This book applies historicised psychoanalytic thinking in a non-reductive way to better understand the dominant emotional trends in contemporary cultural and socio-political life, with a specific focus on the relationship between social dislocation, narcissism, and "post truth".
Rapid social dislocation and change are ubiquitous in late capitalist societies, though these processes may be felt unequally. Following the work of the late Christopher Lasch, Everything is Permitted, Restrictions Still Apply suggests there are powerful narcissistic trends in contemporary life mitigating against the capacity to acknowledge and face these changes; in other words, against the capacity to face reality and to mourn. There is a tendency to assert the primacy of a compelling emotional narrative over the claims of evidence and expertise, and to relate to others, past and present, as alternately idealised and/or denigrated aspects of the self. These trends permeate across socio-cultural divides and the political spectrum – underpinning phenomena as apparently divergent as free-market fundamentalism, certain forms of anti-capitalism, and contemporary identity and victim politics of both nominal right and left: movements that have more emotional and intellectual underpinnings in common than their proponents may care to admit. The contrast between liberal progressiveness and post-truth populism ignores the inter-relationship of these phenomena and begs the question of those powerful subjectivist and relativistic trends amongst sections of radical and "progressive" opinion that have long sought to problematise the very notion of truth. This book links these phenomena to contemporary social defences against facing limitation, loss, and internal conflict. More specifically it argues that in a pseudo-therapeutic culture preoccupied with narratives of victimhood, the losses associated with "traditional" manufacturing and its attendant associational cultures have neither been acknowledged nor mourned.
Everything is Permitted, Restrictions Still Apply will appeal to all readers interested in history, politics, and socio-cultural analysis, and in new ways of thinking about contemporary issues. It will be of particular interest to researchers applying a psycho-social perspective on contemporary conflict and to a psychoanalytically informed readership.
Table of Contents
About the Author
Psychoanalytic Perspectives on Subjectivity
Narcissism and Loss
Psychoanalytic Perspectives on Social Dislocation and Group Regression
Destructive Narcissism in History – Norman Cohn’s Study of Millennialism
Imagined Communities – a Historicised Psychoanalytic Perspective on the Rise of Nationalism
The Downfall of Destructive Narcissism
Historical and Psychoanalytic Perspectives on Fascism
From the Post-war Settlement to the End of History
Lost Worlds – the Unmourned Past as a Psychic Retreat
Problems with the Defence
Subjectivism, Postmodernism, and Identity Politics
A Culture of Narcissism?
Marketisation and Subjectivism in Mental Health Care – the Importance of the Paternal function
From Dyadic to Triadic – the Post-modern Turn in Psychotherapy
Not in Our Name!
Everything is Permitted, Restrictions Still Apply
Conclusion – a Plea for a Measure of Universalism
Ian Thurston is a registered psychoanalytic psychotherapist, currently working as a Principal Adult Psychotherapist at the Department of Psychotherapy, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK. He has worked extensively in public sector mental health care, initially as a psychiatric nurse, and later as clinical manager of an Acute Day Hospital in East London.