New HHS: Psychoanalytic Social Psychology, Burnout, & More

The December 2017 issue of History of the Human Sciences is now online. Full details below.

“Psychoanalytic sociology and the traumas of history: Alexander Mitscherlich between the disciplines,” by Matt ffytche. Abstract:

This article examines the way aspects of recent history were excluded in key studies emerging from psychoanalytic social psychology of the mid-20th 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 does not 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.

“The making of burnout: From social change to self-awareness in the postwar United States, 1970–82,” by Matthew J. Hoffarth. Abstract:

The concept of burnout has become ubiquitous in contemporary discussions of work stress in the post-industrial, service economy. However, it originated outside of the market, in the counter-cultural human service institutions of the San Francisco Bay Area and New York City. This article explores the first decade of the development of the burnout concept, demonstrating how it represented a reaction against the counter-culture and the alternative institutions that emerged alongside it. Focused in particular on the work of psychoanalyst Herbert Freudenberger and social psychologist Christina Maslach, this article demonstrates how the burnout phenomenon inspired professional helpers to engage in self-care and reduce their commitment to clients. As burnout migrated from the human services into the broader business environment in the early 1980s, the dedication to social change through helping others would largely vanish, to be replaced by the idea that the best way to ‘serve’ customers and co-workers was by practising self-awareness and self-management.

“Inventing the ‘normal’ child: Psychology, delinquency, and the promise of early intervention,” by Katie Wright. Abstract:

Constructions of normality and abnormality in discussions of young people changed considerably in the early to mid-twentieth century in many parts of the world, including Australia. The perennial trope of youth as a threat assumed a distinctly new form in this era, as the troubled and troublesome child, the incipient and confirmed delinquent, was reconfigured through emerging knowledges of the human sciences. Exploring the effects of new concerns with the ‘normal’, this article begins by examining the construct of normalcy and its interdependency with notions of the ‘abnormal’, particularly juvenile delinquency, as the antithesis of personal and social adjustment. Yet the discursive strategies that saw delinquency, at one level, recognized as a complex and multi-causal problem also construed it as amenable to clinical solutions, notably psychological intervention. The article explores how emergent ideas of the importance of early intervention created divisions between three groups of youthful populations: the ‘normal child’ deemed well adjusted, the ‘problem child’ thought to be responsive to adjustive measures, and the ‘confirmed delinquent’, whose behaviour was considered intractable and was thus unlikely to attain the socially desired status of normalcy.

“Machiavelli and the liberalism of fear,” by Thomas Osborne. Abstract:

This article revisits the long-standing question of the relations between ethics and politics in Machiavelli’s work, assessing its relevance to the ‘liberalism of fear’ in particular in the work of Judith Shklar, Bernard Williams and also John Dunn. The article considers ways in which Machiavelli has been a ‘negative’ resource for liberalism – for instance, as a presumed proponent of tyranny; but also ways in which even for the liberalism of fear he might be considered a ‘positive’ resource, above all around the issues of political necessity and prudential judgement.

“Braidotti, Spinoza and disability studies after the human,” by Thomas Abrams. Abstract:

Disability studies has begun to employ Rosi Braidotti’s posthumanism, as a means to challenge the exclusionary model of man, dominant both in the academy and in everyday life. Braidotti argues that we must embrace a new form of subjectivity to effectively address the academic, environmental and species challenges characterizing the posthuman condition. This critical posthuman subject is inspired, in part, by Baruch de Spinoza, read as a monistic philosopher of difference. In this article, I compare Braidotti’s posthuman philosophy with Spinoza’s Ethics, read through a Deleuzian lens. The two projects are extremely different. My arguments are twofold: first, that Braidotti’s subjective reading overlooks Spinoza’s anti-subjective rationalism; and, second, that we must be cautious about Braidotti’s demands that we jettison all vestiges of man from philosophy, exploring disability or anything else. I make my case using the example of phenomenology. I end by asking what an expanded understanding of Spinoza’s philosophy means for disability studies, for posthumanism and for other forms of radical philosophy in the future.

“The perpetual becoming of humanity: Bauman, Bloch and the question of humanism,” by Martin Aidnik. Abstract:

Growing interest has been shown toward humanism in the 21st century after decades of critique and rejection. Posthumanism and transhumanism have redefined the topic primarily through developments in technology and by focusing on relations of interconnectedness between humans and the environment. A different concern with ‘being human’ can be found in the writings of Zygmunt Bauman and Ernst Bloch. The leitmotif of Bauman’s sociology and of Bloch’s utopian philosophy is their assertion that humans have the distinct capacity to transcend necessity and inevitability. Their works share the concern for a good society that would ameliorate social fragmentation and disintegration. Following this, the article seeks to theorize the meaning of humanism in the contemporary era. Taking up Bauman’s notion of interregnum, the article will argue that the contemporary importance of humanism is social in the sense of redeeming the currently casualized human condition, i.e. diminished life-chances, inequality and alienation. Interregnum marks a historical epoch where the old order has decayed, but the new one is not yet present. In interregnum, or in what Bloch calls Mischzeit, humanism is about a human being-in-the-world which contains the possibility to do better.

“For reflexivity as an epistemic criterion of ontological coherence and virtuous social theorizing,” by Christoforos Bouzanis. Abstract:

This article offers an approach that combines, on the one hand, the philosophical notion of reflexivity, which is related to the ideas of self-reference and paradox, and, on the other hand, the sociological discussion of epistemic reflexivity as a problem of coherence, which was mainly initiated by certain branches of ethnomethodology and social constructionism. This combinatory approach argues for reflexivity as an epistemic criterion of ontological coherence, which suggests that social ontologies should account for the possibility of self-reflective subjectivity – for otherwise they result in a paradoxical conclusion according to which a social scientist reflects on her or his ontological commitments even though these commitments deny her or him the capacity for self-reflection. This analysis presupposes that all human sciences are categorically premised on social ontologies; and it argues for an analytical distinction between self-reflection, which refers to the agential capacity for reflecting on one’s own commitments, and the epistemic criterion of reflexivity hereby proposed. These two analytically distinct though interdependent socio-theoretical concepts are frequently conflated in the literature; thus, this article also aims at a ‘clearing of the ground’ that can be of categorical use to the human sciences.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.