Vol. 9 No. 1 (2021): Business & Management Studies: An International Journal

Analysing power and control in work organizations: Assimilating a critical socio-psychodynamic perspective

Severin Hornung
University of Innsbruck, Institute of Psychology
Thomas Höge
University of Innsbruck, Institute of Psychology

Published 2021-03-25


  • Organizational Power, Management Control Systems, System-Justifying Ideologies, Psychodynamics, Critical Management Studies, Subjectification, Governmentality, Social Character
  • Örgütsel Güç, Yönetim Kontrol Sistemleri, Sistemi Haklı Çıkaran Ideolojiler, Psikodinamik, Kritik Yönetim Çalışmaları, Subjektifleştirme, Yönetişim, Sosyal Karakter

How to Cite

Hornung, S., & Höge, T. (2021). Analysing power and control in work organizations: Assimilating a critical socio-psychodynamic perspective. Business & Management Studies: An International Journal, 9(1), 355-371. https://doi.org/10.15295/bmij.v9i1.1754


This conceptual article draws on critical traditions from several social science disciplines, notably, social, political, and systems theory, sociology, psychology, and management studies, as it seeks to explore, assemble, and integrate some constitutive components of a socio- and psychodynamic perspective on power and control in work organizations. At its core is an archetypal taxonomy of formal (economic), real (technocratic), normative (ideological), and formative (biopolitical) modes of power and managerial control through various means and combinations of commodification (contracts, compensation, competition), coercion (commands, constraints, compliance), cooptation (culture, consent, commitment), and creation (corrosion, conception, coevolution). Other integral elements are domains or foci of inquiry, specifically, interests, ideologies, institutions, and identities. These domains are linked to meta-, macro-, meso-, and micro-levels of analysis, resembling economy, society, organization, and individual. Accordingly, behavioural control and psychological governance processes are reinforced by a pervasive economic system logic, cascading into political, social, and psychodynamic sublogics. These taxonomies are integrated with concepts from the depth and dynamic psychology and traced across economic (meta-system interests), societal (macro-political ideologies), organizational (meso-social institutions), and individual (micro-psychodynamic identities) levels revealing patterns of self-similarity. It is argued that societal subsumption and subjugation reproduce psychodynamic subjectification (submission, sublimation) at the individual level, mediated by the subordinating and socializing forces inherent in organizational control systems. Discussed are implications for the dynamics of power and control in contemporary societies, organizations, and individuals under hegemonic governance of neoliberal ideology.


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