Sub-theme 45: Uncovering the Hidden: Psychoanalytic Insights into the 'Good Organization'

Ishan Jalan
Lancaster University, United Kingdom
Gilles Arnaud
ESCP Europe, France
Bénédicte Vidaillet
Université Paris-Est, France

Call for Papers

The pursuit of ‘The Good Organization’, although very tempting, it is also inherently ridden with tensions. Admittedly tensions are not always visible and their sources often escape the best of investigations. To fully comprehend underlying dissent, dissonance, conflict and resistance, like Sherlock Holmes, one must carefully develop an eye to spot the disturbed, the concealed and the tampered (Gabriel, 1999) within the organization. It then becomes imperative to proceed with suspicion, studying visible symptoms, exploring the hidden, the proscribed or the unconscious dynamics at play and offering to delicately bring forth antagonisms that lie beneath.
In this light, psychoanalysis offers the necessary theoretical, conceptual and methodological tools required to undertake this task and engage in this investigative discourse. Organization studies have long benefitted from its engagement with psychoanalytic theories and concepts because it “comprises one of the most complex and encompassing theories of human subjectivity with an emancipatory potential that continues to inform organization studies” (Fotaki et al., 2012). This is evident from a large body of work in recent years (Gabriel, 1995, 1999, 2002; Arnaud, 2012; Stein, 2005; Vidaillet, 2007; Fotaki et al., 2012; Jalan, 2015; Neumann & Hirschhorn, 1999; etc.) in this field.
Psychoanalysis encourages us to probe deep into the concept of the 'good organization'. It is not only that all good organizations are or can turn bad, but also that the ideal of the good organization can serve as a fig leaf behind which unethical, irrational or oppressive practices take place. We propose that the pursuit of the good organization would be incomplete without the pursuit of the proscribed and unmanageable aspects of organizational life. The inclusion of a psychoanalytic approach would offer explorative, interpretative as well as corrective insights into diagnosis and intervention. This sub-theme call also aspires to contribute to the ongoing broader debates around the synergy between organization studies and psychoanalysis. We welcome submissions from different traditions (Freud, Lacan, Klein, Winnicott, Jung, etc.) as well as we encourage conceptual, critical and empirical papers using a variety of theoretical and methodological approaches.
Contributions are invited which focus primarily, although not necessarily exclusively, on one or more of the following themes:

  • Exploring illusions, fantasy and desire as sites of struggle and aspirations for the good organization
  • Problematizing the idea of ‘good’: defences against goodness & loss of goodness
  • The dark side of the good organization
  • Psychoanalysis as an alternative normative approach to organizational understanding.
  • Exploring the role and influence of emotions & affectivity within unconscious dynamics and organizational practice
  • Narcissism, organizational decay, idealization and the organizational ideal
  • Exploring subjectivity & repairment – what of the impossibility to constitute the good?
  • Exploring ethics in the context of the good organization: following Lacan, ethics occurs “precisely when man poses that question of the good he had unconsciously sought in the social structures”
  • Exploring tensions, fractions, splitting and defences in the search of balance & the sustainable organization
  • Containing antagonisms and offering interventions



  • Arnaud, G. (2012): “The contribution of psychoanalysis contribution to organization studies and management: An overview.” Organization Studies, 33 (9), 1121–1135.
  • Fotaki, M., Long, S., & Schwartz, H.S. (2012): “What can psychoanalysis offer organization studies today? Taking stock of current developments and thinking about future directions.” Organization Studies, 33 (9), 1105–1120.
  • Gabriel, Y. (1995): “The unmanaged organization: Stories, fantasies and subjectivity.” Organization Studies, 16 (3), 477–501.
  • Gabriel, Y., & Carr, A. (2002): “Organizations, management and psychoanalysis: An overview.” Journal of Managerial Psychology, 17, 348–365.
  • Gabriel, Y. (1999): Organizations in Depth. London: SAGE Publications.
  • Jalan, I. (2015): “Researching dark emotions: eliciting stories of envy.” In: H. Flam & J. Kleres (eds.): Methods of Exploring Emotions. London: Routledge, 81–89.
  • Neumann, J., & Hirschhorn, L. (1999): “The challenge of integrating psychodynamic and organizational theory.” Human Relations, 52, 683–692.
  • Stein, M. (2005): “The Othello conundrum: The inner contagion of leadership.” Organization Studies, 26 (9), 1405–1419.
  • Vidaillet, B. (2007): “Lacan’s contribution to the study of workplace envy.” Human Relations, 60, 1669–1700.
Ishan Jalan is Assistant Professor of Leadership and Management Studies at Lancaster University, UK. His research focuses on studying dark and hidden emotions, psychoanalytic approaches to organizational life, leadership studies, storytelling and subjectivity at work.
Gilles Arnaud is Professor of Organizational Psychology at ESCP Europe, Paris, France. He has a strong interest in the application of psychoanalysis, especially Lacanian theory, to organization studies and business. He currently serves on the Editorial Board of ‘Organization Studies’ and other international academic journals.
Bénédicte Vidaillet is Professor of Organizational Psychology at the Université Paris-Est, France, and Co-Director of the Strategy and organization department of the IRG Management Center, France. Her current research interests focus on subjectivity and emotions at work as well as on alternative organizations. She uses mainly a Lacanian approach to organizations.