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Prager, J. (1996). Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Thought. XVI, 1993. Pp. 561-596. Politics and Illusion: A Psychoanalytic Exploration of Nationalism. J. Prager.. Psychoanal Q., 65:670.

(1996). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 65:670

Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Thought. XVI, 1993. Pp. 561-596. Politics and Illusion: A Psychoanalytic Exploration of Nationalism. J. Prager.

Review by:
Jeffrey Prager

This paper applies Winnicott's concept of illusion to modern politics, arguing that illusion—the intermediate area of experience between subjective desire and that which is objectively perceived—is at the heart of modern politics. In its healthy form, where political subjects and the objects of rule foster the illusion that the world is of the subjects' own making, politics is characterized by creativity, playfulness, and imagination. But in its pathological form, where illusion is not fostered, a politics of negation—of replacing one political order with its opposite—prevails. Here, violence, terror, and destruction define political activity. The author charts the development of democratic politics and describes the important role of the French Revolution in establishing a modern political culture that celebrates the role of illusion in politics. Anticolonial nationalist movements illustrate a pathological form, in which the alienation of selves from the objects of rule often produces a community of identity: no room exists for playful encounters with differing conceptions of external reality.

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