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Segal, H. (1987). Against the State of Nuclear Terror, by Joel Kovel, Free Association Books, 1987, 240 pages, pb £3.95.. Free Associations, 1(9):137-142.

(1987). Free Associations, 1(9):137-142

Against the State of Nuclear Terror, by Joel Kovel, Free Association Books, 1987, 240 pages, pb £3.95.

Review by:
Hanna Segal

According to the blurb, Against the State of Nuclear Terror is ‘Joel Kovel's fourth book which integrates his psychoanalytical perspective with social and political perspectives’. The book addresses itself to important issues. Its main thesis is that the nuclear arms race and the danger of nuclear war arise from the very existence of what he calls ‘the State of Nuclear Terror’. The Nuclear State itself is the logical outcome of the capitalist technocratic state. By technocracy Kovel means the use of technological development at the service of the power of the state. This is an attractive thesis. Russell said in 1940:

No other organization arouses anything like the loyalty aroused by the national state. And the chief activity of the state is the preparation for large-scale homicide. It is loyalty to this organization for death that causes man to endure the totalitarian state and to risk the destruction of home and children and our whole civilization. (pp. 220-1)

However, on reading the book I found it disappointing. Instead of a real integration of psychoanalytic perspective with social and political questions, I found on the whole a rather uneasy marriage between a psychoanalytic approach, which I found in many ways quite superficial, and a kind of rather naive Marxism.

To start with the psychoanalytical approach. There seems to be a lack of reference to the psychoanalytic literature on the subject.

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