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Krüger, S. (2017). Social Science Methods for Psychodynamic Inquiry: The Unconscious on the World Scene. William R. Meyers. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave MacMillan, 2015. 253 pp.. Am. Imago, 74(2):248-257.

(2017). American Imago, 74(2):248-257

Social Science Methods for Psychodynamic Inquiry: The Unconscious on the World Scene. William R. Meyers. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave MacMillan, 2015. 253 pp.

Review by:
Steffen Krüger

This book is conceived as a guidebook and toolbox, a “how-to” manual for inquiries into the psychodynamics of world politics. Offering small and easily accessible subchapters, Meyers outlines different methodological approaches to integrating social scientific and psychoanalytic viewpoints with the aim of shedding light on non-rational and bizarre aspects of world politics.

With clinical and counseling psychologists and social and political scientists as the intended audience (pp. 1-2), Meyers is aware of the challenges inherent in the task of sensitizing readers to the workings of the unconscious in the socio-cultural field. Large parts of his audience will have grown up on a cognitive, positivistic academic diet that has fostered a skeptical attitude towards psychoanalysis and its place in scientific research. When Meyers writes that “[m]any people greet the idea of unconscious mental processes with intense skepticism and even with outright rejection” (p. 62), he seems to have at least one eye on his own audience. Thus, one of his main concerns throughout is to demonstrate the usefulness of psychodynamic research for the study of world politics. In this respect, concerns for meeting the standards of established social science take center stage, and testability and replication become important criteria for evaluating the success of integrating psychodynamic and social research. The ultimate goal is to give “the reader an understanding of the generality of the phenomena found” (p. 88).

Indeed, Meyers's requirements of testability and generality extend to the unconscious itself. After presenting various theories of unconscious mental life (Sigmund Freud's, Anna Freud's, ego-psychological, Lacanian, Žižekian), the author summarizes: “Each of these conceptions of the unconscious, when confronted with a seemingly irrational political/social event, may yield a different interpretation of that event. But what is key is that each of these interpretations is very likely to be testable” (p. 15).

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