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Zaleznik, A. (1996). The Unconscious Life Of Organizations: Interpreting Organizational Identity. By Michael A. Diamond. Westport, CT: Quorum Books, 1993, xiv + 251 pp., $59.95.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 44:319-322.

(1996). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 44:319-322

The Unconscious Life Of Organizations: Interpreting Organizational Identity. By Michael A. Diamond. Westport, CT: Quorum Books, 1993, xiv + 251 pp., $59.95.

Review by:
Abraham Zaleznik

Michael Diamond is Professor of Public Administration at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Diamond's writings attempt to bridge psychoanalytic thinking and organizational behavior. He is also a practicing organizational consultant. Diamond's doctor's degree is in government and politics.

In reading The Organizational Unconscious, it is abundantly clear that Diamond's identity in political science and public administration is fashioned from psychoanalytic ideas and that he extends this identity into the realm of therapist to organizations, for the most part public agencies, although he indicates he has had some experience in corporations.

Diamond's link between psychoanalytic theory and consulting to organizations, is his conviction that lurking behind the scenes in organizations is something called “the unconscious.” Diamond's unconscious, omnipresent in organizational life, is conceptually based upon Melanie Klein's psychoanalytic theory, but more directly upon the ideas of Wilfred Bion as set forth in his book Experiences in Groups(1961).

Relying upon Klein and Bion, Diamond's conception of the unconscious in organizational life is modeled upon the various primitive, preverbal conditions, such as the depressive position and the paranoid/schizoid position (Segal, 1973).

Essentially, Diamond begins and ends his book with Klein and Bion while seeing himself as an object relations theorist. For Diamond, the organizational unconscious persists, perhaps even originates, in the interpersonal relations of members of organizations. To be sure, in between his beginning and end, Diamond takes us through summaries of Freud, while accepting uncritically the now popular claim that instinct theory is dead and that the only basis for unconscious motivation and conflict in and out of organizations is intersubjectivity. We are given a brief survey course in the books of various academics concerned with organizations and the bridges between psychoanalysis and organizational theory.

Diamond demonstrates his literacy in psychoanalytic and organizational theory, but the pace is breathless and the synthesis ephemeral.

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