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Abstract

In this chapter, we inquire into the routine, taken-for-granted, and even banal qualities of organization experienced by members as emotionally abusive. Following Michael Eigen (1996) in his book Psychic Deadness, we refer to emotional abuse in the workplace as moral violence. In this chapter we ask: Is the workplace filled with moral violence? Is it dominated by a culture that is emotionally and psychologically deadening, numbing, or brutal? Are there certain attributes and assumptions linked to these experiences, such as the destruction of reflectivity and learning from experience? Do leaders and followers co-produce the sort of organizational culture in which interpersonal and intra-organizational acts of moral violence are tacitly condoned? What role, if any, does power and hierarchy with its implicit values of dominance and submission play in promoting acts of moral violence? We analyze these issues by using a perspective informed by psychoanalytic object-relations theory (Greenberg & Mitchell, 1983; Ogden, 1989) and to a lesser degree self-psychology (Kohut, 1977, 1984).

Omnipotence describes a defensive wish, buried in every psyche, that one will have a perfect world, will prevail over time, death, and the other— and that coercion can succeed.

Benjamin, Like Subjects, Love Objects

Human aggression is most dangerous when it is attached to two great absolutarian psychological constellations: the grandiose self and the archaic omnipotent object.

Kohut, “Thoughts on Narcissism and Narcissistic Rage,” The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, Vol. 27

From now on the subject says “Hullo object! I destroyed you. I love you. You have value for me because of your survival of my destruction of you. While I am loving you I am all the time destroying you in (unconscious) fantasy.”

Winnicott, Playing and Reality

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© 2009 Michael A. Diamond and Seth Allcorn

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Diamond, M.A., Allcorn, S. (2009). Moral Violence. In: Private Selves in Public Organizations. Palgrave Macmillan, New York. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230620094_7

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