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Szykierski, D. (2010). Shaping the Group Relations' Discourse: Bion's Position regarding Freud's View on Groups. Organ. Soc. Dyn., 10(1):56-78.

(2010). Organizational and Social Dynamics, 10(1):56-78

Shaping the Group Relations' Discourse: Bion's Position regarding Freud's View on Groups

Dorit Szykierski

For decades, Kleinian discourse was shaped by the wish to demonstrate a continuum between Klein and Freud. Only when Donald Meltzer pointed out the discontinuity from Freud to Klein, and from Klein to Bion, did other writers follow in his footsteps and take the discussion to the next level, where not only similarities but also differences in theory could be discussed. I propose to look back at some of the consequences such a discursive strategy entailed for group relations theory.

A close reading of Bion's paper ‘Re-View - Group Dynamics’ reveals the rhetorical strategy Bion uses to position himself in relation to Freud's view on groups and Klein's objects relation theory. Bion presents a comprehensive theory elaborating on the idea that there is a constant conflict between different levels of experience in groups: a primitive level of emotional drives and a sophisticated level of observing reason. After presenting his original and ground-breaking conceptualisation, Bion offers a radical criticism of Freud's view on groups, maintaining that there is a blind spot in Freud's perspective, determined by Freud's experiences in the psychoanalytic movement. I argue that the general disregard for this argument does not necessarily express opposition to the radical nature of the criticism, but is influenced by Bion's rhetorical strategy. Bion's strategy fits well with the culture of the Kleinian group's discourse at the time, the gist of it being that Freud's view on groups needs supplementation rather than correction. Comparison of Bion's group relations theory to Freud's view on groups reveals that Bion proposed a general theory, which is not included, but includes Freud's view as a particular case, flawed in its logic and restricted in its implementation - limitations Bion regards as caused by Freud's experiences as the leader of the psychoanalytic movement.

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