Working and resisting when one's workplace is under threat of being shut down: A Lacanian perspective

Abstract : The case presented here shows how a set of Lacanian concepts can be useful for analysing the behaviour of the employees' representatives in a factory belonging to a large globalized and financialised corporation and threatened with closure. We identify a central characteristic of this organization (the obliteration of symbolic authority) to identify the psychic processes the employees' representatives go through as a result of this characteristic and the impact in terms of their difficulties in exerting resistance. We rest our analysis on the distinction Lacan makes between utterance and enunciation and make use of the concepts of master signifier, symbolic authority, fantasy and superego. We show that in this case the absence of symbolic authority leads the staff representatives to be taken over by the fantasy of a tyrannical and unbarred Other that has the absolute power to close down the factory at any time, and to feel guilty that they never do enough, a typical sense of guilt resulting from the superego's unfulfillable demands. This theory is also relevant for understanding the paradoxes of resistance: the staff representatives will need to reintroduce a symbolic authority so as to be able to start resisting and no longer be overwhelmed by the fantasy of an unbarred Other. We emphasize the benefits of using a Lacanian approach for understanding how discursive, psychic and emotional processes are joined in the power relations characteristic of a global capitalist corporation, and reflect on the structural conditions in which resistance is possible in contemporary organizations.
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Bénédicte Vidaillet, Grégory Gamot. Working and resisting when one's workplace is under threat of being shut down: A Lacanian perspective. Organization Studies, SAGE Publications, 2015, 36 (8), pp.1-25. ⟨10.1177/0170840615580013⟩. ⟨hal-01123563⟩

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