“The sky's the limit”: fantasy in the age of market rationality

Bloom, Peter and Cederstrom, Carl (2009). “The sky's the limit”: fantasy in the age of market rationality. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 22(2) pp. 159–180.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1108/09534810910947190

Abstract

Purpose
– This paper has three purposes. The first is to introduce the concept of fantasy, based on Lacanian pyschoanlysis, in order to link theoretically the role of narrative and affect in organizational strategies of control. The second is to use this concept to illuminate the fantasmatic as well as ideological character of so‐called “market rationality.” The third is to reveal three dominant fantasies organizations draw on in an age of market rationality.

Design/methodology/approach
– This paper is primarily a conceptual investigation into the ways Lacanian psychoanalytic theories can help link the phenomena of narrative and affect within strategies of organizational control and second, how this relates to current trends of market rationalism.

Findings
– Drawing on a psychoanalytic register, the paper argues that organizational control strategies revolve around the presence of a fantasy which is comprised of a symbiotic stable fantasy promising psychological wholeness and an unstable fantasy threatening to prevent this achievement. Further, it reflects on how emergent notions of market rationality, analogous to themes of a “boundaryless” or “protean” career, draw on a particular anti‐organizational fantasies to affectively grip subjects within their values and practices. Three fantasies employed by organizations in an age of market rationalism were then identified.

Research limitations/implications
– In broader terms future research can turn to the concept of fantasy to better explain organizational control and ideological interpellation of employees, particularly in regard to concepts of narrative and emotion for this process. Specifically, this paper offers an innovative way to understand and investigate market rationality and changing cultures of organizations within the globalizing economy.

Originality/value
– This paper offers the category of Lacanian fantasy for linking narrative and affect in managerial ideologies. Additionally it draws on Lacanian theory to provide a more coherent and theoretically sophisticated account of market rationality and organizational strategies countering this trend.

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