Absent presence: can psychoanalytic theory contribute to our understanding of strategizing?

SWEENEY, Marc (2018). Absent presence: can psychoanalytic theory contribute to our understanding of strategizing? Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.

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Link to published version:: https://doi.org/10.7190/shu-thesis-00086


This is a critical hermeneutic and psychoanalytic study exploring the question of strategy absence in a medium-sized professional services firm. The research considered the position of an organization which deployed a minimal strategy in spite of wide-ranging and disruptive environmental change. It investigated the phenomenon of the absence of strategy in this firm from within a subjectivist and interpretivist paradigm using psychoanalytic theory. Taking psychoanalytic theory’s premise that much of our experience is out of our conscious awareness, and that what is unconscious exerts a considerable influence on perception and behaviour, the research challenge was to investigate strategizing with an understanding that some of this mental activity is unconscious to the strategist. This presents both a problem and an opportunity for the organization, it is argued. It is problematic in the sense that overly rational and instrumental frameworks for understanding strategic issues will omit unconscious knowledge, which can be potentially negative for the team engaged in strategy, but it is an opportunity because the unconscious is a resource that is potentially available to them. Developing awareness of the unconscious dimension to human perception and behaviour and drawing upon this resource in strategizing practices is a developmental and reflexive process. Lacanian psychoanalytic theory locates the unconscious in language and argues that language itself is unconsciousness. The research is therefore a study of language in the subject organization as members of the executive team reflect upon the strategic issues facing them and their possible responses to them. It is argued that in the unconsciousness of the language used by the senior team there is a presence of unconscious, sometimes traumatic and difficult, knowledge which prevents the articulation of strategy, or strategy discourse. This, it is argued is the presence within the absence of strategy.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Thesis advisor - Crone, Michael [0000-0001-9744-1918]
Additional Information: Director of Studies - Michael Crone
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.7190/shu-thesis-00086
Depositing User: Justine Gavin
Date Deposited: 03 Sep 2018 11:56
Last Modified: 03 May 2023 02:07
URI: https://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/22410

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