Psychoanalysis and Politics
Psychoanalysis is often called “revolutionary,” with its dethronement of human pretensions to self-mastery drawing comparisons to the innovations of Copernicus and Darwin. But, if psychoanalysis produced a revolution in knowledge, what has it meant for politics? Is psychoanalysis an inherently political enterprise? Do its insights into the unconscious and interior life undermine social order and political solidarity? Must we be repressed in order to be “civilized”? Does psychoanalysis give us reasons for political hope—or for despair?
In this course, we will review both the political history and the political potential of psychoanalysis. Starting with Freud’s work in the late Austro-Hungarian empire, we will track the diffusion of psychoanalysis and its association with a series of political projects, from the early 20th-century “anarchism” of Otto Gross to the promises of Deleuze and Guattari’s “schizoanalysis” post-1968 to what Yannis Stavrakakis has called the “Lacanian Left.” In particular, we will track the longstanding links between psychoanalysis and Marxism (from Fenichel to Marcuse to Žižek) alongside critiques within that tradition (including Althusser and Bakhtin). We will also consider the recurrent problem of psychoanalysis’ reactionary transformations and appropriations (from the dream of an “Aryanised” psychotherapy to the work of the demi-Jungian Jordan Peterson); the vital interventions of feminist and queer theorists; and the relationship between psychoanalysis and anti-colonial, post-colonial, and de-colonizing thought (from Frantz Fanon to Patricia Gherovici to Fred Moten). Topics to be explored include the idea of “mass psychology”; the relationship between desire and capitalism; the role of fantasy, shame, and trauma in nationalism; aggression, war, and the death drive; the social reproduction of the Oedipal family; and more. This will be a survey course offering both a big-picture view of history and key themes together with curated, introductory selections to a host of psychoanalytic theorists. Some familiarity with psychoanalysis will be helpful, but it is by no means required.
Course ScheduleSunday, 2:00-5:00pm ET
October 22 — November 12, 2023