Competition as War: Towards a Socio-Analysis of War in and among Corporations

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Title: Competition as War: Towards a Socio-Analysis of War in and among Corporations
Year: 2000
Authors: Sievers, B.

Despite the daily reality of war in the media – and indeed in many people's political and social lives – it would seem as if war itself is not considered to be a part of the business world, its organizations or the world built around them. We are consistently led to believe that the economy of war and warfare refers to the gains derived from the production of war equipment, the maintenance of military forces (both at times of war and peace), and the repair work and reconstruction necessary after battle is done.

The lack of explicit bloodshed or of victims of physical warfare invites us to assume that the frequent reference made to war in business organizations is merely metaphorical. In organization or management theory, it is seldom acknowledged that (extreme) violence, sadism, pain and loss – experiences and dynamics characteristic of every war – are widely typical of life in the contemporary business world. Hidden behind the rhetoric of free markets and unrestricted competition typical of contemporary neo-liberalism, it has become almost impossible to unveil the set of euphemisms that make economic reality, particularly the reality of business enterprises.

This paper attempts to contribute towards an understanding of capitalist competition as ongoing warfare in and among corporations. The psychotic dimension of war, i.e. the paranoid alienated elaboration of mourning, finds its expression by unrealistically projecting into others the cause of the loss of the love object and its destruction. This line of thought will be pursued by looking at Volkswagen, one of Germany's leading car manufacturers, as a case example. Founded during the Third Reich, Volkswagen provides convincing evidence of how its original support for a megalomaniac military mobilization still has an effect on the micro-politics of the corporation and its market activities today. Converted to serve the peaceful economy of post-war Europe, economic warfare has remained a constituent dynamic of the corporation's ongoing attempt to champion world markets. The analogy is substantiated by the hypothesis that similar dynamics are found throughout the automobile industry and have a major impact on the business strategies of many – if not most – other corporations in their desperate longing to gain or maintain a predominant role as global players.

Keywords: Competition, Socio-Analysis, War, Corporations
Language: English

Date: 06/15/2000
Location: London, UK
Name of Event/Conference: 17th Annual Meeting of the International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organizations
Sponsoring Organization: ISPSO

Submitted by:
Elizabeth Novogratz

Corresponding author:

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