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Recovering human inheritance in organisations and society: an exploration of David Armstrong's "ethical imagination"

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This article examines closely, explores, and expands upon David Armstrong's idea of the ethical imagination in psychodynamically informed consultation and systems thinking. In his article, published in Organisational & Social Dynamics in 2017, Armstrong sought to recover, and to renew attention towards, the early emphasis of the field on the restoration of human agency in institutional settings. Armstrong challenged the field to broaden its perspective on the dilemmas it seeks to tackle and to "rediscover and re-own the active voice" so as to help people, institutions, and society at large develop more humanely and productively. Using a case study and reference to theoretical work, this article further characterises the experience and role of imagination in organisational consultation, and explores and advances the "ethical" dimensions of Armstrong's concept. The article concludes by arguing that in the context of the current crises that threaten humanity (e.g. climate change, dehumanising technological innovation), the field of systems psychodynamics needs to devise novel theories, techniques, and, as Armstrong urges, "new forms of group and organisational life", that recover and revitalise foundational aspects of what makes us human: the capacity to think, the capacity to feel, and the capacity to integrate.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2020

More about this publication?
  • Organisational and Social Dynamics is a forum for the publication of theoretical and applied papers that are relevant and accessible to an international readership; and, one where writers from psychoanalytic, group relations, and systems perspectives can address emerging issues in organisations and societies throughout the world.

    It aims to sustain a creative tension between scientific rigour and popular appeal, both developing conversations with the professional and social scientific world and opening up these conversations to practitioners and reflective citizens everywhere. We wish to attract manuscripts from contributors who are aware of their own values, suppositions and assumptions, the influence of counter-transference in their work, whatever form it takes, and the ability to connect the internal world of individuals and groups with societal and global processes.
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