Sub-theme 40: Affect at Work: Psychosocial Approaches to Organizations and Organizing

Marianna Fotaki
Manchester Business School, The University of Manchester, UK
Kate Kenny
NUI Galway, Ireland
Steen Visholm
Roskilde University, Denmark

Call for Papers

The 30th anniversary of The Managed Heart (Hochschild, 1983) marks the explosion of interest in emotions in management and organization studies. Emotion is central to the process of organizing and integral to the participation in organizational life (Putnam & Mumby, 1993: 36). To date however, the social and political dimensions of emotion tend to be missing from these conceptualizations. This sub-theme aims to redress this imbalance by proposing a psychosocial approach, which holds the potential of bridging the gap between the psychic and social; organization and policy, and public and private dimensions in research about organizations and organizing.

Our aim is to breathe life into previous conceptualizations of emotion, which have been critiqued for yielding an a-political, individualized worldview, by drawing on the vibrant and passionate traditions of psychodynamic and psychosocial inquiry. A diverse field, psychosocial studies encompasses Lacanian approaches (Kenny, 2010; Fotaki, 2010), more Kleinian-inspired relational psychoanalysis, as introduced by Hollway and Jefferson (2000), and other perspectives (Gabriel 1999; Frosh, 2010). Such approaches problematize the boundaries between traditionally dualistic concepts, including individual versus society, and public versus private. What unites these perspectives in their theoretical and methodological plurality is that they consider desiring human beings in all their contradictions as embedded in the social structures that define them in important ways.

We propose to connect organization studies with a diverse range of approaches from psychology, social sciences, cultural studies and feminist theory through the lens of affect. We invite theoretical, methodological and empirical contributions from a variety of perspectives, including but not limited to:

  • Political dimensions of affect drawing on variety of traditions from social and cultural theory
  • Changes in the positioning of affective economy from early bourgeois society to post-modernity
  • Affective responses and implications of austerity in public and private organizations
  • The materiality of life and its non-representational affective movements
  • Emotions and learning in organizations
  • New approaches to emotional labour to include leadership, service and caring work
  • Gender, diversity and feminist theorizing on affect at work
  • Emotional labour processes in health, social care and education
  • The commercialization of emotions in contemporary organizations
  • The 'dark side' of affect
  • Emotional exploitation at the work place in the late capitalism, including collusion and self-exploitation in creative industries, academia and others



Fotaki, Marianna (2010): 'Why do public policies fail so often? Exploring health policy making as an imaginary/symbolic construction.' Organization, 17 (6), 703–720.
Frosh, Stephen (2010): Psychoanalysis Outside the Clinic: Interventions in Psychosocial Studies. London: Palgrave.
Gabriel, Yiannis (1999): Organizations in Depth. London: Sage.
Hochschild, Arlie (1983): The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Emotions. Berkley: University of California Press.
Hollway, Wendy & Tony Jefferson (2000): Doing Qualitative Research Differently. London: Sage.
Kenny, Kate (2010): 'Beyond ourselves: passion and the dark side of identification in an ethical organization.' Human Relations, 63 (6), 857–873.
Putnam, Linda L. & Dennis K. Mumby (1993): 'Organizations, emotions and the myth of rationality.' In: S. Fineman (ed.): Emotions in Organizations. London: Sage, 36–58.


Marianna Fotaki is Professor in Health Policy, Organisation Theory and Ethics at Manchester Business School. Before joining academia she has worked as a medical doctor for Médecins du Monde and as the EU resident senior adviser to the governments of Russia, Georgia and Armenia for seven years. Her research on the marketization of public policy, health inequalities, and gender and sexuality appeared in 'Human Relations', 'British Journal of Management', 'Sociology of Health and Illness', 'Social Science & Medicine', 'Organization', 'Organization Studies', 'Journal of Social Policy', 'Public Administration'. Marianna's monograph "The Fantasy and Reality of Choice in Public Services" is to be published by Edward Elgar.
Kate Kenny is Lecturer in Political Science and Sociology at NUI Galway, Ireland. Her research interests include Whistleblowing in Banking and Finance Organizations, and issues of subjectivity and identity in work organizations. She recently co-authored a book on this topic, "Understanding Identity and Organizations" (Kenny, Whittle & Willmott, 2011). Her work has been published in 'Organization Studies', 'Human Relations', 'Organization' and 'Gender Work and Organization', among others. She is an editorial board member of ‘Organization’, the 'Journal of Organizational Ethnography' and 'ephemera: theory and politics of organization'.
Steen Visholm is Professor at Roskilde University, Denmark, and Director of the Center for Organizational Psychology. He is a certificated specialist and supervisor in psychotherapy and work and organizational psychology. From 1984 until 1996 he worked as a clinical psychologist in public psychiatry. He is Chair and staff member of various professional bodies including Network for Applied Psychodynamic Systems Organizational Psychology (NAPSO) and the Institute of Group Analysis (OPU), Copenhagen. Steen publishes widely on psychodynamic and organizational issues. His current research is on application of psychoanalytic thinking to organizational change, innovation, succession and learning.