'Pushing the past backwards in front of oneself' A socio-analytic perspective on the relatedness of past, present and future

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Title: 'Pushing the past backwards in front of oneself' A socio-analytic perspective on the relatedness of past, present, and future in contemporary organizations
Year: 2004
Authors: Sievers, B.

The thinking about the relatedness of past, present, and future immanent in contemporary Western society is to a major extent tainted by a notion of time propagated by the contemporary state of post-industrial economy and investor-capitalism. Time in organizations has been reduced to a quantitative, rationalized, and decontextualized means for meeting management's aims. Concern for the past is predominantly negated if not obliterated and both present and future are broadly reduced to an economic function.

Psychoanalytic writings on the notion of time, in general, are scarce and provide almost no ground for the conceptualisation and better understanding of the future and its interrelatedness with the past and present. Organization and management studies are mainly limited to a rational and pragmatic perception of time and seem to mirror a certain kind of preoccupation with the present and the future characteristic of their field of study.

Based on a socio-analytic perspective, the main emphasis of this paper will be on the knowing and not knowing about time that has been lost in contemporary organizations. The linearity of time, the deification of progress, the reification of time as commodity, the denial of the relevance of the past and the no(w)ness of time are predominant perceptions of time in organizations. These unilaterally aim to subjugate time to what is known and knowable. Contemporary organizations and enterprises often appear so preoccupied with overcoming the present and managing and manipulating the future, that they totally lose sight of any shadow - both history's shadow on the present and the one the future may cast before. The intent of this paper is to grasp some of the hidden meaning and meaninglessness, the gains and losses resulting from the predominant use of time in organizations, and the shadows that the past and the foreseeable future may cast before.

The shadow of a future we don't know any more than we know the past,
a shadow which it projects or casts before.
Bion (1994, 309)

Keywords: post-industrial economy, investor-capitalism, contemporary organizations
Language: English

Date: 06/18/2004
Location: Coesfeld, Germany
Name of Event/Conference: 21st Annual Meetings of the International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organizations
Sponsoring Organization: ISPSO

Submitted by:
Elizabeth Novogratz

Corresponding author:

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