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Hogget, P. Lousada, J. (1985). Therapeutic Intervention in Working Class Communities. Free Associations, 1B(1):125-152.

(1985). Free Associations, 1B(1):125-152

Therapeutic Intervention in Working Class Communities

Paul Hogget and Julian Lousada

More sensitivity today means revolution or madness — the rest is chatter. Russel Jacoby, Social Amnesia

There are twenty minutes to go before The Adventures of Popeye begins. A large group of young children queue in the foyer of the cinema to buy sweets, drinks, ice-creams etc. Each child is excited and immersed in a complicated transaction which involves not only deciding what to buy but also what they can afford, how to negotiate the outcome with their friends and the salespeople. A man in his late twenties pushes his way past the children and insists on being served first, and then quarrels with the salesperson who does not have the correct change and owes him one penny. As he leaves he bumps into a child, spilling her drink, and leaves the child frightened and in tears. There are still over fifteen minutes before the film begins.

This man was acting within the bounds of acceptable behaviour: the onlookers were not outraged, the adults did not protest, the salesperson acted as if guilty, and the children were frightened and resigned. To have started an essay such as this by describing a ‘case’ would have perpetuated the split between the healthy and the sick, the normal and the abnormal. This division disguises the fact that much of what we describe as ‘normal’ is in fact a distortion of how people could be with each other, and how they could feel about themselves. This man acted like a pig, but he also reflected the social relations engendered by capitalism which penetrate not only the outside world of social interaction, but also the internal (psychic) world of everyone of us.

In what follows we would like to share our experience of a form of intervention which we see as being both political and therapeutic.

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