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Levidow, L. Scott, A. Young, R.M. (1989). Psychoanalysis and the public sphere: 1988 Conference report. Free Associations, 1P(15):7-10.

(1989). Free Associations, 1P(15):7-10

Psychoanalysis and the public sphere: 1988 Conference report

Les Levidow, Ann Scott and Robert M. Young

At a time when the Left is floundering and rethinking its premises, what does psychoanalysis have to say to the public sphere? This was the theme of the second annual conference, sponsored by Free Association Books (FAB) and the Sociology Department of North East London Polytechnic (NELP). The event (held 28-29 October 1988) focused discussion on how psychoanalytic insights may be applied to public life, as well as how psychoanalysis itself is shaped by social forces. It brought together 120 people from a variety of backgrounds: clinicians in private practice and the public sector, workers in Social Services, teachers and researchers in higher education.

The conference crystallized growing interest in how unconscious phantasy operates in collusion with authoritarian structures, as well as in people's difficulties with challenging those structures. Recently many on the Left have looked to psychoanalysis, not simply to deal with their sense of despair about dismal political prospects, but also to analyse the discouraging obstacles that we face — be it the ‘psychopathology of every left group’ or the mass psychology of capitalist rule. Such approaches are being developed by NELP's teaching programme and by Free Association Books, particularly this journal, whose existence facilitated the organizers' task of drawing together the nearly forty speakers for the conference.


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