Category Archives: General

Special Issue: Psychotherapy in Europe

A special issue of History of the Human Sciences on “Psychotherapy in Europe,” guest edited by Sarah Marks, is now available. Full details follow below.

Introduction: Psychotherapy in Europe, by Sarah Marks. Abstract:

Psychotherapy was an invention of European modernity, but as the 20th century unfolded, and we trace how it crossed national and continental borders, its goals and the particular techniques by which it operated become harder to pin down. This introduction briefly draws together the historical literature on psychotherapy in Europe, asking comparative questions about the role of location and culture, and networks of transmission and transformation. It introduces the six articles in this special issue on Greece, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Russia, Britain and Sweden as well as its parallel special issue of History of Psychology on ‘Psychotherapy in the Americas’. It traces what these articles tell us about how therapeutic developments were entangled with the dramatic, and often traumatic, political events across the continent: in the wake of the Second World War, the emergence of Communist and authoritarian regimes, the establishment of welfare states and the advance of neoliberalism.

“Freud under the Acropolis: The challenging journey of psychoanalysis in 20th-century Greece (1915–1995),” by Danae Karydaki. Abstract:

Psychoanalysis was introduced to Greece in 1915 by the progressive educator Manolis Triantafyllidis and was further elaborated by Marie Bonaparte, Freud’s friend and member of the Greek royal family, and her psychoanalytic group in the aftermath of the Second World War. However, the accumulated traumas of the Nazi occupation (1941–1944), the Greek Civil War (1946–1949), the post-Civil-War tension between the Left and the Right, the military junta (1967–1974) and the social and political conditions of post-war Greece led this project and all attempts to establish psychoanalysis in Greece, to failure and dissolution. The restoration of democracy in 1974 and the rapid social changes it brought was a turning point in the history of Greek psychoanalysis: numerous psychoanalysts, who had trained abroad and returned after the fall of the dictatorship, were hired in the newly established Greek National Health Service (NHS), and contributed to the reform of Greek psychiatry by offering the option of psychoanalytic psychotherapy to the non-privileged. This article draws on a range of unexplored primary sources and oral history interview material, in order to provide the first systematic historical account in the English language of the complex relationship between psychoanalysis and Greek society, and the contribution of psychoanalytic psychotherapy to the creation of the Greek welfare state. In so doing, it not only attempts to fill a lacuna in the history of contemporary Greece, but also contributes to the broader historiography of psychotherapy and of Europe.

“‘Peace and happiness await us’: Psychotherapy in Yugoslavia, 1945–85,” by Mat Savelli. Abstract:

Previous accounts of psychiatry within Communist Europe have emphasized the dominance of biological approaches to mental health treatment. Psychotherapy was thus framed as a taboo or marginal component of East European psychiatric care. In more recent years, this interpretation has been re-examined as historians are beginning to delve deeper into the diversity of mental healthcare within the Communist world, noting many instances in which psychotherapeutic techniques and theory entered into clinical practice. Despite their excellent work uncovering these hitherto neglected histories, however, historians of the psy-disciplines in Eastern Europe (and indeed other parts of the world) have neglected to fully consider the ways that post-World War II psychotherapeutic developments were not simply continuations of pre-war psychoanalytic traditions, but rather products of emerging transnational networks and knowledge exchanges in the post-war period. This article highlights how psychotherapy became a leading form of treatment within Communist Yugoslavia. Inspired by theorists in France and the United Kingdom, among other places, Yugoslav practitioners became well versed in a number of psychotherapeutic techniques, especially ‘brief psychotherapy’ and group-based treatment. These developments were not accidents of ideology, whereby group psychotherapy might be accepted by authorities as a nod to some idea of ‘the collective’, but were rather products of economic limitations and strong links with international networks of practitioners, especially in the domains of social psychiatry and group analysis. The Yugoslav example underscores the need for more historical attention to transnational connections among psychotherapists and within the psy-disciplines more broadly.

“Hypnotherapies in 20th-century Hungary: The extraordinary career of Ferenc Völgyesi,” by Julia Gyimesi. Abstract:

This article traces the history of hypnotherapies in Hungary by exploring and interpreting the work of Ferenc (András) Völgyesi, a controversial physician, psychiatrist and forensic expert who gained remarkable fame in and beyond Hungary. It explores his work and its reception in the context of the complex, changing trends in European psychology between the 1920s and 1950s, drawing on published sources in a range of languages, and the archives of the Hungarian State Security. It uncovers experiments in human and animal hypnosis; Völgyesi’s engagement with the Hungarian psychoanalytic community; and the cultural, scientific, and esoteric, networks from which theories and practices of hypnosis emerged. This reminds us also that the development of psychotherapy in Europe cannot be disentangled from the history of parapsychology and western esotericism. The article also examines allegations of ethical abuses of hypnosis, and the shortcomings of Völgyesi’s theoretical and practical claims. It argues that this case illustrates how the history of European psychotherapy in the 20th century cannot be fully understood without taking into account the enduring fascination with hypnotherapies into the postwar period – re-inscribed, in this case, through Pavlovian theories.

“Sterility and suggestion: Minor psychotherapy in the Soviet Union, 1956–1985,” by Aleksandra Brokman. Abstract:

This article explores the concept of minor or general psychotherapy championed by physicians seeking to popularise psychotherapy in the post-Stalin Soviet Union. Understood as a set of skills and principles meant to guide behaviour towards and around patients, this form of psychotherapy was portrayed as indispensable for physicians of all specialities as well as for all personnel of medical institutions. This article shows how, as a result of Soviet teaching on the power of suggestion to influence human organisms, every interaction with patients was conceptualised as a form of psychotherapy, leading to the embrace of placebo as a legitimate form of therapy, and to the blurring of the boundary between therapy and other activities in the clinic. The principles of minor psychotherapy reveal a concept of psychotherapy that is much wider, and rooted in different priorities, than the dominant understanding of this type of treatment found in Western Europe and North America. This article addresses the ethical principles implicit in the Soviet perspective, demonstrating that despite fighting against the uncaring and dismissive attitude of other physicians, Soviet psychotherapists remained rooted in the paternalistic tradition. Finally, it traces the efforts to establish minor psychotherapy as standard practice in medical institutions, which, like many other plans and ambitions of Soviet psychotherapists, were constrained by a lack of resources in the healthcare system.

“Of mountains, lakes and essences: John Teasdale and the transmission of mindfulness,” by Matthew Drage. Abstract:

In this article I examine an important episode in the growth of ‘mindfulness’ as a biomedical modality in Britain: the formation and establishment of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) by John Teasdale and his colleagues Mark Williams and Zindel Segal. My study, focusing on Teasdale’s contribution, combines ethnographic, oral historical and archival research to understand how mindfulness was disseminated or, to use a term sometimes used by mindfulness practitioners themselves, ‘transmitted’. Drawing on theoretical support from Max Weber, Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze, I argue that transmission had a very specific form within the Buddhistic milieu that Teasdale occupied and within which he developed MBCT. To ‘transmit’ mindfulness was to transmit an experiential essence; a type of subjectivity that was seen as perennial, universal and radically distinct from its historical context. In tracing the recurring metaphysical, metaphorical and visual tropes of mindfulness and its transmission, I attempt to understand how Teasdale was embedded in both local and global networks of discourse and practice, and how his life and work contributed and depended upon an assemblage whose elements (institutional, technical, conceptual, textual) straddled empiricist psychology and religious mysticism. I also examine how authority, experience and knowledge were closely interwoven in the birth of British mindfulness, coming together to form an affectively compelling ‘diagram’ that shaped the way mindfulness was practiced and disseminated. In doing so, I aim to open up the possibility of studying the history of the human sciences from a new perspective: one which places an emphasis on the emotional impetus generated by metaphysical assumptions.

“Teaching ‘small and helpless’ women how to live: Dialectical Behaviour Therapy in Sweden, ca 1995–2005,” by Åsa Jansson. Abstract:

In 1995, a Swedish pilot study of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) was launched to investigate its therapeutic efficacy and cost-effectiveness as treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) in suicidal women. In the same year, a sweeping reform of psychiatric care commenced, dramatically reducing the number of beds by the end of the decade. The psychiatry reform was presented as an important factor prompting the need for a community-based treatment for Borderline patients. This article suggests that the introduction of DBT in Sweden, and its relationship to the reform, can only be adequately explained with reference to the wider political shift occurring at the time, whereby the Swedish welfare state and its guiding ethos of egalitarianism were abandoned in favour of a neoliberal ‘choice revolution’. With the new liberalism, hard work and individual responsibility replaced the idea of a Swedish ‘people’s home’, a nationwide community and social support network. This language was reflected in DBT, which sought to teach patients the ‘skills’ necessary ‘to create a life worth living’. In this context, therapy was constituted as a form of ‘work’ that the patient had to undertake to improve. Moreover, DBT rejected the prevailing view of Borderline patients as ‘manipulative’ and ‘aggressive’, suggesting instead that they were ‘helpless’, ‘weak’ and unable to regulate their emotions. This new Borderline persona fit neatly into the new liberal discourse: she could be taught to become a rational and independent person able to cope in a society that valued individual responsibility over social support.

Call for Papers: Sixth Annual Conference on the History of Recent Social Science (HISRESS)

Call for Papers: Sixth Annual Conference on the History of Recent Social Science (HISRESS)

Freie Universität Berlin, Germany

June 13-14, 2019

This two-day conference of the Society for the History of Recent Social Science (HISRESS) will bring together researchers working on the history of post-World War II social science. It will provide a forum for the latest research on the cross-disciplinary history of the post-war social sciences, including but not limited to anthropology, economics, psychology, political science, and sociology as well as related fields like area studies, communication studies, history, international relations, law, and linguistics. We are especially eager to receive submissions that treat themes, topics, and events that span the history of individual disciplines.

The conference aims to build upon the recent emergence of work and conversation on cross-disciplinary themes in the postwar history of the social sciences. While large parts of history of social science scholarship still focus on the 19th and early 20th centuries and are attuned to the histories of individual disciplines, there is also a larger interest now in the developments spanning the social sciences in the early, late, and post-Cold War periods. Though each of the major social science fields has a community of disciplinary historians, research explicitly concerned with cross-disciplinary topics remains comparatively rare. The purpose of the conference is to further encourage fruitful cross-disciplinary conversations of recent years.

Submissions are welcome in areas including, but not restricted to

  • The interchange of social science concepts and figures among the academy and wider intellectual and popular spheres
  • Comparative institutional histories of departments and programs
  • Border disputes and boundary work between disciplines as well as academic cultures
  • Themes and concepts developed in the history and sociology of natural and physical science, reconceptualized for the social science context
  • Professional and applied training programs and schools, and the quasi-disciplinary fields (like business administration) that typically housed them
  • The role of social science in post-colonial state-building governance
  • Social science adaptations to the changing media landscape
  • The role and prominence of disciplinary memory in a comparative context

The two-day conference will be organized as a series of one-hour, single-paper sessions attended by all participants. Ample time will be set aside for intellectual exchange between presenters and attendees, as all participants are expected to read pre-circulated papers in advance.

Proposals should contain no more than 1000 words, indicating the originality of the paper. The deadline for receipt of abstracts is February 8, 2019. Final notification will be given in early March 2019 after proposals have been reviewed. Completed papers will be expected by May 14, 2019.

The organizing committee consists of Jamie Cohen-Cole (George Washington University), Philippe Fontaine (École normale supérieure Paris-Saclay), Jeff Pooley (Muhlenberg College), and Susanne Schmidt (Freie Universität Berlin).

All proposals and requests for information should be sent to:

February 2018 Issue, History of the Human Sciences

The February 2018 issue of History of the Human Sciences is now online. Full details follow below.

“From evolutionary theory to philosophy of history: Raymond Aron and the crisis of French neo-transformism,” by Isabel Gabel. Abstract:

Well into the 1940s, many French biologists rejected both Mendelian genetics and Darwinism in favour of neo-transformism, the claim that evolution proceeds by the inheritance of acquired characteristics. In 1931 the zoologist Maurice Caullery published Le Problème d’évolution, arguing that, while Lamarckian mechanisms could not be demonstrated in the present, they had nevertheless operated in the past. It was in this context that Raymond Aron expressed anxiety about the relationship between biology, history, and human autonomy in his 1938 Introduction à la philosophie de l’histoire: essai sur les limites de l’objectivité historique, in which he rejected both neo-Kantian and biological accounts of human history. Aron aspired to a philosophy of history that could explain the dual nature of human existence as fundamentally rooted in the biological, and at the same time, as a radical transcendence of natural law. I argue that Aron’s encounter with evolutionary theory at this moment of epistemic crisis in evolutionary theory was crucial to the formation of his philosophy of history, and moreover that this case study demonstrates the importance of moving beyond the methodological divisions between intellectual history and history of science.

“The strange survival and apparent resurgence of sociobiology,” by Alex Dennis. Abstract:

A recent dispute between Richard Dawkins and Edward O. Wilson concerning fundamental concepts in sociobiology is examined. It is argued that sociobiology has not fared well since the 1970s, and that its survival as a ‘scientific’ perspective has been increasingly tenuous. This is, at least in part, because it has failed to move forward in the ways its developers anticipated, but also because it has not seen the developments in natural history, genomics and social science it was relying upon. It is argued that sociobiology has become a purely utilitarian perspective, a way of looking at things, reliant increasingly on studies of the behaviour of social insects for its scientific credentials. The dispute between Dawkins and Wilson is then reconsidered in this light, and it is argued that – regardless of which position prevails – sociobiology’s parlous state as a means of explaining action is now difficult to disguise.

“Not by bread alone: Lev Vygotsky’s Jewish writings,” by Ekaterina Zavershneva, René van der Veer. Abstract:

On the basis of both published and unpublished manuscripts written from 1914 to 1917, this article gives an overview of Lev Vygotsky’s early ideas. It turns out that Vygotsky was very much involved in issues of Jewish culture and politics. Rather surprisingly, the young Vygotsky rejected all contemporary ideas to save the Jewish people from discrimination and persecution by creating an autonomous state in Palestine or elsewhere. Instead, until well into 1917, Vygotsky proposed the rather traditional option of strengthening the spiritual roots of the Jews by returning to the religious writings. Socialism was rejected, because it merely envisioned the compulsory redistribution of material goods and ‘man lives not by bread alone’. It was only after the October Revolution that Vygotsky switched from arguments in favour of the religious faith in the Kingship of God to the communist belief in a Radiant Future.

“Symptoms, signs, and risk factors: Epidemiological reasoning in coronary heart disease and depression management,” by Mikko Jauho, Ilpo Helén. Abstract:

In current mental health care psychiatric conditions are defined as compilations of symptoms. These symptom-based disease categories have been severely criticised as contingent and boundless, facilitating the rise to epidemic proportions of such conditions as depression. In this article we look beyond symptoms and stress the role of epidemiology in explaining the current situation. By analysing the parallel development of cardiovascular disease and depression management in Finland, we argue, firstly, that current mental health care shares with the medicine of chronic somatic conditions an attachment to risk factor epidemiology, which accentuates risk and prevention in disease management. However, secondly, due to the symptom-based definitions of psychiatric conditions, depression management cannot differentiate properly between symptoms, signs and risk factors such as, for example, cardiovascular medicine, but treats symptoms as signs or risk factors in contexts of treatment and prevention. Consequently, minor at-risk conditions have become difficult to separate from proper cases of depression.

“Society, like the market, needs to be constructed: Foucault’s critical project at the dawn of neoliberalism,” by Carlos Palacios. Abstract:

It has been commonplace to equate Foucault’s 1979 series of lectures at the Collège de France with the claim that for neoliberalism, unlike for classical liberalism, the market needs to be artificially constructed. The article expands this claim to its full expression, taking it beyond what otherwise would be a simple divulgation of a basic neoliberal tenet. It zeroes in on Foucault’s own insight: that neoliberal constructivism is not directed at the market as such, but, in principle, at society, arguing that the value of this insight goes beyond the critique of a neoliberal present. The neoliberal rationale rather helps him to reveal a unique historical architecture, a latent approach to the social dissimilar to the one that has long predominated in the human sciences. The inversion of homo œconomicus in neoliberal theory amounted to the unearthing of a ‘social subject of interest’ within civil society. Such a subject, barely recognized by neoliberals who simply instrumentalize it for the sake of the market, demonstrates that the social is not necessarily the natural product of ethical subjects; that society may also need to be constructed.

Technology: Critical History of a Concept

AHP readers may be interested in Eric Schatzberg’s recently published Technology: Critical History of a Concept, now available from the University of Chicago Press. In tracing a three thousand year history of technology, Schatzberg includes a chapter tackling “Technology in the Social Sciences before World War II.” As described on the publisher’s website:

In modern life, technology is everywhere. Yet as a concept, technology is a mess. In popular discourse, technology is little more than the latest digital innovations. Scholars do little better, offering up competing definitions that include everything from steelmaking to singing. In Technology: Critical History of a Concept, Eric Schatzberg explains why technology is so difficult to define by examining its three thousand year history, one shaped by persistent tensions between scholars and technical practitioners. Since the time of the ancient Greeks, scholars have tended to hold technicians in low esteem, defining technical practices as mere means toward ends defined by others. Technicians, in contrast, have repeatedly pushed back against this characterization, insisting on the dignity, creativity, and cultural worth of their work.

?The tension between scholars and technicians continued from Aristotle through Francis Bacon and into the nineteenth century. It was only in the twentieth century that modern meanings of technology arose: technology as the industrial arts, technology as applied science, and technology as technique. Schatzberg traces these three meanings to the present day, when discourse about technology has become pervasive, but confusion among the three principal meanings of technology remains common. He shows that only through a humanistic concept of technology can we understand the complex human choices embedded in our modern world.

Media and the History of Child Psychology and Psychiatry in Sweden, 1968-2008

A contribution from Peter Skagius to a new series on the Society for the History of Childhood and Youth site may interest AHP readers. Skagius describes his ongoing research on how child psychology and psychiatry were represented in Swedish media 1968-2008. As Skagius writes,

In this project, we – meaning myself as the main researcher, Professor Karin Zetterqvist Nelson from Linköping University and Professor Anne-Li Lindgren from Stockholm University – have wanted to go beyond the political and scientific literature since we figure that very few Swedes will actually have sought out and read such texts. Instead, we wanted to turn toward media, broadly defined to include newspapers, magazines and the Internet, as it is through such channels that most people get information about children and childhood.

We were therefore curious about what the general Swede, flipping through the pages of their daily morning paper during breakfast, learned about child psychology and psychiatry.

How did the psychologists, psychiatrists and psychotherapists featured in such a paper discuss the mental health of children? What explanatory frameworks and theoretical notions were mobilized? Were diagnoses mentioned and if so, in what way? And how have these discussions shifted over time?

Read the full piece online here.