W. Gordon Lawrence
Robert M. Young
The group relations tradition developed by W. R. Bion, A. K. Rice and others at the
Tavistock Institute of Human Relations in London is surprisingly short of introductory
works. One reason for this is that it is a particularly experiential form of learning.
Another is that it is not at all easy to express what one has learned in group relations
events, and assimilation of these experiences can take many years.
The authors had a unique opportunity to reflect on the basic principles of group
relations when they were part of a team of consultants who staged a first-ever conference
in Eastern Europe, in Bulgaria. All who took part found it a remarkable event. As a
consequence, a new Institute of Human Relations has been set up in Sofia, for the purpose
of training people in this approach. As a part of these developments, the authors have had
occasion to spell out their understanding of the group relations tradition to interested
people. Their expositions are reprinted here, together with the first essay which got key
Bulgarians interested and others which round out the collection. The result is intended to
be an accessible and clear exposition, representing a distillation of the tradition,
including its most recent developments. A comprehensive bibliography is also included.
David Armstrong, MA, studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford and
Psychology at Cambridge and worked at the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, Chelsea
College of Science and Technology and the Grubb Institute before becoming a Consultant at
the Tavistock Centre Consultancy Service. He has been on staff and director of group
relations conferences in a number of countries and consults to public service institutions
and to industry.
W. Gordon Lawrence, studies social sciences at Aberdeen, Leicester and Edinburgh
universitie and at Gesamthochschule Weppertal, Bergische Universitat, where he obtained a
Dr Rerum Oeconomicus. He is Chair of Imago East-West and Visiting Professor of
Organizational Behaviour, School of Management, Cranefield University. He worked for many
years at the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, in France and consulted to many
multinational companies. He has considerable experience on staff and as director of group
relations and social dreaming events. He is the editor of Exploring Individual and
Organizational Boundaries (Wiley) and the author of To Surprise the Soul:
Psychoanalytic Explorations of Groups, Institutions and Society in the Bion-Tavistock
Tradition (Process Press).
Robert M. Young, PhD, studied philosophy at Yale, Medical Sciences at Rochester
and History and Philosophy of Science at Cambridge, where he was a Fellow and Tutor at
Kings College. He then spent a number of years in cultural politics and in making
television documentaries and founded Free Association Books. He is Professor of
Psychotherapy and Psychoanalytic Studies, Centre for Psychotherapeutic Studies, University
of Sheffield and Co-Director of the Institute of Human Relations, New Bulgarian
University. He is the Editor of Free Associations and the author of Mind, Brain
and Adaptation (Oxford), Darwins Metaphor (Cambridge) and Mental Space (Process Press).
You can order this book from Process
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. Mental Space and Group Relations: Robert M. Young 1
2. Totalitarian States of Mind in Institutions: W.
Gordon Lawrence 21
3. Making Absences Present: The Contribution of W. R.
Bion to Understanding Unconscious Social Phenomena: David Armstrong 44
4. Guilt and the Veneer of Civilization: Robert M.
5. Benign and Virulent Projective Identification in
Groups and Institutions: Robert M. Young 82
6. The 'Institution in the Mind': Reflections on the
Relation of Psycho-analysis to Work with Institutions: David Armstrong 104
7. Names, Thoughts and Lies: The Relevance of Bion's
Later Writing to Experiences in Groups: David Armstrong 117
8. Won from the Void of the Infinite: Experiences of
Social Dreaming: W. Gordon Lawrence 136
9. Signals of Transcendence: W. Gordon Lawrence 167
10 Introducing Group Relations into a New
Environment: Robert M. Young 185