1st Edition

Class and Psychoanalysis Landscapes of Inequality

By Joanna Ryan Copyright 2017
    202 Pages
    by Routledge

    202 Pages
    by Routledge

    Does psychoanalysis have anything to say about the emotional landscapes of class? How can class-inclusive psychoanalytic projects, historic and contemporary, inform theory and practice? Class and psychoanalysis are unusual bedfellows, but this original book shows how much is to be gained by exploring their relationship. Joanna Ryan provides a comprehensively researched and challenging overview in which she holds the tension between the radical and progressive potential of psychoanalysis, in its unique understandings of the unconscious, with its status as a mainly expensive and exclusive profession.

    Class and Psychoanalysis draws on existing historical scholarship, as well as on the experiences of the author and other writers in free or low-cost projects, to show what has been learned from transposing psychoanalysis into different social contexts. The book describes how class, although descriptively present, was excluded from the founding theories of psychoanalysis, leaving a problematic conceptual legacy that the book attempts to remedy. Joanna Ryan argues for an interdisciplinary approach, drawing on modern sociological and psychosocial research to understand the injuries of class, the complexities of social mobility, and the defenses of privilege. She brings together contemporary clinical writings with her own research about class within therapy relationships to illustrate the anxieties, ambivalences and inhibitions surrounding class, and the unconsciousness with which it may be enacted.

    Class and Psychoanalysis breaks new ground in providing frameworks for a critical psychoanalysis that includes class. It will be of interest to anyone who wishes to think psychoanalytically about how we are intimately formed by class, or who is concerned with the inequalities of access to psychoanalytic therapies, or with the future of psychoanalysis.

    Chapter 1 Introduction: Why Class and Psychoanalysis?

    Chapter 2 Asking Questions of History

    Chapter 3 Elision and Disavowal: The Extrusion of Class from Psychoanalytic Theory

    Chapter 4 Psychotherapy for the People? Psychoanalysis in some Public Sectors

    Chapter 5 Lived Experiences of Class: Psychosocial and Sociological Perspectives

    Chapter 6 Class and Social Mobility within the Psychoanalytic Field

    Chapter 7 Class within Therapy Relationships

    Chapter 8 Contemporary Psychoanalytic Writings on Class in the Clinic

    Chapter 9 Money and some Political Economies of Psychoanalytic Work

    Chapter 10 Speaking Class to Psychoanalysis:


    Joanna Ryan, PhD, is a psychoanalytic psychotherapist. She has worked widely in clinical practice, teaching and supervision; in academic research; and the politics of psychotherapy. She is co-author (with N. O'Connor) of Wild Desires and Mistaken Identities: Lesbianism and Psychoanalysis; co-editor (with  S. Cartledge) of Sex and Love: New Thoughts on Old Contradictions; and author of The Politics of Mental Handicap and  many other publications.

    Class and Psychoanalysis is a text of great importance. Joanna Ryan writes in a clear and objective way about the neglect of social class in psychoanalysis, yet behind this objectivity is a passionate involvement that will strike a chord with all concerned psychoanalysts and psychotherapists. The book presents the best available overview of the history, theory and practice of psychoanalysis in relation to social class, combining this with interview material from the author’s own studies of psychotherapists to give a detailed and compelling picture of how class enters the consulting room. Engaging with this profound yet accessible book is essential for all who care about class injuries and how we might find ways to respond to them.

    Stephen Frosh, Professor of Psychosocial Studies, Birkbeck, University of London


    The challenges posed by all kinds of diversity must surely be at the top of the psychoanalytic agenda. In this excellent book Joanna Ryan ensures that the question of social class is taken seriously in our theoretical and clinical formulations so that we can work towards a truly class inclusive psychoanalytic practice.

    Professor Alessandra Lemma, professor of Psychological Therapies, Tavistock Clinic and Essex University and Visiting Professor, Psychoanalysis Unit, University College London.


    Joanna Ryan vibrantly gives voice to the ways that class is lived, talked about, not talked about, and too often anxiously disavowed as a crucial, persisting part of identity in cultures of class inequality. Through interviews with therapists about their class experience in and outside the clinic, through historical research on how class has sometimes entered, sometimes disappeared from psychoanalytic theory and practice, Ryan offers a thoroughgoing meditation on class and psychoanalysis that, in this reader’s opinion, ought to have an immediate, radicalizing impact on psychoanalytic training and practice.

    Lynne Layton, Ph.D., Psychoanalyst, Harvard Medical School; Co-editor, Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society