New Issue! History of the Human Sciences

A new issue of History of the Human Sciences has just been released online. Included in this issue are articles on the history of Female Sexual Dyfunction as a diagnostic category, Freud’s social theory, the role of the brain in dementia, and more. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Contested psychiatric ontology and feminist critique: ‘Female Sexual Dysfunction’ and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual,” by Katherine Angel (above left). The abstract reads,

In this article I discuss the emergence of Female Sexual Dysfunction (FSD) within American psychiatry and beyond in the postwar period, setting out what I believe to be important and suggestive questions neglected in existing scholarship. Tracing the nomenclature within successive editions of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), I consider the reification of the term ‘FSD’, and the activism and scholarship that the rise of the category has occasioned. I suggest that analysis of FSD benefits from scrutiny of a wider range of sources (especially since the popular and scientific cross-pollinate). I explore the multiplicity of FSD that emerges when one examines this wider range, but I also underscore a reinscribing of anxieties about psychogenic aetiologies. I then argue that what makes the FSD case additionally interesting, over and above other conditions with a contested status, is the historically complex relationship between psychiatry and feminism that is at work in contemporary debates. I suggest that existing literature on FSD has not yet posed some of the most important and salient questions at stake in writing about women’s sexual problems in this period, and can only do this when the relationship between ‘second-wave’ feminism, ‘post-feminism’, psychiatry and psychoanalysis becomes part of the terrain to be analysed, rather than the medium through which analysis is conducted.

“Mimesis in Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan (1651),” by Laura S. Reagan. The abstract reads,

How can citizens construct the political authority under which they will live? I argue that Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan (1651) answers this question concerning the constitutive power of political and normative agency by employing four dimensions of mimesis from the Greek and Roman traditions. And I argue that mimesis accounts for the know-how, or power/knowledge, the general ‘man’ draws upon in constructing the commonwealth. Hobbes revalues poetic mimesis through his stylistic decisions, including the invitation to the reader to read ‘himself’ in the portrait of the general man depicted in the text. Hobbes aims for Leviathan to change the ethical dispositions of its readers, turning them from bad to good men as they witness the general man undergoing this ethical transformation in the transition from the state of nature to the civil state. He emphasizes the anthropological dimension of mimesis to explain political disorder since he argues that men assess the honor others attribute them by observing signs and gestures in others’ behavior. Hobbes employs the linguistic dimension of mimesis to describe how men acting as agents can build a normative consensus out of the state of nature. This article positions mimesis as a key term for understanding the intersection between aesthetics and politics before the term ‘aesthetics’ came into parlance.

“Freud’s social theory: Modernist and postmodernist revisions,” by Alfred I. Tauber. The abstract reads,

Acknowledging the power of the id-drives, Freud held on to the authority of reason as the ego’s best tool to control instinctual desire. He thereby placed analytic reason at the foundation of his own ambivalent social theory, which, on the one hand, held utopian promise based upon psychoanalytic insight, and, on the other hand, despaired of reason’s capacity to control the self-destructive elements of the psyche. Moving beyond the recourse of sublimation, post-Freudians attacked reason’s hegemony in quelling disruptive psycho-dynamics and, focusing upon the social domain, they sought strategies to counter the oppressive (repressive) social restrictions and conformist impositions impeding individual freedom that result from thwarted desire. Postmodern celebration of desire at the expense of reason and sublimation leaves the Enlightenment prospects altogether and moves psychoanalysis into a new terrain, where the very notion of rationality and an autonomous ego upon which much of Freudianism rests has been deconstructed. Thus the debate that begins with Freud’s social theories reflects the deeper divisions, which arose with postmodern ethics and discarded Cartesian–Kantian notions of personal identity. Here we consider the moral framework in which Freudian social theory sits and a contrasting understanding of agency that confronts his modernist conception. In that debate, we discern the larger humanist confrontation with postmodernity. Yet, all who engaged Freud shared some version of his utopian ethos, albeit radically restructuring the theory upon which social reform might occur.

“Sources of governmentality: Two notes on Foucault’s lecture,” by Paul-Erik Korvela. The abstract reads,

The article scrutinizes Michel Foucault’s interpretation of Machiavelli in his famous lecture on governmentality. Foucault is slightly misguided in his search for the origins of governmentality, the article asserts. Foucault gives credit for the development of what he calls a new art of government to anti-Machiavellian treatises, but also follows those treatises in their distorted interpretation of Machiavelli. Consequently, Foucault’s analysis gets confused and regards as novel those arguments and developments that were essentially of ancient pedigree compared with Machiavelli’s ideas. The article discusses especially two points in Foucault’s interpretation of Machiavelli: Foucault’s insistence on the singularity of the prince in Machiavelli and the importance of territory to Machiavelli. In both of these points Foucault is beside the mark. Foucault’s interpretation inverts the development of an art of government and regards as new those ideas that were fundamentally reactionary vis-à-vis Machiavelli’s ideas. The article suggests that a more viable lead in searching for an art of government might be found from Machiavelli’s writings and the republican experience of the late medieval Italian city-states rather than from the birth of administrative monarchies of the 16th and 17th centuries. Therefore, the article concludes that Foucault is somewhat misled in contextualizing the birth of governmentality, a view which also has some wider implications for the whole framework of governmentality Foucault is trying to develop.

“Governing the injecting drug user: Beyond needle fixation,” by Ian Walmsley. The abstract reads,

This article offers a critical contribution to the debate on a problematic ‘type’ of injecting drug use referred to as needle fixation. At the heart of this debate, is a questioning of the existence, prevalence and usefulness of the needle fixation concept for academics and drug treatment practitioners working with injecting drug users. The aim of this article is to extend and develop this discussion by examining the historical conditions of the needle fixation discourse. Drawing upon Michel Foucault’s concept of governmentality, it uses primary and secondary sources from the 19th century to the present to trace the historical trajectory of the problematic relationship between the injecting drug user, the syringe and truth. By reconceptualizing needle fixation as a technology of government, this article will argue that needle fixation can be seen to be incompatible with contemporary rationalities found in treatment policy and practice, suggesting that we have moved beyond needle fixation as a way of governing injecting drug use and into the domain of risk management. Beyond revealing this tension, the article highlights new lines that are currently being drawn between the injecting drug user, the syringe and truth from the field of neuroscience and the risk-management potential of psychopharmacology.

“The enigma of the brain and its place as cause, character and pretext in the imaginary of dementia,” by Alan Blum. The abstract reads,

An analysis of the collective engagement with the disease known as Alzheimer’s and the dementia reputed of it reveals recourse to a socially standardized formula that attributes causal agency to the brain in the absence of clinching knowledge. I propose that what Baudrillard calls the model of molecular idealism stipulates such a neurological view of determinism in order to provide caregivers with reassurance in the face of the perplexing character of dementia and the depressing reactions to mortality that it brings to the surface.

The full issue can be found online here.

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About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a doctoral student in the History and Theory of Psychology program at York University. Her dissertation explores the early history of questionnaires in American psychology.

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