Law in Contemporary Society

-- By IrisAikateriniFrangou - 25 Feb 2021

Exploring Arnold's Social Psychology of Organizations Through the Lens of Intrapsychic Psychology & the Multiplicity of Individual Personality

Arnold through Freud, and from Arnold to Putnam

Thurman Arnold in “The Folklore of Capitalism” is concerned with the social psychology of organizations. To better understand his theory of social organization, the present essay first reduces social psychology to intrapsychic psychology and views the political leader as a psychiatrist or psychotherapist who treats neurosis in society. This “neurosis” is identified, through Freud, as the dissociation of mortality, which explains why it is “tears and parades” that drive the world i.e. why “man” (or Arnold’s individual party member) is in perpetual need of elevated, grandiose ideals that (imbued with a certain theatricality) inspire his continued enthusiasm.

The second part of the essay, acknowledging the limitations of this reductive analogy (of political leader to psychotherapist) and hence of viewing social psychology as about man’s “neurosis”, seeks to further elucidate organizational behavior by building a bridge from Arnold to Frank Putnam, and drawing from Putnam’s state model of personality in the “Way We Are.” It sees personality as comprised of multiple states of being, the links between which, are shaped by interpersonal relations. Organizational behavior then, involves state dependent learning and memory. Over time, this results in complex personality states linked to organizations.

An offshoot of such states are complex collective personality states that embody the “paranoid style” in (American) politics (as Richard Hofstadter coined it)- an enduringly psychic phenomenon that uses paranoid modes of political expression by normal people. Ironically, the present essay argues, the paranoid style organization (or spokesman) plays on the multiplicity of social psychology but manipulates it to forge a worldview to its members that denies that very multiplicity – that reduces the world to a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil. It is within that framework of understanding that the essay attempts to explain both the survival of the paranoid style in this type of collective personality state and the impetus for its emergence.

Social Psychology as Intrapsychic Psychology: The “Neurosis of Man” as Dissociation of Mortality

For Arnold, successful organizations are internally contradictory. It is in realizing that no matter how much “creeds” change the strategies of the effective politician are the same, that Arnold finds all ideologies claptrap. Yet, they remain necessary for appeasing the individual member, which is why they exist. Thus, the respectable politician is effective because he understands that for the organization to deliver (de facto), it needs to allow this (sufficiently broad) mythology to run rampant (in theory).

Given the politician’s focus on the organization itself, how are we to understand his role vis--vis the institution’s individual members? Perhaps by analogizing to the psychiatrist/psychotherapist. Therapists rely on “relationship-building” and “confrontational” techniques (with medical psychiatry omitted for simplicity) to treat the mentally disordered, balancing between much tolerance and little intervention. Similarly, the politician can be thought of as managing his own host of patients &#8211 - the individual “neurotic” members of his organization. Essential to treating them is his fidelity to the organization itself, in the service of which ideology becomes a technique of political management (akin to that of psychotherapy). Just as the therapist relies largely on minimal intervention, so too does the politician; he only intervenes to confront individual members who pose a threat to the continued coherence of the organization, just as the therapist intervenes when the patients endanger the therapy’s success.

But what is the “neurosis” of man that respectable politicians manage? This involves asking why “tears and parades” dominate the world. Arnolds describes these as “mythologies” – fundamental lies and mirages. I call them “neuroses” and, by relying on Freud, turn all social psychology intro intrapsychic psychology. Freud suggests that we are all driven by the pleasure principle, by easy physical and emotional rewards. As we mature, society demands that we substitute immediate pleasure for long term gratification, so we move from the pleasure to the reality principle. The faulty adaptation to this reality principle is what creates “neuroses”, to the treatment of which Freud applies psychoanalysis.

Approached from this point of view, the tendency for “tears and parades” inherent in all men consoles us by glorifying our existence, making our societal conformism seem worthy of the incurred hardships on which it relies. In conjunction with our existential dread, "tears and parades" help us creatively transcend death. Simply put, the “neurosis” is our dissociation of mortality, to the appeasement of which we embrace such exalted ideologies.

Social Psychology as Inherently about Multiplicity: "We are many, not one"

Clarity is always gained by simple taxonomies, but reducing social psychology to the “neurosis of man” comes at the cost of further exploration. What if we tried to compensate for what is lost by such reduction, by now conceptualizing of social psychology differently - as being inherently about multiplicity, that is, about the multiplicity of individual personality?

Putnam sees personality as the “collective dynamics of a person’s set of identity, emotional, and behavioral states” (Putnam, p. 159), that is, as comprised of multiple states of being, the connections between which, are shaped by interpersonal interactions. “We are all multiple to some degree” and we change our states of being as we “change context and roles”. “Normality” and “abnormality” is then often understood as the effect of “how well someone instinctively matches his state of being to the daily flow of social situations” (Putnam, p. 121). The state model of personality therefore (moving away from the conception of personality as unitary and stable), acknowledges both the multiplicity of self, and the social exigency for context-dependent personality state shifts.

Organizational behavior then, which de facto operates in society at large, can also be seen (or, rather, ought to be seen – if one is to accept Putnam’s theory of multiplicity) as involving state dependent learning and memory. All political organizations can be understood as both playing on their member’s multiplicity of self and modelling, in aggregate, their own multiplicity on that of their members and in so doing, creating a collectively embraced organizational identity. The organization both draws from members’ states of being (perhaps on those states that are more likely to appeal to and therefore placate the members themselves, depending on their members’ prior socialization e.g. the interaction of race, class, gender, ethnicity etc.), and also reinforces those states of being within their members’ existing multiplicity of self, thereby defining “normal” i.e. socially/politically acceptable and “abnormal” i.e. socially/politically unacceptable behavior, respectively. Over time, as history progresses and as organizations themselves interact with one another in society, this results in complex personality states linked to organizations.

The Paranoid Style of American Politics

An offshoot of such complex collective personality states are the ones that embody the “paranoid style” in politics, as Richard Hofstadter coined it – an enduringly universal psychic phenomenon that uses paranoid modes of political expression (namely, polemic hyperbole, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy) by normal people (Hofstadter, The Paranoid Style in American Politics). In the context of American politics today, this paranoid style is expressed by the contemporary right wing, as is most emblematically manifested for instance, by the far right QAnon conspiracy theory.

Ironically, through the incorporation of Putnam’s multiplicity of self, the paranoid style organization (or spokesman) can be seen as playing on the multiplicity of social psychology but manipulating it to forge a worldview to its members that denies that very multiplicity – that reduces the world to a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil, rejecting the ambiguity, conflict, and fallibility of the self. To make such worldview credible, the paranoid style spokesman goes to great lengths to give it coherence (often by copying the tools of his sworn ideological opponent), but such successful coherence is premised on a completely personal interpretation of history, turning “every accident or incompetence into an act of treason” (Hofstadter, The Paranoid Style in American Politics), that is magnified through the effects of mass media. Hofstadter suggests that the enemy of the paranoid style spokesman is in many ways a projection of the spokesman’s self in both its ideal and unacceptable aspects. Through the lens of Putnam, this can be seen as the paranoid style organization/spokesman (and thereby the paranoid style member) attempting to deny its own (and its enemy’s) multiplicity of self, by disciplining their mind to viewing reality through the absolutist, dual lens of good and evil.

Perhaps, an explanation for the emergence of this phenomenon of the paranoid style organization can be attempted by regarding its members as having been afflicted by certain circumstantial shifts in society (e.g. economic depression) that in combination with certain well-established conditions (e.g. religious traditions) are conducive to the formulation of such “psychic energies” as Hofstadter puts it (or to a heightening of man’s “neurosis”, to go back to our reductive analogy). The irony of it all of course, is that it is the very multiplicity of social psychology that ensures the survival of the paranoid style embodied in this type of collective personality state. It is only through the existence of the multiplicity of social psychology that the paranoid style organization is even able to coherently (albeit erroneously) express its denial of such multiplicity.

A very successful rewrite, in my view. I think you've gotten from the material what you need and have presented your synthesis clearly. My preference would still be for a slightly simpler style, but you are now no more difficult than the complexity of your ideas requires.

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r9 - 22 May 2021 - 16:05:35 - EbenMoglen
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