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Benjamin, J. (2002). Terror and Guilt: Beyond Them and Us. Psychoanal. Dial., 12(3):473-484.

(2002). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 12(3):473-484

Terror and Guilt: Beyond Them and Us

Jessica Benjamin, Ph.D.

I had the Opportunity to Formulate some of my Thoughts Regarding the September 11 attack in the context of an online panel discussion at PsyBC. The panel has been underway for four years, and many of the participants are known to me, yet we have never before discussed an event of contemporary social significance. More than a thousand people signed on to “listen” and participate. Some participants on the panel expressed doubt that psychoanalysts have anything to say about social and political events beyond how individuals are uniquely affected by them. It was suggested that such a concern is outside our professional competence.

In the event, however, contributions were sent in by the scores of subscribers using psychoanalytic categories to think through the events and their broader social meaning. This approach, though quite various in the conclusions reached, was congruent with my own, as I had come to psychoanalysis initially through my interest in thinkers like Marcuse and other members of the Frankfurt school of critical theory who used psychoanalytic concepts to illuminate social contradictions and collectively experienced tendencies, for example, to understand the mass psychology of fascism.

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