Work and play in management studies: a Kleinian analysis

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Kavanagh, Donncha
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University of Leicester; University of Essex
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This paper takes some of Melanie Klein’s ideas, which Bion (1961/1998) previously used to understand group dynamics, to analyse the discipline of management studies since its ‘birth’ in the United States in the late 19th century. Specifically, it focuses on the idealisation of work and play, and argues that at its inception, for idiosyncratic historical reasons, the discipline was rooted in a ‘paranoid-schizoid’ position in which work was idealised as good and play as bad. The paper maps out the peculiar set of factors and influences that brought this about. It then examines how and if, again following Klein, the discipline has evolved to the ‘depressive’ position, where the idealisations are replaced by a more ambiguous, holistic semantic frame. Seven different relationships between work and play are then described. The paper contends that the originary splitting and idealisation is foundational to the discipline, and provides an enduring basis for analysing management theory and practice. It concludes by using this splitting to map out five potential future trajectories for the discipline.
Work , Play , Klein , Management
Kavanagh, D. (2011) 'Work and play in management studies: a Kleinian analysis', Ephemera: Theory & Politics in Organization, 11(4) pp. 336-356.