Narcissistic Process and Corporate Decay: The Theory of the Organizational Ideal

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TitleNarcissistic Process and Corporate Decay: The Theory of the Organizational Ideal
Publication TypeBook
Pub Year1990
AuthorsSchwartz, H. S.
Keywordsbureaucracy, conformity, creativity, environment, false self, group narcissism, individuality, meaning, organizational ideal, organizational totalitarianism, psychic prison, rank, ritual, role
Notes "When work, the productive process, becomes display, its meaning becomes lost. Its performance as part of the organizational drama becomes the only meaning it has. Accordingly, the parts it plays in the organization's transactions with the world become irrelevant. When this happens, work loses its adaptive function and becomes mere ritual. At the same time, the rituals that serve to express the individual's identification with the organization ideal, especially those connected with rank, come to be infused with significance for the individual. They become sacred. Thus, reality and appearance trade places. The energy that once went into the production of goods and services of value to others is channelled into the dramatization of a narcissistic fantasy in which the organization's environment is merely a stage setting." (p. 61) "Loss of Creativity The delegitimation of one's sense of what is important gives rise to a special case of the ritualization of work--the loss of creativity. Schein (1983) describes the condition of 'conformity' that follows from an insistence by the organization that all of its norms be accepted as being equally important. Under that condition, the individual 'can tune in so completely on what he sees to be the way others are handling themselves that he becomes a carbon-copy and sometimes a caricature of them.' Consequently, Schein notes: 'The conforming individual curbs his creativity and thereby moves the organization toward a sterile form of bureaucracy.' " (p. 63) "This is the fundamental dynamic of totalitarianism. It alienates people from themselves and gives them over to others. Whatever victories ensue must be pyrrhic. Whatever happiness is to be attained here is not the happiness of the individual. Indeed, it is not happiness at all. It is the drama of happiness attaching to a role that the person performs in a play that is written and directed by others." (p. 16) "In organizational totalitarianism the organization, as defined by its leadership's understanding of their own actions, is proclaimed to be the organizational ideal; and the organization's power is used to impose this as the ego ideal for the organization's participants. (p. 24)" "Thus, locating the return to narcissism at the head of the organization means more than establishing a direction toward the ego ideal. It involves establishing certain definite others, with their own way of looking at the world and at themselves and with their own history of actions, as already ideal. It involves, in other words, acquiescing to the perfection of some specific others as ones own moral obligation, collectively enforceable by all others who have done so and with whom one defines oneself as ideally in community. It legitimizes the coercion by the powerful that causes the less powerful to act out a drama whose theme is the perfection of the powerful. And it does so in such a way that the powerful can feel self-righteous about this coercion--as if they were performing a service or committing a sacrifice." (p. 24) "There is something not only unnatural but positively impossible about becoming someone else. But this is obligatory. The result is that the person one really is not only is unacceptable to oneself, but is unacceptable in social life, which is in turn composed of persons who are each unacceptable in social life for the same reasons. The result is that social interaction takes place not between persons, but between performances. Roles utter words at other roles. And if at any time any one of them were to say, as each of them somehow knows, 'This is a bunch of nonsense,' that person would become a pariah because he or she would bring out in all these people the anxiety that motivated the performance in the first place and maintained it at all times. Thus, each of these persons must live in more or less complete isolation and be terribly lonely." (p. 26)
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