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Morgan-Jones, R. (2010). The Work Group as an Object of Desire: The Embodiment of Protomental Life. Organ. Soc. Dyn., 10(1):79-98.

(2010). Organizational and Social Dynamics, 10(1):79-98

The Work Group as an Object of Desire: The Embodiment of Protomental Life1

Richard Morgan-Jones

Unconscious motivational issues draw people, as a source of desire, to a particular work group. This paper follows the open systems tradition in exploring some of the invisible issues that cross the boundary into the organisation which reveal aspects of the desire for the work group in the mind. It also addresses some of the ways the relation between people and technology express desire and motivation. This suggests a sometimes unconscious significance of this important and ‘prosthetic’ socio-technical relation between group, mind, body, and technology.

Examples will be drawn from consulting to the organisational fields of a theological college, an offenders' institution, a creative interior design factory, the psychiatric service in a prison, and staffing group relations conferences. Each profession performs unconscious transformational tasks on behalf of its environment and expects that its staff will manage the risks to their health. Part of this risk is that the work group is desired because it serves to suppress emotional experience of a particular kind, which people seek to avoid, and yet aspects of the work may expose precisely what people dread to have exposed, which is not conceivable until it has been enacted and embodied.

This work draws on previous presentations to Opus and work in the context of consulting to occupational health issues and their relation to organisational culture and strategy.

It describes health and safety stress risk analysis encountered in the field of work force health for which organisations now carry a statutory responsibility. These represent occupational hazards at the level of socio-somatic ailments. These are the socio-psychic correlates to the dust miners breathe in unconsciously ‘with the air down the mine’.

In reflecting on these phenomena, the paper explores a number of theoretical approaches to provide ways of exploring, apprehending, and thinking about experience. These include:

ο    Bion's theory of the protomental system that is in a reciprocal relation to basic assumption dynamics in groups;

ο    Lacan's exploration of the nature of desire;

ο    the sociology of embodiment as an attempt to describe health experience in social terms;

ο    group-analytic approach to the group as an object of desire developed by Morris Nitsun and its revelation in the use of language as a body of thought;

ο    socio-technical analysis of organisational culture.

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