Fantasies about Work as Limitless Potential: How Managers and Employees Seduce Each Other through Dynamics of Mutual Recognition

Susanne Ekman

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


This article draws on combinations of discourse theory and Lacanian theory to study the role of fantasies in creative knowledge work. It attempts to nuance a number of critical Lacanian studies that emphasize how management and HRM practices exploit the seductive, yet disciplining, effects of fantasies to increase worker commitment. In contrast, empirical data from fieldwork in two creative industries are used to show how employees also ensnare and discipline their managers based on the same fantasmatic dynamics. The article argues that both managers and employees avoid concrete definitions of responsibility in favor of intense mutual recognition. This allows them to pursue a shared fantasy about limitless potential (financial and existential) realized via work. This dynamic of recognition renders both parties more vulnerable towards each other and makes both parties resist attempts at moderation. The question of power and exploitation thus becomes highly muddled
Original languageEnglish
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number9
Pages (from-to)1159-1181
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2013

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