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Winship, G. (1997). Justice as an inherent characteristic of group dynamics? a psychoanalytic study of the jury. Free Associations, 7(1):64-80.

(1997). Free Associations, 7(1):64-80

Justice as an inherent characteristic of group dynamics? a psychoanalytic study of the jury

Gary Winship


Jurisprudence is The science of international, public and criminal law within politically organized societies. Since the Roman jurists of the second century A.D. the traditional tools of enquiry have been philosophy, ethical theory, economics, politics, social theory and logic. Psychoanalytic investigation is not usually associated with the proliferation of systems of legal justice. This is somewhat surprising considering that justice and laws, ubiquitous in the social matrix, have emerged from a myriad of written and unwritten social laws that envelop the interplay between primitive drives (aggressive and sexual) and social restraint. Perhaps the reluctance to comment upon the domain of jurisprudence has arisen out of the predominant interest of psychoanalysis in psychological and clinical enquiry rather than cultural or social processes. One might say that jurisprudence aspires to the realms of higher reason whereas psychoanalysis is a journey to the lower regions. ‘Flectere si nequeo superos, Acheronta movebo’ (Freud, 1900).1 The question I would like to ask here is: can the language and thinking of psychoanalysis be applied to the domain of legal justice — is there a meeting point between psychoanalytic enquiry and legal enquiry?

There are two alternative approaches to such an enquiry. The first would be to take psychoanalytic theory and fit it to an aspect of the criminal justice system. This may prove to be quite fruitful. One would be sure to find recurrent illustrations of many theories of the unconscious and primary processes grounded in the vicissitudes of criminal justice.

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