Skip to main content

Psychoanalytic Understanding of Groups and Organizations


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 6
  • Convenor: Sian Macfie
  • Assessment: a 2500-word essay (100%)

Module description

This module is about the application of psychoanalytic concepts and ways of understanding unconscious processes to the study of groups and organisations. The teaching will be through lectures and seminars, and through participation in a 'work discussion group', where you bring examples of organisational life.

In the lectures and seminars, you will explore the specific psychoanalytic contribution to the understanding of more unconscious structures, dynamics and processes in organisations, including an exploration of: how boundaries and roles are set up and maintained, how authority and leadership is set up and experienced, how organisations define their 'primary task', how anxiety is managed and defended against, how social difference is managed and negotiated, and how organisations have changed to encompass new ideas on work practices ('the postmodern organisation').

A psychosocial perspective will add a more social dimension to this understanding, particularly in looking at how organisations construct and deal with social differences such as race, class and gender.

Indicative module content

  • The role of observation in understanding behaviour and experience, particularly of individuals in organisations
  • Psychoanalytic concepts developed to understanding the dynamics and processes of organisations, including: task, role, boundary, basic assumptions, social defence, 'organisation in the mind', postmodern organisation
  • The contribution of the 'group relations' approach
  • Studies of how social differences are constructed and experienced in organisations
  • Psychosocial concepts relevant to understanding organisational life
  • How psychoanalytic and psychosocial understandings can be applied: studies of consultations to organisations

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • show an understanding of psychoanalytic theory and concepts which contribute to the study of organisational dynamics and processes
  • show an understanding of psychosocial theories and concepts - for instance, those employed in understanding intimacy, violence, power, social identity and difference - that contribute to the study of organisational dynamics and process
  • apply this psychoanalytic and psychosocial understanding to experiences of organisational life in 'work discussion groups'
  • develop the capacity to make observations of organisational life in bringing examples of one's own experience in organisations to 'work discussion groups'.