Academic journal article Tamara Journal of Critical Organisation Inquiry

Fantastic Performance and Neurotic Fantasy: A Case-Based Exploration of Psychodynamic Development

Academic journal article Tamara Journal of Critical Organisation Inquiry

Fantastic Performance and Neurotic Fantasy: A Case-Based Exploration of Psychodynamic Development

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

This paper takes up the themes of organization as dreamscape, the psychodynamics of everyday organizational performance and organizational rituals and the enactment of death and desire in the context of a longitudinal case study of an academic institution. This case study focuses on the various ways in which the organization has developed and continues to develop neurotic and dysfunctional tendencies. It looks at the ways in which those tendencies are expressed in the culture and structure of the organization and the ways in which the various constituencies of the college are complicit in the enactment of the neurosis of its leadership, as reflected in various dependent and counterdependent dynamics and performances. Of specific interest in this paper are the changes in neurotic patterns over time and the ways in which these changes relate to the changes in leadership. Using Kets de Vries' concepts related to organizational neurosis, we will discuss how the college moved from a compulsive organization to a dramatic organization

INTRODUCTION

The images of "theatre" and "performance" have been used to gain a better of understanding of organizations in many different ways (for excellent overviews, see Oswick, Keenoy & Grant's 2001 special issue of JOCM and Boje, Luhman and Cunliffe, 2003). There are considerable differences in the approaches, most notably on the question of whether we can or should separate between reality and performance. On the one extreme, some argue that there is a preexisting reality and identity and social performance requirements are superimposed on this, a position most frequently associated with Goffman's (1959, 1974) work. On the other end, people argue that reality and identity are constituted in and through the performance, a Burkean position (Burke, 1937). Boje, Luhman and Cunliffe (2003) provide a persuasive critical, dialectical and postmodern addition to these ideas, arguing that reality may be more complex and less unitary than commonly assumed in either of these approaches. They suggest that we need to examine possibilities of change and critical reflection, through concepts like "spectacle" (Debord, 1967) and "carnival" (Bakhtin, 1981). Spectacle, they note, is "not a collection of images, but a social relation among people mediated by images (Debord, 1967, #4); it "is a narrative and theatrical performance that legitimates, rationalizes and camouflages production and consumption" (Boje, Luhman & Cunliffe, p. 7).

The idea of carnival represents the dialectical counterforce or resistance to spectacle: "it is a call for release from corporate power, a cry of distress and repression mixed with laughter and humorous exhibition meant to (create) awareness of the psychic cage of work and consumptive life" (Boje, Luhman & Cunliffe, p.8). Together, the concepts of spectacle and carnival "set the stage to understand why those far from power willingly accept a life scripted and authorized by others who are merely better storytellers and theatric performers" (p.9-10) and ultimately, they open up the road to change.

In this paper, I aim to provide a case-based illustration of what I see as lived theatre, ways in which day-to-day organizational experience creates reality. The case is particularly illustrative I believe of the idea of spectacle in that it demonstrates ways in which organizational participants become seduced by and trapped within the theatrical script. While the basic framework of the case analysis is psychodynamic rather than dramaturgical, it provides an exciting look into possible critical connections and linkages between the two perspectives. The paper presents a longitudinal case study of an academic institution using the themes of fantasy and desire. It. focuses on the ways in which the organization has developed neurotic tendencies and how those tendencies are expressed in the culture and structure of the organization. It also examines ways in which constituencies become complicit in the enactment of the neurosis of its leadership through dependent and counter-dependent dynamics and performances. …

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