The Kleinian vs Freudian theorisation of organisation

How am I to understand what an organisation is? Whatever my notion is will inform the way in which I approach the question of intervention. One way of approaching the distinctiveness of a Lacanian reading of Freud is through his reading of the Project [1]. This is in itself a major project. My intention in what follows is to sketch out an approach to the Project, and show the main lines of argument, which might lead to a topologising of organisation.

One of the points of difference between a Kleinian and Lacanian reading of Freud is over the nature and primacy of phantasy. Klein formulates phantasy under the maternal metaphor, bypassing the whole problematic of the subject’s relation to the Freudian object and to primary anxiety (and therefore primary phantasy), and shifting  the emphasis to the symbolic formations which arise to contain/defend against the secondary anxieties (and phantasies) associated with defending the (prior) response to primary anxiety. The Lacanians seek to re-open the Freudian problematic of primary anxiety through a consideration of the axiomatic structuring through which the subject constitutes his or her being-in-relation-to-desire (manque à être) [2].

This Freudian problematic can also be formulated in terms of the relation between Freud’s Structure and Function, in which Structure refers to that minimal set of relations (Maturana’s identity determining closure), the conservation of which Freud describes as the Pleasure Principle; and Function, referring to that which goes beyond this Principle – the behaviours of individuals that are constituted in relation to desire.

In these terms, if I approach Structure through Function, as happens with the Kleinian interpretations of symbolic functioning, then the Functioning takes place within the frame of the maternal metaphor. In the Kleinian argument therefore, this maternal metaphor is taken as being constitutive of Structure [3]. In contrast, the Lacanian argument approaches Function through Structure, with this structuring being constitutive of the subject’s being. Equivalently, I propose that Structure is constitutive of organisation qua Organization; and the particular relations to desire ‘on offer’ to individuals through the forms of support Organisation gives are like an ecosystem of possible psychical ‘niches’ on which primary anxiety may rest [4]. Thus I am equating Structure and fundamental phantasy, implying that there is a way of reading Organisation as a support for individuals’ structuring of their relation to desire. In these terms “resistance” can be theorised as conservation of identity; and questions of the ‘good’ of the organisation can only be answered through questioning the dynamic properties of Functioning in relation to Structure.[5]

So the Project offers a way into Freud’s oeuvre which offers promise as a way of approaching this Structure/Functioning. But is this just metaphoric thinking?  In the next blog I look more closely at the Freudian Project.

[1] Project for a Scientific Psychology (1950 [1895]) pp 283-397 Vol 1 Standard Edition.
[2] See the critique of The Unconscious at Work in “The dilemmas of ignorance“, where this problematic was raised.
[3] This is paralleled in the way primary task is invoked in Open Systems thinking in such a way as to suggest that Structure and Organisation follow logically from a determination of primary task. In practice, there is always a logically prior framework of structuring assumptions, which remains privileged.
[4] It is this sense that gives rise to the ‘coral reef’ metaphor of organizations, which, in their incarnate form, can be understood as the accumulated detritus of individuals’ efforts at seeking support for their identity.
[5] The ‘step-by-step’ schema of progressively raised ‘strategy ceilings’ is a way of theorising four formations of this Structure/Functioning in which more and more of the support for identity is put into question.

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