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Chabert, C. (2007). The Malaise of Culture and the Problem of the Superego. Canadian J. Psychoanal., 15(2):238-260.

(2007). Canadian Journal of Psychoanalysis, 15(2):238-260

The Malaise of Culture and the Problem of the Superego

Catherine Chabert

The first idea that comes to mind regarding the links between culture and the superego, as these issues emerge in rereading Freud, is a clinical and metapsychological question: is there a real change in the demand for, and the indications for, treatment—determined in part by developments in the culture? Is it necessary to search for new analytic concepts in light of the contemporary clinical population, where depressive and narcissistic issues stand out, pointing inevitably to precarious boundaries, to a lack of differentiation between inside and outside. and thus, ultimately, to the way in which love relations with the primary object are established? In this context, the word boundaries needs to be understood in more than one sense: boundaries between me and other, in the sense of an intersubjective differentiation, that is to say between ego and object, but also boundaries within the psychic apparatus, between systems in the framework of the first topography [topographic model], between agencies in that of the


This paper was first presented in French at the Annual Congress celebrating the 50th anniversary ofthe Canadian Psychoanalytic Society, 9 June 2007, Mont Tremblant, Quebec

1 Translated by Sylvie de Lorimier and Charles Levin. The translators have elected not to use Strachey's translation of Freud's famous title “Das Unbehagen in der Kultur.” Instead of the usual “Civilization and its Discontents,” we have adopted the French rendition, “Le malaise dans la culture,” which is closer to the original German.

2 In a few instances, including this one, the author uses the term moi without a definite article. This suggests that a connotation somewhere between the usual ego (le moi), and the deictic or pronominal sense of the reflexive term self, is intended. We have avoided wherever possible the term self in order not to get caught up in the strong essentialistic connotations of that term in Anglo-American psychoanalysis.

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