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Dahmer, H. (1993). Psychoanalytic social research. Free Associations, 3(4):490-499.

(1993). Free Associations, 3(4):490-499

Psychoanalytic social research

Helmut Dahmer


Critical social research has to do with life-threatening or sphinx riddles. The results of our practice, that is, in the formation of institutions of life and social history, become enigmatic because of the lack of consciousness of their production.

Due to the forgetting of their authorship — and bearership — such institutions appear to be ‘natural’, to be out of our control and beyond any possibility of revision. The unconscious upbringing of such institutions leads to a more and more autonomous life separate from their creators, so that their well-being and woe seem to depend on the institutions alone; and the cult that comes into existence around such institutions is called ‘fetishizing’ in ethnology, psychology and sociology.

Attempts to puzzle out this puzzle, to defetishize the fetishes and overcome adherence to the fetish cult, cause their supporters mortal danger because the cult blocks the search for alternative ways out of a crisis.

We call these attempts to solve a riddle ‘critique’.

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