The conference will be held in English and in French. Simultaneous translation in French or English will be provided.
Professor, Chair of Psychology and Psychoanalysis
Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Strategy, Development and External Relations
Head of MA Programme in Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Society
Brunel University, London
Honorary Professor of Education at the University of Manchester
Visiting Professor in the Department of Psychosocial Studies at Birkbeck, University of London
Co-Director of Discourse Unit
Analyst of the Centre for Freudian Analysis and Research, London
5 years after the 2008 Copenhagen Conference on Lacan at work and in addition to many recent publications on this topic, we intend to continue exploring the contribution of a Lacanian perspective to the study of work, management and organizations. This conference first aims to specify what makes the Lacanian approach both complementary to, and different from, other approaches used: 1) in the field of organizational psychodynamics (approaches inspired by other psychoanalytical schools: Freudian, Kleinian, etc.); 2) and in the field of critical studies (approaches based on other traditions in philosophy, politics, etc.), where the Lacanian perspective has taken a growing importance over the last years, mainly influenced or mediated by the writings of the philosopher Slavoj Žižek. The second aim of the conference consists of exploring how clinical and critical approaches of organizations, which both refer to Lacanian theory, can be brought into a dialogue. Afer all, both approaches have mainly developed separately and deserve to engage in a more systematic confrontation.
In this respect and in order to celebrate its 60th birthday, we would like to reconnect with some of the spirit of the famous Discourse of Rome (1953) that marked Lacan’s break with the analytic establishment and the formation of his own school of thought based on a radical revision of psychoanalysis both in questioning its main concepts and taking up issues shared with human and social sciences.
One of the most important resources in this respect is Lacan’s theory of the subject. The definition of the unconscious as “the Other's discourse” and of subjectivity as “external” to the subject, in relation to the theory of discourse, helps to overcome some of the internalizing and individualizing tendencies psychoanalysis is commonly criticized for, and which have diminished its critical scope. Lacan's fight against ego-psychology, his rejection of psychologism and of any form of “human engineering”, as well as his ethical and scientific positioning are very useful for a critical approach to the central place given, in contemporary management, to work psychology, coaching, self improvement techniques or to the ideology of “becoming oneself”.
If, as Lacan declared, the object of psychoanalysis is not so much human beings as such, but, rather what they lack, the psychoanalytic contribution to the study of organizations and of management might well pertain to a science of what organizations lack. This lack is not some sort of void that needs to be filled or evacuated, but a space where the subject experiences itself as desire, which has an impact on organizational functioning as a whole.
Gilles Arnaud and Bénédicte Vidaillet