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Altman, N. Benjamin, J. Jacobs, T. Wachtel, P. (2004). Is Politics the Last Taboo in Psychoanalysis?. Psychoanal. Perspect., 2(1):5-36.

(2004). Psychoanalytic Perspectives, 2(1):5-36

Roundtable Discussion

Is Politics the Last Taboo in Psychoanalysis? Related Papers

A Roundtable Discussion with Neil Altman, Ph.D., Jessica Benjamin, Ph.D., Ted Jacobs, M.D. and Paul Wachtel, Ph.D.

Moderated by:
Amanda Hirsch Geffner, M.A., C.S.W.


On a warm spring evening in early May, four prominent Manhattan psychoanalysts (Neil Altman, Jessica Benjamin, Ted Jacobs, and Paul Wachtel) got together at the invitation of Psychoanalytic Perspectives to talk about politics and psychoanalysis. Each participant in the discussion had been provided with a list of questions, composed by the journal's editorial board, to reflect upon in advance. Some of the questions were later selected by the group as foci for the evening's conversation, while others, although not directly asked, helped serve as a shared ideational context, and remained accessible as reference points for the hovering attention of those involved.

The process of formulating these questions is a story in itself, to be told, perhaps, at a later date (also see Political Identity: A Personal Postscript, below). Suffice it to say that in this post-9/11, post-invasion-of-Iraq, pre- presidential-election time period, a number of us have found ourselves more moved by things political than we have been in many, many years. This sentiment has come to infuse our lives, our patients' lives, and our in-session lives with patients. Emotions (fear, sadness, anger, even excitement) about things beyond the immediate, familial-social sphere are running high, finding resonance with—and magnifying—many of our more personal concerns in the process. The consequences of political action or inaction have become, it seems, more vivid, more tangible. In many cases, we find ourselves entering into unfamiliar and often volatile territory with family, with friends, with colleagues and (dare it be said out loud?) with our patients, as well.

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