Tolerating Strangers in Intolerant Times : Psychoanalytic, Political and Philosophical Perspectives book cover
1st Edition

Tolerating Strangers in Intolerant Times
Psychoanalytic, Political and Philosophical Perspectives

ISBN 9781138360259
Published September 16, 2018 by Routledge
162 Pages

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Book Description

In this interdisciplinary and wide-ranging study, Roger Kennedy looks at the roots of tolerance and intolerance as well as the role of the stranger and strangeness in provoking basic fears about our identity. He argues that a fear of a loss of attachment to one’s home might account for many prejudiced and intolerant attitudes to refugees and migrants; that basic fears about being displaced by so-called ‘strangers’ from our precious and precarious sense of a psychic home can tear communities apart, as well as lead to discrimination against those who appear to be different.

Present day intolerance includes fears about the ‘hordes’ of immigrants confused with realistic fears about terrorist attacks, populist fears about loss of cultural integrity and with it a sense of powerlessness, and fearful debates about such basics as truth, including the so-called ‘post truth’ issue. Such fears, as explored in the book, mirror old arguments going back centuries to the early enlightenment thinkers and even before, when the parameters of discussion about tolerance were mainly around religious tolerance. There is urgency about addressing these kinds of issue once more at a time when the ‘ground rules’ of what makes for a civilized society seem to be under threat. Kennedy argues that society needs a ‘tolerance process’, in which critical thinking and respectful judgment can take place in an atmosphere of debate and reasonably open communication, when issues around what can and cannot be tolerated about different beliefs, practices and attitudes in people in our own and other cultures, are examined and debated.

Tolerating Strangers in Intolerant Times, with the help of psychoanalytic, literary, social and political thinking, looks at what such a tolerance process could look like in a world increasingly prone to intolerance and prejudice. It will appeal to psychoanalysts as well as scholars of politics and philosophy.

Table of Contents

Chapter One: Fear of Strangers: Whose Home is it? Chapter Two: Strangers to Ourselves Chapter Three: Home and Identity Chapter Four: The Early History of Tolerance Chapter Five: Spinoza, Locke and Bayle Chapter Six: Later Enlightenment: From Voltaire to the American Revolution Chapter Seven: John Stuart Mill, Liberty and Harm Principle – Towards Modern Liberal Tolerance Chapter Eight: Plurality and Tolerance - Some Key Modern Views on Tolerance Chapter Nine: Tolerance and the Arts Chapter Ten: Conclusions: The Tolerance Process

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Roger Kennedy is a psychoanalyst in private practice in the UK and past president of the British Psychoanalytical Society. He was an NHS Consultant for 30 years at The Cassel Hospital and is now Chair of The Child and Family Practice. His previous Routledge books include Psychoanalysis, History and Subjectivity, (2002), The Many Voices of Psychoanalysis (2007), and The Psychic Home (2014).


"At a time of increasing intolerance and widespread political challenges centred on immigration, Roger Kennedy’s thoughtful approach and psychoanalytic expertise make a timely contribution to understanding how learning to live with strangers is difficult, necessary, and ultimately rewarding. Kennedy draws on a wide range of disciplines from Shakespeare studies to sociology, politics, and music to make the case for proposing a pluralistic framework for tolerance that should help to inform private thinking and public discourse."-Armand D’Angour, Associate Professor in Classics, University of Oxford, UK

"This very timely book shows the contribution — much needed — that psychoanalysis can make to the discussion of social and political issues. It could only have been written by a psychoanalyst with a deep interest in the history of ideas. Kennedy considers how notions of tolerance and intolerance have been understood at different times. Contemporary views derive from the Enlightenment, with its focus on rationality, and Kennedy emphasises that arguments based on reason alone can never resolve conflicts in this area. His concepts of ‘subject tolerance’ and ‘object tolerance’ are especially valuable."-Michael Parsons, British Psychoanalytical Society