Psychological and Psychoanalytic Discourses, the Politics of Science and the History of Epistemological Thought

This volume explores the interrelationships between psychology-related sciences and politics during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, in the context of cultural and social processes and scientific practices.

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Edited by Anna Borgos, Ferenc Erős, and Júlia Gyimesi (2019), Psychology and Politics compares developments in psychological institutions in Eastern Europe and other regions in relation to power relations within scientific movements across the fields of psychology, psychiatry, and psychoanalysis. Gathering conference contributions, this volume offers investigations on the history of psychology, proposes analyses and re-interpretations of its evolution and sheds light on previously ignored political, cultural, and social contexts.

Rooted in the tradition of critical psychology, the essays from the opening sections of this book primarily address psychoanalysis-related topics. In the therapeutic field, a growing scholarly interest exists in the historical examination of its methodological, epistemological and socio--cultural foundations. This volume, thus, adds to the historical explorations of the philosophical, ideological, and political aspects of Freud’s psychoanalytic legacy, such as from the critical theory perspective, as spelled out by the Frankfurt School thinkers.

For instance, Winnicottian object relation theory or Lacanian thought can be brought to bear on the interpretations of socio-political problems such as social exclusion, inequality, hatred, violence or prejudice. This book, consequently, explores the changing discourses, political processes and their potential unconscious drivers. Thus, Michael Molnar’s essay on the “museum of human excrement” illuminates conceptual issues in relation to the representations of psychoanalysis, whereas Júlia Gyimesi’s contribution delineates the emergence of the quasi-scientific theoretical framework of psychoanalysis.

In contrast, Ferenc Erős draws parallels between psychoanalytic theories and liberal socialism, whilst Raluca Soreanu draws attention to the theoretical significance of utraquism as a concept with political implications. The history of psychoanalytic practice and academic psychology in military dictatorships, e.g., in Nazi Germany and Latin America, East European communist countries and the apartheid regime in South Africa indicates the presence of links between psychology, the social order and legitimating discourses, in the context of which Stephen Frosh addresses the topic of psychoanalytic ethics.

Julia Borossa, thus, raises the question of the analyst’s neutrality and social responsibility in in therapeutic situations. By concentrating on child psychology in the period of state socialism in Hungary, Melinda Kovai demonstrates how the historical, policy and political context can influence the content of psychological knowledge, professional identities and therapeutic decisions. Drawing on Foucauldian concepts, Ruslan Mitrofanov critically reflects on progressive psychiatric treatments in turn of the twentieth century Russia. Similarly, Balázs Berkovits explores the moral dimensions of psychiatric diagnoses and treatments, while re-examining Foucault’s lectures on the abnormal from 1974–1975.

Consequently, this collected volume makes a contribution to critical psychology and the epistemology of associated professional knowledge by exploring the power relations that subtend the production of therapeutic and psychological practices. For example, Philip Thomas examines theoretically how social, cultural and economic circumstances, e.g., neoliberal austerity policies, affect the individual ability to recover from adverse mental health conditions. As biological approaches increasingly displace psychoanalysis, as Aleksandar Dimitrijević notes, Dennis Fox probes connections between radical therapies and system-level criticism.

By Pablo Markin

Featured Image Credits: P7050607, North Arroyo, La Canada Flintridge, California, USA, July 5, 2013 | © Courtesy of Mr. Babyman/Flickr.


Borgos, Anna, Ferenc Erős, and Júlia Gyimesi, eds. Psychology and Politics. Central European University Press, 2019. Accessed May 9, 2020.


Pablo Markin

Community Manager, Open Research Community