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Gordon, P. (1995). Private practice, public life: is a psychoanalytic politics possible?. Free Associations, 5(3):275-288.

(1995). Free Associations, 5(3):275-288

Private practice, public life: is a psychoanalytic politics possible?

Paul Gordon

‘Questions can indeed be total; but answers, in their positive significance, cannot.’ (Merleau-Ponty, 1964, p. 31.)

What does psychoanalysis have to say that is useful to politics today? Is a psychoanalytic politics possible? These are two of the questions I should like to pose, as much for myself as for others, although I cannot promise any answers.

During the 1970s and 1980s, considerable numbers of feminists, leftists, and other radicals turned to psychoanalysis both as personal therapy and as a theoretical tool for understanding social processes, particularly mechanisms of domination and factors obstructing social and political change. Such people frequently drew inspiration from the Freudo-Marxist tradition of Reich, Fenichel, and Marcuse, as well as more recent writers such as Russell Jacoby and Joel Kovel. Others looked to the ideas of Lacan and his followers, while others looked to develop the work of Klein and Bion. (The Free Associations project—the journal, book publishing, and the ‘Psychoanalysis and the Public Sphere’ conferences—has been, of course, a major expression of this trend.)


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