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

Dejours’ theory is really centered on what working does psychically to the subject, how it affects him or her. For Dejours, some level of suffering is inevitable in all types of work (even though, admittedly, some categories of work are more painful than others). Nevertheless, and fundamentally, work can contribute to subjective and social enrichment. The underlying assumption is that human beings generally want to work well, and they gain satisfaction when given the opportunity to do so (Dejours, 1980, 1998) (p.22)


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


Dejours, Christophe, Psychological Centrality of Work

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