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Hoggett, P. (1997). The Unconscious at Work: Individual and Organisational Stress in the Human Services, edited by Anton Obholzer and Vega Zagier Roberts. London: Routledge, 1994. xx+224 pages. £14.99. Free Associations, 7(1):131-138.

(1997). Free Associations, 7(1):131-138

The Unconscious at Work: Individual and Organisational Stress in the Human Services, edited by Anton Obholzer and Vega Zagier Roberts. London: Routledge, 1994. xx+224 pages. £14.99

Review by:
Paul Hoggett

This Collection of essays arises from the Consulting to Institutions Workshop which started at the Tavistock Clinic in the 1980s. As such it represents the work of a central strand within the Group Relations tradition as it has developed through the activities of the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations over the last three decades.

Given that the focus of the book is upon human service organisations in Britain during a period of acute crisis and change within the welfare state its appearance is extremely timely. The book achieves its aim of being accessible to staff and managers within such organisations through a series of diverse case studies focusing on the way in which human service workers respond to the anxiety and pain of their work and to organisational crises and threats to survival. A conceptual section introduces a number of approaches to analysis including Bion's work on ‘basic assumptions’ in groups, Kleinian perspectives on projective identification processes and systems theories of organisations. A final section looks at issues relating to organisational growth and development.

I found the book to be full of useful insights. It is difficult to pick on some whilst not mentioning others but, for example, the link between basic assumptions and group cultures made by Stokes (p. 26), the point made by Mosse and Roberts that it is vital for groups who are struggling for survival to have ‘the right fight with the right people’ (p. 155) and Obholzer's reflection that much of the new public management at times appeared to be ‘paranoid-schizoid by choice’ (p. 173) have all given me much food for thought.

[This is a summary or excerpt from the full text of the book or article. The full text of the document is available to subscribers.]

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