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Herron, W.G. Javier, R.A. (1996). The Psychogenesis of Poverty: Some Psychoanalytic Conceptions. Psychoanal. Rev., 83(4):611-620.

(1996). Psychoanalytic Review, 83(4):611-620

The Psychogenesis of Poverty: Some Psychoanalytic Conceptions

William G. Herron, Ph.D. and Rafael A. Javier

This paper offers some comments about a psychoanalytic understanding of poverty. Parsimony is dictated by two facts. First, psychoanalysis has had little to say about the subject in the past, so there is no body of clinical data or direct theory upon which to build. Then, poverty is a very complex issue with a full complement of contradictions, misunderstandings, stereotypes, and confusions. However, poverty is also a persistent problem throughout the world, and acute in lands of plenty, such as the United States (Maharidge, 1991). The need for explanations and remedies is ever apparent, despite many having been offered, tried, and stumbled over, recreating the need for new beginnings. Most approaches have been without psychoanalytic influence or input, so there is an urgency to approach this issue.

Poverty is usually thought of as being within the domains of economics and politics, and Rendon (1991) has noted that, with few exceptions, psychoanalysts have avoided both. Mainstream psychoanalytic theory, and practice even more so, has been prominently concerned with the middle class. At the same time, the influence of psychoanalysis on the entire society has been impressive in many ways, raising hopes for more extensive benefits. An example of this is Freud's expressed hopes for the applications of psychoanalysis (1933). The possibilities reinforce the idea that poverty could only be better understood if subject to psychoanalytic scrutiny.

Freud (1913, 1917) may have inadvertently set the tone for relative neglect. Although generous of spirit in many ways, at best he appeared ambivalent about the poor, and poverty was not one of his main social issues.

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