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Rozmarin, E. (2011). To Be Is to Betray: On the Place of Collective History and Freedom in Psychoanalysis. Psychoanal. Dial., 21(3):320-345.

(2011). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 21(3):320-345

To Be Is to Betray: On the Place of Collective History and Freedom in Psychoanalysis

Eyal Rozmarin, Ph.D.

This paper explores an open frontier between psychoanalysis and critical theory, the relations between subjective experience and collective history. Its drive is a concern with the question of freedom: How might contemporary psychoanalysis help us think about freedom? How could it, as a practice, help us to be free? On the theoretical level, the paper follows the critique of psychoanalysis offered by Foucault and Adorno, particularly the latter's close reading Ferenczi in Negative Dialectics and his notion of “the spell.” I employ their critique in order to articulate the dilemma psychoanalysis faces vis-à-vis the notion of freedom in social context. I argue that, unlike traditional psychoanalytic discourse, relational psychoanalysis can address this dilemma in a generative way. I find this prospect in the readiness of relational psychoanalysis to realize the potential inherent in the psychoanalytic setting: the creation of a mutually constituted intersubjective space. I tell the story of a young woman for whom love seems impossible, and of a psychoanalytic expedition that finds her ability to love being held hostage. I suggest that what appears in one register as gender and sexual trouble appears in another as a dilemma of attachments and loyalties: my patient's ability to love is spellbound, trapped in a subjective-collective no man's land between her desire to be for herself and the unconscious demands of collective heritage. I argue that for psychoanalysis to be a practice of freedom, it must address the ways in which subjective experience answers to social forces and collective history. I question in this context the relations between freedom, guilt, and responsibility. Re-engaging Adorno, I agree that selfhood may always involve a guilty betrayal of others but argue against him that we must allow this guilt to be reconciled with living. I suggest, in conclusion, that theory is the bearer of collective responsibility.

[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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