CAN PSYCHOANALYSIS RECLAIM THE PUBLIC SPHERE?

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Abstract

Psychoanalysis has been immensely influential in Western culture, but its public standing has declined considerably in the last decades, as has been documented in major studies of the place of psychoanalysis in academia and in mental health practice. I investigated the absence of psychoanalysis from a public space of growing importance: the “third culture,” the space in which specialists present their ideas to general, educated audiences in leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. My central argument is that psychoanalysis could make a unique contribution to this space that would not only increase its public standing, but also do an important service to wider educated audiences. I used a psychodynamic model meant to understand global culture's fetishist fascination with ranking and rating the self as an example how such audiences can be reached intellectually and engaged emotionally. I discuss how the difficulties for psychoanalysis in finding its place in the third culture can be overcome, and demonstrate this process by my own journey into the third culture. Finally, I argue that reaching out to the third culture is an important mission for psychoanalysis in the 21st century.

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