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Papadopoulos, R. (1993). Commentaries on ‘The mirror and the hammer’. Free Associations, 3(4):612-616.

(1993). Free Associations, 3(4):612-616

Commentaries on ‘The mirror and the hammer’

Renos Papadopoulos, Ph.D.

In ‘The mirror and the hammer’ Andrew Samuels attempts to develop a form of cultural analysis based on depth psychology; he endeavours to fashion an approach which would be able to address both the individual and cultural realms with the same strength of relevance. Using Mayakovsky's imagery, it could be said that Samuels seems to avoid the trap of proposing depth psychology either as a mirror of society or as a hammer with which to shape society. Instead, I would venture to say that his own approach amounts to suggesting a third image, that of a paintbrush with its two opposite possibilities: depth psychology may either brush society over with its own theoretical colouring, or with masterly brushstrokes re-present society in the form of a truly artistic image. Such an image is then neither a photographic copy of society (sociologizing the personal), nor a fantasmic creation unrelated to what it re-presents (psychologizing the social).

In developing this middle position, Samuels draws on diverse sources, from political philosophy and economics, to mythology and spirituality. This diversity of material creates a polymorphous complexity (if not perplexity) which may scandalize the scholarly reader who expects conventionally ordered presentations. However, this paper, like most of Samuels' recent writings, is bubbling with creativity in a way which may intoxicate some readers or perplex others. This is a solo quest where Samuels does not rely on other similar investigations from the literature on this topic and it is, therefore, easy to criticize him for not placing his own contribution in the context of the classic studies in this field within the wide spectrum of depth psychology.

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