Title: The Social Character of Bureacracy: Anxiety and Ritualistic Defense
Author(s): Michael A. Diamond
Reference: Political Psychology, 1985, 6(4), 663-679
Abstract: In the analysis of the social character of bureaucracy, one must examine the psychodynamics of obsessional neurosis in the individual and ritualistic practices in the bureaucracy. Much of organization theory either implicitly or explicitly characterizes bureaucratic activity as ritualistic. Such behavior results from obsessional thinking and compulsive action in the individual aimed at defending the self from anxiety over losing control. Ritualistic individual behavior serves to contain anxiety stemming from the uncanny experience of momentary loss in self/object boundaries and identity. This may occur in the organizational recruit at the moment of entry into the bureaucracy where one acts to deny reality by “undoing” the self-alienation that has occurred (signal anxiety) and “isolating” its affects (Freud, 1959a). Managing self/object boundaries and controlling ambivalent feelings emerges as primary motivating actions in the newcomer. Consequently, the new organizational member finds his defensive and regressive actions consistent with ritualistic tendencies and bureaucratic practices. The psychoanalysis of ritualistic behavior elucidates the human construction of and adherence to a bureaucratic form of organization as the outcome of the obsessional neurotic’s actions in securing himself against anxiety about losing control over the impulses of the id.