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Layton, L. (2006). Retaliatory Discourse: The Politics of Attack and Withdrawal. Int. J. Appl. Psychoanal. Stud., 3(2):143-154.

(2006). International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, 3(2):143-154

Retaliatory Discourse: The Politics of Attack and Withdrawal

Lynne Layton

Long-term and recent sociopolitical trends in the USA pull for narcissistic ways of fashioning the self and relating to others. Discourses that sustain a split between capacities for autonomy and capacities for attachment, and discourses that sustain a split between individuals and their social surround elicit omnipotent and/or submissive modes of narcissistic relating. An increasingly vulnerable and socially abandoned population, conditioned to be ashamed of its vulnerabilities and dependency, finds itself subject to discourses that pull for various splits between “us” and “them.” This situation is a breeding ground for a politics of attack, or a politics of hostile withdrawal, or both. Neoconservatism fosters a politics of attack, and liberalism fosters a politics of withdrawal. Drawing on the psychoanalytic concept of “thirdness,” the paper concludes that only discourses and institutions that foster interdependence, containment of vulnerability, and the bringing together of relational and autonomous capacities can counter retaliatory politics.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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