Faced by the increasing divisiveness and volatility of electoral politics, and the rise of illiberal fundamentalisms, the social sciences may seem to lack the imagination necessary to make sense of the world. In this unusual book of political psychology, based on the idea that we hold ourselves together through a combination of restraint and release, the author draws on psychoanalysis and its creative interpretations of everyday experience to consider the current malaise of politics in relation to the huge vitality of popular culture. In a wide-ranging analysis, that links topics as diverse as our experience of public utilities, the rise of counselling, and the weakened impact of sexual scandal, he concludes with the proposal that a reconstruction of nationalism could make an important contribution to the renewal of democratic politics.
In this groundbreaking work, Barry Richards demonstrates that burgeoning social change may have a healing and containing effect on the climate of fear wrought by the global deterioration of political life – a disquietude that threatens our connections to each other and the world around us. In a few pages, he tackles our unconsciously shared anxieties with a clarity and intelligence that is psychologically astute, culturally refreshing, and ultimately hopeful. This book inspires and informs, and I recommend it to anyone looking for a deeper understanding of the frightening times in which we live.’
- Justin A. Frank, MD, author of Obama on the Couch, and the forthcoming Trump on the Couch
‘Barry Richards provides another avenue to important questions of social psychology: How can we understand the internal psychic conditions of coping with the external world? How can we investigate what “holds societies together” in a deeper psychological sense – in a sense that doesn’t only analyse problematic forms of individual adaptation or damaging kinds of submission to social reality? To answer these questions the author concentrates mainly on what he formulates as a need to establish a containing relationship to the external world. Anyone involved in analysing the complex relationship between internal and external realities and between sociology and psychoanalysis will find inspiring new ideas in this interesting book.’
- Vera King, Sigmund-Freud-Institut and Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany
‘Popular culture and its political expression “populism” is a giant materialising out of the mists to haunt the elite and the intellectuals alike. It is best we get to know it. This book gives us a sketch map of the territory on which these new manifestations occur. It is a surprisingly hopeful read as it surveys the important dialectic of our own selves embedded within our collective world.’
- R. D. Hinshelwood, fellow of the British Psychoanalytical Society and professor in the Centre of Psychoanalytic Studies, University of Essex
"Drawing on Freud’s pleasure principle, he argues that popular culture (football, popular music, consumer culture) offers a pleasurable libidinal and aggressive release that cannot escape social norms and values that must be adhered to in order to co-exist in society. As such, popular culture’s derivative is the id and society’s norms the superego, and, it is the tension between the two that makes popular culture containing.Although academic in tone and focus, the book indirectly highlights the significance of politics and popular culture in the therapy room, and how it can influence the client’s feeling of containment or fragmentation."
-Marta Moe, Psychodynamic Practice Journal
1. The popular disciplines of delight 2. The containing matrix of the social 3. The therapeutic culture hypothesis 4. Containment and compression: politics in the therapeutic age