Fairbairn, Winnicott, and Guntrip on the social significance of schizoids

AHP readers will be interested in a new piece in History of the Human Sciences: “Fairbairn, Winnicott, and Guntrip on the social significance of schizoids,” by Gal Gerson. Abstract:

The mid-century object relations approach saw the category of schizoids as crucial to its own formation. Rooted in a developmental phase where the perception of the mother as a whole and real person had not yet been secured, the schizoid constitution impeded relationships and forced schizoids to communicate through a compliant persona while the kernel self remained isolated. Fairbairn, Winnicott, and Guntrip thought that schizoid features underlay many other pathologies that earlier, Freudian psychoanalysis had misidentified. To correct this, a move to the attachment-oriented theory was necessary, triggering the development of the object relations perspective as a distinct and independent approach. While playing this role in the development of object relations theory, the schizoid category also attracted a note of disapproval. Fairbairn, Winnicott, and Guntrip described schizoids as harmful to society through their everyday actions and through the ideas they propagated. This judgemental nuance highlights an aspect of the alliance between object relations theory and the contemporary welfare state ideology. Culminating in the Beveridge plan, that ideology framed citizenship as comprehensive engagement with society on multiple levels. Citizenship was not just a political activity but also a personally rewarding one, as it allowed expression to each person’s wishes in ways that benefited others. Inability to engage and be rewarded in this way marked obstinate classes and produced rigid and conservative ideologies that opposed the welfare state. Object relations theory described the schizoid condition along similar lines and castigated its consequences for similar reasons.

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.