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White, C. (2004). What Dare We (Not) Do? Psychoanalysis: A Voice in Politics?. Psychoanal. Perspect., 2(1):49-55.

(2004). Psychoanalytic Perspectives, 2(1):49-55

What Dare We (Not) Do? Psychoanalysis: A Voice in Politics?

Cleonie White, Ph.D.

The moderator and panelists of this roundtable discussion have undertaken a sorely needed dialogue regarding the role of psychoanalytic thought and practice in American society, and in the world at large, given rapidly shifting geographic boundaries and sustained levels of anxiety and dread in the world community. Can psychoanalysis be brought into the world of politics and still retain its place as a source of discovery and influence in the lives of individual patients who seek our help? What is our understanding, really, of mind, of the human condition in today's troubled world? What role do we play in shaping a different future than seems now almost inevitable? These are among the vast array of questions addressed by this panel.

We know, certainly, as discussed by members of the panel, that ordinary citizens sharing the same fears and hopes have begun national and international debates aimed at bridging differences and stemming the growing specter of aggression and war. We have begun the process of recognition and apology (e.g., Dr. Benjamin in Palestine; Dr. Susan Bodnar, 2004, in press, on a Native American Reservation) that we understand are essential to the process of knowing and being known. And, with other like-minded thinkers, some of us have engaged in acts of public protest.

When we question whether psychoanalysts should be politically vocal, we rightly bear in mind the possible impact of our choices on our patients and on our profession in the public eye. The panelists struggle courageously with this issue and present much food for thought. Here are some of my ideas on the matter.

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