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Botticelli, S. (2004). The Politics of Relational Psychoanalysis. Psychoanal. Dial., 14(5):635-651.

(2004). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 14(5):635-651

The Politics of Relational Psychoanalysis

Steven Botticelli, Ph.D.

Given the foundational premises of relational psychoanalysis, the lack of attention to the social and political world on the part of analytic writers who identify with this orientation is curious. Perhaps relational psychoanalysis itself, particularly in its democratizing impulses (e.g., emphasis on mutuality, concern with questions of authority and self-disclosure), has become a replacement for politics, an effort to provide for patients (and analysts) in the consulting room an experience of a world that no longer seems attainable outside it. The analytic situation thus created would represent a recasting of the world as analysts wish it could be, projected into therapeutic space.

This development in the analytic field is part of a more general cultural shift away from a belief in the possibility of social transformation and a redirection of energies into ameliorative projects. This discouragement dispirits the work of those relational writers who do engage a political aspect in their thinking. The author argues that the recovery of a sense of political efficacy would vitalize analysts' endeavors inside and outside the therapy office and could help to balance the overinvestment of the clinical dimension of psychoanalysis that has accompanied the ascendance of the relational perspective.

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