EssaysIn DepthPsyche

Clinical Psychology, Psychological Science, and Neo-liberal Times

Clinical psychology first emerged as a formal subdiscipline within psychology in the aftermath of World War II. During the war, psychologists were initially hired by the military to play a role assessing recruits for psychological stability, combat readiness, and potential for officer training. They were also charged with the task of evaluating whether soldiers exhibiting symptoms of psychological trauma were experiencing bonafide psychological problems or malingering. Over time as the massive prevalence of psychological trauma became apparent, the demand for professionals capable of providing psychological treatment far exceeded the supply of available psychiatrists, and psychologists increasingly came to play a role as treatment providers as well. …

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EssaysIn DepthPsyche

The Discarded and the Dignified – Part 6

From the Failed Witness to “You are the Eyes of the World”

Embodying the third

Returning to the beginning of this essay, I have tried to suggest how we might view the embodied rather than dissociated self state as part of the reconstruction of the third in the wake of trauma. In her discussion of the Gugaleto Seven case Gobodo-Madikizela (2013) described the interactions between the perpetrator and the victims’ mothers as becoming very intimate. Thus the mother of the slain sons spoke of feeling the pain in her womb — the women and the perpetrator spoke of being parents and son. In expressing his remorse to them, the perpetrator addressed them as his mothers. …

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EssaysIn DepthPsyche

The Discarded and the Dignified – Parts 4 and 5

From the Failed Witness to “You are the Eyes of the World”

Witnessing as repair of the moral third

To imagine a way out of the binary of deserving and discarded requires envisioning a world governed by the third, in which our attachment to all beings as part of the whole is honored as real. That vision of social attachment is a condition of the ethical position of the third, and it is central to Ubuntu, the South African tradition that so deeply informed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. As defined by Desmond Tutu, Ubuntu means: “A person is a person through other persons… ‘my humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up in yours.’…a person with ubuntu …has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed” (Tutu, 1999, p. 31). Our humanity depends on reciprocal recognition of each other and of our ineluctable attachment. …

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EssaysIn DepthPsyche

The Discarded and the Dignified – Part 3

From the Failed Witness to “You are the Eyes of the World”

Failed witnessing: The Drowned and the Saved

The pivotal function of the moral third in relation to collective trauma is constituted by the acknowledgment of violation by the others who serve as witness. At a social level this role is played by the eyes and voice of the world that watches and upholds what is lawful by expressing, at the least, condemnation and indignation over injustice and injury, trauma and agony endured by the victims. The suffering or death of the victims is thus dignified, their lives given value. Their lives are worthy of being mourned, as Butler (2004) termed it, they are grievable lives. In other words, they are not simply objects to be discarded. Given the state of media proliferation, victims the world over know whether their suffering is seen and regarded; they can ask in despair, Why is no one paying attention as we die here? …

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EssaysIn DepthPsyche

The Discarded and the Dignified – Parts 1 and 2

From the Failed Witness to “You are the Eyes of the World”

In this paper I make an effort to blend with my theoretical perspective some of my experience traveling in many parts of the world to places where my colleagues are struggling with the effects of violence and collective trauma either in the present or its aftermath. In addition to psychoanalytic thinking I will bring some of my experience with dialogue in the Middle East to bear on these issues.[1] This represents an effort to show the possibilities for applying psychoanalytically derived concepts to social phenomena, and suggest ways in which recognition theory can be used to grasp deep psychological structures within both collective and individual processes. …

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EssaysIn DepthSex & GenderTheory & Practice

Neoliberalism and the Feminine Subject*

Foucault’s radical intervention in feminist theory, and more generally in the philosophy of the body, has been the crucial claim that any analysis of embodiment must recognise: how power relations are constitutive of the embodied subjects involved in them. His studies of disciplinary technologies, for example, show how individuals are constructed through mundane, everyday habits and techniques as certain kinds of subjects. Similarly, feminist appropriations of Foucault’s thought have demonstrated how feminine subjects are constructed through patriarchal, disciplinary practices. In the first section of this paper, I will illustrate this process by discussing Sandra Bartky’s influential account of how the docile feminine body is constructed through disciplinary practices of beauty. …

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EssaysIn DepthTheory & Practice

A Continuing Conversation: From the Archiv to Social Research

The Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research was founded in 1933 by Alvin Johnson, the president of the New School, who created there the “University in Exile” to provide a safe haven for scholars who were endangered by totalitarian regimes.[1] The University in Exile became necessary after the new National Socialist government in Germany immediately promulgated a “law” on April 7, 1933, the Gesetz zur Wiederherstellung des Berufsbeamtentums (Restoration of Civil Service Act), which was used as an instrument to dismiss civil servants either for racial or political reasons. …

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EssaysIn DepthPsyche

Who’s Afraid of Sigmund Freud?

The rise, fall, and possible resurrection of psychoanalysis in the United States

For decades psychoanalysis dominated professional approaches to mental health in the United States and had an influential impact on our culture. Starting in the late 1960s, however, psychoanalysis has become increasingly marginalized. Here, I will argue that psychoanalysis has always contained both subversive and conservative threads. As the historian Nathan Hale argued, Americans modified psychoanalysis to solve a conflict between the more radical implications of Freud’s views and the conformist pulls of American culture. This process of domestication enabled Americans to enthusiastically embrace psychoanalysis for a period of time. But they did so at the cost of transforming psychoanalysis in ways that ultimately contributed to its decline. Yet, ironically, the current marginalizaton of psychoanalysis may contain the seeds of a more radical psychoanalysis that serve as a healthy and constructive counter-cultural force moving forward…

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EssaysIn DepthLiberal Democracy in QuestionMedia/Publics

Limiting Democracy: The American Media’s World View, and Ours

This article was originally published in Social Research, Vol. 7: No. 3: Fall 2010.

One of the difficulties in discussing the notion that it is the media that limits our idea of politics is that we all have an inherent resistance to believing that our own understanding of the political world is artificially limited. Most of us are willing to talk about political propaganda and the way in which political opinions are manipulated as long as that means somebody else’s opinions. We all prefer to think it happens to other people, not to ourselves.

This is true, first, because it is simply unpleasant to think about oneself being propagandized or being in some way manipulated. But the more substantive reason for this resistance is that the way in which we assess the set of information we receive about the world is very self-reinforcing. There is a certain set of information, a set of sources to which we are subjected or which we seek out, that provides us with information about the world and shapes our political world view…

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EssaysIn DepthLiberal Democracy in Question

Human Rights Without Persons? A Review Essay of Third Person

We are used to thinking that human rights are rights that belong to every person because of their intrinsic value. But is this the only, or at least, the best way of thinking about human rights? In his recent book, Third Person, Roberto Esposito has radically challenged this view. According to him, the triumph of the category of “the person” that, since the end of World War II has accompanied the discourse on human rights, is not the source of its success, but rather of its failure. This is because, in his view, the notion of the person, which has, since the days of Roman law and even more pointedly in its Christian elaboration, indicated the transcendent value of a human being, is incapable of bridging the gap between humanity and the logic of citizenship, precisely because it is what creates such a gap.

By opposing the person, as something artificial and endowed with moral and political significance, to mere humanity in its naturalness, Roman law gave rise to a powerful “dispositif” (p. 9), that is, to a notion that has, throughout its various Western morphologies, always been able to produce very real and tangible effects.

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