Uncanny organization and the immanence of crisis: the public sector, neoliberalism, and Covid-19

Kevin Orr*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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    This paper uses the psychoanalytic concept of the uncanny to develop a new perspective on crisis, one that challenges its associations with turning points and opportunities. The study highlights the immanence of crisis in organizational life. Crises under consideration include the historic Covid-19 global pandemic, and examples of crisis in public sector organizations shaped by neoliberalism. Engaging with the work of Julia Kristeva, the uncanny is explored as an integral part of our subjectivities, one which disrupts our social stabilities and patterns of organizing. A montage of autoethnographic vignettes is assembled to illustrate the eruption of the uncanny unconscious, a dynamic that unsettles our routine impositions of order and control. Examining crisis through the lens of the uncanny brings to the fore the elusive and affective aspects of socio-political and organizational life. This perspective draws us away from an understanding of crisis as a passing phenomenon or as an opening that can be instrumentalized for cunning managerial purposes. Instead, it suggests the more radical insight that crisis is a condition of organizing.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2009-2030
    Number of pages22
    JournalOrganization Studies
    Issue number12
    Early online date23 Jun 2023
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2023


    • Crisis
    • Uncanny
    • Covid-19
    • Affect
    • Public sector
    • Psychoanalytic
    • Ethnography
    • Montage
    • Juxtaposition
    • Neoliberalism


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