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Hopper, E. (1982). The Psycho-Dynamics of Race; Vicious and Benign Spirals: By Rae Sherwood. New Jersey and Sussex: Harvester Press, 1980. Pp. 590.. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 9:120-121.

(1982). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 9:120-121

The Psycho-Dynamics of Race; Vicious and Benign Spirals: By Rae Sherwood. New Jersey and Sussex: Harvester Press, 1980. Pp. 590.

Review by:
Earl Hopper

The social problems of racial prejudice and discrimination and their manifestation in violence are urgent. To complement the explanations proffered by social science with the theories, concepts, findings and insights of psychoanalysis is imperative. Thus this study of race relations in a London suburb contains much of value, despite its considerable limitations.

The underlying argument is introduced through a series of fascinating questions about racial prejudice. In answer, it is hypothesized that 'identity conflicts' are likely to generate prejudice in general and racial prejudice in particular; it is then assumed that racial prejudice leads to racial discrimination, and proposed that whereas some reactions to discrimination will make matters worse, i.e. create a vicious spiral, some will make them better, i.e. a benign spiral. The analogy with clinical psychoanalysis is left implicit. This embryonic theory was not regarded as a set of propositions to be examined in the light of data, but perhaps this is for the best, because it lacks the precision and specificity which the literature shows was possible during the late 1960's, when the project was conceived. In fact, the next chapter on methodology is really an apology for so-called exploratory research. Although not without interest (especially concerning the effects of the research process on the people involved, and upon the didactic, inter-subjective nature of data and data collection), the further discussion of familiar debates about experiments and measurement in the human sciences is too sophisticated for the novice and too elementary for the experienced researcher.


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