PSYCHOANALYSIS OF ORGANISATIONS WORKSHOP

REVISITING THE UNCONSCIOUS DEFENCES AGAINST ANXIETY THESIS
ST JOHN’S COLLEGE, OXFORD | 16-17 SEPTEMBER 2013

The purpose of the workshop was to re-visit a tradition of psychodynamically informed consulting developed at the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations in the 1960s by a group of psychoanalytically trained social scientists. A key figure there was Isabel Menzies, a psychoanalyst and sociologist whose seminal papers on her work with organisations developed the thesis of social systems operating defensively in response to the collective anxieties within them in a way that obstructed the principal task of the institution.

Over the two days there were nineteen talks grouped under the headings ‘Conceptual and Theoretical Issues’ and ‘Contexts of Application: the Private Sector, Health Services, Welfare and Education’.

The long term aim of the workshop was to raise awareness of the theoretical resource to organisation studies and other disciplines that Menzies’ work represents and, eventually, to initiate a research programme. The final session of the workshop was an optimistic discussion of avenues for progress.

A resulting book – Social Defences Against Anxiety: Explorations in a Paradigm – was published by Karnac books in November 2014.