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Hopper, E. (1982). The Group Self and the Arab–Israeli Conflict. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 9:487.

(1982). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 9:487

The Group Self and the Arab–Israeli Conflict

Earl Hopper, Ph.D.


I am most grateful to the Review for publishing articles on psychoanalytical aspects of social phenomena. I was especially interested in the theoretical questions raised in 'The Group Self and The Arab–Israeli Conflict' (9: 55), and would like to comment on them.

Our predilection for making analogies and homologies between people, groups and organisms is misguided, mainly because we seem to confuse them with identities. Many psychoanalysts who have become aware of the limitations of describing psychic processes in terms of organic processes (such as 'the patient has not yet been able to metabolize the interpretation') seem unwilling to forego descriptions of social processes in terms of psychic processes (such as 'the group has not yet been able to resolve a struggle between its superego and id'). Once it is understood that a statement about people in groups is different from one about groups as such (although they must be consistent), it becomes possible to consider how groups affect people, and vice versa.

Psychic facts of any degree of complexity presuppose the prior existence of social facts, as well as organic facts. Many theories in the social sciences are concerned with the relationship between the social and the psychological; they complement the valuable hypothesis that psychic facts are the mental representations of instinctual impulses. It is mistaken and presumptuous to ignore this work. Even certain Kleinians have begun to stress that infants engage in introjection and projection simultaneously from the beginning, and, therefore, that it is essential to take account of social constraints—although, it is true, they have not yet acknowledged the theoretical and clinical implications of this tentative shift of emphasis, i.

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