Institutional creativity and pathologies of potential space: The modern university



MacRury I (2007) Institutional creativity and pathologies of potential space: The modern university. Psychodynamic Practice, 13 (2), pp. 119-140.

This paper proposes the applicability of object relations psychoanalytic conceptions of dialogue (Ogden, 1986, 1993) to thinking about relationships and relational structures and their governance in universities. It proposes that: - the qualities of dialogic relations in creative institutions are the proper index of creative productivity; that is of, as examples, ‘thinking’ (Evans, 2004), ‘emotional learning’ (Salzberger-Wittenburg et al., 1983) or ‘criticality’ (Barnett, 1997); - contemporary institutions' explicit preoccupation in assuring, monitoring and managing creative ‘dialogue’ can, in practice, pervert creative processes and thoughtful symbolic productivity, thus inhibiting students' development and the quality of ‘thinking space’ for teaching and research. In this context the paper examines uncanny and perverse connections between Paulo Freire's (1972) account of educational empowerment and dialogics (from his Pedagogy of the oppressed) to the consumerist (see, for example, Clarke & Vidler, 2005) rhetoric of student empowerment, as mediated by some strands of managerialism in contemporary higher education. The paper grounds its critique of current models of dialogue, feedback loops, audit and other mechanisms of accountability (Power, 1997; Strathern, 2000), in a close analysis of how creative thinking emerges. The paper discusses the failure to maintain a dialogic space in humanities and social science areas in particular, exploring psychoanalytic conceptions from Donald Winnicott (1971), Milner (1979), Thomas Ogden (1986) and Csikszentmihalyi (1997). Coleridge's ideas about imagination as the movement of thought between subjective and objective modes are discussed in terms of both intra- and inter-subjective relational modes of ‘dialogue’, which are seen as subject to pathology in the pathologically structured psychosocial environment. Current patterns of institutional governance, by micromanaging dialogic spaces, curtail the ‘natural’ rhythms and temporalities of imagination by giving an over-emphasis to the moment of outcome, at the expense of holding the necessary vagaries of process in the institutional ‘mind’. On the contrary, as this paper argues, creative thinking lies in sporadic emergences at the conjunction of object/(ive) outcome and through (thought) processes.

Creativity; dialogue; object-relations psychoanalysis; higher education; thinking; consumer; institutions

Psychodynamic Practice: Volume 13, Issue 2

Publication date31/12/2007
Publication date online15/05/2007
Date accepted by journal15/05/2007
PublisherInforma UK Limited

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Professor Iain MacRury
Professor Iain MacRury

Professor in Comms., Media and Culture, Communications, Media and Culture