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Hartmann, H. (1950). The Application of Psychoanalytic Concepts to Social Science. Psychoanal Q., 19:385-392.

(1950). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 19:385-392

The Application of Psychoanalytic Concepts to Social Science

Heinz Hartmann, M.D.

Many theories and findings of sociology appear ambiguous if viewed from the angle of psychoanalytic interpretation, and similarly some aspects of psychoanalytic findings and theories, important as they may be in the study of the individual, seem irrelevant to the sociologist. For mutual understanding it would be desirable to create a common conceptual language, or to define sociological problems in terms of their psychological meaning and, as Parsons has stated, formulate psychological problems in direct relation to the social structure.

Certainly when what appears to be the same 'subject' is approached by both sciences, the relevant factors may not be the same, the centers of fruitful interest do not necessarily coincide. The psychoanalyst, for his purposes, may put certain features that interest sociologists into parentheses; sociologists in some fields of social studies may make valid predictions with no consideration of the total personalities of individuals. Such predictions will most likely be correct where social action is predominantly determined by the conscious or preconscious ego, as in rational action, or in action involving such ego interests as we plausibly may assume are present in the average member of a group. An obvious example is economic theory.

But there are other social actions and functions where one cannot rely on such simple psychological models if one wishes to make valid predictions.

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