What is group relations? If your job involves attending meetings, then you know most meetings are a waste of time. We sense that what we are talking about cannot be what we are actually talking about, because, if it were, events would occur in a different order, and the tone or feeling would be different, and so on. Something else is happening to us, through us, and among us.

Now imagine a professional meeting with no pseudo-unifying pseudotopic, where the meet- ing’s topic is the meeting itself: the New England Motor Press Association, but shorn of New England, motors, and the press. Nothing remains but the association, the something else, the group, the collective, if it does remain: a shrewdness of apes, a gang of turkeys, a nest of vipers.

“The Group Relations Conference,” says the Web site of the A.K. Rice Institute for the Study of Social Systems, “is an intensive participatory process that provides participants the opportunity to study their own behavior as it happens in real time without the distractions of everyday social niceties and workplace pressures and protocols.” And they have to say something corporate-klutzy-jargony like that, don’t they, because if they were to come right out and say, “You are cordially invited to have your individual ego reduced to molten slag in the hell-furnace of our collective unconscious,” no one would sign up.