Defences against innovation: the conservation of vagueness

Title: Defences against innovation: the conservation of vagueness
Author: Philip Boxer
Category: Submitted for Publication – not to be quoted

An individual newly joining an enterprise may experience it as a social defence system to which he or she must react and adapt. For the nurses in Isabel Menzies-Lyth’s study, “in the process of matching between psychic and social defence systems, the emphasis was heavily on the modification of the individual’s psychic defences”. A social defence system is, however, also “a historical development through collusive interaction between individuals to project and reify relevant elements of their psychic defence systems”. Menzies-Lyth underlines that the use of the organisation of an enterprise as a defence against anxiety is operated only by individuals. This approach has brought its clinical concepts, practices and focus on what enables interventions to be effective, approaching organisational entities through addressing the individual’s experience within a single enterprise, or, through the metaphoric use of psychoanalytic concepts to the enterprise itself as if it were an individual. Either way, the enterprise has been presumed to exist as a sovereign entity, paralleling the presumptions of a sovereign ego. How, then, are we to think psychoanalytically about the way in which the development of an enterprise interacts with an individual? The organisation of an enterprise used by its employees in support of their psychic defence systems is like the reef habitat used by its colonial organisms in support of their individual niches. The dynamic relationship of the coral reef with adjacent environments affects what forms of colonial organism it can support, but so too do the forms of colonial organism affect the topography of the coral reef. How does this translate into the individual-enterprise-environment dynamic? This paper considers the psychoanalytic implications of considering how cross-boundary conditions come to dominate intra-enterprise dynamics.

Download the full paper