‘Free Associations? Psychoanalytic History, Democracy and the State We Are In’

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What is ‘the state we are in’? In this wide-ranging lecture, Daniel Pick reflects upon the history of psychoanalysis, politics and democracy. It was delivered last December at Imperial College London as a contribution to Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Now, 2017, organised by the British Psychoanalytic Council. The conference theme was ‘The Inner World and Rebuilding the State We’re In: Developing a psychoanalytic discourse that can contribute to the renewal of our democracy in challenging times’.


Further reading and listening:

Theodor Adorno, ‘Freudian Theory and the Pattern of Fascist Propaganda’, [1951], repr. in, The Culture Industry: Selected Essays on Mass Culture, ed. J. M. Bernstein (London: Routledge, 1991)

Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism  [1951] (London: Penguin Classics, 2017)

Wilfred R. Bion, ‘The War of Nerves’ [1940] repr. in, The Complete Works of W.R. Bion, Vol. 4, ed. C. Mawson (London: Karnac, 2014)

Wilfred R. Bion, Experiences in Groups [1961) repr. in, The Complete Work, Vol. 4

Joy Damousi and Mariano Ben Plotkin, Psychoanalysis and Politics: Histories of Psychoanalysis Under Conditions of Restricted Political Freedom (New York:, Oxford University Press, 2012)

Frantz Fanon, Black Skin White Masks [1952] (London:  Pluto Press, 2017)

Matt ffytche and Daniel Pick, eds, Psychoanalysis in the Age of Totalitarianism (London: Routledge, 2016)

Sigmund Freud, Group Psychology [1921] repr. in, The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud [SE], Vol. 18,  (London: Vintage, 2001)

Sigmund Freud, The Ego and the Id (1923) repr. in, SE vol. 19.

Erich Fromm, The Fear of Freedom [1941] (London: Routledge & K. Paul, 1960)

Paul Gilroy, Post-Colonial Melancholia (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005)

Lisa Guenther, Solitary Confinement: Social Death and Its Afterlives (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013)

History Workshop Journal (autumn 2017), feature on denial

Melanie Klein and Joan Riviere, Love, Hate and Reparation [1937] (London: Hogarth Press 1962)

Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (London: Penguin, 2008)

Alexander and Margarete Mitscherlich, The Inability to Mourn: Principles of Collective Behaviour [1967] (New York: Grove Press, 1974)

Daniel Pick, The Pursuit of the Nazi Mind: Hitler, Hess and the Analysts (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012)

For documents see also  www.bbk.ac.uk/thepursuitofthenazimind

Wilhelm Reich, The Mass Psychology of Fascism [1933] (London: Souvenir Press, 1972)

David Runciman, How Democracy Ends (London: Profile Books, 2018) and lecture

The website, On the Legacies of British Slave Ownership, available at www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs

Radio 4: The Unconscious Life of Bombs



The British Psychoanalytic Council provided the following preface to the event:

Around the world, we are witnessing the rise of the cult of the ‘strong leader’, with Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Recep Erdoğan and others appearing to espouse disdain for liberal democratic institutions, diversity of opinion, culture and people. The UK witnessed the denigration of experts in the Brexit debate. Public sector professionals and academics were undermined by a political discourse looking to silence alternative views. Politics and civic society feels more confrontational, less understanding and less inclusive, with the expression of racist and sexist views seemingly legitimised on both sides of the Atlantic. PP Now 2017 will explore how psychoanalytic thinking can support policy makers to maintain the health of our democratic institutions, help develop services that respond effectively to real need, and push back against the rise of the authoritarian state. The conference will bring psychoanalysts and psychotherapists together with policy makers and academics to consider these contemporary psychosocial issues, exploring the significance of understanding relationships and our inner worlds to build a more inclusive and fulfilling society.


Details of the full programme of the conference are at the British Psychoanalytic Council’s website.

Further video recordings from the conference are available online, including:


1. Friday Evening Lecture Opening – Helen Morgan, Jessica Benjamin, Gabrielle Rifkind
2. Jessica Benjamin – Developing a Democratic Psychology: The Ethos of “More than One can Live” versus the Social Imaginary of “ Only One can Live”
3. Gabrielle Rifkind – A Traumatic Psychology of War
4. Saturday Breakout Session:  Contemporary  Developments in Sexuality and Gender and their Impact on the Consulting Room – David Richards & Noreen Giffney. Chaired by Juliet Newbigin
5. Saturday Plenary: Women on the Verge of a Post-Liberal World – Jessica Benjamin, Susie Orbach and Gail Lewis. Chaired by Susanna Abse
6. Saturday Breakout Session: Our Mental Health and the way we Live Now – Carey Oppenheim & Karen Newbigging. Chaired by Susanna Abse