CFA: The Centenary of Sigmund Freud’s Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego. Psychoanalysis of History or Science of History? - Consecutio rerum n. 11, 2021/2 (Special issue, Consecutio rerum, n. 11, 2021/2)
Organization: Consecutio rerum
Event: Special issue, Consecutio rerum, n. 11, 2021/2
This year marks the centenary of Freud’s Massenpsycologie und Ich-Analyse (Group Psychology and Analysis of the Ego). The anniversary is an opportunity to rethink the theoretical cores of the Freudian essay, both in their original conception and in the light of the hypermodernity of our time.
The underlying theme of Freud’s argument, as is well known, is that not ideologies and world views, but emotional and libidinal ties constitute the essential glue, the essence of the collective psyche. In this context, what is dominant is the bond of falling in love between each individual and the leader of the mass, the object of a profound idealization (corresponding on the inner level to the formation of the ideal of the ego or superego). Individuals, originally devoid of any relationship between them, form a group through the convergence of the ego’s ideals on the person-object of the head (“[…] a certain number of individuals have put the same object in place of their ideal of the ego and have identified with each other in their own ego”).
The question that first arises today is how far it is possible to extend the structures of psychoanalysis, as individual psychology, to social psychology, according to the intention explicitly theorized by Freud. In other words, we should keep into account the risk, contained in the passage from the psychological to the sociological dimension, of losing sight of more complex mediations – to be explained with other disciplines – as regards the relationship between the individual and the collective.
A further question may regard the Freudian hypothesis of the “primitive horde” and of the establishment of social norms upon the murder of the father. Can such a view still be valid, not only as a putative beginning of human history, but also as a quasi-transcendental, a permanent condition of sociality? Can it still provide a significant contribution to the explanation of the deepest roots of gregarious behaviour in mass society, pervaded by the economy of capital and its tendential colonization of life? Can a myth count as history and can it define contemporary social and political phenomena such as the emergence of populisms, racisms and identities that confirm one another in hatred and in the exclusion of otherness? Freud addressed the issue of the relationship between original narrative and historical present through the generalization of the Oedipus complex.
Beyond the problems and theoretical tensions left open in Freud’s discourse, Massenpsychologie theorizes a profound interweaving between public history and individual history, between external and internal society, social domination and inner self-constriction. If this thesis was widely used in the analysis of fascist authoritarianism (e.g. Frankfurt School, Critical Theory), its viability for a psychoanalytic viewpoint on other political forms, especially democracy, appears more difficult.
Also, one might question the validity or the social significance of the Oedipus complex within social forms of life in which the function of the father declines – as several theorists have argued. Can the Oedipal constellation be reformulated and updated to new individual and social symptoms?
More radically, one could eventually question the whole Freudian investigation on “what is a human society”, including all five great works dedicated to the interpretation of collective phenomena (Totem and Taboo, Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, The Future of an Illusion, Civilization and Its Discontents, Moses and Monotheism), which share the “myth of the father”.
“Consecutio rerum” invites researchers and scholars to submit article proposals that fit the following strands:
• Reassessments of Group Psychology, and of the other Freud’s “anthropological-sociological” works;
• Sources and forebearers of Freudian mass psychology (crowd psychology, suggestion, imitation and contagion theory);
• Post-Freudian developments of mass psychology, including sociological and philosophical perspectives;
• The epistemological status of social psychology viz. sociology and individual psychology;
• The applicability of psychoanalytic social psychology to contemporary social and political phenomena. Changes in the economic structure and in the family;
• Psychoanalytic social psychology, social stratification and multiculturalism;
• Uses of psychoanalysis in the research on the pathologies of Western democracies.
Proposals submission, deadline and timeline
Will be accepted contributions in Italian, English, French, Spanish, and German.
Abstracts (max 4000 characters) should be submitted within April 2nd to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A decision will be made by the Editors within April 9th.