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Psychoanalytic sociology and the traumas of history: Alexander Mitscherlich between the disciplines

Ffytche, Matt (2017) 'Psychoanalytic sociology and the traumas of history: Alexander Mitscherlich between the disciplines.' History of the Human Sciences, 30 (5). 3 - 29. ISSN 0952-6951

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This article examines the way aspects of recent history were excluded in key studies emerging from psychoanalytic social psychology of the mid-twentieth century. It draws on work by Erikson, Marcuse and Fromm, but focuses in particular on Alexander Mitscherlich. Mitscherlich, a social psychologist associated with the later Frankfurt school, was also the most important psychoanalytic figure in postwar Germany. This makes his work significant for tracing ways in which historical experience of the war and Nazism was filtered out of psychosocial narratives in this period, in favour of more structural analyses of the dynamics of social authority. Mitscherlich?s 1967 work The Inability to Mourn, co-authored with Margarete Mitscherlich, is often cited as the point at which the ?missing? historical experience flooded back into psychoanalytic accounts of society. I argue that this landmark publication doesn?t hail the shift towards the psychoanalysis of historical experience with which it is often associated. These more sociological writers of the mid-century were writing before the impact of several trends occurring in the 1980s-90s which decisively shifted psychoanalytic attention away from the investigation of social authority and towards a focus on historical trauma. Ultimately this is also a narrative about the transformations which occur when psychoanalysis moves across disciplines.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: psychoanalysis, history, social-psychology, the inability to mourn, Mitscherlich, postwar Germany, trauma
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
D History General and Old World > DD Germany
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies, Department of
Depositing User: Matt Ffytche
Date Deposited: 30 Mar 2017 15:01
Last Modified: 09 Feb 2020 10:15

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