“Psychology in the social imaginary of neoliberalism: Critique and beyond,” by. Wade E. Pickren. Abstract:
This is an introduction to the special issue on the impact of neoliberalism on the sociality, politics, and governmentality of contemporary psychological life. The articles suggest that Euro-American psychology writ large has not been a force for human freedom. Still, the articles are additional evidence of the historical and current lines of resistance and activism that indicate a move toward an emancipatory psychology.
“Homo neoliberalus: From personality to forms of subjectivity,” by Thomas Teo. Abstract:
Based on a Neo-Sprangerian approach to forms of life in Western cultures, and drawing on humanities-based ideas about personality, a critical-hermeneutic description of a neoliberal form of life and its corresponding form of subjectivity is presented. In the neoliberal form of subjectivity, the self becomes central, but in a way that the distinction between an ego and the self is no longer relevant. Neoliberal thinking is reduced to utilitarian, calculating thinking in all domains of life from work, to interaction, and to identity. Feeling is considered to be more relevant than thinking and is used to manage stress while aiming for happiness, which is core to this subjectivity. It is argued that agency is reduced to self- and family-interests while consequences for the conduct of life are presented. Concepts such as new nihilism, reduction of individuality, and (im)possibility of resistance in neoliberalism are discussed.
This article introduces Turing’s idea of a “paper machine” to identify and understand one important mode of clinical research in the modern hospital, how that research worked, and how office technology and industrialized labor shaped and helped drive it. The unusually rich archives of Berlin psychiatry allow detailed reconstruction of the making of the new diagnostic category “hyperkinetic syndrome” in the 1920s. From the generating of data to the processing of information to the visualizing of the nature and course of the new syndrome in the lives of more than sixty patients, this case study shows how clinical research could be based on the apparatus of the clerks’ room (folders, registers, inventories, and the dispatch of documents), office technologies (new filing systems, preprinted forms, and duplicating machines), and the principles and paper practices of the division and rationalization of labor (charts organizing worktime in complex organizations). The result is an important example of clinical research embedded in the broader history of office technology, industrial labor, and the modern hospital.
After his abdication in November 1918, the German emperor Wilhelm II continued to haunt the minds of his people. With the abolition of the lese-majesty laws in the new republic, many topics that were only discussed privately or obliquely before could now be broached openly. One of these topics was the mental state of the exiled Kaiser. Numerous psychiatrists, physicians and laypeople published their diagnoses of Wilhelm in high-circulation newspaper articles, pamphlets, and books shortly after the end of the war. Whether these diagnoses were accurate and whether the Kaiser really was mentally ill became the issue of a heated debate.
This article situates these diagnoses of Wilhelm II in their political context. The authors of these diagnoses – none of whom had met or examined Wilhelm II in person – came from all political camps and they wrote with very different motives in mind. Diagnosing the exiled Kaiser as mentally ill was a kind of exorcism of the Hohenzollern rule, opening the way for either a socialist republic or the hoped-for rule of a new leader. But more importantly, it was a way to discuss and allocate political responsibility and culpability. Psychiatric diagnoses were used to exonerate both the Emperor (for whom the treaty of Versailles provided a tribunal as war criminal) and the German nation. They were also used to blame the Kaiser’s entourage and groups that had allegedly manipulated the weak-willed monarch. Medical concepts became a vehicle for a debate on the key political questions in interwar Germany.
From the 1920s, inspired by the work of Ivan Pavlov, many American psychiatrists, physiologists, and psychologists turned to the animal laboratory. Focusing on the work of W. Horsley Gantt, this essay will explore the use of the conditional reflex method in the study of “experimental neurosis.” Concentrating on the interaction between thought and material operations in Gantt’s Pavlovian Laboratory, the essay will show how idiosyncratic emotional reactions and behaviors among experimental animals were used to address the issue of individuality in science, medicine, and society. It was through working with the dog that individuality was identified as an incessant problem that could be utilized in laboratory practice, as a necessary focus of psychiatric medicine, and as a means of defending science from excessive determinism and stereotyped thinking.
“Exploring the fringes of psychopathology: Boundary entities, category work and other borderline phenomena in the history of 20th century psychopathology,” by Nicolas Henckes, Volker Hess, and Marie Reinholdt. Abstract:
This special issue of History of the Humane Sciences intends to shed light on a series of psychopathological entities that do not target well defined conditions and experiences, but rather aim at delimiting zones of uncertainty that defy psychopathology’s order of things: mild diagnoses or subthreshold disorders, borderline conditions, culture bound syndromes, or ideas of dimensions and dimensionality. While these categories have come to play an increasingly central role in psychiatric and psychological thinking during the last 50 years, historians and social scientists have had remarkably little to say about how they have been created, what they have been used for, and what kind of realities they have helped to shape. In this introductory article we propose the concept of ‘psychopathological fringes’ to refer to these categories that are located somewhere at the border of psychopathological classifications and refer to zones of conceptual underdetermination. The notion of fringes serves to highlight both the conceptually and the socially marginal nature of the conditions, personal identities, and worlds delimited by these categories. The fringes of psychopathology are zones of vagueness, of epistemic uncertainty, and moral ambiguity. This introduction proposes a first incursion in these zones. It suggests some of the reason why they might have had attracted little interest in the past and why they may be more salient recently. It follows some analytical clues that might help chart a way through it and proposes a map through the collection of articles included in this issue.