For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Work as affective experience: the contribution of Christophe Dejours’‘psychodynamics of work’"

by Dashtipour, Parisa; Vidaillet, Bénédicte (2017)


Psychoanalytic perspectives (such as the Kleinian/Bionian and Lacanian literature) have made significant contributions to the study of affect in organizations. While some have pointed out the affects involved in work tasks, most of this literature generally focuses on the affects linked to organizational life (such as learning, leadership, motivation, power, or change). The center of attention is not on affects associated with the work process itself. We draw from the French psychodynamic theory of Christophe Dejours—who is yet to be known in English language organization studies—to make the following contributions. First, we show the relationship between affect and working by discussing Dejours’ notions of affective suffering, the real of work, the significance of the body, and ‘ordinary sublimation’. Second, we advance critical research in organization studies by demonstrating the centrality of work in the affective life of the subject. Third, the article reinterprets Menzies’ well-known hospital case study to illustrate how Dejours’ theory extends existing psychoanalytical approaches, and especially to point to the significant role of the work collective in supporting workers to work well. We conclude by suggesting that if the centrality of work in the affective life of the subject is acknowledged, it follows that resistance strategies, and work collectives’ struggle for emancipation, should focus on reclaiming work.

Key Passage

The originality of Dejours’ approach is that it illuminates the affective, subjective, and embodied experience of working, focusing particularly on the affect of suffering—as a consequence of the encounter of the subject with what Dejours calls the ‘real of work’—and the way in which this affect can—or cannot—be sublimated. This framework also articulates the role of the work organization and the significance of the work collective in creating and/or transforming such affect. Dejours’ theory is much needed in psychoanalytically inspired research in organization studies because it points out the centrality of work in human life and, as we will see, this has political implications. (p.19)


Dejours, Emancipation, Reclaiming Work, Affect, Psychoanalysis, Psychodynamics Of Work, Collective, Organisation Studies


Dejours, Christophe, Psychological Centrality of Work

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