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Gilles Arnaud is a Professor of Organizational Psychology/Behavior at ESCP Europe Paris Campus. He holds a Master in I/O Psychology (University of Nice, 1988), a PhD in Management Science (Toulouse University, 2001) in the field of organizational psychodynamics, and a French accreditation to supervise doctoral research (University of Lille, 2011). He has a strong interest in the application of psychoanalysis, especially Lacanian theory, to organization studies, work psychology and business. His other areas of interest include epistemological issues in social science, qualitative and clinical research methods, and critical management studies in a psychodynamic perspective. His research work has appeared in books and in a range of French and international academic journals. Moreover, Gilles Arnaud currently serves on the editorial board of Organization Studies, Management Decision, the Leadership and Organization Development Journal, Frontiers in Psychoanalysis and Neuropsychanalysis, and in France, Gérer et Comprendre, @GRH, Recherches en Sciences de Gestion and the Nouvelle Revue de Psychosociologie. He is also a member of the Laboratoire de Changement Social et Politique (Research Centre for Social and Political Change, University of Paris Diderot), a board member of the CIRFIP (International Centre for Research, Training and Intervention in Psycho-sociology) and a former board member of ISPSO (International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organizations). Gilles Arnaud is one of the founding members of the research group 'Psychoanalysis, Organizations, Work and Society' (AIMS).
The heuristic contribution of psychoanalysis to research work on organizations and management
A prolific current of research focusing on the psychodynamics of work, leadership and organizations has taken form over the last sixty years. The importance of this current remains in full evidence today and shows the interest of applying psychoanalytic theory to research work on organizations and management. First, psychoanalysis can aid researchers to develop a more profound comprehension of organizational functioning by taking into account the effects of the unconscious. Second, it enables them to better manage the relation to the object of their study by transposing aspects of individual analytical treatment and integrating transference into fieldwork. Last, it can allow them to re-question managerial ends from an"askew" point of view informed by psychoanalytic ethics and recognition of the Subject. This overall reflection will adopt a resolutely heuristic perspective in an attempt to highlight the theoretical, methodological, and practical interest of psychoanalysis for organization and management studies.
The Desire for work
The determinants of human engagement in work do not lie only in socio-historical causalities or in "genetic" dispositions. Indeed, that an individual be considered "hard-working" or unemployed for reasons that may be economic (growth, recession, etc.), political (stability, conflict, etc.), sociological (privileged or underprivileged environment, etc.), characteriological (hyperactive, indolent, etc.), medical (healthy, chronically ill, etc.) – and others – still does not enable one to answer this fundamental question: why do we work? It is at this impasse that psychoanalysis has led us to propose a change in perspective: to henceforth consider work as a creation of the subject's desire (the intimate aspect of work), and no longer as the field of an "external" necessity taking on diverse forms between the call of a need and the job market – a necessity by virtue of which a set of individuals would have a "right" to work in consequence of various coded manoeuvres called education, merit, privilege, competence, etc. This change in perspective, inasmuch as it proposes focusing attention on the idiosyncratic relation of the subject to his/her work (apart from all other considerations), then itself opens the way to a reversal of the terms of the problem, which in turn gives rise to the possibility of a new concrete encounter between psychoanalysis and management around the notion of "motivation": namely, to concern oneself, no longer with the place of desire in work (according to a now-classical perspective), but with the place of work in desire. In the first case, work is an external, self-evident object, as if given a priori: we have to work, so how can we accommodate ourselves to it, benefit from it and perform well in it? In the second case, it is a question of knowing, in fine, why we work, by questioning the place of work in the psychic construction of the subject, and of identifying the degree of internal freedom that we may hope to develop in our relation to work, beyond all exogenous determinations. This, de facto, raises the question: is there a Desire for work, in the sense that this desire would be all the significant elements, conscious and unconscious, that condition our career, our relation to the firm, and our work behaviour? This research aims at elaborating the psychological status of work from the point of view of the subject, understood here in the sense that Lacanian psychoanalysis gives to it, namely as the subject of the unconscious.