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Working and resisting when one's workplace is under threat of being shut down: A Lacanian perspective


  • Bénédicte Vidaillet

    () (IRG - Institut de Recherche en Gestion - UPEM - Université Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée - UPEC UP12 - Université Paris-Est Créteil Val-de-Marne - Paris 12)

  • Grégory Gamot

    (LEM - Lille - Economie et Management - UCL - Université catholique de Lille - Université de Lille - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)


The case presented here shows how a set of Lacanian concepts can be useful for analysing the behaviour of the employees' representatives in a factory belonging to a large globalized and financialised corporation and threatened with closure. We identify a central characteristic of this organization (the obliteration of symbolic authority) to identify the psychic processes the employees' representatives go through as a result of this characteristic and the impact in terms of their difficulties in exerting resistance. We rest our analysis on the distinction Lacan makes between utterance and enunciation and make use of the concepts of master signifier, symbolic authority, fantasy and superego. We show that in this case the absence of symbolic authority leads the staff representatives to be taken over by the fantasy of a tyrannical and unbarred Other that has the absolute power to close down the factory at any time, and to feel guilty that they never do enough, a typical sense of guilt resulting from the superego's unfulfillable demands. This theory is also relevant for understanding the paradoxes of resistance: the staff representatives will need to reintroduce a symbolic authority so as to be able to start resisting and no longer be overwhelmed by the fantasy of an unbarred Other. We emphasize the benefits of using a Lacanian approach for understanding how discursive, psychic and emotional processes are joined in the power relations characteristic of a global capitalist corporation, and reflect on the structural conditions in which resistance is possible in contemporary organizations.

Suggested Citation

  • Bénédicte Vidaillet & Grégory Gamot, 2015. "Working and resisting when one's workplace is under threat of being shut down: A Lacanian perspective," Post-Print hal-01123563, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:journl:hal-01123563
    DOI: 10.1177/0170840615580013
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. David L. Collinson, 2002. "Managing Humour," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 39(3), pages 269-288, May.
    2. Mahmoud Ezzamel, 2001. "Power, Control and Resistance in 'The Factory That Time Forgot'," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(8), pages 1053-1079, December.
    3. Ezzamel, Mahmoud & Willmott, Hugh & Worthington, Frank, 2004. "Accounting and management-labour relations: the politics of production in the 'factory with a problem'," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 29(3-4), pages 269-302.
    4. Andrew D. Brown & Michael Humphreys, 2006. "Organizational Identity and Place: A Discursive Exploration of Hegemony and Resistance," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 43(2), pages 231-257, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Gilles Arnaud & Bénédicte Vidaillet, 2018. "Clinical and critical: The Lacanian contribution to management and organization studies," Post-Print hal-01591534, HAL.
    2. Parisa Dashtipour & Bénédicte Vidaillet, 2017. "Work as affective experience: The contribution of Christophe Dejours psychodynamics of work," Post-Print hal-01474361, HAL.

    More about this item


    master signifier; discourse analysis; Organization Studies Key words: Plant closure; Lacan; enunciation; power; resistance; fantasy; symbolic;

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