This article is intended to contribute to our understanding of the December 2001 collapse of Enron. The existing literature on Enron’s demise falls largely into two broad areas, involving either “micro” psychological explanations or “macro” accounts that emphasize the workplace and its environment; this paper is an exploratory study that focuses on a new interpretation which links the two areas more closely together. It is proposed that Enron’s culture was influenced by both “micro” and “macro” factors: an experience of unsuccessful paternal authority figures within the family history of Enron’s leaders, coupled with an experience of problematic government and regulatory regimes associated with the gas industry. Drawing on concepts from psychoanalysis and its application to organizational dynamics, it is argued that these “micro” and “macro” factors helped to generate an Oedipal mindset in Enron’s leaders according to which external authority was seen to be weak and not worthy of respect, and that this contributed to Enron’s demise. Implications for theory are examined.
Notes from the Editors -- Invitation to the Drama -- Prologue -- On War and Conflict -- A beam of darkness—understanding the terrorist mind 1 -- "Si vis pacem para bellum" Psychoanalysis, peace education and conflict literacy 1 -- Psychoanalysis and international relationships: Large-group identity, traumas at the hand of the "other," and transgenerational transmission of trauma -- The Financial Crisis and the Disappearing Containers -- Oedipus Rex at Enron: Leadership, Oedipal struggles, and organizational collapse 1 -- Narcissism project and corporate decay: The case of General Motors -- Beneath the financial crisis 1 -- On Leadership and the Illusion of Containment -- A dynamic reading of The funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales 1 -- Barack Obama's postpartisan dream: Leadership and the limits of the depressive position -- Images of leadership -- The Epilogue