Although he was never directly involved in politics himself, Sigmund Freud’s contribution to political thinking cannot be overstated. He was fascinated with the way that our internal conflicts as individuals have outward consequences in the world at large – and many of his ideas laid down the basis of what has become an enormous body of thought on how society works.
He questioned the origin and structure of society in “Totem and Taboo”. He discussed illusions and dogmas in “The Future of an Illusion” and “Civilization and itsDiscontents”. He was critical of some aspects of Bolshevism in the “New Introductory Lecture on Psychoanalysis”, and he described the foundation of a people in “Moses and Monotheism”.
In this series of talks with leading psychoanalysts, we invite you to explore these influential theories with us, and discover how they can illuminate our understanding of political and social conflict around the world.
It’s interesting to imagine what Freud would have made of the world today, a time of polarising politics, social shifts and radical movements.
In “Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego” he explored crowd psychology, arguing that becoming a member of a crowd serves to unlock the unconscious mind. This happens as the super-ego, or moral centre of consciousness, is displaced by the larger crowd and the charisma of leaders.
In the agency of the superego, our conscious moral centre, Freud attributed values, ideals, and imperatives associated with morality and society. He also analysed the effects of repressed sexuality, naming “civilised sexual morality” as the source of “the nervous illness of modern times.”
Freud argued that a combination of forces in our psyche – the sexual drive, the death drive, and the instinct for mastery – have been inescapable drivers of change throughout humanity’s development.
And they’re especially relevant to a discussion of contemporary issues such as racism, terrorism, totalitarian thinking, NHS, the market economy, gender and sexuality. Scroll down to see the range of subjects we’ll be addressing in our programme.
Many of Freud’s ideas intersect with political thinkers such as Machiavelli, Hobbes, Marx, and Weber. For example, the radical rejection of all forms of illusion, the will to lucidity based on a flexible rationality, the dismantling of connections within communities, the emphasis on the autonomy and responsibility of the individual subject.
Over time, many other psychoanalysts have continued to contribute to political and social theory. Donald Winnicott argues that the development of our character is based on our environment, particularly our early relationships in life. That society provides the factors that support or undermine these early relationships – and that pathological or criminal acts can be seen as external manifestations of our internal conflicts.
Melanie Klein reiterated Freud’s belief that the human is riven with conflict, and how aggression and libido play themselves out in the individual, family, society and world politics. She emphasised the need to recognise guilt and make reparation, and argued that to achieve this there must be a difficult integration of love and hate – a lifelong struggle that has its equivalents in social and political scenarios throughout the world.
These theories on the mind provide the basis for psychoanalysts to understand political and social conflict that cause such distress and anxiety in our world.
I hope that you’ll join us for what’s set to be a brilliant set of lectures, discussions and debates about the nature of violence, both in the mind and in wider society. To book your place, click here.
Chair and Seminar Organiser, David Morgan
April 12 – Mr Philip Stokoe
"Further thoughts on the Impact of Power on the Mind of the Politician"
April 19 – Dr David Bell
"Everything is possible and anything is permitted: psychoanalytic reflections on the work of Hanna Arendt"
April 26 - Dr Jonathan Sklar
"The European Unconscious in Traumatic Times: Some Psychodynamics in Hate and Prejudice"
May 3 – Mrs Sally Weintrobe
"Climate Change in the Culture of Uncare"
May 10 – Professor Robert Hinshelwood
"The value of things. Political alienation and psychoanalytic action."
May 17 – Professor Stephen Frosh
"Psychoanalysis, Colonialism, Racism"
May 24 – Professor Catalina Bronstein
"Working in Fear: Memories of Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis during the Argentinian Dictatorship"
June 7 – Lord John Alderdice
June 14 – Ms Ruth McCall
"Psychoanalysis and Feminism. A Modern Perspective."
June 21 - Professor Stephen Groarke
"The antisocial elements in society: psychoanalysis and government."
June 28 - Professor Joshua Cohen
"Psychoanalysis, Politics and Indifference'."
July 5 – Professor Michael Rustin
"What's Wrong and What's Right with Money"
July 12 – Professor David Tuckett
“Conviction and Cooperation: Facing the Problems We Can’t Solve by Ourselves”
July 19 – Dr Margot Waddell
“The Challenge of Change: Psychoanalysis and contemporary culture”
Lord John Alderdice
Is an academic, politician and retired consultant psychiatrist in psychoanalytical psychotherapy, he was also until very recently the Convenor of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords. He has applied his psychological understanding to analyzing and dealing with terrorism and violent political conflict in various parts of the world, but especially in the Middle East and in his native Northern Ireland where he was one of the negotiators of the 1998 Belfast Agreement. Currently he is Chairman of the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building, based in Belfast, and Director of the Centre for the Resolution of Intractable Conflict, and Senior Research Fellow at Harris Manchester College, Oxford. He is a former Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, a former Commissioner with the Independent Monitoring Commission (monitoring paramilitary and security force activity in Ireland) and the former President of Liberal International, the global family of some 120 liberal political parties.
Dr David Bell Psychoanalyst
Is a psychoanalyst, Fellow BPAS
Consultant Psychiatrist ,Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust. Former President British Psychoanalytic Society; 2012-3 Professorial Fellow, Birkbeck College, London
Books: 'Psychoanalysis and Culture: a kleinianperspective', 'Reason and Passion'; Paranoia', 'Living on the Border'
"The Death Drive: phenomenological perspectives in Contemporary Kleinian theory."
Papers include: "Primitive Mind of State ", (a psychoanalytic critique of the attacks on welfare) "Mental illness and its treatment today", "Is Truth an illusion"
Other contributions on a wide range of subjects including psychoanalytic theory and technique, NHS , socio-political theory , literature.
One of the UKs leading psychiatric experts in Asylum/Human Rights
Professor Catalina Bronstein
Is President-elect to the British Psychoanalytic Society and is a Visiting Professor in the Psychoanalysis Unit, Research Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology within the Division of Psychology and Language Sciences (PALS) at University College, London. She is a Training Analyst and Supervisor and a Fellow of the British Psycho-Analytical Society. She is an adult and child psychoanalyst and a member of the Association of Child Psychotherapists. She is the former London editor of the International Journal of Psychoanalysis and a member of the Executive of the College of the International Journal of Psychoanalysis. She has written many psychoanalytic papers and edited 'Kleinian Theory. A Contemporary Perspective' and co-edited 'The New Klein-Lacan Dialogues'.
Professor Josh Cohen
Is a Psychoanalyst Fellow BPAS
Professor of Modern Literary Theory, Goldsmiths University of London. Author of many articles and books on psychoanalysis, literature and cultural theory, including How to Read Freud and most recently, " The Private Life: Why We Remain in the Dark.
Professor Stephen Frosh
Is Pro-Vice-Master of Birkbeck, University of London, and Professor in the Department of Psychosocial Studies there. He was previously Vice Dean and Consultant Clinical Psychologist at the Tavistock Clinic, London. He is the author of many books and papers on psychosocial studies and on psychoanalysis, including Hauntings: Psychoanalysis and Ghostly Transmissions; A Brief Introduction to Psychoanalytic Theory; Psychoanalysis Outside the Clinic;Hate and the Jewish Science: Anti-Semitism, Nazism and Psychoanalysis; For and Against Psychoanalysis; After Wordsand The Politics of Psychoanalysis.
Professor Steven Groarke
Is a Psychoanalyst
Member of the British Psycho-Analytical Society and Professor of Social Thought at Roehampton University. His most recent book, Managed Lives: Psychoanalysis, Inner Security and the Social Order, was published in 2014.
Professor Robert Hinshelwood
Is a Psychoanalyst Fellow BPAS
Robert Hinshelwood is Professor in the Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies, University of Essex, and previously Director of the Cassel Hospital. He has written extensively on psychoanalytic practice and theory, including A Dictionary of Kleinian Thought (1989), Clinical Klein (1993), and more recently, Research on the Couch (2013), and Bion’s Sources (2013, edited with Nuno Torres). He has also written on the application of psychoanalysis to social science (Observing Organisations, edited with Wilhelm Skogstad 2000); and on racism.
Is a Fellow of the BPAS and a psychoanalyst in private practice. She is currently a Trustee for the BPAS and the WInnicott Trust. Ruth teaches for a number of psychoanalytic trainings and has a specialist interest in Freud’s work, Winnicott’s work and hysteria and psychosomatic conditions. Prior to joining the psychoanalytic world Ruth was a documentary film maker and founded an international film effects company which won the Queen’s Award for Industry.
Is a psychoanalyst Fellow BPAS and BPA. Co-editor (with Stan Ruszczynski) Violence,Perversion and Delinquency. Editor of The Political Mind( in press) Consultant Psychotherapist WBUK. Consultant to socio-political organisations. Director of Public Interest Psychology.(PiP).
Training analyst and Supervisor BPA and BPF.
He has written many papers and lectures widely at LSE, City University, UCL, Freud Museum, Photographers Gallery, Courtauld Institute and many other venues both nationally and internationally. He was a lecturer and supervisor for several years in Poland and is principle speaker at the Melbourne Freud Conference 2016.
Professor Michael Rustin
Is Professor of Sociology at the University of East London and Visiting Professor at the Tavistock Clinic and the University of Essex. His writings include “The Good Society and the Inner World” (1991); “Reason and Unreason: Psychoanalysis, Science, Politics” (2001); “The Inner World of Doctor Who” (with Iain MacRury) (2013); “Social Defences against Anxiety” (edited with David Armstrong) (2015); After Newliberalism? theKilburn Manifesto”, edited with Stuart Hall and Doreen Massey (2015). He is an Associate of the BPAS.
Dr Jonathan Sklar
FRCPsych. Training analyst, and Fellow BPAS working in full time private practice.
Member of the Board of the IPA.
Formerly head of Psychotherapy department Addenbrookes Hospital. Former Vice President European Psychoanalytic Federation. He taught 'Ferenczi and contemporary psychoanalysis' on the MSc psychoanalytic studies at UCL for many years and currently psychoanalysis in CapeTown, Chicago and Eastern European analytic societies. Author of Landscapes of the Dark - history,trauma, psychoanalysis. (Karnac 2011).
Psychoanalyst and Fellow BPAS
Ex Consultant Social Worker. Tavistock & Portman NHS and ex-Clinical Director of the Adult Department. Author of many papers on the application of psychoanalysis.
Professor David Tuckett
Trained in Economics, Medical Sociology and Psychoanalysis and is Professor and Director of the Centre for Decision-Making and Uncertainty at UCL in the Faculty of Brain Sciences, as well as a Fellow of the Institute of Psychoanalysis in London. He works part-time in clinical practice but since winning a 2006 Leverhulme Research fellowship for a "psychoanalytic study of investment markets" has been collaborating with a range of colleagues to introduce psychoanalytical understanding to behaviour in the financial markets and the economy more generally. His book Minding the Markets: An Emotional Finance View of Financial Instability was published in New York and London by Palgrave Macmillan in June 2011 and a further monograph written with Professor Richard Taffler(University of Warwick School of Management) entitled “Fund Management: An Emotional Finance Perspective” was published by the Research Foundation of CFA Institute. Prior to this he received the 2007 Sigourney Award for distinguished contributions to the field of psychoanalysis. He has published books and articles in sociology, psychoanalysis, economics, and finance and is a former President of the European Psychoanalytic Federation, Editor in Chief of the International Journal of Psychoanalysis and Principal of the Health Education Studies Unit at the University of Cambridge.
Is a psychoanalyst in private practice and a consultant child and adolescent psychotherapist at the Tavistock Clinic. She has a doctorate in English Literature from Cambridge and has published many articles. Her most recent book, Inside Lives: psychoanalysis and the growth of the personality was published in 2002 by Karnac.
Psychoanalyst Fellow BPAS.
Edited and contributed to "Engaging with Climate Change: psychoanalytic and interdisciplinary perspectives" (Routledge 2012), shortlisted for the international Gradiva award for contributions to psychoanalysis. She has written and talked widely on climate change, particularly on how to understand current levels of denial. Her current work is on how do we express our care about climate change in a culture of uncare?
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