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Morgan, D. (2020). Class and psychoanalysis: landscapes of inequality: by Dr Joanna Ryan, London and New York, Routledge, 2017, £28.79 (paperback), 202 pp., ISBN 978-1-138- 88551-6. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 101(2):418-422.
(2020). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 101(2):418-422
Class and psychoanalysis: landscapes of inequality: by Dr Joanna Ryan, London and New York, Routledge, 2017, £28.79 (paperback), 202 pp., ISBN 978-1-138- 88551-6
Review by: David Morgan
It’s the same the whole world over its poor what gets the blame, it's the rich that gets the pleasure*, ain't it all a blooming shame. (Anonymous Victorian music hall song)
Fascinatingly, the very title of this book seems to me to highlight an important aspect of the class system. If we are British, we begin to make preconscious assumptions about an individual's social class from the moment they open their mouth. Is it “class” to rhyme with “mass” or is it “class” to rhyme with “farce”? In such tiny details lie the icebergs of the North–South divide, and snap superficial decisions about poshness, status, and education.
Assumptions about status and class do appear, at least from an external perspective, to saturate psychoanalysis and psychotherapy. An ex-trainee I know from a cockney working-class East London background was constantly referred to as “chippy” by his more middle-class teachers, seemingly oblivious to the social class fundamentalism that accompanied this judgement. For a different person from a more recognisably posh background, it might just have been described as ambition.
Class and psychoanalysis have had a long and fluctuating history. This book is the first time that class, however it is pronounced, has been specifically explored from a psychoanalytic perspective in the UK. There are others in the field internationally, such as Lynne Layton (Layton, Hollander, and Gutwill 2006; Layton 2017) and Joel Kovel (1970), both from the United States (Kovel in his many books probably the first pioneer of issues of racism, classism, and politics) who have explored these traditional blind spots of psychoanalysts and psychoanalytic theory.
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