Compared to the major impact Jacques Lacan’s theory of psychoanalysis has had on the widest range of disciplines in the arts and humanities, in the social sciences, and in other areas such as law and criminology, its reception in organizational studies has been relatively slow. This is often explained with reference to the fact that Lacan’s writings are difficult, and that he himself had no interest in the study of organizations. In this lecture, I will demonstrate that, starting from a visit to England shortly after World War II, Lacan did have a lifelong interest in organizational life, and formulated a number of fundamental principles for establishing an ‘alternative’ organizational structure, in which hierarchical authority is balanced against a communal, libertarian and solidaristic system of exchange. I will show how these principles are crucially indebted to W. R. Bion’s work with leaderless groups as well as to his ‘first Northfield experiment’ from the early 1940s, and how during the 1960s Lacan endeavored to integrate these ideas in what he designated as a ‘circular organization’, which operates on the basis of a series of small working groups called cartels, and positions of ‘suspended authority’. I will also argue how Lacan’s eventual dissolution of his own School may not have constituted an admission of organizational failure, but a necessary act of transformational change and permutation, which was designed to ensure that the organization’s work towards the realization of its primary task can be sustained. Although Lacan’s contributions to organizational theory were primarily driven by his concern over the establishment of a psychoanalytic organization, they can easily be extrapolated to other types of organization. I will conclude that a proper appreciation of Lacan’s significance for organizational studies should start from a critical analysis of his various contributions to the study of organizational life.

Dany Nobus, PhD
Date: Saturday Nov 19, 2016
Time: 1:00-4:00 PM
Location: California Institute for Integral Studies, 1453 Mission, San Francisco
Fee: $100, $40 for students