Psychoanalysis, Critical Theory and the Psychosocial - Marx House, London

A discussion based seminar series by Psychoanalysis and Politics at the Marx House,London.

OCT 26TH – MILENA STATEVA / MANNIE SHER Pedalling swans: trace, love and reflexivity in the containment of contemporary care provision – between inherited challenges and new dilemmas

What I propose, therefore, is very simple: it is nothing more than to think what we are doing. Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition

Delivery of care today is shared between statutory agencies and non-governmental organisations, and by high-cost private companies. This paper looks at the current state of the not-for-profit providers; how institutional dynamics affects their staff and what new issues are facing the workforce. In Western societies, and in the UK in particular, those who care for the most vulnerable, experience suffering and difficulties that mirror the experience of their clients and are sometimes amplified by organisational pressures. Recent reviews highlight the ways in which these pressures from ‘above’ and ‘below’ can be detrimental to the task of caring and can undermine the wellbeing of the workforce and by extension the value and future of welfare services. This paper describes alternatives to perpetual re-designs, re-structuring and austerity measures by relatively inexpensive but powerful action learning interventions. For purposes of brevity we call the intervention reflective spaces that apply philosophy, group relations, psychoanalysis, organisational development and critical theory. As reflective spaces, these groups contain, hold and work through everyday care experiences and inform meaningful action by mobilising the practitioners’ capacities to love, learn and think.

The paper draws from the domains of group relations, the British School of Psychoanalysis, organisational development and critical theory which make up the emerging methodology of reflective spaces. The paper makes a contribution to practice by proposing a tested model of reflective spaces. The talk will be therefore suitable for group facilitators as well as those interested in meta-analytic developments across these domains.

Contribution to theory and concept development: reflection, reflexivity and other modalities of thinking and states of mind and how these can impact and are impacted upon by ontology, policy and more widely what Derrida calls traces or gramme.

Keywords: Groups, love, thinking, reflection/reflexivity, gramme

Recommended reading

Punday, D. (2000) Derrida in the World: Space and Post-Deconstructive Textual Analysis, in Postmodern Culture, Volume 11, Number 1 (available on-line at: , l.a. Oct 2015)

Sher, M. (2013) In search of „the structure that reflects“: promoting organisational reflection practices in a UK health authority, in Sher, M. The Dynamics of Change: Tavistock Approaches to Improving Social Systems, London: Karnac Books (to be attached)

Turner, B. and S. Wainwright (2003) Corps de Ballet: the case of the injured ballet dancer, in Sociology of Health & Illness Vol. 25 No. 4 2003 ISSN 0141–9889, pp. 269–288 (to be attached)

NOV 16TH LENE AUESTAD - Violence and the Social Unconscious: Overcoming or not Overcoming the Individual/Social Distinction

It has been argued that psychosocial studies refutes the separation of the psychic and social and rejects the idea that inner and outer worlds are empirically or theoretically separable. By contrast, critical theory emphasises how false theoretical standards are true in the sense of reflecting social reality: "False consciousness is also true: inner and outer life are torn apart (Adorno 1967). Thus false beliefs are materially realised in a wrong reality. This paper questions how the claim of a non-separation of psychic and social reality is to be understood and how it may be reconciled with a critique of violence, a project that appears to demand that these concepts must be and cannot be held together. I shall outline some premises for an asymmetrical understanding of the social unconscious.


Adorno, T.W. (1967) Sociology and Psychology, part 1, New Left Review 1/46.

Hopper, E./Weinberg, H. (2011) Introduction in The Social Unconscious in Persons, Groups and Societies. Vol.1 Mainly Theory. London: Karnac.

Kaes, R. (2007) The Unconscious in Common and Shared Psychic Spaces in Calich/Hinz eds. The Unconscious: Further Reflections. IPA.

Layton, L. (2007) What Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society Means to Me. Mens Sana.

NOV. 23rd TAPO CHIMBGANDA (Lecturer, Institute of Childhood and Education, Leeds Trinity University) Afropessimism: Expressing what is difficult about Race Relations

Aggression, conflict and human suffering are the precepts of psychoanalysis that make it ideal in the critic of race relations throughout history and presently; and giving a relatively frank analysis of what lies at the root of racism is afropessimism. Afropessimism, the sentiment of the irreconcilable differences between the world and Blackness, has become a movement in which the perversity of race is symptomized by the objectification of Blackness. Psychoanalysis, criticised for a propensity towards pessimism, views human nature and the state of co-existence negatively. Freud (1930) in Civilizations and its discontents states there is an inert tendency towards aggression in us and it is only right to assume it exists in our others. In this discussion I explore the use of psychoanalytic language in expressing the complicated and often repressed, disavowed, and foreclosed difficult knowledge in race relations today.

Recommended Reading:

Stuart Hall: Race the floating signifier

Frantz Fanon (1967). Fact of Blackness in Black Skin White Masks

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