Doing Business with the Unconscious

Last updated, 11 Oct 2016
Additional info: 
Conference, call for abstracts
Palmerston North, New Zealand
22/02/2017 to 24/02/2017

“Doing Business with the Unconscious”


22 - 24 February 2017


Palmerston North, New Zealand


Abstracts of up to 500 words due by Friday the 16th December 2016.


Doing business is complex. Even with the best will in the world, the most rigorous planning, the most committed people, things often do not go to plan. In some cases they go wildly astray leading to unexpected, disastrous, and sometimes tragic outcomes.  Change projects that implode, disastrous board and manager conflicts, the failure of computer installations, dysfunctional farming families, CEO meltdowns, workplace violence, overwork, stress, burnout, not to mention the various social and environmental ills that come from the excesses of business.  While much of this is hidden, every sector of the economy has its high profile examples. But the cause and underlying conditions for such events and processes is often a mystery. The popular response is to individualize and locate the cause with a problematic ‘personality type’ – a so-called ‘psychotic’ manager, sociopath or narcissist. Or perhaps to turn the attention to some flaw in an organization’s culture, or to locate the problem with ‘capitalism’, ‘globalilzation’ or 'financilization’.  But what is really going on ‘down below’, as Leonard Cohen famously asked in ‘Hallelujah’? Part of the answer lies, we would argue, with and ‘in’ the Unconscious. 

The Unconscious is largely overlooked in most mainstream management and organization education and theory. While there are various popularized strands of such work (e.g. psycho-pathologies and narcissism), we would suggest that aside from the continuing work in the Tavistock tradition and certain prominent leadership theorists, the importance of unconscious knowing, that which escapes cognitive and behavioral analysis, has been overlooked (repressed) by management and organization scholarship, particularly in the last half of the 20th century. Despite this general repression, more recently various academic and practitioner groups have begun to reassert in research, teaching and consulting the importance of psychoanalytic approaches to knowing, resulting in some fascinating discoveries. This research is diverse in nature, drawing on various theoretical and clinical psychoanalytic traditions and techniques including Freudian, Kleinian, Jungian and Lacanian influences, amongst others. This conference aims to draw together scholars and practitioners from this tradition (clinical and in business) to interrogate how business can be done with or to the Unconscious. We call for papers that approach this problem from multiple angles, including but not limited to:

  •       Clinical encounters with business, capitalism and the world of work
  •       Executive coaching and management consulting from the perspective of the Unconscious
  •       The excesses and surpluses of management
  •       The other side of business, impacts of business practices in other realms – family, social, cultural, environmental
  •       Discussions and presentations of techniques for engaging unconsciously with and in business
  •       Feminism(s), business and the Unconscious
  •       Indigenous theorizing and psychoanalysis in business
  •       A view of the Unconscious in business from the humanities, arts, psychology and the social sciences

We are fortunate to host the following keynote speakers for the conference:


Professor Paul Verhaeghe, University of Ghent

Professor Marianna Fotaki, Warwick Business School

Professor Michael Fischer, Australian Catholic University

Dr Esther Faye, Lacanian Analyst in private practice, Melbourne


Please contact Andrew Dickson ( with any questions and please share widely!