The Social Unconscious?

Yesterday I attended an event on the ‘Social Unconscious’ at Birkbeck. This was an intriguing idea and, although I am not sure I came away very much clearer, it was good to hear what other people have to say about it. The event looked at the work of Earl Hopper, who was also present and had some things to say, but the most agreeable aspect was talking about the readings to other folks who attended, most of whom seem to have a connection to group analysis and the various psychoanalytical professions and scholarship (which I don’t). For me the final, collective discussion went a bit awry, with lots of ideas being thrown up in the air but no obvious pattern being discerned. I also get a bit squeamish when lots of white folks start talking about racism (though one chap did usefully point out that racism was ‘fundamentally about sex’, which made me think). In essence, it was clear that there was much to the idea of the unconscious as a social force of some kind — and not just an individual’s psyche — but whether that ought to be called the social unconscious was another thing altogether. Sasha Roseneil, who was very clear and illuminating, concluded that the concept was not really an independent psychosocial idea but, rather, a midway point between sociology and psychoanalysis, which is different. This, for me, seemed a useful place to stop.

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