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Shapiro, E.R. (1998). The Personality of the Organization. By Lionel F. Stapley. London: Free Association Books, 1996, 230 pp., $55.00. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 46(4):1313-1315.

(1998). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 46(4):1313-1315

The Personality of the Organization. By Lionel F. Stapley. London: Free Association Books, 1996, 230 pp., $55.00

Review by:
Edward R. Shapiro

Lionel Stapley has moved from being a British police officer to the position of chief superintendent, then internal consultant, and finally director of OPUS, an “organization for promoting understanding in society.” This book represents his integration of psychoanalytic thinking with organizational perspectives, some of which are derived from his involvement with the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations.

Stapley has studied psychoanalytic theory. He carefully pulls out aspects of the theory of individual unconscious functioning and applies it to organizational life. He differentiates the conscious organization from the unconscious one, the latter serving as a “holding environment” for members. His notion is that organizational culture develops out of “the institution in the mind,” an interaction between the created qualities of organizational holding and its members' views of it. He sees the organization as a “confluent global object, which comes to represent the mother of a very small child, who is so much bigger than her baby.” He chooses the mother as the salient metaphor for the organization, ignoring the unconscious experience of the family group as a more complex systems metaphor for organizational experience (Scharff 1989). This inevitably reduces the dynamics of organizational life to a more primitive maternal transference.

Stapley's notion of culture is complex: he sees it simultaneously as “an idea held in the mind, an intersubjective phenomenon as developed out of the interrelatedness to symbolic objects, and an unconscious as well as a conscious process.

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