Social Defences Against Anxiety: Explorations in a Paradigm

Editor : David Armstrong, Editor : Michael Rustin

Part of The Tavistock Clinic series - more in this series

Social Defences Against Anxiety: Explorations in a Paradigm

Book Details

  • Publisher : Routledge
  • Published : November 2014
  • Cover : Paperback
  • Pages : 400
  • Category :
    Organisational Psychology
  • Category 2 :
  • Catalogue No : 35589
  • ISBN 13 : 9781782201687
  • ISBN 10 : 1782201688

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This book revisits the theory of social systems as a defence against anxiety first set out by Elliott Jaques and Isabel Menzies Lyth in papers which they published in 1955 and 1960, and which have been influential points of reference ever since. Menzies Lyth’s study of the nursing system of a general hospital, with its roots in both psychoanalysis and socio-technical systems thinking, has remained one of the most convincing demonstrations of the influence of unconscious anxieties on social behaviour, and of their effects in inducing dysfunctional defensive systems in organisations. The theory of ‘social defences against anxiety’ remains one of the most significant contributions of the ‘Tavistock school’ to the study of human relations.

Contributors explore this theory as a generative paradigm, capable both of theoretical extension and of empirical application to different institutional settings. They review changes which have taken place in the theoretical and social context since these ideas were first advanced, and assess what conceptual revisions these developments require. The relevance of Menzies Lyth’s ideas to contemporary settings of health and nursing is examined, as is the value of these ideas in explaining anxieties and their concomitant social defences in the private sector and in various fields of public education and welfare. Finally, the book discusses some educational and therapeutic practices which have evolved at the Tavistock and elsewhere to ‘contain’ unconscious anxieties and to mitigate damaging forms of defence against them.

Contributors to the book include writers distinguished for their contributions to the fields of organisational consultancy, to applied socio-psychoanalytic thought, and to research and professional practice in several fields.

Contributors: Philip Boxer, Andrew Cooper, Maxim de Sauma, Peter Elfer, Marcus Evans, Sarah Fielding, Jo Finch, William Halton, Larry Hirschorn, Paul Hoggett, Sharon Horowitz, Emil Jackson, Sebastian Kraemer, James Krantz, Debbie Langstaff, Amanda Lees, Susan Long, Aideen Lucey, Nick Papadopoulos, Jason Schaub, Mannie Sher, Jon Stokes, Simon Tucker, Liz Tutton, Anne Zachary

Reviews and Endorsements

‘The editors are to be congratulated on having turned out a most impressive piece of work. Their introduction is a masterpiece of clarity, of concepts, and of subsequent developments following Isabel Menzies Lyth’s original work. In addition to this most erudite summary, there is a wealth of contributions from a worldwide spectrum of application in which any reader will find inspiration.’
— Anton Obholzer, Chair, Tavistock Institute of Medical Psychology

‘Isabel Menzies Lyth was a pivotal and highly original thinker in the area of group and organizational dynamics, specifically concerning the theme of social defences against anxiety. In this volume, David Armstrong and Michael Rustin do justice to her work by bringing together an impressive range of therapists, consultants, and academics, who further her thinking and take this approach into a number of new areas. This is a superb volume that makes an excellent contribution to both theory and practice. I can thoroughly recommend it.’
— Professor Mark Stein, Chair in Leadership and Management, University of Leicester, UK

‘A rare gift to any field, this volume critically engages one of its foundational concepts: collective unconscious defences against shared anxiety. At once scholarly and imaginative, the scope of this volume’s contributions is breathtaking: from careful examination of the nature of anxiety to astute observations on the interaction between organizational and societal dynamics. This book is a sweeping achievement, discerningly rooted in its tradition and yet extraordinarily rejuvenating to contemporary thinking and practice.’
— M. Gerard Fromm, PhD, ABPP, President of the International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organizations; Senior Consultant, Erikson Institute for Education and Research, Austen Riggs Center

‘This book is a landmark defining the current status of the rich tradition arising from the application of psychoanalysis to social systems. That move from individual work to applying its results to the field of social science was obviously appropriate for psychoanalytic object relations theory with its emphasis on engagement between minds. Its conceptualization provided penetrating understanding of the psychodynamics of health provision, a framework for consulting to organizations in general, and new insights on the conceptual study of the human mind in society. The vigour of this approach, and a variety of innovative projects from a wide landscape of interests is surveyed in these explorations. They set a marker of where the tradition now lies, and point to where its contributions can most clearly be made in the future.’
— R. D. Hinshelwood, Professor of Psychoanalysis at the Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies, University of Essex

About the Editor(s)

David Armstrong is an Associate Consultant at Tavistock Consulting. He trained as a social psychologist at the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations and worked in action research and organisational consultancy at the University of London and The Grubb Institute before returning to the Tavistock in 1994 to join a newly established consultancy service at the Tavistock Clinic. A Distiguished Member of the International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organisations, he is the author of Organization in the Mind: Psychoanalysis, Group Relations and Organizational Consultancy.

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Michael Rustin is Professor of Sociology at the University of East London, a Visiting Professor at the Tavistock Clinic, and an Associate of the British Psychoanalytical Society. He has written widely on psychoanalytic approaches to culture and society, including on children’s fiction (Narratives of Love and Loss) and drama (Mirror to Nature) both with Margaret Rustin. He is also author of The Good Society and the Inner World, and is a co-author/editor of the current After NeoLiberalism: the Kilburn Manifesto.

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