Lacanian psychoanalysis and management research: On the possibilities and limits of convergence

Arnaud Gilles (Strategy, HRM and OB, ESCP Europe Business School, Paris, France)
Vanheule Stijn (Psychoanalysis, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Publication date: 2 September 2013

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to reflect on how Lacanian psychoanalysis might inform management studies, and discuss limitations and consequences of adopting this particular framework for doing research in organizations.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors integrate existing literature on the topic, and try to articulate what Lacanian psychoanalysis contributes to the study of organizations and management; what its conceptual premises are; and which methodological consequences these premises have. Special attention is paid to the epistemological position of Lacanian psychoanalysis, and to potential pitfalls in using Lacanian theory.

Findings

The authors highlight the danger of Lacanian theory functioning as a dogmatic interpretative frame, and suggest countering this tendency by accentuating both the spirit of investigation fostered by Lacan and the ethical stakes of psychoanalytic intervention. The authors equally contend that Lacanian psychoanalysis problematizes the underpinnings of scientific discourse in general, with the epistemological foundations of the social sciences being called into question. Finally, they note that the scientific character of Lacanian psychoanalysis is itself open to contestation if approached from a positivistic point of view. Addressing these objections, the authors argue for the possibility of a promising epistemological convergence between psychoanalysis and management studies.

Originality/value

Overall, the authors' point is that Lacanian theory is unique in its systematic study of the dimension of the excluded and that it is in the study of this dimension that the benefit for organization and management research is to be found.

Keywords

Citation

Arnaud, G. and Vanheule, S. (2013), "Lacanian psychoanalysis and management research: On the possibilities and limits of convergence", Management Decision, Vol. 51 No. 8, pp. 1664-1677. https://doi.org/10.1108/MD-10-2012-0726

Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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