This study seeks to create an account of how the performing subject comes into being within a specific organizational context. It looks at some of the ways in which managerial practices impact upon the selfhood of employees by means of the language in which they are couched. Drawing heavily on the work of the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, this study furthers insight into the ways in which language, power and subjectivity are connected in organizations. The prime vehicle for exploring these linkages is Lacan’s conceptualization of the three registers of subjectivity: the Symbolic, the Imaginary and the Real. It traces the linguistic determination of subjectivity, in which the language of performance carves out a space for the subject in the organizational context, thereby eliciting a host of significations of what it means to perform. Although stringent in their effects, these significations nevertheless prove incomplete. The author argues that this Symbolic chain of signifiers continues to function as something Other and alien to the subject, thereby putting into motion the processes of the Imaginary. With respect to this register, the author demonstrates that managerial practices put forward particular images of performance, which form objects of identification for the performing subject. These identifications are an important influence on the behavior of the subject at work. In order to uncover resistance to these determining effects, instances are highlighted in which identifications are partially or fully interrupted within the speech acts of respondents. The author argues that these instances indicate the possibility of "traversing the fundamental fantasy", which implies going beyond narrowly defined identifications with performance. Their interruption allows the subject to glimpse the indeterminate nature of the signifying network. For this reason, the traversal indicates the possibility for the subject to change its position with regard to the Other, in which it engages in more partial and fragmented forms of identification rather than being caught in a narcissist fantasy of autonomy and rationality. Hereby, the fantasy of self-actualization, as propagated within HRM practices, is exposed as flawed and exploitative.

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Dr. Ph. Van Engeldorp-Gastelaars Prof.dr. A. Maas Dr. C. Jones Dr. A.E. Keegan (co-promotor) Rotterdam School of Management (RSM) Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR)
D.N. den Hartog (Deanne) , S.J. Magala (Slawomir)
Erasmus University Rotterdam , Erasmus Research Institute of Management
ERIM Ph.D. Series Research in Management
Erasmus Research Institute of Management

Hoedemaekers, C. (2008, January 10). Performance, Pinned Down: A Lacanian Analysis of Subjectivity at Work (No. EPS-2008-121-ORG). ERIM Ph.D. Series Research in Management. Retrieved from