.

Implications A general observation is that the roots of the TLS were to be found in continental Europe and that the original ideas were framed in an anti-Establishment (Tavistock and AKRI) mood. This resulted in what has been described by Bain in his paper, “On being frozen in time”, as that one event was the obverse of the other. One was a Scientific Symposium organized by the Establishment (i.e., Tavistock and A. K. Rice), and the other an Experiential Event organized by a group who wanted ‘to go some day beyond Bion’. To exaggerate a little, the Oxford Symposium was almost all ‘container’, with little space for the interaction between the ‘container’ and ‘contained’, and the Spa



experience was almost all ‘contained’ with the hope for an emergent ‘container’ arising from the membership role. While both were in their different ways absorbing and worthwhile events, the exploration and the experiences were limited to what was generated in a small number of roles: the roles of presenter, listener and questioner at the Oxford Symposium, and the role of collegial member at Spa. [Bain, 1999, p. 134]

The idea of minimizing individual and intrainstitutional transference by having no official staff roles and abstaining from scientific presentations by “authority figures” in the tradition may also be seen in the light of opposition to the Establishment, be it Tavistock, AKRI, or the text of Bion. So, no paper presentations were planned, since learning was to come from working with colleagues in a collegial system. Staff experience was required also in order to create a collegial, egalitarian culture that would minimize authority transference (as in Social Dreaming) and further learning from experience in the common field of group relations. Based on the impression that the organizers of the TLS mostly belonged to a second generation in the tradition, the following hypothesis may be formulated: the time span from the original ideas in 1984 to the realization of the TLS in 1990 covers the most dramatic changes in the political and social map of Europe since the end of the Second World War. It may be that the second generation picked up and demonstrated important, but as yet unvoiced, undercurrents in society, prevalent at the time. Thereby, they anticipated and paralleled the opposition and uprising in central and Eastern Europe during the same period. This is, to some degree, substantiated by the introduction of the new idea of “condensed materials” as one focus of the system. This was formulated by Jern, and built on experiences of how unconscious material accumulated in and among staff members during group relations conferences seemed to surface in unmetabolized form during social dreaming work. So, perhaps in a similar way, the TLS as a whole can be seen as the product of condensed materials picked up unconsciously by the people working in parts of Europe that were exposed to these undercurrents. As to innovations in the TLS, the wish to go beyond Bion was expressed in the design, where the notion of “group” was substituted by “system” in order to further explore systemic aspects of group relation work. It was stressed, however, that this did not



imply that Bion’s conception of the Work Group and the Basic Assumptions in any way was considered obsolete. Regarding the planning of the system, it may be worth noting that three continental organizations joined forces in the AIM group with a strong representation of pairs in leading positions of their organizations. Certainly, this resulted in a robust authorization, but carried risks for pairing in a Bionic sense and also for splitting. After the conference, it became clear that the productive work of AIM actually took place, as it were, over deep splits that led to painful organizational crises in IFSI and MundO, whereas the split in AGSLO seemed to occur between the two AIM delegates and persons on the Board who did not work on an international level. One may ask if the strong emphasis on collegial, egalitarian work was not an idealization based on the denial of the strong competition and rivalry between and inside institutions that was present at the time. Bain points to the scarcity of roles in Oxford (presenter, listener, and questioner) and Spa (member of a collegial system) as a limitation of what could be achieved. He concludes: The possibility of exploration and experiences generated by managing oneself in multiple roles formed a major part of the thinking in the design of the third International Event [in Lorne, Australia]. But this thinking would not have been possible without the learning and experiences generated by the first two Events. [Bain, 1999, p. 134]

We might add that this scarcity also may have been part both of the containment and the idealization. Another mechanism connected to this, the idea of a collective monitoring system, was later carried into the Maryland symposium.

The International Group Relations & Scientific Conference “Exploring Global Social Dynamics” in Lorne, Australia, 14–19 August 1993 Background and pre-conference work The next international conference took place in Lorne in August 1993, and was sponsored by AISA, the Australian Institute for



Social Analysis. According to a brief description of the history of the conference, the planning had started in 1991 when AISA Executive supported the idea that AISA might organize an International Conference in August 1993 . . . Discussions between Gordon Lawrence, UK and Alastair Bain, Australia—both fellows of AISA—in November 1991 gave birth to the idea of this current Conference. At that time it was envisaged that the Conference Directorate would consist of four Fellows of AISA. Alistair Bain, Laurence Gould, Gordon Lawrence, and Isabel Menzies Lyth, who was not able to join the Directorate for the Conference at that stage . . . On the 18th November AISA authorized the Conference Directorate to design and direct the Conference and the Directorate delegated authority for the organization and administration of the Conference to the Australian Organizing Group. [Bain, 1993b]

The primary task of the conference was “to explore, identify and interpret the global relatedness of conference participants using the experience of their own and others’ national identities and aspirations, as framed by the Bion–Tavistock tradition”. The directorate had designed a preliminary programme and written a brochure for the conference. At the beginning of 1992, the members of the directorate had second thoughts about the lack of women among their number and invited Susan Long, Australia, Kathleen White, USA, and Siv Boalt Boëthius, Sweden (Bain, 1992). The invitations were accepted, and they received a formal invitation to join the directorate, together with the final draft of the brochure. Eric Miller was invited to give the opening address, and the directorate was presented. All of them had questions about their roles in the directorate and, in a fax to Alastair Bain, Siv Boalt Boëthius pointed out that her geographical address should be Stockholm and not Täby, as indicated in the presentation of the directorate (Boalt Boëthius, 1992). As there was no list of organizations working in the Bion– Tavistock tradition available to the directorate, the members were asked to send information about the “heads of the constituent organizations in preparation for the process of inviting them to the conference”, as well as about individual persons connected to this kind of work. In total, twenty-one organizations and individual



persons were listed and an invitation to the conference was sent out in August 1992. Up until August 1992, there was no director of the conference, and a decision to nominate Alastair Bain as conference director was taken. It was proposed by Susan Long and Kathleen White that there should be a Director who would “hold things in mind” and they nominated Alastair Bain who accepted the nomination after the agreement of Siv Boalt Boëthius, Laurence Gould, and Gordon Lawrence. In early March 1993 members of the Directorate, with the exception of Siv Boalt Boëthius, were able to meet on a few occasions in New York to think through the tasks and organization of the different events. [Bain, 1993b]

In August 1992, the invitation was sent out. In her role as president of AGSLO, Siv Boalt Boëthius, received an invitation for AGSLO, with a request to nominate participants, let people know about the conference, and prepare a working note organized around hypotheses germane to the primary task of the conference with the aim of sponsoring a Dialogue. Urban Hidman, as the secretary of AGSLO, was authorized to represent AGSLO and to prepare a working note. The board of AGSLO also decided that all formal correspondence should go through Urban Hidman in order to keep the different roles as clear as possible. In spite of many positive reactions from the invited organizations, it became obvious at the beginning of 1993 that one question the directorate had to deal with was “how does one join this Conference”. In a letter dated 30 January 1993, Jean van der Rest, in his role as president of IFSI, first expressed his thanks for the offer to be a participant at the conference, then raised a number of questions. These concerned the lists of organizations and the directorate. He asked if there exists only a collective global directorate in which all members have the same role and authority? And that there is no individual director for the conference as a whole? Or if there are implicit levels of authority within the directorate. [van der Rest, 1993a]

He also questioned “why the women participate only in the collective directorates (of the Conference and the Global Event), but not



as directors of any other event”, and why there are, with the exception of Siv Boalt Boëthius, only directors whose mother tongue is English, and, finally, “why Siv Boalt Boëthius is only related to the suburb Täby, when she is clearly known to work from Stockholm?” (ibid.). Two weeks later, Alistair Bain, in his role as director, responded to the questions that had been raised. However, in the reply from IFSI at the end of April, they declared that they thought these explanations were not enough and that, “the systemic aspects of the process are hidden and one seems to refuse to work on the unconscious aspects behind the collective behaviours”. They offered an hypothesis indicating that “we think AISA is caught in a process where the implicit role in organizing the conference is to revitalise the mother institution in manifesting its worldwide empire” (van der Rest, 1993b). As a way of assisting the “joining of the Conference”, members of the directorate decided at the meeting in New York that they should prepare a Working Note for circulation to participants before the conference started. The Working Note described the history of how the conference had developed, as well as some observations and hypotheses concerning global social dynamic focusing on “splitting” and on “joining the Conference”. In a fax from Alastair Bain to Siv Boalt Boëthius (Bain, 1993a) a detailed account is given of the discussions in the directorate meeting in New York. It was based on, among other things, the questions raised by the letters from IFSI and questions the women in the directorate had about their roles in the conference. The directorate also met in Melbourne a couple of days before the conference. On the 18th of May, Allan Souter assumed the role as conference administrator and joined the directorate.

The system The conference consisted of an Opening Address and six events; Social Dreaming, Global Event, Dialogues and Scientific Exploration Event, Interactive Systems Event, Prospective Event, and Closing Plenary. There were four Social Dreaming Matrices, with five sessions each. The matrices had two consultants each.



The Global Event was introduced by Susan Long and Siv Boalt Boëthius, and started with all participants sitting in a horseshoe formation, and national groups being allocated work rooms. The USA group had a fairly big room close to the centre. India and Israel shared a smaller room fairly close by, while Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden shared a larger space. The UK had a large room close to Eire and Germany, who had smaller rooms. Australia was located in a space a bit away. For many, this was a challenging and exciting event that evoked many reactions (see Bain, 1999; Biran & Chattopadhyay, 1998). For AGSLO, it implied, for instance, contacts with the AKRI group and some sorting out of early connections from the time when Lars Löfgren, a Swedish psychiatrist working in the USA, introduced group relations conferences in Sweden. The Dialogues and Scientific Explorations Event consisted of ten parallel presentations by representatives from nine group relations organizations. The primary task of the event was to develop exploratory hypotheses, and to test and present them within the context of the conference institution. The director was Larry Gould. The possibility of publishing the presentations mentioned in the invitation was not realized. The primary task of the Interactive Systems Event was to study the interactive process between other events and within the Conference as a whole. Eight consultants were invited for this event. The primary task for the Prospective Event was to be generative of ideas in the Bion–Tavistock tradition for further exploration of global relatedness. The director of the event was Gordon Lawrence. The number of participants was seventy-two, from eleven countries: Australia (twenty-eight), USA (fifteen), UK (fourteen), Sweden (five), Germany (three), Denmark (two), and the following had one participant each: Eire, Finland, India, Israel, and Norway. The organizations presented in the list of participants were: AGSLO, AISA, AKRI, Chattopadhyay and Associates, Finnish Society for Organisational Dynamics, GREX, The Grubb Institute, ICS, IFSI, Imago East/West, MundO, NORSTIG, OPUS, Process Aps, The Tavistock Clinic, The Tavistock Institute, and The William Alanson White Institute. About seventeen organizations were listed by the participants. The USA was represented by twelve organizations, the UK



by seven, and Israel by two. The remaining countries were represented by one organization each.

Implications One ambition of the Lorne Conference 1993 was to bridge the ideas underlying the Oxford symposium and the TLS at Spa by introducing paper presentations as dialogues, as well as experiential events that had never been tried before, such as the Global Event. The design was challenging and stimulating, but the dynamic, at least in the beginning, was influenced by the communications with IFSI before the conference. It seems as if the ambition and the striving for new ways of working in combination with questioning from the outside reached a limit, and, for a period of time, created a stressful situation. To a certain extent, several of the questions raised by IFSI were relevant and discussed also in other organizations. Some of these could be explained as administrative mistakes, but it seems as if there was not enough time for discussing the different steps in the preparation of the conference in the directorate in a way that allowed more unconscious levels to be explored. To some extent, this was done at the meeting in New York, but, as one member of the directorate could not come to that meeting, it did not include the directorate as a whole. The composition of the directorate was also complex, with the invitation of the three women after the programme had been designed and the brochure on the way. It was complicated for the women to join, and it might also have been so for the men. In retrospect, a question one may ask is why the initial directorate decided to invite more members. Was it because they felt a need for a larger group, which could be realistic in this type of enterprise, or was it a wish to balance the group by means of pairs that could be thought of as a form of parental containing that was less threatening than an all male group in authority? The idea of formulating and sending out a working note before the conference is interesting. By sharing the history of the conference and some of the thinking that occupied the directorate, they invited a form of “pre-conference” atmosphere. It probably did facilitate the joining of the conference, as intended, but, above all, it



allowed the directorate to think through what they thought was important. The two pieces of text in the working note, “splits in institutions sponsoring group relations conferences” by Alastair Bain and Gordon Lawrence, and “joining the conference” by Susan Long, concerned issues that were deeply felt by the directorate in the specific situation but were also very relevant on a more general level. An important dimension in the Lorne conference was the management of roles. As described by Bain (1999, p. 136) there was neither director nor staff, in the usual sense, and the management of the conference was dependant on all participants taking up their authority appropriately for task; that is, managing themselves in multiple roles and allowing an evolving consciousness for task to develop. In this sense the conference was held in the mind systematically.

The Fourth International Group Relations Symposium in Maryland, USA, 27 July–2 August 1998 Background and pre-symposium work Ideas for the Maryland Symposium evolved during a meeting between Siv Boalt Boëthius (vice president of AGSLO), Faith Gabelnick (president elect of AKRI), and David Gutmann during summer 1994 in connection with the National A. K. Rice Conference at Vassar. Specific reference is made to an Oxford–Spa–Lorne line of descent. Although not authorized by their respective organizations, they sent out an invitation to form some sort of planning system to a great number of group relations organizations in late October 1994. AGSLO decided to join on 1 November, IFSI on 26 December, and AKRI followed suit on 30 March 1995. Thus, authority was quite soon transferred from the individual level to representatives for the three original organizations. A first meeting among the three was held in Paris on 27 May. The three organizations were represented by Siv Boalt Boëthius and Stefan Jern (vice president and president, AGSLO), Donna Piazza (former president, AKRI), Jean van der Rest (president, IFSI), and Brenda Dean and David Gutmann (executive vice-president, IFSI).



A second meeting was held on 16 December 1995, in Paris, with the same persons except for Jean van der Rest. This meeting resulted in a call for a “generative subsystem” to meet in Paris in June the following year. By Gordon Lawrence’s intervention, invitations were extended to individuals not associated with any group relations organization. The work was divided between the three organizations, which took responsibility for a number of countries each. It later turned out that AKRI had not invited AISA as delegated. It also became clear that AKRI would not be represented by its president at the first meeting of this system, but by Anne-Marie Kirkpatrick as administrator. After a discussion, Barbara Winderman (president elect AKRI) turned up. The Group Relations Programme at Tavistock (Jean E. Neuman and Eric Miller) responded that they were unable to attend the meeting, but, nevertheless, would like to support the endeavour: “we are enthusiastic about scientific progress being made in the area of group relations in general, and would be happy to make some sort of contribution” and “would very much like to be involved in some capacity with the event you are planning” (Neumann, 1996). After a planning meeting in Paris on 26 May 1996 (Gabelnick, Gutmann, Jern, Reed, and van der Rest), the generative subsystem meeting eventually took place in Paris on 1–2 June, with twentythree participants: Sweden (four), France (three), UK (two), USA (two), Denmark (two), Finland (two), and one each from Belgium, Finland, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, Norway, Russia, and Switzerland. Two delegates from Israel were prevented from participating by a transportation strike. A steering committee for the 1998 International Symposium was appointed and met for the first time in Washington, DC on 18–20 January 1997, and the delegates then represented AGSLO (Stefan Jern), AKRI (Faith Gabelnick, AnneMarie Kirkpatrick, and Barbara Winderman),The Grubb Institute (Bruce Reed), and IFSI (David Gutmann). Later, AKRI was represented on the Steering Committee by Faith Gabelnick (Host-Chair) and Mary Bell (Symposium Administrator). The first preliminary primary task for the symposium was accepted: “To provide a space for mourning between tradition and transformation”. The Steering Committee would serve as Management Group with staff meetings, etc.



Until the next meeting in Paris in May 1998, considerable conceptual work was done on a discussion paper, “Between tradition and transformation: existential process and primary task for the life of organizations”, by David Gutmann, Bruce Reed, and Stefan Jern. The paper focused on (1) transformation of roles in order to further transformation of systems, (2) transformation of resistance in order to transform roles, (3) the importance of the Institutional System Event for learning, (4) the unpredictability of the transformation process. We quote from the brochure: Thus, the concept of Institutional Transformation continues, enlarges and deepens the Group Relations approach. The core of the work focuses on institutions and not only on groups. It also underlines the importance of transformation as a journey composed of various states of development or change. [Brochure, The Fourth International Group Relations Symposium, 1998]

Further, this meeting resulted in mutual contracts between the four sponsoring organizations and that events were developed, the brochure written and distributed. Suggestions for ten Praxis Dialogues were received and eighty applications from over twenty organizations in seventeen countries were filed.

The symposium The schedule of the system essentially, in excess of the opening and closing plenaries, built on six types of events: Mourning from Tradition to Transformation (MTT), Creation and Conception (CC), Bion Cup (BC1), Bion Club (BC2), Praxis Dialogues (PD), and Discernment. The latter was a development of the Monitoring System in Spa and offered participants “an opportunity to explore their own involvement in and responsibility for transformation during the symposium itself and afterwards”. MTT constituted a development of the Social Dreaming Matrix in Spa, whereas Praxis Dialogues were, in essence, paper discussion events of a more traditional type. The Bion Cup and Bion Club events were new to tradition and based on the idea of providing space for non-work within the symposium structure. Sports events, games, and other types of leisure activities were “available as another way to learn about and experience the theme of the symposium”. This event was



scheduled after dinner, as was the Bion Club, which was “an opportunity to relax and socialize informally”. The final participation list numbered a total of fifty-nine persons from the USA (seventeen), Sweden (nine), the UK (seven), France (six), Denmark (four), Norway (four), the Netherlands (three), Australia (two), Finland (two), South Africa (two), Belgium (one), Germany (one), and Switzerland (one). It may be noted that eight applicants from Israel, for different reasons, were unable to participate. The Symposium in general was perceived as lively, enthusiastic, and creative and provided good opportunities to learn about transformation of institutions and roles. At the same time, deep tensions between individuals and institutions came to the fore. Some disappointment over a relatively low recruitment also marked the work, and some of this was expressed as a criticism of AKRI, which was, at times, perceived as taking an isolationistic stance in international co-operation. The balance between experiential, scientific, and leisure-time activities was widely appreciated. Management shared between the Host Chair, the Management (former Steering Committee), and the Membership was met with criticism and did not involve more than a fraction of participants, compared to the TLS in Spa. For reasons explained below, no texts, summaries, or proceedings came out of the Symposium, even though most members of the former Steering Committee produced written reports for their organizations.

Implications This Symposium was open to a wider membership than any of the preceding international events and great care was taken to cater to all organizations and individuals that might be interested. This determined stance did not fully succeed. The recruitment from the USA, the UK, and Germany was much weaker than expected, and, ironically, Australia, which had arranged the preceding Lorne conference, was invited very late in the process. One reason for this may have been the unstable internal situation at the time within AKRI and Tavistock due to difficult shifts in the leadership. Another reason was tensions in the relations between IFSI and AKRI that paralleled USA–Europe tensions on the political level, such as, for example, the war in the Balkans.



Perhaps as a lesson learnt from earlier international events, great care was taken in making a slow and thorough process in order to shift the pre-symposium work from personal initiatives to an institutional level. The work laid down in preparation was impressive, and costly! Eight face-to-face meetings were held, and Stefan Jern filed over 100 exchanges by surface mail, fax, and (during the last years) e-mail. Transparency, openness, and wide outreach were important values in building the initial group and successively transforming it into a Generative Sub-system, a Steering Committee, a Symposium Management, and an Administration. This worked fairly well, but was jeopardized at the opening of the Symposium when suddenly it was exposed that IFSI, in an invitation, had appointed a French “Symposium Director”. This was seen both as “an administrative mistake” and as “a coup”, but could be worked through for the moment. The collective monitoring from Spa left its legacy in the Discernment Event, which decided to exercise a shared management between the Host Chair, the Management (former Steering Committee), and the Membership. Only a few participated, and the arrangement created an unstable holding for the Symposium. Just as the opening of the Symposium revealed an unconscious wish to lead the tradition through the international events, the postsymposium work posed intriguing questions. After the end of the Symposium, members of the former Steering Committee (Mary Bell, Faith Gabelnick, David Gutmann, Stefan Jern, and Bruce Reed) met briefly and decided to meet once again in May 1999 in order to continue for a while our reflections on the symposium and perhaps do some writing up of our experiences and reflections among other things in order to end our working relationship on this task, which in turn might pave the way for successive international events. Perhaps to pass on a ‘heritage’ for transformation in the tradition. [Jern, 1998]

The new president of AKRI, Barbara Winderman, informed David Gutmann, Stefan Jern, and Bruce Reed on 5 March 1999 that, due to financial restrictions and being in “a period of significant organizational transition”, AKRI could not sponsor or participate in such a meeting, which in the letter was described as “a face-to-face



meeting to develop a succession plan for future international symposium” (Winderman, 1999). This opened the door to reflection on the ambiguity of the group’s intentions. Bruce Reed wrote on 17 March, . . . Her letter opens up the ambiguity of our intention. Is the postSymposium meeting to enable us to learn from the Symposium ourselves and our institutions by reflecting jointly? Or does it have some intention for the future although not expressed, as if there were ‘someone’ we would report to, for example to write a Review jointly to all appropriate institutions so it could be useful material for any who would follow us. . . . I am vague about the initiative which led to the Maryland Symposium but I don’t imagine there was a passing on of anything from Lorne. Maybe there might be some people already planning for an event to appeal to group relations followers without referring to us. [Reed, 1999]

A short, but intense, two-day e-mail correspondence between the four persons concerned followed. Faith Gabelnick had communicated the task of the post-Symposium meeting as it was worded above and referred to “a misunderstanding”. David Gutmann insisted on a joint reply to Barbara Winderman and continued planning for a meeting. He was to meet Faith Gabelnick in order to see what could be done. By 19 March, all correspondence ceased and the meeting was never held. This impasse demonstrates, once again, the importance of uncovering as much as possible of unconscious differences in desires in organizations. It may be that, during this symposium, these could be contained as long as the boundaries were intact, but sprang into full action just a few minutes after the end. The institutional returned to the personal.

Reflections As can be seen from the history of the four international events, the dynamics encountered in international group relations symposia are very complex and filled with a strong emotional and intellectual involvement. As in any international multipart system, stakes are high, but benefits can be great if we consistently apply



the learning gained from reflective co-operation. Except for the Oxford Symposium, none of the meetings left any official texts behind, which may be regretted. We have tried, however, to reconstruct how they came about, what their main themes and dynamics were, and now try to summarize what can be learnt.

From the individual to the institutional. How was authority to organize achieved? The Oxford Symposium was a joint initiative of two “first generation” individuals well authorized from their group relations organizations, Tavistock Group Relations Programme and AKRI, which also were the oldest and best established. The orientation was almost purely scientific and their authority was not questioned. The second event, the TLS in Spa, was initiated before the Oxford Symposium, but was realized well after this. Here, the originators belonged to younger, non-English speaking organizations on the European continent and were mainly part of the “second generation”. They had a quasi-revolutionary aim, “to go beyond Bion”, and feared a petrification of the group relations tradition. They had to build their authority rather on this idea and the ideological statement, and sought authorization primarily from their own institutions and through the creation of a temporary organization, AIM. The Lorne conference was initiated by a group of three men from Australia, the UK, and the USA. They were all “fellows of AISA” and well established in the group relations world. They knew each other well and, as members of the directorate, they were authorized by AISA. The women were invited formally to join the directorate by AISA through the chairman. Although it was a formal authorization, they arrived late in the planning and experienced the invitation partly due to geographical circumstances and partly on a personal level, based on the assumption that they could contribute in terms of their experiences. A drawback was that the whole group did not meet face-to-face until a few days before the conference, as one member could not come to the first meeting, which initially put the directorate in a difficult position.



In planning for the Maryland Symposium, the initiative was taken, as in TLS and Lorne, by a small group of individuals who knew each other well, and authority was built over rather a long time through intense face-to-face contacts and a gradual widening of circles, involvement of more persons and institutions, and a successive transformation of governing bodies. Probably much was learnt from the TLS planning about the importance of giving this process time and to communicate frequently, something that the Lorne conference did not manage. As in Spa, authority was transferred from the planning groups to monitoring systems made up of all participants. As the experiences from Spa and Maryland demonstrate, the handing over of the symposium management from a planning system to the system as a whole may work well during the event. However, this also endangers continuity and makes transfer of knowledge between events and from event to sponsoring organizations difficult. What has been created through personal links and turned into temporary organizations quickly returns to the individual and personal level after the events. The gender issue was present at all the conferences, in terms of, for example, composition of the directorate, and how formal roles were distributed. The Oxford Symposium was initiated by Margaret Rioch, who asked Eric Miller to join, and they were seen as the parental couple. The AIM group consisted of five men and one woman, who met regularly and worked well together. However, the only couple that continued working afterwards was the heterosexual pair. At Lorne, the gender issue suddenly became more acute as the initial directorate asked an equal number of women from the same geographical areas to join. Although their authorization was clear, they came in late in the process, and it took some time before they felt they could engage fully in the work. The idea of forming heterosexual couples representing the three continents in a global world seems to have been at least one of the reasons for increasing the size of the directorate. As for the Maryland symposium, it is intriguing to note that all three European members of the Steering committee were men from organizations with rather stable management, whereas the Americans were four women from AKRI, which, at the time, was going through a rather turbulent management transition.



How were themes decided on and what did they pick up? As for Oxford, the main interest seems to have been to create space for a scientific exploration of conferences. It may be said that, after thirty-one years, the time was ripe and this was picked up by Eric Miller, who, at the time, could be regarded as the most prestigious person in the field. A. K. Rice wrote a quarter of a century before Oxford: But my major objection to research work so far has been based on the need to defend a developing and growing institution from premature interference. . . . I have seen as my most important task the building of a conference institution, which permits the members of the staff to give absolute priority to the needs of the conference members. In the early stages of this building process, the introduction of research—however important it may be for the future—would I believe, have jeopardized this priority. Once it is secure, however, research becomes possible. [Rice, 1965, p. 187]

The situation confronting the planners of the TLS system was more complex. They all shared unease over group relations becoming institutionalized, but how should this be met? The risk of being perceived as driven by authority complexes in “attacking” the two oldest organizations was obvious. The task was given to Gordon Lawrence, who had by then left Tavistock for France and IFSI, where he felt freer to develop new ideas. The resulting document was accepted in the main, but some ideas, like the one of “condensed materials” were added by the AIM group. A similar development was to be seen before the Maryland Symposium, where the task was given to David Gutmann. His draft was perceived as too much emphasizing the concept of “transformation” that was under development in France and Bruce Reed and Stefan Jern were delegated to “normalize” the document into what was perceived as “mainstream group relations” without destroying the basic ideas of transformation of roles and institutions. As at Lorne, the theme of exploring global social dynamics had been thought about for quite some time by the persons who initially formed the directorate. They were all linked to AISA, although two



of them lived elsewhere. The fact that many Australians at the Global Event used the opportunity to visit the national groups, representing the country their families had originally come from, supports the hypothesis that the theme had to do with the identity of national groups and of Australia’s place in a global world, where it sometimes tends to be marginalized. The fact that Australia was invited so late to the Maryland Symposium that only a few persons were able to attend is another illustration of this dynamic. The theme of that conference clearly awoke strong and complex feelings about both the concept of national identity and national organizations, which could be worked with when they surfaced. The Maryland symposium introduced two novelties in the chain of events, the stress on leisure activities on one hand, and the concept of transformation of roles and organizations on the other. The first was received well and participants engaged in playful evening activities, which may have strengthened personal links and established new ones. The transformation concept was received with considerably more reserve and was maybe interpreted as a mainly French concern. In summary, we may conclude by saying that the “ideological statements” of the four events picked up ideas and undercurrents both in society at large and in the group relations world. The writing-up of the leading ideas was delegated to prominent and wellknown practitioners in the field and then amended and moderated by the planning groups. This was a process sometimes not without considerable tensions.

How could interinstitutional and interpersonal competition and transference be contained? Going through the material from the four conferences, it is evident that there were strong feelings about what was perceived as “the Leicester conferences”. By different means, the international events following the Oxford Symposium tried to break away from what was perceived as “the tradition” and strived hard to find new ways of managing, for example, transference reactions through creating new roles for both the organizers and the participants, new events, and different ways of thinking about containment.



Although the intentions in general were the best and the ideas creative, it seems as if interpersonal competition and envy, as well as interinstitutional conflicts, sometimes took over, and the result was not what one has hoped for. The personal links were of fundamental importance and carried a lot of the work over time. This opens up, as always, a paradoxical situation where the basic loyalty to task runs the risk of being compromised by loyalty to friendship. However, the relations between people were also dependent on their national organizations, and when these had internal problems, the actions and feelings of their individual members were affected both consciously and unconsciously. As can be seen from our discussion of the different events, splits manifested themselves in different ways in the events. They could be carried into the work and successfully contained for some time, but became manifest after the event (TLS in Spa). They could surface early and affect the work during preparation and the recruitment and linger on after the work (Lorne Conference and Maryland Symposium). On a general level, a main ingredient in group relations work is to identify dysfunctional roles and tasks, which invite splitting and fragmentation. The examples above demonstrate this, but they also show the importance of creating a good enough containing function. One gets the feeling that at all the conferences there was a wish to establish a “centre” that would enable people to learn, to challenge, and be innovative, but that this object of desire would be linked with fantasies about attempting to create an empire, which would then be destroyed by internal as well as external forces. There may have been a wish to be part of the most creative and innovative organization, but, at the same time, there was the personal need to be recognized and to belong to something meaningful. The need to belong seems to be one of the most prominent traits in this work, as expressed by Eisold (2010), who states that, “One domain that is of particular interest to members of AKRI [and other groups relations organizations] has to do with group membership and the unconscious constraints that our need to belong imposes on us”.

How could learning be reported and made useful? To our knowledge, only the Oxford symposium resulted in a report with paper presentations edited by a publishing committee



presented in the programme. The Spa and Lorne conferences resulted in two articles and a chapter in a book, and there may be other reports unknown to us. At Lorne, there was an ambition to produce a publication based on the dialogues, but it was not carried out. The lack of more comprehensive reports describing the underlying ideas of the conferences, how they were transformed into a structure of events with thoughts about containing and roles, etc., is interesting. There are also, with one exception, few references to earlier international conferences in the documents. The connections from one conference to another seem to have been carried mainly by individual persons who have worked with their experiences and ideas and tried them out at other conferences. As the initiatives for the conferences seem to have started on an individual level and eventually been taken up on an organizational level, an hypothesis is that no specific organization felt that it had the mandate to be explicit about succession plans or to make a testament of the work from a specific conference. Perhaps Margaret Rioch’s plan for a succession of the Oxford symposium was such an attempt, which failed. The Belgirate conferences with initially two, then three, organizations in the directorate—Tavistock, OFEK, and AKRI—have, for a considerable time, managed to hold international events where many of the group relations organizations of today participate. The learning has continued, and younger generations have taken their place. One may speculate as to whether many of the tensions that were present at the first international conferences have taken their toll, and that the time is right for the two oldest and most wellknown organizations, together with a younger organization, to take the lead for the time being. These conferences have also managed to get contributions from the conferences published, which will, one hopes, contribute to the collective learning in the group relations community. However, considering the questioning of group relations work in many countries and the decreasing number of applications to conferences, the increasing number of publications also raises questions about how the collective learning from experience might continue. If these texts are read mainly by those already initiated, like poetry for poets, is there a risk of building a closed system? That would ultimately leave us with a new frozen Establishment, where the lamp cannot be kept trimmed and burning. The



Belgirate conferences at the moment seem to be the hope for an open system and a burning lamp.

References and sources Bain, A. (1992). Letter to Siv Boalt Boëthius, 30 March 1992. Bain, A. (1993a). Fax to Siv Boalt Boëthius, 29 March 1993. Bain, A. (1993b). International Group Relations & Scientific Conference “Exploring Global Social Dynamics”. A working note in preparation for the conference, 14–19 August. Bain, A. (1999). On being frozen in time. In: R. French & R. Vince (Eds.), Group Relations, Management and Organization (pp 127–142). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Biran, H., & Chattopadhyay, G. (1998). The burden of the barbarian within. Journal of Free Associations, 7(2): 42, 151–170. Boalt Boëthius, S. (1992). Fax to Alastair Bain, 28 July. Boalt Boëthius, S. (1999). Report on what consultants can learn from sharing experiences. In: S. Cytrynbaum & S. A. Lee (Eds.), Transformations in Global and Organizational Systems: Changing Boundaries in the 90s (pp. 36–43). Proceedings of the Tenth Scientific Meeting of the A. K. Rice Institute. Eisold, K. (2010). What You Don’t Know You Know: Our Hidden Motives in Life, Business, and Everything Else. New York: Other Press. Gabelnick, F., & Carr, A. W. (Eds.) (1989). Proceedings of the First International Symposium on Group Relations. Contributions to Social and Political Science. Washington, DC: A. K. Rice Institute. Jern, S. (1998). Personal diary, 2 August 1998. Lawrence, W. G. (1989). Bion and systemic experiences beyond. Draft of ideas for members of AIM. Unpublished. Miller, E. (1992). Fax to Laurence Gould, 15 June. Neumann, J. E. (1996). Letter to AGSLO’s secretary, Dr U. Hidman, 24 April. Reed, B. (1999). E-mail to Gabelnick, Gutmann, & Jern, 17 March. Rice, A. K. (1965). Learning for Leadership. London: Tavistock. Rioch, M. (1986). Letter to S. Boalt Boëthius, 24 August. van der Rest, J. (1993a). Letter to Alastair Bain, 30 January. van der Rest, J. (1993b). Letter from IFSI to Alastair Bain, 28 April. Winderman, B. B. (1999). Letter (AKRI head) to Gutmann, Jern, and Reed (cc: Gabelnick, Miller, Mize, and Braxton), 5 March.


Institutional abuse: caught between professional vocation and system’s efficiency Eduardo Acuña and Matías Sanfuentes



his chapter analyses the working conditions at a public health geriatric hospital and the distress caused by such conditions to the professionals working there. Such dissatisfaction stems from the abuse of power perceived by health professionals at the hospital and in the Chilean public health system in general. The latter, guided by the principle of maximizing efficiency in health care, imposes a labour regime that dehumanizes and impoverishes working relations. Abuse has devastating effects on mental health, as it causes persistent suffering in workers, fear of the competition existent at the workplace, unhappiness originated by eventual unemployment, and the overall abusive treatment and injustices. Abuse has the peculiarity of subduing health care workers to a collective state of resignation with respect to a hospital’s labour conditions and the suffering that emerges from them. Individuals feel they are subjected to overwhelming dynamics that override their capacity to resist and emancipate with a view to changing this situation. Professionals consider that abuse in hospitals is the institutional expression of how public health is practised 111



in Chile, with the underlying assumption that workers are disciplined in an official, systematic, anonymous, and authoritarian way in order to achieve organizational efficiency. In this study, we approach abuse from a socio-analytic perspective, which involves exploring how unconscious collective dynamics lead to the emergence and preservation of this phenomenon within the hospital (Bain, 1999; Sievers, 1999, 2000, 2006, 2007, 2008a,b). The socio-analytic perspective makes us question the victimization stance adopted by professionals against the abuse of power that the Chilean public health’s institutional system would exercise over them. In contraposition, we posit the hypothesis that institutional abuse is the consequence of unconscious collective collusions, where the various agents participating in hospital organizational life are active players in the distressing labour situation that is taking place. This study originated from an action research that the authors of this paper performed at the above-mentioned geriatric hospital. The goal of the study was to explore the burnout phenomenon that affects hospital staff, and to implement interventions aimed at reducing its occurrence. For these purposes, a quasi-experimentaltype longitudinal methodological design was developed, which involved quantitative and qualitative measurements and analyses of the burnout syndrome, before and after having conducted such interventions. The study produced results that led to defining a profile of the institutional abuse occurring at the hospital (Acuña & Sanfuentes, 2009; Energici, Ramírez, & Román, 2010; Espinoza & Orellana, 2009; Gonzáles & Rojas, 2009; Pulido & Ibarra, 2010). Essentially, results reveal that the burn-out affecting professionals originates in endogenous structural factors of the public health system. Qualitative results obtained through our research are particularly enlightening in this respect, as they reveal evidence that professionals directly associate burn-out experiences with extremely precarious working conditions (Energici, Ramírez, & Román, 2010) The chapter is organized as follows. We start by presenting a review of the institutional framework that characterizes the geriatric hospital’s functioning in its subordination to the Chilean public health system. In this review, we probe into hospital management and work organization aspects, as we deem them relevant



to understanding institutional abuse. We then describe and explain the precarious labour conditions under which professionals must work in the hospital, and the distress and suffering they cause. The presentation ends with a discussion of institutional abuse in the light of socio-analytic investigations that enrich the findings of this study.

Institutional framework and abuse The geriatric hospital operates within Chile’s current public health institutional framework, with respect to which we must highlight three fundamental aspects. First, throughout the course of at least two decades, the Ministry of the area has implemented a series of deep reforms aimed at having the country’s health services managed and organized according to modern management methods, for the purpose of increasing health care efficiency. Second, during the present decade, a significant reform was put into operation establishing explicit health guarantees in relation to access, quality, financial protection, and timeliness in the provision of health services associated to a set of programmes, diseases, or health conditions. In the case of public health services, this has meant providing their beneficiaries with guaranteed health services. Third, jointly with the previously mentioned reform, a hospital selfmanagement network system was established, which, in fact, operates as a platform to ensure that the explicit health services guaranteed are actually provided. Self-management is awarded to hospitals subordinated to public health services and that have available the required technical complexity, development of specialties, and administrative organization, as well as the delivery of a significant volume of health services. Self-management emphasizes the need for hospitals to have procedures to measure costs, quality of the services provided, and user satisfaction (Méndez, 2009). The geriatric hospital has been part of such transformations; however, it has also been marked by particular characteristics. The hospital has moved from an asylum for the elderly to its current status, with which it has acquired a hospital identity that incorporates a comprehensive geriatrics model to address the care of the aged population in Chile. The model is characterized by the use of



updated geriatrics methods, by providing treatment on an outpatient basis, and by short-span hospitalizations, all of which makes a substantial difference in hospital functioning compared to its previous condition where patients were secluded for life, without a systematic professional approach. On the other hand, in line with the institutional guidelines established by the state, the hospital is managed in an engineering manner with a tight control of costs, quality, and user satisfaction, consistent with the demands of the explicitly guaranteed health services imposed by the reform. The priority placed by management on the achievement of efficient health care results in hospital work being overlaid by a screen of mercantilism, and in clinical and administrative activities being conceived and evaluated through the prism of profitability estimates (Acuña & Sanfuentes, 2009; Espinoza & Orellana, 2009; González & Rojas, 2009). Commercialization collides with the humanitarian spirit that is inevitably present in health care work. Under this prism, the workers’ and patients’ participation is reduced to a status of exploitable, disposable, and renewable input material. An important milestone for the hospital’s development was having been granted the status of National Institute of Geriatrics by the Ministry of Health. Under this new status, the hospital has begun to devote itself to fulfilling various and complex objectives that include not only the provision of health care services to a voluminous elderly population, but also to train professionals in the geriatrics speciality, to conduct research in the area, and to be a clinical referent for public health services in Chile. These objectives are quite presumptuous, considering that the hospital is an organization with a health-care infrastructure that is very much lacking in complexity, and, furthermore, it has glaring shortcomings in human and material resources, all of which make it difficult to undertake effectively such a grandiose constellation of functions. The failure to implement all these goals generates a frustrating scenario given huge pressures imposed by health care demands, which are unavoidable and require immediate reactions by the staff (Espinoza & Orellana, 2009). To face these objectives, the hospital has a work organization involving strategic plans aimed at achieving annual results showing sustained progress and growth. In their turn, these plans



involve aggressive performance goals for hospital units and personnel, and strict statistical controls are applied to activities and results. The authorities have to keep a tight supervision to ensure an effective achievement of goals. The work organization has mechanisms to align staff behaviour with hospital strategic objectives, by providing job stability, wage security, training, career opportunities, and economic improvements as they attain posts of greater responsibility. Hospital work is particularly attractive to professionals because it allows them to put into practice and develop the geriatrics speciality, and, delving deeper, because there they find unique opportunities to channel and satisfy their vocation for clinical work with the elderly (Espinoza & Orellana, 2009; Energici, Ramírez, & Román, 2010). Evaluation of job performance is a powerful tool to discipline staff behaviour. Managers and supervisors must exercise that responsibility, judging the individual performance of their workforce according to quantitative and qualitative standards. Staff have a twofold fear of evaluations: first, because the rating obtained has implications related to access to rewards, including hospital permanence; and second, because qualifications are made public and may imply demerits, damaging the self-esteem and social standing of those affected. Professionals develop a deep and close dependence to the hospital, based on the satisfaction of their economic career development and prestige needs. Hospital dependence is strengthened as a function of occupational perspectives and alternatives that staff may find in the Chilean health labour market. In this scenario, employment conditions at the hospital end up being attractive because they provide stability, economic security, and technical and professional improvement. Hospital dependence suggests an ambivalent and contradictory attachment in professionals, who struggle between the desire to remain in the organization because of the security it offers, and the desire to leave due to the harshness of the work. Even though job rotation is an important problem at the hospitals, professionals tend to remain in their posts without solving or reconciling the profound contradictions and ambivalence (Acuña & Sanfuentes, 2009; Energici, Ramírez, & Román, 2010). Ministerial authorities impose how objectives must be implemented at the hospital. The backdrop to this is the profile of an



omnipotent and omniscient stance that, under the cover of organizational efficiency, seeks to carry off ambitious strategic plans that envisage continuous progress. Underlying this position is an authoritarian dominance that confines the understanding of hospital reality to the vision created by the public health system institutional framework. Authoritarian dominance is effective in achieving acceptance of the discourse on organizational efficiency in health care, a discourse that establishes itself irrefutably and incontrovertibly. Authorities, workers, and patients are cogwheels that latch on to the effective mechanics of the public health system, agreeing to objectives and goals, complying with performance expectations, tolerating surveillance, competition amongst peers, intensification of work, and even violations to their labour rights. Authoritarianism in the hospital is strengthened by the staff’s fear of being incompetent in face of the requirements demanded by organizational efficiency, the fear of being vulnerable, of being judged and stigmatized as “disposable resources”, of having to experience the exclusion that unemployment may bring about, together with its decadent risks (Acuña & Sanfuentes, 2009; Energici, Ramírez, & Román, 2010) In this context of fear of incompetence, the reinforcement of customer power becomes a cornerstone of the institutional machinery that generates conditions for institutional abuse. Coinciding with the leading role played by the customer in a capitalist system, the Chilean health system’s reform also empowers it as a means of helping to improve health care. What initially appeared to be a positive element for the system as a whole ends up by directly affecting health workers, due to the lack of human and material resources to fulfil the commitments that the health system acquires with its clients. Thus, the frustration caused by the demands emerging from empowered clients is absorbed by health professionals, who feel caught between customers and the institution. The system’s strong demands feed intense levels of anxiety and stress, as a consequence of the continuous aggression and annoyance expressed by dissatisfied clients due to unfulfilled promises of health-care services. In this context, health professionals feel extremely vulnerable and disadvantaged vis-à-vis the managers and the institution, who tend to value and prioritize customer claims rather than theirs. The whole surveillance system through cameras



seems to reinforce a sense of persecution and defencelessness that obstructs the implementation of a reflective and collaborative practice (Acuña & Sanfuentes, 2009; Energici, Ramírez, & Román, 2010).

Socio-analytic discussion In the following, we present a socio-analytic discussion of our findings, for which we take into consideration some organizational studies that help to clarify the phenomenon of institutional abuse. All such studies describe aspects of organizational life in the context of contemporary capitalism, where unconscious dynamics pollute the social fabric that sustains collaboration and trust in working relations. Through the discussion, we intend to provide a theoretical basis for the understanding of institutional abuse, while contributing to the enrichment of the socio-analytic perspective we apply in this study.

The psychotic organization Based on his socio-analytical studies, Sievers (2006) explores the “organizational madness” or the “madness of normality”, proposing the metaphor of the psychotic organization. This metaphor implies that psychosis takes place in organizations where the existence of high anxiety levels and the use of unconscious defence mechanisms obstruct the development of thinking, thus preventing individuals from getting in touch with, to know and to make sense of, realities that are particularly conflictive and painful to them. This assumes that organization’s members use parts of their mental functions to destroy their own ability to think (Bion, 1962), which hinders their contact with reality. The metaphor has the particularity of understanding the psychotic phenomena in the organization from a social perspective, and not from that of specific individuals. Instead of focusing on the participation of specific subjects that could have a crucial impact on unconscious dynamics, the metaphor deems that psychosis is induced by the organization, and therefore “adopted” by their members. Sievers (2006) says,



when psychotic defences against anxiety in organizations predominate, organizational members consciously or unconsciously feel bound to mobilize their personal psychotic parts, thus unconsciously colluding with the “social psychosis” on the organizational level. [p. 106]

Analysis of the psychotic organization highlights that thinking is a central constituent factor of any organization. This presumes that members forge conscious and unconscious mental representations of the group, which enables them to take up roles and to implement collective actions. Any organization is formed by thinking processes, therefore, thoughts generated by people are a defining characteristic of life and the work involved in it. In this respect, it is relevant to take into account the paranoid–schizoid and depressive mental positions due to their effects in the type of thinking, and in the mobilization of anxieties and defences in the context of unconscious organizational dynamics (Sievers, 2006, 2008b). The paranoid–schizoid position is the prototype of psychotic functioning, mobilized by persecutory anxieties and the use of primitive defences such as splitting, projective identification, and idealization. In this mental position, thought becomes rigid, concrete, inflexible, and polarized, which hampers the individual’s capacity to integrate differences and to collaborate with others at work. This dynamic reinforces the individual’s sense of alienation and persecution, prompting him/her to split and project outside all that is painful, and to idealize some aspects of reality. In contraposition, the depressive position corresponds to a nonpsychotic mental way of functioning that enables the integration of objects, learning from experience, and the development of abstract thought, thus facilitating collaboration and transcendence in interests beyond the ego’s own survival and protection. By providing an integrative mental framework, the depressive position makes it possible to elaborate the mourning process, due to the ability to tolerate pain and suffering, based on the confidence that the grieving process will be overcome. Each position assumes a significant difference in the way of dealing with the experience of loss. In paranoid–schizoid functioning, loss is not tolerated because it is experienced as an error whose origin is projected on to others, which fosters aggressive and vengeful actions. The non-psychotic part of



the personality allows the recognition of loss, which gives way to the grief that facilitates the action of reparation mechanisms (Sievers, 2008b). The psychotic organization is a valuable lens through which to analyse institutional abuse, because it helps to understand how the hospital’s totalitarian dynamics block and silence individuals’ capacity for linking to transcendent matters related to their work life. Modern management methods and the principle of organizational efficiency are master keys that, with omnipotence and omniscience, plot presumptuous objectives that promise continuous progress. To the latter must be added the use of a controlling work organization that, in a virtuous manner, also promises an effective achievement of those goals. However, these idealized institutional objectives are completely contradictory to the reality of the desperate scarcity of available health resources, and with the sharp controls that demand huge efforts from health workers. This implies that managers, professionals, and workers become involved in conflicts and pressures that are very difficult, if not impossible, to reconcile in order to comply with the objectives of the organization: how to harmonize the requirement of short-span hospitalizations with effective patient rehabilitation; what can be done with the elderly declared in good health and discharged, although they have no home or family members who can look after them; how to provide care to the great numbers of patients and, at the same time, give them quality health care services; how to reconcile the tremendous health care pressure with profitability vis-à-vis the time spent in patient care; how to co-ordinate treatments between teams of professionals while avoiding unilateral decisions that delay the patients’ progress in getting better; how to overcome the unavailability of basic resources when the hospital does not supply them; how to take their rest period during the work day, which will allow them to recover their energy, and not be considered as avoiding the responsibilities of their post; how to tolerate the accusations of ill-treatment made by the patients’ family members; how to deal with the anxiety produced by performance evaluations, demerit marks, and the implications these have for their careers as health-care workers; how to withstand relationships with managers who are mainly focused on controlling statistical records; how to deal with mental



and physical exhaustion resulting from their participation in a work system that is, in fact, a regime of exploitation. The consequences of these chronic structural contradictions taint organizational life with high levels of persecutory anxiety that perpetuate a vicious circle, weakening staff morale. Health workers make their best efforts to comply with what is required of them, but, ultimately, they feel that nothing is enough. Defensively, they set themselves apart and emotionally disconnect from the gloomier and more conflictive dimensions of working in the organization, which hinders their ability to make effective changes and transformations. In this context, organizational reality is reduced to what appears to be obvious, and, thus, to unconsciously select the “data” linked to their predominant unconscious fantasies (Sievers, 2006). This leads us to conclude that institutional abuse is sealed in a collective collusion where individuals, in their forced inability to think, allow themselves to participate resignedly in the hospital’s official reality. Paradoxically, such involvement means that hospital staff are active victims of the conditions that generate institutional abuse, and that inflict upon them such painful suffering.

Miasma and the inconsolable organization Institutional abuse, as described by hospital professionals, is related to a state of collective sorrow that constantly permeates the organization as a whole. The workers’ mood is tainted with an indelible melancholy that goes beyond specific situations or factors that could justify this emotional state as temporary dynamics. We believe that such grief responds to the hospital’s endogenous conditions, which hinder the recognition of organizational losses and do not allow anyone to undergo the healing process of mourning. Gabriel (2008) examines the phenomenon of organizational miasma, which corresponds to a contagious emotional pollution that takes over institutional life when organizations suffer traumatic processes of transition. These processes have the characteristic of turning all material or symbolic traces of the past into something unworthy, denigrating it, while they magnify, exalt, and idealize the future. This way of handling transitions means that everything representing the past is seen and understood as the cause of deteri-



oration, decadence, and as an obstacle that obstructs the organization from advancing towards success and progress. This leads to the need to perform an “organizational cleansing” which contemplates erasing all legacy and presence of the physical, structural, and managerial old order. This purge of the past also includes workers considered incapable of adding value to organizational success. This “cleansing” is done in a brutal and totally dehumanized manner, through radical and drastic decisions, humiliations, moral violence, abuse, and totalitarianism, without leaving any possibility for the victims to voice their dissent, to fight against such treatment, and, thus, be able to process their afflictions. The brutality of the “cleansing” taints organizational life with primitive anxieties and persecutory fantasies that pollute work relations through the threat that these purifying waves might also be extended to new victims. Purification has the tragic quality of not being able to eliminate the factors that block an organization’s progress, which leads to the persistence and intensification of cleansing measures. People feel that their ability to withstand these measures has been obliterated. It is as if the fighting spirit was paralysed by internalizing the status of not being valued, of being considered “disposable” resources, and, thus, succumbing to depression. Individuals’ debasement translates into moral violence that undermines their spiritual strength, accentuating feelings of decadence. In line with Gabriel’s approach to organizational miasma, Stein (2008) develops the concept of inconsolable organization, which supports the view that traumatic transition processes experienced by some corporations are favourable to the development of organizational miasma and its dramatic and disastrous effects on work communities. Stein claims that at the base of miasma lies a profound state of pain that is associated to intolerable losses and disappointments, causing an existential despair that is practically irreparable. The successive traumatic events presented in this kind of transition devastate workers’ psychological resources, leaving them swamped by feelings of unworthiness and degradation. The lack of proper conditions for containment and mourning of this deep suffering accentuates the inconsolable atmosphere that permeates the whole organization. Both Gabriel and Stein’s concepts find a strong echo in the depressive atmosphere that permeates the geriatric hospital. This



atmosphere seems to reproduce the continuous experiences of loss and the inability to mourn that are constantly suffered. The hospital’s primary task is the care and treatment of elderly people who are sick, and this inevitably contaminates organizational life with the imminent shadow of physical and mental deterioration, and, thereby, of death. Death becomes an extremely difficult experience to be thought about and managed by the institution, which dismantles every containment system. On the other hand, as a public institution, this hospital attends to patients who are highly vulnerable and unprotected in social and economic terms. Many of them have been abandoned by their families, which connects death with deep deprivation and pain. Professionals working at the hospital are quite affected by this reality, although it is strongly resisted and neglected. Both in its symbolic and material aspects, the hospital’s historical–cultural background transmits to the present a profound history of loss and pain. The hospital was created on the closing of the old Santiago Hospice, a large institution that was dismantled in the late 1960s. When it functioned as a hospice, the organization gave shelter to and harboured those fulfilling the double condition of being poor or indigent, and also presenting marked physical or mental deficits. The sudden closing of the hospice, followed by the separation of its patients and their subsequent transfers to various hospitals under the control of the Ministry of Health, marked an institutional break of huge proportions. The displacement of a significant contingent of patients to the current hospital premises constituted a fundamental landmark for the institution. This transition was carried out in a brutal and inhumane manner, consolidating the hospital as a warehouse for the elderly with a history of rejection and abandonment. Notwithstanding, this also generated the basis of what is now the main geriatric rehabilitation centre in our country. Consequently, even though in the past two decades the hospital has attempted to leave behind its asylum history, the constant threat of actualizing some of its dynamics is ever present. In the modernizing transition, the hospital has set ambitious strategic objectives, introducing sophisticated methods of geriatric care. The hospital is now focused on the future, on organizational efficiency, and on achieving objectives related to continued growth and



progress. However, behind this façade of success, it loses sight of the profound contradictions that workers face on a daily basis, which remind them that the task of rehabilitation must coexist, in a covert way, with the one of providing elderly people with “a place for a good death”. Thus, in order to comply with ministerial targets regarding the number of patients seen, terminal patients are often admitted, which disorganizes and excessively overloads the healthcare system. In this context, confusion is accentuated, the work focus on rehabilitation becomes blurred, and contact with deterioration, death, and despair gets worse. The fear of transforming the hospital into an asylum that handles the process of dying becomes a looming reality (Sanfuentes & Acuña, 2010). In the same vein, the building that houses the hospital was built in the nineteenth century, and its precarious infrastructure militates against the function of providing health care to the sick elderly population. The fact that the building and its facilities are so ancient is a daily reminder of the hospital’s past, where, for many years, the inmates were subjected to a custody regime that had little or nothing to offer in the sense of clinical treatment of the elderly. The harshness of reality means that the hospital as a whole turns its back on the past, unable to admit the horrors it represents or to learn from them. On the contrary, the institution seems to be concentrated on organizational cleansing that is implemented by imposing excessive demands on workers’ roles, through which it is assumed that a promising, idealized future will be reached.

Suffering and the banality of evil Dejours (2009) considers that the practice of new management methods within the framework of neo-liberal ideology has weakened and deteriorated working conditions, thus causing extreme suffering to workers. Work intensification, close and controlling supervision, demands for total quality service, sanctions and demerits, dismissals and massive staff redundancies, among others, lie at the bottom of this precariousness, which forces workers meekly to organize their efforts to contribute to the survival of the enterprise. Dejours draws the notion of the banality of evil from Arendt’s postulates to describe the psychodynamics that characterize the



world of contemporary work (Arendt, 1995, 2008). From this perspective, the banality of evil is understood as a collective reaction that overrides, removes, or cancels the ability to think and form a moral judgement on precarious labour and on how it damages people and society. Banality may also be distinguished by the strength it has to empower an anonymous contribution to the state of suffering, either by tolerating the occurrence of evil, remaining indifferent to the pain of others, or through actions that may harm them. The banality of evil is a defence that protects individuals from the painful awareness of their complicity and responsibility regarding social unhappiness. Applied to the reality of the geriatrics hospital, Dejours’s ideas help to understand how work oppression damages collaboration among workers, thus giving rise to individualistic performances that encourage rivalry, competition, loneliness, and restricted purpose. By fostering a working atmosphere that minimizes and neglects the impact of the hospital’s toxicity, the banality of evil contributes to regarding harsh working conditions as something trivial and normal. The trivialization of these conditions demands a stoic and submissive tolerance, which inhibits staff from showing vulnerability to the harshness of the work. To show that they are distraught or ill exposes staff to the risk of being identified as weak, which would imply not having the required strength for their post. Turning this into something trivial generates indifference to the suffering of others, corrupts compassion, and damages solidarity among the various hospital health workers, while suffering becomes an essentially individual matter. The robustness of the banality of evil was particularly evident for the authors of this paper when, in the course of the interventions contemplated by the action research at the hospital, it was possible to observe how health professionals felt restrained with respect to the possibility of generating changes in the conditions that caused burn-out in the labour environment. During and after the interventions, professionals achieved a momentary clarity regarding the complexity of the institution’s working conditions and the need to implement some improvement actions. However, such lucidity faded away due to the paralysing effects of the hospital’s way of functioning. Individuals’ emancipatory actions succumbed to a demoralized human atmosphere that severed any attempt of trans-



forming the institutional order, bringing back the banality of evil in full force.

The professional vocation as institutional cement The wide gaps occurring from the existing asymmetry between a weakened health-care offer and an increasing demand are continually bridged by the health professionals who are in direct contact with patients. The lack of human and material resources forces professionals to double their efforts in trying to meet patients’ health-care requirements, thus shoring up the structural deficiencies of the hospital system. Some of the “excessive” responses made by health-care providers include: solving the serious imbalance between scheduled and real time required by health-care services by giving patients additional dedication and commitment, in order to provide a minimally dignified and effective service; having to extend their working day without economic compensation due to the strong pressures that the system exerts on health workers, or else, taking on extra shifts or other functions in addition to their main role; having to go to the hospital over the weekend; feeling obliged to work while sick; making personal expenditure to purchase needed resources, to avoid worse conflicts. Many of these actions are carried out under a significant lack of recognition of the system. Instead of valuing their efforts, professionals perceive a system that intensifies its demands and penalizes those who do not subject themselves to this culture of excess that is necessary to overcome the existing deficits. Any deviation from this implied rule is strongly penalized. The institution’s lack of recognition is further replicated in the abusive relationship that clients establish with them. In face of this abuse, workers feel unprotected by their superiors, which strengthens a persecutory emotional climate, to the detriment of the functionality of the service. If, to this situation, we add the particularity that one of the major sources of gratification that these professionals obtain from their work lies in the close contact established with patients and their recovery process, we see that professionals are trapped in a system that seems to favour other valuation measures above the quality of care services. Although the quality of the service



provided is crucial for the institution, insisting on compliance with quantitative factors linked to the number of health services delivered is much more effective as a control mechanism. Accordingly, responsibility for meeting the quality standards resides in health professionals, who try to cover institutional gaps by heroically devoting themselves to their job with limited resources. Many times such heroic performance ends up by annihilating professionals’ capabilities by burning themselves out in an effort to reach idealized goals (Sanfuentes, 2010). When the life of another individual is at stake, it is very difficult to set limits to the role. The system, of course, profits from this phenomenon. Therefore, professionals’ vocation to serve others becomes the cement that reduces the magnitude of the system’s fissures, although often making them pay a high cost in terms of their mental and physical health, which finally impairs the effectiveness of the system as a whole. The feeling that it is necessary to perform efficiently at all costs ends up by establishing it as a standard that diminishes the morale of the institution and its ability to modify its working environment. In this context, patients’ and their families’ appreciation turns into a magic elixir that, albeit rewarding a job well done, also constitutes an antidote that precariously compensates for the enormous difficulties faced on a daily basis. In this transmission of gratitude, health professionals become imprisoned by narcissistic incentives that then become indispensable to operating in an environment that systematically refuses to value their work. In this way, the ephemeral sparks of gratitude that illuminate the darkness of the institutional space constitute a remedy that seems to heal everything. However, what is established as a consolation prize that is essential for the professionals’ emotional balance—and which, in turn, helps to keep the system in operation—ends up being a privileged source of institutional abuse. Everyone contributes to this lugubrious melody by blindly attempting to give their absolute best.

Final comments We conclude this chapter by proposing a brief discussion that aims to devise some strategies for limiting the operation of dynamics



that contribute to the generation of institutional abuse, so that health-care providers can enjoy healthier and more effective working conditions. Our proposal considers the implementation of reflective spaces at the hospital where health-care teams can share and think about work experiences. The harsh and painful reality faced by these workers demands the generation of containment spaces that help to metabolize the experiences of loss that are so common in the task of caring for elderly people. This proposal stems from what the same professionals that took part in the action research manifested throughout the process. They constantly asked for the existence of “catharsis spaces” at the hospital to help offset facing a quite demanding and stressful workday. We think that, rather than catharsis, it is very important to generate reflective contexts that enable the co-ordination of very complex work roles. This proposal also finds support in the studies on miasma and inconsolable organization. They stress the curative role of empathic containment with respect to countless experiences of loss that have been violently suppressed through the years (Gabriel, 2008; Stein, 2008). We think that such containment might allow the metabolization, in a better way, of both the complex institutional present and the gloomy and traumatic past, in order to create a spiritual renovation that would strengthen health-care providers to face new working challenges. Certainly, the development of these reflective spaces demands support from hospital’s management. Nevertheless, we consider that the effects of the institutional abuse on the organizational life as a whole are so pernicious that they really require to be counteracted.

References Acuña, E., & Sanfuentes, M. (2009). Notas manuscritas del análisis de roles realizado en grupo de profesionales clínicos del Instituto Nacional de Geriatría (ING). No publicado; Proyecto FONIS SA08120028. Arendt, H. (1995). El pensar y las reflexiones morales. In: De la historia a la acción. Barcelona: Paidos. Arendt, H. (2008). Eichmann en Jerusalén. Barcelona: Plaza. Bain, A. (1999). On socio-analysis. Socio-Analysis, 1(1): 1–17.



Bion, W. (1962). Learning from Experience. London: Karnac. Dejours, C. (2009). Trabajo y Sufrimiento, cuando la justicia se hace banal. Editorial Modus Laborandi, S.L. Energici, A., Ramírez, R., & Román, J. A. (2010). Informe resultados cualitativos proyecto Análisis del Rol Organizacional y Burnout, Instituto nacional de Geriatría. Fondo Nacional de Investigaciones en Salud, Gobierno de Chile; Proyecto SA08120028. Espinoza, I., & Orellana, M. ( 2009). Análisis sistema socio-técnico Instituto Nacional de Geriatría Eduardo Frei Montalva. Seminario para optar al título de Ingeniero Comercial, Faculta de Economía y Negocios, Universidad de Chile. Gabriel, Y. (2008). Organizational miasma, purification and cleansing. In: A. Ahlers-Niemann, B. Sievers, R. Redding Mersky, & U. Bremer (Eds.), The Normal Madness in Organizations: Socioanalytic Thoughts and Interventions (pp. 53–73). Dusseldorf: EHP. Gonzáles, J., & Rojas, N. (2009). Estudio Exploratorio de la Historia del Instituto Nacional de Geriatría Eduardo Frei Montalva. Seminario para optar al título de Ingeniero Comercial. Facultad de Economía y Negocios, Universidad de Chile. Méndez, C. (2009). Implementación de la reforma de la salud en Chile: percepción de los actores de la red asistencial de la región metropolitana. Tesis para optar al grado de Magíster en Salud Pública. Escuela de Salud Pública, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad de Chile. Pulido, R., & Ibarra, S. (2010). Informe resultados cuantitativos proyecto análisis del rol organizacional y burnout, Instituto nacional de Geriatría. Fondo Nacional de Investigaciones en Salud, Gobierno de Chile; Proyecto SA08120028. Sanfuentes, M. (2010). Narzissmus oder Sozial-ismus? Eine psychoanalytische Exploration der Dynamiken des Heroismus in Einrichtungen des öffentlichen Gesundheitswesens. Freie Assoziation. Sanfuentes, M., & Acuña, E. (2010). “The castaways of life”: a socioanalytic study on the function of memory and oblivion in a geriatric hospital’s intergenerational matrix. Paper presented to the 27th ISPSO Annual Meeting, Elsinore, Denmark. Sievers, B. (1999). Psychotic organizations as metaphoric frame for the socio-analysis of organizational and interorganizational dynamics. Administration & Society, 31(5): 588–615. Sievers, B. (2000). Competition as war: towards a socio-analysis of war in and among corporations. Socio-Analysis, 2(1): 1–27.



Sievers, B. (2006). The psychotic organization: a socio-analytic perspective. Ephemera, 6(2): 104–120. Sievers, B. (2007). It is new, and it has to be done! Socio-analytic thoughts on betrayal and cynicism in organizational transformation. Culture & Organization, 13(1): 1–21. Sievers, B. (2008a). La organización psicótica: una perspective socioanalítica. In: R. Carvajal (Ed.), Gestión Crítica Alternativa. Universidad del Valle, Colombia: Colección Nuevo Pensamiento Administrativo. Facultad de Ciencias de la Administración. Sievers, B. (2008b). Contra toda razón: confiando en la confianza. In: R. Carvajal (Ed.), Gestión Crítica Alternativa. Colección Nuevo Pensamiento Administrativo . Facultad de Ciencias de la Administración, Universidad del Valle, Cali, Colombia. Stein, H. (2008). Traumatic change and the inconsolable organization. In: A. Ahlers-Niemann, B. Sievers, R. Redding Mersky, & U. Bremer (Eds.), The Normal Madness in Organizations: Socioanalytic Thoughts and Interventions. Dusseldorf: EHP.


Is recognition a prerequisite for citizenship for managers? Maryse Dubouloy


ociologists and psycho-sociologists have warned us that the contemporary individual suffers from a lack of recognition. We were, therefore, not surprised when these ideas turned out be recurrent themes in the interviews we performed to understand the notion of “difficulty” experienced by French1 business managers that is so often used and so little defined. It became clear to us that this was not a marginal demand on the part of workers. On the contrary, recognition appears to be a decisive factor in the process of subjective mobilization of intelligence and personality in the workplace (in classical psychology the term is work motivation). [Dejours, 1998, p. 40]

This recognition is, thus, both a challenge and an essential dynamic for the individual and the organization. It quickly becomes apparent that this lack of recognition is the source of real suffering, resulting from solitude, feelings of powerlessness, and progressive withdrawal into the self. It ends with their disengagement from the business as well as the larger world. In fact, it seems as though most executives we met were in a state of profound dependence on the 131



gaze of the other on both their work and themselves. It seems that most people interviewed (note that, for this study, we met only with executives who self-identified as being in difficulty) do not work in environments that give them access to the process of recognition necessary to achieve self-recognition and then go beyond that to become “social subjects” and reflexive citizens. The “social subject” is the result of a subjectivation process. It can be defined as desiring subjects aware of themselves and others, who take responsibility for themselves and others, and are able to influence their own life, the lives of others, of organizations, and of society. This chapter proposes to chart the movement from a lack of recognition to self-withdrawal, to renunciation of behaving as a citizen and influencing their own destiny. It intends to discern why it is so difficult to find meaning in professional life, to identify how the bonds with others and the company become looser and looser. The question at issue is also how to listen to and understand the feelings of solitude, insecurity, nonsense, and powerlessness of those executives. Many “difficulties” can turn into tragedies with serious consequences, such as layoffs, professional exhaustion, depression, and even suicide (the French press has covered many of the dozens of workplace suicides that can happen even within a single company) (du Roy, 2009; Moreira & Prolongeau, 2009).

Part I: some concepts Hypermodernity: a society of disaffiliated individuals Before getting to the heart of the matter, which is business managers’ unmet demands for recognition and their difficulty finding a place as social subjects, it seems necessary to make a brief detour into a discussion of hypermodernity. Hypermodernity stresses the excesses, exacerbation, and radicalization of modernity (Aubert, 2004). If modernity announced the advent of the modern subject, autonomous and responsible for his thoughts and actions and obligated to account for them before mankind (Kant, 1982), postmodernity and now hypermodernity have made him into a disaffiliated individualist (Gauchet, 1985; Lipovetski, 1983). Organizations and structures are weakened. The political order that oversaw the life of cities gives way to an economic order. Where institutions once



governed relationships, the individual is now forced to rely only on himself, creating profound insecurities. Where there were once citizens, there are now economic agents. Hypermodernity has changed autonomy from an ideal to be achieved to an imperative (Ehrenberg, 1998). Losing sight of its primary meaning, autonomy is often referred to as the absence of restrictions, as opportunism. Lasting and solid relationships happen only rarely. Solidarity disappears in favour of an ever larger social network. In this “society of individuals” (Elias, 1991), a relationship with the other can even become the exploitation of the other for personal gain. This corresponds to the mythical aspects of the “self-made man/woman”, an idea which encourages the individual to become a solitary hero. The quest for identity becomes auto-proclamation, self-affirmation (even self-exploitation), and narcissistic regression. And yet, the society of excess is also a society of lack, in which we find many “individuals by default”, to use Castel’s term (Castel, 2004). By this, we mean those people who lack the resources to find their place in a hypermodern society where only heroes—the winners—seem to belong. These are the kinds of people we encountered during our research; people who wear themselves out in efforts that are always insufficient and unsatisfying because the myth of excellence that has taken hold in the business world is constantly pushing the limits of performance expectations. We met people who are looking for recognition of their effort rather than their results; to be evaluated for the depth of their contribution, when the business had eyes only for its results; who asked for security and stability while the business moved from crisis to crisis, constantly carrying out “right size” restructuring. (This corporate euphemism is roughly equivalent to the French sauvegarde d’emploi (“employee safeguard”), and both illustrate the slight schizophrenia corporations use in finding names for layoffs during difficult periods.) Finding themselves somewhere between self-made men/ women and insufficient individuals, many employees oscillate between omnipotence and feelings of powerlessness.

Citizenship: a creative utopia The kind of citizenship discussed here is not corporate citizenship (OCB), an idea that has become popular in the business world, and



which has taken root in phrases like “extra-job” or “beyond the job requirements” or “not leading to system rewards”. Citizenship understood in this way is a concept similar to work engagement, which is defined as a positive, fulfilling, work-related state of mind that is characterized by vigor, dedication, and absorption (Chughtai & Buckley, 2008). Citizenship, as it is understood in this article, makes references to a certain kind of social bond. It allows individuals to feel as though they are members of a community, linked to others by bonds of solidarity. Citizens define themselves by the fact that they have a shared common project and by their work towards its realization. Citizenship is inclusive rather than exclusive. All citizens can, thus, feel protected by legal authority to the extent that they respect and enforce respect for the existing laws and codes of conduct. Maintaining feelings of citizenship in the hypermodern society defined above is a profound challenge. Democratic individualism nullifies the classical vision of citizenship. For Schnapper (2004), however, the idea of citizenship still conjures a kind of creative utopia for individuals who can mobilize around “a certain number of concrete realities, shared values and interests that justify the inevitable constraints of collective living, and the membership to external action of individuals who are willing to belong to an institution”. Pure engagement requires enormous energy and courage, not to mention temerity and even naïvety. To be effective, personal engagement must be paired with collective action. Beyond individuals, it must work to make members of a social system. Citizenship, thus, requires that individuals ask themselves the questions that will allow them to put their place in society into perspective. In this way, reflexivity is foundational to both engagement and citizenship.

Reflexivity: an impossible command “Let us endeavor to think well, this is the principle of morality” (Pascal, 1960, p. 347). We must develop a critical thinking through controversy within a constructive perspective, an open and ecological criticism that exists in relationship with the social setting and people for whom it is used (Janse van Rensburg, 1995). Critical thinking is, above all, self-knowledge, the ability to look inward, to



put the individual into perspective (Dubouloy & Harribey, 2008). It is the ability to be both inside and outside simultaneously (Levine, 2002). We must be able to contextualize and relativize our own experience (Crociani Windland, 2003). The question at issue is reflexivity. If antiquity’s command to “know thyself” was once thought of as a recommendation or an ideal, it has become an imperative in business. And yet, at the same time, we observe the paradox that managers have difficulty developing critical thought and reflexivity. They live under the dictates of immediate responsiveness, results, and performance. Critical thinking requires doubt and takes time, two ideas which are unacceptable in business. It is necessary to free oneself from the influence of company in order to be able to think about the world.

The dynamics of recognition: love/law/solidarity It is within this context of individual exacerbation and disintegrated social bonds that Honneth proposes a model for recognition (Honneth, 2000). Individuals define themselves by intersubjective bonds that open them towards, and integrate them with, their surrounding environment. In this way, recognition takes three different forms successively, each built on three different social bonds and each applied to three different “objects” of recognition—the individual, the person, and the subject. The first form of recognition is the “love” that the individual as holder of practical needs receives from his/her family within the framework of affective relationships. The second form is from the law, from civil society, where the individual is recognized as an abstract and legally autonomous person within the framework of formal legal relationships. These relationships are of a cognitive and rational type. The last mode is from political life, where the individual is recognized as a “unique, social subject” (Table 1). This designation depends on the individual’s ability to integrate his/her emotions into his/her cognitive life. This relationship is defined by bonds of solidarity with people who are both the same and different (i.e., the recognition of alterity). These modalities of recognition are more and more demanding from the first level of personal concern to social esteem. And yet, they are more difficult than ever to implement in the field of civil society (especially companies), where bonds are both numerous and loose.

136 Table 1. 2000).


From The Structure of Relationships of Social Recognition (Honneth,

Object of recognition




Personal concern






Civil society

The State

Mode of recognition

Love, friendship

Rights and law


Relationship to self




Relationship to others





Feeling of being

Feeling of solitude


This idea of a trajectory and progression of recognition is also found in the approach outlined by Ricoeur (2004). Recognition is first made through identification with the other; the individual can then recognize themselves (discover their ipséité, their capacity to say “I”, their responsibilities) before being ready to attempt mutual recognition.

Winnicott, the other’s gaze at the origins of self-recognition and the discovery of the outside world (me–not-me objects) Winnicott is the psychoanalyst who most clearly identified that the mother’s recognition of her child is foundational to the formation and development of autonomy of the individual (Winnicott, 1971). Recognition by another is essential for self-recognition. The mother’s gaze towards her child allows the child to detach him/ herself from his/her mother and recognize him/herself as a separate individual. The mother’s gaze acts as the first mirror to reflect to the small child the states of his/her mind. Once again, the process of self-recognition and the discovery of the outside world happens in three stages: the infant is recognized by his/her mother; then he/she recognizes himself (Me), first through his/her mother, and then independently from her (Not-Me); finally, he/she recognizes the other and the external world.



The “good-enough mother”, when the moment arrives, must encourage and help the child lose his illusions of omnipotence. She must frustrate him/her and must guide him/her towards a confrontation with reality. This happens in the “transitional space”. The preliminary care she has given him/her has created a sense of ontological security that allows the child to weather this forsaking and to move in stages from dependence to a state of interdependence. When children do not encounter the empathy that is essential to their maturation, if their mother is not “good enough”, children remain subjected to the demands of their surroundings. They do not have the feeling that they can act on them. They introject the behaviours that seem to be expected of them rather than identifying with them (Winnicott, 1965). As adults, they develop a specific defence mechanism for situations they perceive as threatening: a false-self designed to protect the vulnerable true-self, which is thought to be undesirable by others. Showing their real personality, sharing their real desires, would be too dangerous. The false-self is based on subjection to, and dependence on, an external environment in which the individual does not succeed, never obtains what he/she needs, and which he/she is unable to master. The false-self goes beyond the kinds of obedience and compromise necessary for healthy socialization. It forces the individual towards conformity with a behavioural norm that he perceives as desirable in the eyes of others, on whom he is dependent. He must satisfy others, please them, obtain from them the feelings of security he requires to live. And many managers experience this kind of identification with their company’s model. The expected behaviours and the skills required for success within the business not only become their reference points, but exclude other reference points, which cease to have value in their eyes (Dubouloy, 2004).

Part II: Analysis of interviews Two short portraits of managers in difficulty and struggling for recognition Max is just laid off after twelve years of employment with an international electronic components company. Straightaway, he tells us his “biggest difficulty was trying to make coherent sense of the



difference between management lingo and reality on the ground . . . between what the stockholders wanted and what we were reasonably able to accomplish, especially given our means; so we were working under three very different parameters”. On many occasions, Max chose to accept jobs that were offered to him by his manager but that did not yet exist officially. “By taking on a job, even it does not exist yet, it will be obvious when we will need a key account . . . they will say, ‘Max is already managing that, so it makes sense to give him the job.’” In this way, after taking salesman jobs that covered larger and larger areas, he became chief of sales for the Rhone-Alpes region, a position with managerial responsibilities. “I was a stake holder and I played the game.” The French head office is in the North of France. He has never been given any office and works from his home. He is very isolated from his peers, his colleagues, and his hierarchy. His experience let him say that his company is run according the theory of the swimming pool: “I push you in the swimming pool; you cannot swim, you sink; you almost can swim, you can get out of trouble; if you request my aid, I will see if I help you or not; it depends on my interest if I do it or not”. At the same time, he says that he appreciates that they do not dictate any plan: “I feel freer and I can make my own choices.” After a period of significant growth, the business begins to encounter difficulties; the executive team and the business strategy change. Given the circumstances, Max invents “the theory of give them some pieces of fat”. This means sacrificing some members of the team to keep up with the new budget cuts. He expresses this barbarian idea in a rather confused way: “They’re going to break up the structure that’s in place; they’re going to break up your team. So if you want to protect your team, or at least the most valuable parts of it, you will have to throw them some pieces of fat . . . you have to make sacrifices . . . In fact, it could be me.” At the same time, he realizes that he should have invested in “high-potential guys”. Some time later, he is “unofficially” asked to refocus on sales and abandon his managerial responsibilities. When the company reorganizes by merging two regions, he is blamed for that and is laid off, along with his manager. Vincent has been a pre-sales and installation consultant in a multi-national company for years. He lives in France, near the Swiss border, and was recruited to this position in a very informal



manner: “There’s a position opening up in Switzerland. Are you interested? You’ve got until 4 pm today to give me your salary expectations, and if you have any questions, you can call me up and ask me.” He did not meet with anyone and received an employment contract via e-mail. When questioned about his contract, he said that he was not familiar with it. When he arrived, he was given a computer, “and then just got on with it. Nobody forced me to come to the office.” He describes himself as free and independent. The organization’s complexity enables him to “play the system”. He lives in France, works on contracts throughout Europe, reports to a Northern Europe manager whom he has never met, and is supervised by a manager in Switzerland who communicates with him via e-mail. He attends meetings with the management team only once per quarter, when the team takes the opportunity to talk about “figures, trends, and results”. His contract with the company involves meeting his targets, and he states that this suits him very well, because, as he repeats several times, he needs “to live without constraints” and asks for nothing more. This equilibrium was shattered the day the company was reorganized. Returning from holiday, he found that “they had reorganized, moving me into another unit where I was still doing the same work, but overnight my goals had ceased to be valid, but I didn’t realize that immediately.” He began to feel under threat. He was invited to a meeting with his “new manager”, whom he had never met, even though the manager had been in the position for a year. The manager “presented a nice PowerPoint to the team, featuring a photo of the team members—but I wasn’t on the staff chart. I said nothing.” Feeling that he no longer existed within his company’s structure, Vincent felt himself to be truly struggling. He then struggled to forge new links with colleagues who had previously been of no account to him.

The recruiting process: a fleeting moment of “non-encounter” As we saw with Max and Vincent, managerial difficulties often begin with a hasty hiring process. This can be seen as an effect of hypermodernity, where the instantaneous and urgent concerns take priority (Aubert, 2003), circumscribing the maturation time neces-



sary for important decisions. “My boss called me one Friday afternoon to say ‘I’m leaving!’ and on Monday he was gone. We had barely half a day with the various files to pass on information, and on Monday morning I was in the job” (Paul). This recruiting process more closely resembles impulsive acting out than the kind of mature, considered decision necessary to allow for full reflection from all parties. Although there are many recruiting methods, all are characterized by an absence of dialogue. In time, this can develop into the kind of misunderstandings described by Derrick: ‘’I signed a blank cheque. I said, ‘Yes, OK, I’ll do it,’ but as things went on and time passed, it became clear that what I was setting up within my sector did not correspond to what the owners wanted” (Derrick). What could this psychic deafness mean? Each partner in the recruiting process seems to be isolated in his own logic without really trying to explore the expectations and points of view of the other. Narcissistic issues play an important role in this process. Often, the executive recruiting processes that ultimately lead to workplace difficulties look more like seductions than like an authentic dialogue in which the stakeholders really try to discover each other. Applicant managers seek immediate recognition by the other, and attempt to hide themselves because they have doubt about themselves. “‘Will I make it? Will I not make it? How am I going to manage if I’ve never done anything like this before?’ We all have these kinds of questions when we take on an assignment. ‘Am I going to make it to the top?’” (Derrick). Often, applicant managers worry more about themselves, what people think of them, and the image they project than about the people they are going to work with and the role they will play. These omissions are not simply due to complexities of the business structures, of the jobs to fill, and the difficulty of projecting oneself on to an unknown situation. These applicant managers are trying to stick to a mythical manager, to embody an image that they think will be appealing to the other, rather than making themselves known through their difference. Their false self is really on stage (Dubouloy, 2004). To use Honneth’s model again, we could say that in these cases it is actually the need for recognition which is at stake for the applicant managers. The applicant manager is looking for recognition in order to meet his basic material needs. Affective concerns are also



very important. To be recruited allows the (re)building of self-confidence. Thus, Vincent says that he associated his new job with: “a salary, allowances for a car, social security benefits, holidays— things like that. I was in a structure. I took this job as a form of security” (Vincent). These applicant managers are reminiscent of the small child who still needs his mother’s gaze and care to feel safe (Winnicott, 1971). Can the workplace be the “transitional space” that will allow them to confront the world and become “social subjects”? There is no trace of reflexive citizenship in the recruiting process. In fact, this “non-encounter”, the “unsaid”, are the origin of many illusions and disillusions, as well as future sufferings.

Max, or the dangers of becoming trapped in a dual and nonreflexive relationship It is interesting to return to the idea of a “game”, which is so often cited by many struggling managers. Their stories demonstrate that this “game” does not contain the kind of creative play described by Winnicott, which allows the subject to discover the world and then act on the world in a way that transforms it (Winnicott, 1986). Rather, this kind of game is about finding low-stake ways to break the rules of the “organizational system”. It is a game with winners and losers, as Max explains to us. What about the rules of this game, the rules that define and regulate the relationship to the other? If they exist, Max’s situation proves that his manager is the first to break them. It is no wonder that Max cannot make sense of his situation, since his manager has muddled the issues. He is fooling himself when he says, “I am a stakeholder, I play the game . . . we had common interests” (Max). He never asks himself about the nature of these interests. His lack of reflexivity prevents him from realizing that he is talking about the interests of his manager, not those of the community or the company, that he has become hostage to a manager who is using him. His need for recognition puts him in a dependent state that ultimately gets him laid off. He has no way of understanding this. “I never imagined that after twelve years at a company, after completing projects, doing lots of things that gave the right results, I never imagined they would change tacks without me, and that



was my big error” (Max). He is mistaken again: that is not where he made his error. As he says himself, he should have established more bonds, he should have taken more interest in his colleagues, in the company, “made alliances with high-potential managers . . . built a network, find support . . . built up some resistance.” He should have resisted his manager, who forbade him from thinking: “I’m the strategy guy, the brain of the operation. You don’t have to think about it” (Max). Thus, he is never able to act on the information he gets from other sources, like the decline in turnover and the arrival of new leaders, that allowed him to predict a reorganization. And the transformation of thought into action is essential to the process of subjectivization (Cahn, 2006). He still does not examine his dependent relationship with his manager: “Yeah, I had felt it coming; but the hard thing was: what could I do to influence anything? How could I protect myself? How could I get out while the going was good? My position was too far from where the decisions were being made to get myself orientated. The room for manoeuvre was very narrow and I had a regional manager who did not want to take risks and he got the axe . . . and I got it with him . . . it’s no big deal, but we both got the axe” (Max). He perceives that the real danger is his manager, but he is not able to take action because he is a literal prisoner to the relationship. That is why he invents his theory about “the pieces of fat” when the situation becomes dire. He throws meat to “wolfish” stockholders by presenting them with underperforming colleagues from his own department. However, as he feels unconscious guilt, he is ready to be the first one—”In fact, it could be me.” A man who had stopped permitting himself to think proposed a theory (which we can be sure was implemented by his manager or someone else). Is this a fantasy? A nightmare? An exorcism? For Max, business is not a space for creative imagination; it is a destructive nightmare. Vincent also told us that he plays with the system. However, he immediately recognizes that he has misread the game and the rules. His game resembles a kind of regression, a withdrawal into himself, a defence mechanism that allows him to repress his distress over the opacity of the system. His comments sound more like boasting than an assertion of the pleasures of being autonomous. The analysis of these interview fragments confirms the dangers of giving up reflexive capacities. It also shows why it is necessary



to go beyond relationships of recognition between individuals and towards bonds of alterity to resume the dynamics of the construction of the self outlined by Ricoeur (2004); it is necessary to end the narcissistic quest and open oneself towards society. To again use Honneth’s terms, we must recognize the existence of a society where relationships are also founded on law and rights, not only on the satisfaction of personal needs. As Honneth makes clear, this kind of recognition is more difficult than closed, dual relationships, but, finally, it is also less dangerous. The effort demanded is, in Bauman’s words, all the more great because of the absence of frameworks, rules, and limitations is characteristic of the contemporary “liquid” society (Bauman, 2006).

Vincent: when a relationship to the other prevents narcissistic breakdown Many managers seem to adjust to their vague contract agreements, even if they vigorously denounce the responsibility of their employer. In fact, this vagueness allows Max and Vincent to maintain the illusion that they have control over their situation, that they are autonomous. Vincent works for a company that can be classified as hypermodern: a complex organization with multiple dependent hierarchies, at the cutting edge of the global and boundaryless market, a place where communication happens primarily through new technologies. He receives his assignments and feedback through e-mail and on Excel spreadsheets. He works from home, and meets with clients throughout Europe. He meets with his colleagues and manager once every three months in Switzerland. He enjoys the atmosphere at these meetings. He has little interest in the company he works for, and does not know about its organization, sales, capital accumulation, or the reasons for its frequent reorganization. During the whole first part of the interview, Vincent tries to show us that he is a free electron and that this suits him perfectly because he has always hated external constraints. “There is no requirement that I go into the office; no one is going to make me go into the office unless there is a meeting. I haven’t set foot in the office for almost three weeks . . . Honestly, I’m a little lost in all this . . . I’ve lost my bearings. I play . . . you have to play, I learn to play the system . . .



I’m not responsible for it, I play with it. I’m a little tired of it all. . . . They don’t have time to look after us . . . I almost feel spied on” (Vincent). He very quickly becomes ambivalent. He seems to enjoy the situation, but he is also anxious. As he said before, he does not understand. His Excel spreadsheets do not reflect his actual work with clients. His work is increasingly lacking in content. He has a harder and harder time identifying himself with his work. He does not feel appreciated. His universe has become almost Orwellian. His company is no longer a mirror for him; instead, it contributes to his feelings of splitting. His feeling of security is becoming more and more fragile. His protective cocoon tears at the meeting where his name does not appear on his team’s organizational chart. He goes into a state of shock that renders him speechless. One of his colleagues points out that Vincent is not on the chart. In retrospect, Vincent has an alibi for his silence. “I have goals. I don’t want people to talk about me. If people talk about me, that’s going to come back to haunt me” (Vincent). Later on, however, he does add, “it’s a big blow to your ego.” He finds this new awareness very painful: “There was a feeling of being an ID number, like I was part of a big machine—‘Welcome to the Matrix’” (Vincent). He feels he no longer exists as a person. He realizes that he is very much alone: “I’m really isolated. The other guys don’t really understand when I ask questions; they don’t really understand what I’m connected to, how I work . . .” (Vincent). To slowly rebuild a connection to others, Vincent decides to abandon the representation of himself as a free and autonomous individual. He over-invests in work. Like many people in this kind of situation, Vincent takes refuge in his skills, in his work, that he believes strengthens his ties to his organization. “My skill-set protects me,” he says. However, when his hard work allows him to win a big contract, he does not receive any kind of bonus. A salesman who has received a large amount of money recognized the inanity of the situation and suggests that Vincent invites a guest and goes with him to one of the best (and most expensive) restaurants in France . . . and he will pay for them. The salesman would pay the bill with money from his own bonus. Again, a colleague helps Vincent to regain his place. Bolstered by these two experiences, Vincent is strengthening his ties with his colleagues, whom he mostly ignored before these



events. And, while he tries to make himself seem pragmatic or even cynical, he admits to being “emotional”. “Me, I pay close attention to emotions, I’m an emotional person.” He talks at length about how he takes care of the people on his team. He now goes regularly to the office. “I need to, because of the guys there, even if I’m much less productive at the office than at home. Being seen is a strategy; I’m part of the whole entity; I’m physically there” (Vincent). He is now playing a new kind of game with the system: working to integrate himself into the collective rules of behaviour rather than imagining that he manages the system to his advantage. However, he finishes the interview with the following observation: “I’m a little disillusioned with all this today; no, I’m not disillusioned, I’m thinking clearly. I think I’m starting to think very clearly; I don’t want to lose my energy” (Vincent). However, he is still questioning himself: “Is it possible to have everything? I don’t know. I am wondering. I don’t know.” According to Honneth, he is being confronted with the necessary renunciations an “individual” must face in order to achieve becoming a “person”.

Conclusion: a plea for reflexive citizenship By analysing the comments of two executives in difficulty, we have been able to state the managers’ problem in developing reflexive citizenship in a business context. It starts with the lack of authentic dialogue during the recruiting process, and the impossibility of recognizing difference. It goes on with the illusion of mastering “the system”. It ends with lack of solidarity and feelings of abandonment and solitude. We even saw how this environment can push individuals towards self-manipulation in the illusory hope of feeling that they exist and that they are participating in something greater. This is sometimes done to the detriment of their humanity and that of others. Hypermodern society contributes in large part to this phenomenon. However, Honneth reminds us that there is a difficult journey leading from the self-centred “individual” focused on his own needs to the “social subject”, who is responsible for himself, others, and society. Organizations and companies make this journey even more difficult by failing to create a structuring, reassuring



environment in which relations to the other are monitored and allow for mutual recognition and alterity, and where limits are put on the infinite quest for self-recognition. And yet, these two people realized the absolute necessity of a relation to others in order to survive in this kind of environment. In all our interviews with executives in difficulty, we did not encounter a single person who could be called a social subject. Certainly, most are aware of human, social, economic, and environmental problems. But there is a split between this understanding and their life in the workplace. For these people, the world goes on as if it is impossible to transform reflexivity into action, as if “thinking individuals” cannot become “acting persons” because they are trapped in the powerlessness of individuality. The world goes on as if collective concerns cannot develop because of their persistent quest for self-recognition. Subjectivization is a difficult process for individuals who work in companies, particularly during a crisis period, where destruction and destructiveness are omnipresent. This chapter ends with a plea that people who are not (or who are no longer) in search of self-recognition mobilize to recognize others in their alterity. This can happen through the implementation of authentic dialogue, the creation of safe spaces (i.e., transitional spaces), and the renunciation of self-affirmation in favour of the construction of a common good.

Notes 1.

The study took place during 2008–2009, with colleagues from the University of Savoie, Celine Desmarais and Emmanuel Abord at Chatillon, and a doctoral student for APEC (Association for Executive Employment).

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Reflective citizenship: an organizational perspective James Krantz



y goal is to explore questions of citizenship from an organizational perspective. Of the multiple roles people carry in their organizations, three prominent roles have been evolving dramatically in character and importance as we shift into the digital age. These are the work role, the role of organization citizen, and the professional role. While it is well recognized that the professional role has become an increasingly important source of sentience, identity, and affiliation, it is the other two that are at the centre of this chapter—the work role and that of organization citizen. My central proposition is that organizational citizenship is becoming an increasingly important element of relatedness to the enterprise for two reasons. One is that the work role is diminishing in importance, given the evolving nature of work organizations. The other is that the organizational citizen role links people dynamically with the political realm in organizations, which is increasingly important in globalized, highly diverse organizations. This chapter begins with a discussion of the nature of organizational citizenship as a role that is distinct from the work role. This 149



exploration leads in several directions: traditional conceptions of citizenship; citizenship and issues of identity; and then organizational citizenship and basic assumption life. Since this conference is not just about citizenship, but about reflective citizenship, I will return to the question of reflection and reflective practice in relation to organizational citizenship. Since the nature of work is changing, the role of reflection in supporting work is changing accordingly. My second major proposition is that the idea of reflective citizenship is more suited to twentieth-century organizations, and that the idea of deliberative citizenship is more suited to the emerging twenty-first century enterprises.

Citizenship At its most basic, citizenship is about membership of a community, including joining with others around shared values and purposes. For this exploration, I take the enterprise as the community that serves as the ground of citizenship. As with any role, organizational citizenship is a form of relatedness, a way of seeing and making sense of context. But it is also more than perceptual, because it also shapes the mutual engagement that derives from the experience of membership. The concept of organizational citizenship is based on the idea that people are connected to the enterprise through a role outside of their particular work roles. It describes an aspect of the relationship between individuals and the enterprise, between individuals within the enterprise, and between individuals and the wider environment. Work role involves an experience of these relationships as well, but, as discussed below, organizational citizenship is organized primarily around the meaning of the “institution”, while work role is grounded in the experience of the “organization”. The idea that people are related to the enterprise outside of their specific work roles was first discussed by Miller (1993) in connection with an intervention into a manufacturing company. A series of large group discussions he had organized led him to recognize a different way of relating to, and influencing, the wider system. He came to think that in order to fully exercise their authority, people had to bear some responsibility for the outer boundaries of the enterprise as well as those pertaining to their specific roles, label-



ling this aspect of relatedness as “organizational citizenship”. His notion, however, was centred on relatedness to the organization rather than to the institution. One hypothesis in this chapter is that the “organization citizen” role is becoming increasingly predominant in our fragmented, turbulent, postmodern settings, while organizational role is receding in centrality. The boundaries and structures that give organizational roles meaning are dissolving or fragmenting. As a result, they carry less meaning for people as a source of identity, as a container for anxiety, and as a point of reference for understanding the wider system. I see the centrality of work role as being replaced by two other roles—that of organizational citizen, and that of member of a profession or practice. This latter role, which is outside of scope of my chapter here, is primarily a sentient group that exists independently of the enterprise and is an important source of identity for people. Two features make the organization citizen role increasingly salient. One is that it focuses relatedness on institutional meaning; the second, related, feature is that it is the medium through which politics can be managed and negotiated.

Citizenship and institution The citizen role, in contrast to the work role, emphasizes the centrality of the institution rather than the organization, a useful distinction that has evolved in systems psychodynamic thinking. Organizations consist of the building blocks of productive enterprise: objectives, strategies, tasks, work roles, boundaries, practices, accountability, and success or failure within an enterprise. The idea of the “organization-in-the-mind” is addressed to the emotional experience of these aspects of the enterprise and the meaning they carry for participants. The institution, in contrast, is about the meaning and purposes of an enterprise. It refers to the values, ideals, hopes, beliefs, and symbols that underlie the purposes for which these entities are created. A paper from the Grubb Institute offers a vivid way of illustrating through the example of the nuclear family. “Nuclear” describes the organization-in-the-mind, and “family” the institution-in-the-mind (Hutton, 1997). “Institution-inthe-mind” refers to the emotional experience of these aspects of the enterprise (Armstrong, 1997).



Organizational citizenship, as a form of relatedness, connects people with the fundamental emotional dynamics that shape the meaning and experience of specific institutions. In this connection, it may be useful to recall that Bion’s (1961) Basic Assumptions were identified in term of the modal institutions, not organizations, that most closely embodied the myths embedded in each of the Basic Assumption states: the Church or hospital for dependency (BaD), the Army for fight/flight (BaFF), and the Aristocracy for Basic Assumption Pairing (BaP).

Citizenship and politics Bion’s Basic Assumptions are unconscious fantasy states that bind people together to pursue shared purposes, ideally in alignment with the overt task-based purposes of the enterprise. Bion regarded the emotional challenges posed by membership in any group as being political in nature. This is because he saw individuals as political animals who can find fulfilment only in relation to others, in group life. However, while the social dimension of life is necessary for fulfilment, impulses are satisfied narcissistically (Bion, 1962). These conflicting needs in group life create politics and the necessity of managing them in collective life. The politics of relatedness has to do with whose needs are met and how protection from anxiety and uncertainty is distributed. The particular interaction between power relations and projective dynamics shape the politics of relatedness. The embodiment of the values and meanings embedded in the institution amount to a political philosophy of an organization. Politics are negotiated in the organizational framework as well as through institutional dynamics. Managerial practices and all decisions contain a political dimension, since, in addition to whatever task purposes they serve, they also privilege certain interests over others. While organizational activity expresses political arrangements, they are conducted according to the values and principles that are embedded in the institution. Organizational citizenship provides an opportunity for people to participate in, and influence, ownership of the enterprise at that level. Organizational politics are becoming increasingly central as they have become increasingly unstable. In homogenous settings,



the political philosophy of an organization can be taken for granted, a mirror of the established political arrangements in its wider context. With globalization, the breakdown of stable boundaries, and the need to manage highly diverse relations, politics becomes both unstable and increasingly critical. Political controversies evoked in multi-cultural environments pose major challenges to creating the unified action required in productive enterprises. Already existing anxieties, related to tasks and hierarchies, can be greatly exacerbated by the mistrust and projective identification that can readily characterize multi-cultural environments. To accomplish work, organizations must find a way to accommodate these differences in ways of seeing, doing, and thinking. Relatedness is not a set of formal rules governing relationships between individuals and the enterprise but a set of social relationships—sentient ties where relations are negotiated and fluid. I am suggesting that the role of “organizational citizen” is an important container of political arrangements, one that provides people with the opportunity to have an impact on the character of the enterprise and through which people participate in the negotiated resolution of different viewpoints. Organizational citizenship speaks to the political dimension of the “institution-in-the-mind” and its power relations.

Models of citizenship Concepts of citizenship in Western thought are helpful in exploring various meanings attached to organizational citizenship. The longstanding dialogue about the meaning of citizenship in political philosophy centres on a basic, fundamental question: whether citizenship is defined primarily by rights or by obligations and the nature of these rights and obligations. These different views of citizenship are reflected in competing ideas about what organizational citizenship means in today’s enterprises and provides a useful framework for thinking about organizational citizenship. Like “the state” or “the community”, the organization is a construct in people’s minds, made up of their experiences of multiple sets of relationships, structured and informal. The tradition of thought centres on a debate between two basic models of citizenship—the Republican and the Liberal. The Liberal



model is traced to the Roman Empire and developed as a philosophy from the seventeenth century onwards. The Empire’s expansion created practical challenges for Rome, which were addressed by extending citizenship rights to conquered people. It was a legal status, rather than a political status, which viewed citizenship as a means of protecting individual freedoms from interference by others or by authorities. In the Liberal tradition, citizens exercise their rights and freedoms as individuals rather than as a form of participation in the political domain. The individual and his rights take priority over society. In contrast, the key principle of the Republican model views the citizen as participating in civic self-rule. This idea was first articulated by Aristotle, and extended by Rousseau’s Social Contract, which sees that the meaning of citizenship is rooted in a community whose primary bond is a shared understanding of the good of the community (Pocock, 1992; Walzer, 1992). Republican thinking emphasizes active self-rule and the importance of civic virtue A project with the Department of Economics in an elite university illustrates these competing images of citizenship. Unlike most other academic disciplines, there is tremendous competition for talented economists. In addition to intense competition amongst top universities in both economics departments and business schools, they are highly sought after in the private sector and for government service. Unlike most academics, for whom the university is the primary “seat” of their careers and achievements, many of the economists had multiple engagements and were less reliant emotionally and financially on the university. The discipline of economics has historically been based on the paradigm of the rational self-maximizing economic factor. Many faculty members managed their relationship with university in the same spirit, approaching the department and the university in rational self-maximizing terms, and conducted themselves in strictly transactional terms. For these faculty members, it appeared that organizational citizenship was relatively unimportant and professional identity greatly so. For some faculty members, however, the department and the university carried significant institutional meaning. They saw the university and the department as cherished institutions, whose well-being required investment of time and energy. The Chairman



often discussed his frustrations with trying to get many faculty members to participate in the collective life of the department and the university by serving on committees, advising students, and, more concerning, by teaching courses. The greatest factor in “value” on the labour market is research and publication. The burdens fell disproportionately on the other, “more invested”, faculty members. A “token economy” had developed, over years, in which points were assigned to different activities. To fulfil contractual obligations, faculty members had to satisfy a “point quota” through various activities. The Chairman described a kind of persecutory experience in which he was constantly under pressure to give points or to raise the number of points assigned to various activities, and subjected to threats of withdrawal. The points system clearly functioned as a social defence system and, at the same time, embodied a political philosophy that expressed a concept of citizenship. The conflict can be seen in terms of competing ideas of citizenship. Those functioning according to the Liberal model approached the department and the university as a kind of market, a platform for supporting individual interests, and viewed authority as succeeding to the extent that it minimized interference. The Chairman’s view and those of his like-minded colleagues, embodied the Republican model. They saw faculty members as sharing responsibility for the well-being of the department, the students, and the university, in which all faculty staff take an active part in decisions, an ideal that involved putting the institution above narrow personal interests.

The evolving context of organizational citizenship New meanings of organizational citizenship take place against the background of the changes in the nature of work and organizations. Systems psychodynamic thinking has focused largely on the shift from industrialism to the post-industrial era. Now, we are in the midst of another shift to a third phase, that of the information age. Observed over an historical arc, the relationship of institution to organization reflects evolving meanings of organizational



citizenship. The two ascendant roles—organizational citizen and professional member—are more continuous and stable than the organizational forms through which the institutions are expressed. Socio-technical theory, which was developed through action research in coal-mines and manufacturing sites, developed an understanding of the interaction between overlapping technical and social sub-systems. From this, they developed the model of semi-autonomous teams as a model for the synergistic relationship between the two sub-systems. But the shift from industrial to postindustrial forms of organization created new conditions in which social systems and technical systems became uncoupled. Miller and Rice developed their notions of task and sentient systems to provide the conceptual machinery to account for the newer organizations. They recognized that because task and sentient systems were no longer coincident in time and space, a new function of management was to provide the means of relating them. One example was that of flight crews, in which the task teams were composed and recomposed for different flights, while the pilots and stewardesses identified with their sentient professional groups within the enterprise. Now we are facing similar questions. How will we understand the relationship of task and sentience in the information age? What concepts will allow us to address sentient needs in the new settings, where work is increasingly knowledge based and occurs through conversation? Cooper and Dartington (2004) pick up on this issue when they consider what strategies of emotional containment can be defined in a world characterized by “vanishing organizations”. The shift from industrial era to post-industrial organizations was characterized by the emergence of complex, turbulent environments and the need for organizations to adapt actively and proactively to shifting conditions. Hierarchies were flattened and authority widely distributed. As we shift from post-industrialism to the information era, the dissolution of now familiar structures and social defence systems takes a new form. The boundaries that distinguished organizations from their environments are dissolving and hierarchy is being replaced by flat, fluid, and complex networks.



Organizational citizenship and basic assumption life Khaleelee and Miller’s (1985) application of Basic Assumption theory to the broad social, economic, and organizational change since the Second World War serves as another useful vantage point for discussing organizational citizenship. Their work centred on the idea that different Basic Assumption mentality shapes the overall emotional texture of large-scale societal dynamics. It has always seemed to me that there is a great risk in jumping from the small social units Bion described to society, because of the many differences between large-scale social systems and definable groups which have boundaries and primary tasks. However, they were clearly on to something. (Bion, too, was interested in large scale Basic Assumption states, wondering if inactive or suppressed BA states would manifest as stress related disease that could be studied epidemiologically.) The overtones of basic assumption life seem to be unmistakably active in large-scale social processes and, in particular, in how organizations and institutions within society are seen and understood, and in how social policies develop. The historical arc they describe starts roughly from the end of the Second World War to somewhere around the mid-1980s. That era is described as one in which Basic Assumption Dependency was the overriding group culture. Organizations and institutions orientated themselves around the dependency needs of their members, shaped by post-war reparative impulses and supported by high growth and relatively stable environments. Vast programmes were developed to protect the well-being of citizens across the entire economic spectrum. Broad social health and retirement programmes were established. Union–management relations stabilized into mutually beneficial interdependence. Linear careers created a foundation for exchanging security and commitment. Rising wealth provided the means to address wide-ranging dependency needs. The dependent needs of the individual for both financial and psychological security were met by largely stable organizations. Stable environments, boundaries, and work groups also provided reliable and supportive social defence systems to help people manage the anxieties stimulated in the work situation. Many aspects of the Liberal model of citizenship could be found in the dependency-orientated framework. Perhaps it was most clearly



expressed in the pattern of labour relations that developed during this era. The regressive dimensions of BaD could be seen in two aspects. One was the complacency and indifference that it often elicited. Enforced dependency encouraged people to relinquish their own authority and even their own capacity to think (Miller, 1993). Second, for many the dependent arrangements were based on work that was, itself, inherently alienating, leading to what Lawrence and Miller (1982) described as “schizoid withdrawal”. Around the late 1970s and early 1980s, this arrangement started coming apart, and then imploded altogether as we moved fully into the post-industrial world of globalization, knowledge work, and brutally turbulent environments. The aura of Basic Assumption Dependency (BaD) was replaced by Basic Assumption Fight/Flight (BaFF) as the overarching emotional texture of social and organizational life. Arrangements based on the Dependency framework were poorly adapted to the global, post-industrial economy. Cumbersome, calcified industrial enterprises were unable to compete or adapt to fluid environments. Severe wage pressures led to a reordering of labour–management relations in a way that introduced great insecurity and disregard into the experience of membership. Although many of the care-taking functions built into our institutions were noble, they were also the source of great inefficiency. The newly emerging Fight/Flight world was a much harsher and colder place. Security, as a value, was replaced by performance and competitiveness. Markets came to be seen as an organizing model, regardless of the devastating impact resulting from exposing human, social service, and educational institutions to market forces. While the Fight/Flight framework enabled organizations and social policy to create a newly effective kind of adaptation, it also provided an emotional context for wrenching decisions and changes. The transition to post-industrialism led to changes in many social patterns that required a new type of depressive position functioning and a new approach to organizational citizenship. Among the many shifts involved were a new emphasis on self-expression and recognition of the interdependence required for sophisticated work. Organizing models shifted from mechanistic and autocratic forms to those based on more organic and democratic forms. Whereas the dependency framework emphasized consent, post-industrialism



required commitment and participation. Whereas, before, conflict had been dampened and avoided, it became necessary to confront and solve conflict. Much more authority was shifted to the outer boundaries of organizations, providing formal authorization to people at all levels. A new basis for the politics of relatedness in organizations was needed to create new adaptive capabilities. As we move from post-industrialism to an information society, we are in the midst of yet another shift in overarching Basic Assumption life, a shift geared to new anxieties and new challenges. I am proposing that the search for new meaning and connection is propelling the emergence of a new overriding Basic Assumption life that is finding expression in what Turquet (1978) described as Basic Assumption Oneness (BaO), a state in which people “seek to join in a powerful union with an omnipotent force, unobtainably high, to surrender self for passive participation, and thereby to feel existence, well-being, and wholeness” (p. 375). This basic assumption—that of “oneness”—represents a stage of regression beyond dependency to questions of existence itself, which are defended against with oceanic feelings of unity. This is the wish for an oceanic feeling that Freud described as being a “feeling of an indissoluble bond, of being one with the external world as a whole (Freud, 1930a), something akin to the infant-at-one-with-the-breastof-the-mother. BaO is emerging as an underlying emotional calculus to allay profound anxieties centred on catastrophic experiences of dissolution and dislocation, both of the self and of the social context within which the self is located. This manifestation of BaO differs significantly from the BaD society that was organized around nurturance, protection, care, and security, and certainly from the Basic Assumption Fight/Flight (BaFF) that ushered in the transformation to post-industrial society. Just as BaD supported the development of institutions during the industrial era and BaFF fostered effective post-industrial settings, BaO supports the extreme degree of interdependence, integration, and globalization of today’s organizations. A regressive expression of BaO in contemporary society is fundamentalism, which provides an avenue for management of core anxieties centring on dissolution and fragmentation on behalf of the wider society. Its adaptive expression can be found in other movements and communities that cut across the traditional boundaries of nation-states: for example, the environmental



movement, which is responding to a crisis that emphasizes global interdependence and is amenable only to coherent global action. The information age creates yet another set of dynamics because now, in many instances, boundaries are no longer fluid because they have dissolved. In many places, hierarchies have disappeared altogether, in many instances replaced by networks. Often work is managed by knitting together complex networks, or by creating “collective intelligence” by linking and aligning activities. Globalized enterprises and supply chains involve complex multicultural integration. How does the nature of organizational citizenship evolve with changes in the overarching BA life? In an environment shaped by dependency dynamics, the Liberal view of citizenship conforms easily with the dominant emotional framework. In contrast, postindustrial environments marked by complexity and turbulence require a more BaFF environment and are more compatible with the Republican model of citizenship. The Republican model best matches the requirements of the information age as well, although it is premised on active participation at the level of the institution.

Deliberative citizenship The “reflective” aspect of reflective citizenship has been absent to this point. In psychoanalytic traditions, of course, reflective practice is something akin to the Holy Grail. Psychotic and depressive anxieties related to the work situation threaten the capacity to think and create constant pressures toward Basic Assumption life and paranoid–schizoid functioning. We have found few ways to counter these disturbing pressures. One is the idea of reflection: converting the experience of work, and the associated emotions, into competence and sophisticated work through the vehicle of reflective thought. Reflection, in systems psychodynamic thinking, has been treated as a form of learning that links experience and inner models of reality to processes of development and change. At its heart is a belief that when inner models of experience are made conscious, they become the building blocks of new learning. Reflection has two significant effects: the creation of changed inner models (an antecedent to personal development) and the creation of changed shared reality (an antecedent to system development). Becoming conscious of, and



sharing, inner constructs of how reality works is akin to discovering the processes of mutual identification from which relatedness evolves. Shapiro and Carr (1991) extended our understanding of how role provides an interpretative ground for comprehending and connecting with the larger social order. Providing an in-depth analysis of how we make sense of the world through our experiences in role, they showed how linking the personal and the role enable us to decode our experience in relation to the larger context. Organizational citizenship is a vital part in the ability to interpret and establish meaningful connection, especially in a world where traditional meanings are lost and fixed reference points no longer provide ready containment. Through reflection, people can locate the institutional meaning of their membership and, thereby, animate their sense of organizational citizenship. Reflective thought about the citizen role allows people to engage with issues of values, ideals, and purposes of the enterprise. As a concluding thought, I want to consider the possibility that the concept of “reflection” may be a bit outmoded in a world characterized by knowledge work, information intensity, diversity, and multiculturalism. Increasingly, we live in a networked, interconnected world where thought and development occurs in the public sphere, rather than in moments of private reflection, which then informs public behaviour. The boundary between the inner and outer becomes less and less distinct and, crucially, work occurs increasingly through conversation. Sophisticated work requires accommodating and integrating a wide range of perspectives and, sometimes, accommodating apparently irresolvable political differences. Mobilizing Basic Assumption Oneness in support of work provides a hopeful emotional context for integrating disparate elements. An alternative to “reflective citizenship”, more suited to our emerging twenty-first-century conditions, would be a deliberative model of citizenship. Where hierarchy was the dominant form of co-ordination in the industrial era, and matrix relationships are the modal configuration in post-industrial settings, information based organizations rely on deliberations, conversations that bring together a role network convened to address a problematic situation or complex problem. Effective deliberation is required to negotiate complex stakeholder situations. For deliberation that resembles depressive position functioning requires the mutual exercise of organizational citizenship to



maintain institutions that support and embody a philosophy of openness and trust.

References Armstrong, D. (1997). The ‘Institution in the Mind’: reflections on the relation of psycho-analysis to work with institutions. Free Associations, 7: 1–14. Bion, W. R. (1961). Experiences in Groups. London: Tavistock. Bion, W. R. (1962). The psycho-analytic study of thinking. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 43: 306–310. Dartington, T., & Cooper, A. (2004). The vanishing organization: organizational containment in a networked world. In: C. Huffington, D. Armstrong, W. Halton, L. Hoyle, & J. Pooley (Eds.), Working Below The Surface: The Emotional Life of Contemporary Organizations (pp. 127–150). London: Karnac. Freud, S. (1930a). Civilization and its Discontents. S.E., 21: 57–146. London: Hogarth. Hutton, J. (1997). Reimaging the organization of an institution: management in human service institutions. In: E. Smith (Ed.), Integrity and Change: Mental Health in the Market Place (pp. 66–82). London: Routledge. Khaleelee, O., & Miller, E. J. (1985). Society as an intelligible field of study. In: M. Pines (Ed.), Bion and Group Psychotherapy. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. Lawrence, W. G., & Miller, E. J. (1982). Psychic and political constraints on the growth of industrial democracies. In: M. Pines & L. Rafaelson (Eds.), The Individual and the Group (pp. 399–403). New York: Plenum Press. Miller, E. (1993). An intervention in a manufacturing company. In: From Dependency to Autonomy: Studies in Organization and Change. London: Free Association Books. Pocock, J. G. A. (1992). The ideal of citizenship since classical times. Queens Quarterly, 99(1): 33–55. Shapiro, E., & Carr, W. (1991). Lost in Familiar Places. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Turquet, P. M. (1978). Leadership: the individual and the group. In: G. S. Gibbard, J. Hartman & R. Mann (Eds.), Analysis of Groups (pp. 349–371). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Walzer, M. (1992). Civil Society and American Democracy. Berlin: Rotbuch Verlag.


A. K. Rice Institute (AKRI), 84, 86–88, 90–91, 96, 98–99, 101–102, 104–105, 108–110 abuse, xix, xxi, 22, 111–113, 121, 125 institutional, 111–113, 116–117, 119–120, 126–127 sexual, 66 Acuña, E., xxi, 112, 114–117, 123, 127–128 AGSLO, 87–88, 92, 94, 96, 98–99 Alibhai-Brown, Y., 24 Amado, G., 52, 56, 58, 62 anxiety, xvii, xxi, 6–7, 47, 54–56, 58–59, 72, 74, 76, 116–119, 144, 151–153, 157, 159 catastrophic, 3 depressive, 160 organizational, 74 persecutory, 118, 120 primitive, 121 social, 55 Aram, E., 74, 80 Archbishop of Canterbury, 25

Arendt, H., 123–124, 127 Aristotle, 154 Armstrong, D., 61–62, 73, 80, 151, 162 Aubert, N., 132, 139, 146 Auden, W. H., 6, 13, 17 Austin, P., 60, 62 Australian Institute for Social Analysis (AISA), 92–93, 95–96, 99, 104, 106 Bain, A., 58–59, 62, 90–96, 98, 110, 112, 127 Barnett, H., 29, 41 Bauman, Z., 143, 146 Baxter, B., 74, 80 behaviour, 14, 36, 44, 48–50, 77, 95, 115, 137, 145, 161 improper, 60 Belgirate conference, 74, 83–84, 109–110 Bell, M., 99, 102 Bergson, H., 67–68, 80




Bion, W., xviii, 2–4, 8, 10, 18, 45, 51, 62, 71–73, 80, 89–93, 104, 117, 128, 152, 157, 162 Basic Assumptions, 89, 92, 152, 157–161 Dependency, 157–158 Fight/Flight, 152, 158–159 Oneness, 159, 161 Pairing, 152 Club (BC2), 100–101 Cup (BC1), 100 K, 3–4, 11, 14 –K, 3, 11 PS↔D, 3 Work Group, 73, 92 Biran, H., 96, 110 Blair, A. (Tony), 25 Boalt Boëthius, S., xxi, 83, 88–89, 93–96, 98, 110 British National Party, 24 Brown, G., 24 Brunner, L. D., 74, 80 Buckley, F., 134, 147 Cahn, R., 142, 147 Cameron, D., 24 Carr, W., 84–85, 110, 161, 162 case studies Derrick, 140 Max, 137–139, 141–143 Paul, 140 Vincent, 138–139, 141–145 Castel, R., 133, 147 Chattopadhyay, G., 96, 110 Chaucer, G., 71 Christian, 7, 13, 25, 28, 71 fundamentalists, 24 Chughtai, A. A., 134, 147 citizen(ship), xiii–xiv, xix, 132–134, 149–151, 153–155, 157, 160–161 deliberative, xix, xxii, 150, 160 organization(al), xix, xxii, 149–158, 160–161 reflective, xiii, xv, xviii, 150, 160–161

reflexive, xix, xxi–xxii, 132, 141, 145 second-class, 33, 76 Cohen, N., 40–41 conscious(ness), xiii, xvii, 20, 26, 44, 50, 52, 58, 65, 67–69, 71–72, 78, 98, 108, 118, 160–161 see also: unconscious(ness) semi-, 65, 72 world, 21 containment, 59, 61, 89, 92, 107, 121–122, 127, 156, 161 countertransference, 50–51 Creation and Conception (CC), 100 Crociani Windland, L., 135, 147 Dalal, F., xx, 28, 41 Dante, 71 Dartington, A., 71, 80, 156, 162 Dean, B., 98 death, 7, 9–10, 16, 122–123 Dejours, C., 123–124, 128, 131, 147 Department of Health and Social Care Information Centre/NHS Employers, 31, 41 development(al), xiii, xv, xviii, xx, xxii, 2–3, 5, 9, 17, 46, 50, 60, 74, 100, 117, 136, 160–161 child, 53, 148 growth, 47 infant, 45, 51 psychosocial, 26 diversity, 20, 22–23, 25, 32, 34, 36–37, 40, 161 movement, 22 theology, 22 du Roy, I., 132, 147 Dubouloy, M., xxi–xxii, 135, 137, 140, 147 Durkheim, E., 67, 80 Ehrenberg, A., 133, 147 Eisold, K., 108, 110 Elias, N., 38, 133, 147 Eliot, T. S., 70–71, 80 Empson, W., 16, 18


Energici, A., 112, 115–117, 128 Enlightenment, 23, 37 Espinoza, I., 112, 114–115, 128 Established, 31, 39 Establishment, 85, 90–91, 109 anti-, 90 Event Dialogues and Scientific Exploration, 95–96 Discernment, 102 Experiential, 90 Global, 94–97, 107 Interactive Systems, 95–96 Prospective, 95–96 fantasy, 50, 56, 58, 142, 152 fear, xxi, 8, 14, 20, 23, 39, 45–47, 53, 57, 59, 72, 76, 104, 111, 115–116, 123 Finnish Society for Organisational Dynamics, 96 Frazier, J. G., 71 French, R., 51, 62 Freud, S., 14–16, 18, 66–68, 80, 159, 162 Frow, J., 67, 80 Gabelnick, F., 84–85, 98–99, 102–103, 110 Gabriel, Y., 120–121, 127–128 Gauchet, M., 132, 147 Gillies, M. A., 68, 80 Gilmore, T. N., 50, 62 Goldsmith, O., 1, 16–18 Gonzáles, J., 112, 128 Gould, L., 66, 81, 93–94, 96 GREX, 96 Grubb Institute, 96, 99, 151 Gutmann, D., 88, 98–100, 102–103, 106 Gypsy, 28–29 Halbwachs, M., 67, 69–70, 74, 81 Harribey, L., 135, 147 Hidman, U., 94 Hindu, 24, 28


Brahmin, 24 Untouchables, 24 Hoggett, P., 45, 55–56, 62 Honneth, A., 135–136, 140, 143, 145, 147 Hutton, J., 151, 162 Ibarra, S., 112, 128 ICS, 96 IFSI, 87–88, 92, 94–99, 101–102, 106 Imago East/West, 96 International Group Relations and Scientific Conference, The, (Lorne), 83 International Group Relations Symposium, The, (Maryland), xxi, 83, 98, 100 International Symposium, The, (Oxford), 83–84, 87, 99 Irish Traveller, 29 Israeli conference, 76–78 Janse van Rensburg, E., 134, 147 Jern, S., xxi, 88, 91, 98–100, 102, 106, 110 Jew, 7, 12, 21, 28–29, 31, 34, 79 Joyce, J., 67 Judt, T., 1, 16–18 Kant, E., 26–27, 132, 147 Keats, J., 4, 18 Khaleelee, O., 157, 162 Kirkpatrick, A.-M., 99 Kolb, D. A., 50, 62 Krantz, J., 50, 62 Lacan, J., 45, 53, 63 Law Lords, 29 Lawrence, W. G., 85, 88, 93–94, 96, 98–99, 106, 110, 158, 162 Leicester Conference, 85, 107 Levine, D., 135, 147 life, xxi, 4, 7, 10, 15–16, 24–28, 34–35, 44, 50, 66–70, 73–74, 118–119, 132, 135, 150, 152, 157, 159–160 -cycle, 9


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history, 21 institutional, 120 organizational, 27, 45, 51, 60–61, 66, 112, 117, 120–122, 127, 158 psychic, 10 Lipovetski, S., 132, 147 Litvin, I., 73, 80–81 Löfgren, L., 96 Long, S., 93–94, 96, 98 Lyth, I. M., 93 Macquarie Dictionary, The, 48, 63 Mandala family, 28–29 Matrix Monitoring, 89–90 Praxis, 89 Social Dreaming, 89, 100 Meltzer, D., 9, 18 memory, see also: unconscious xx–xxi, 65–79 collective, xxi, 67, 69, 70, 72–73, 75–79 crisis, 66 individual, 67, 69 organizational, 65 repressed, 68 Méndez, C., 113, 128 Menzies, I. E. P., 74, 81, 93 Merchant of Venice, The, see: Shakespeare, W. Miller, E. J., 84–86, 93, 99, 105–106, 110, 150, 156–158, 162 Ministry of Health, 114, 122 Moreira, P., 132, 147 mother, 51, 53, 76, 95, 136, 141, 159 good-enough, 137 mourn(ing), xxi, 99, 118, 120–122 Mourning from Tradition to Transformation (MTT), 100 MundO, 87–88, 92, 96 Muslim, 24–25, 28, 35 National Institute of Geriatrics, 114 Neumann, J. E., 99, 110 NORSTIG, 96 Nutkevitch, A., 74, 80

object, 50–51, 69, 108, 118, 135 external, 49 loved, 51 objective/objectivity, 26, 28, 31, 34, 37, 114–116, 119, 122, 151 Ofek, 73, 76, 78, 109 –Tavistock relations, 78 Orellana, M., 112, 114–115, 128 Organisation for Promoting Understanding of Society (OPUS), xiii–xv, xvii–xix, 96 Other, xviii, xx, 20–21, 28, 32, 37–38, 40, 53, 56 parent(al), 5, 14, 16, 97, 105 authority, 3, 12 Parsee, 31 Pascal, B., 134, 147 Piazza, D., 98 Pocock, J. G. A., 154, 162 Praxis Dialogues (PD), 100 Process Aps, 96 projection, 13–14, 20–22, 65, 70, 72, 75, 118, 140 negative, 21 projective identification, 51, 65, 70, 72, 118, 153 Prolongeau, H., 132, 147 Proust, M., 67 Pulido, R., 112, 128 Race Equality Schemes, 19 Race Relations Acts (RRA), 27–30 Ramírez, R., 112, 115–117, 128 Rastafarian, 29 Reed, B., 99–100, 102–103, 106, 110 Revans, R., 50, 63 Rice, A. K., 89–90, 106, 110, 156 see also: A. K. Rice Institute (AKRI) Ricœur, P., 136, 143, 147 Rioch, M., 84–87, 105, 110 Rojas, N., 112, 128 Román, J. A., 112, 115–117, 128 Romantics, 23–24, 37, 67 Rousseau’s Social Contract, 154


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Sacranie, I., 25 Sanfuentes, M., xxi, 112, 114–117, 123, 126–128 Santiago Hospice, 122 Sardar, Z., 34–35, 41 Schnapper, D., 134, 147 Schön, D. A., 50, 54, 63 self, 1–7, 9, 11, 13, 20–21, 29, 31, 36, 48, 50, 52–53, 67, 69, 113, 115, 131–133, 137, 141, 143, 145, 147, 158–159 -affirmation, 133, 146 -awareness, xxi, 50 false-, 137, 140, 147 -knowledge, xix–xxii, 2, 5, 14, 134 -recognition, xxi, 132, 136, 146 Self, 21, 25 sexism, 19, 31, 33, 39 Shakespeare, W., 2–4, 6, 8–12, 14, 18, 71 A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 12 Anthony and Cleopatra, 71 As You Like It, 12 The Merchant of Venice, xix, xxii, 1–2, 4–7, 10, 12, 14, 17 Antonio, 2, 5–8, 10, 13 Balthazar, 8–9 Bassanio, 8–10, 13, 15–16 Belmont, 1, 3–4, 6–8, 10–13, 16 Gratiano, 7, 9 Jessica, 7, 10, 13 Leah, 7 Lorenzo, 7, 13 Nerissa, 8–9, 11, 16 Portia, 4, 6–11, 13–17 Rialto, The, 1–2, 6, 8, 10, 12 Salario, 6 Shylock, 6–7, 10 Solanio, 6–7 Venice, 1, 3, 8, 12, 16 The Tempest, 71 Twelfth Night, 12 Shapiro, E., 161, 162 Sher, M., 74, 80 Sievers, B., 65, 81, 88, 112, 117–120, 128–129


Sikh, 28–29 Simpson, P., 51, 62 Souter, A., 95 splitting, 13, 20, 92, 95, 108, 118, 144 Stein, H., 121, 127, 129 subject(s), 68, 117, 135 social, xxi, 132, 135, 141, 145 subjective/subjectivity, 31, 53, 67, 69, 131–132, 142, 146 inter-, 53, 153 symbol(-ism), xxii, 2, 5, 13–14, 44–45, 51–53, 58, 120, 122, 151 Tavistock, 76, 78–79, 88, 90–91, 101, 106, 109 Clinic, 96 Group Relations Programme, 90, 99, 104 Institute, xiv, 76, 84, 86, 90, 96 model, 76 tradition, 76, 93, 96 Temporary Learning System, The, (Spa), 83 Terdiman, R., 66, 81 Thompson, N., 27, 33–34, 41 transference, 50, 53, 58, 65, 70, 72, 75, 83, 89–91, 107 see also: countertransference Trebesch, K., 88 Turquet, P. M., 159, 162 unconscious(ness), xiii, xvii–xix, 4, 36, 44–45, 50, 52, 54, 59, 61, 65, 67–68, 70, 72–73, 75, 91, 95, 97, 102–103, 108, 112, 117–118, 120 see also: conscious(ness) fantasies, 120, 152 guilt, 142 impulse, 51 memory, 65, 67–68, 70, 73 social, 26 world, 21 Ungson, G. R., 65, 81 van der Rest, J., 94–95, 98–99, 110 Vansina, L., 55, 63


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Vansina-Cobbaert, M.-J., 55, 63 Vince, R., 45, 54, 59, 63 Walsh, J. P., 65, 81 Walzer, M., 154, 162 Weston, J. L., 71 Wharton, B., 45, 52, 56–57, 63 White, K., 93–94 Whitehead, A., 66–70, 81 William Alanson White Institute, 96 Williams, R., see: Archbishop of Canterbury Winderman, B., 99, 102–103, 110 Winnicott, D., 43, 45, 53, 56–57, 61, 63, 136–137, 141, 147–148

Woolf, V., 67, 69, 81 world, 1, 4, 6–9, 12, 16–17, 25–26, 28, 30, 34, 37, 65, 70, 72–73, 76–77, 86, 89, 104, 107, 131, 133, 135, 141, 146, 156, 158, 161 see also: conscious, unconscious corporate, 22 global, 105, 107 internal, 10, 14, 50, 57 outer, xx–xxi, 49, 57, 136, 159 private, 57 -view, 25, 38, 40 World War First, 71 Second, 91, 157