Psychoanalytic Social Psychology is a social and cultural science that reflects on fundamental philosophical questions of human existence. It deals with the form and genesis of the human inner life and its relation to social (power)structures and cultural patterns. This approach is characterized by its consideration of intrapsychic and social dimensions in its dialectical interrelation. Moreover, its focus lies on dimensions of corporeality and on the unconscious.
As a psychology that investigates the historic development and social formation of the human psyche, it is necessarily interdisciplinary and shares an avid dialogue with other disciplines, approaches, theories, and methods on related subjects. Psychoanalytic Social Psychology is an empirical science. Using psychoanalytic methods of interpretation, it has developed its own means of qualitative social research, such as depth-hermeneutics. At the same time, it is also a theoretical science: using and advancing psychoanalytic terminology, it aims at understanding historically specific modes of existence. The psyche’s formation is traced back to individual and collective historical processes.
Psychoanalytic Social Psychology is critical towards power, authority, and ideology, as it investigates social suffering and sides with the people, insisting on their right to a better life and resisting the tendency to turn individual misery into a private matter. Suffering is seen as an outgrowth of a society that is not constituted around the needs of its people, and as evidence that human needs do not fully adapt and conform to the social. In this sense, it is in line with Adorno’s observation: “While human beings are a product of society in its totality, as its product they necessarily are in contradiction to the totality.”
Psychoanalytic Social Psychology has a long and multifaceted history: Its origin lies in Freud’s theoretical works on subjectivity and culture. It found its first resonance in the early Frankfurt School of the 1920s and 1930s, in the light of uprising National Socialism. These approaches peaked for a second time in the 1960s and 1970s in the wake of the cultural and political upheavals of “1968” and the concurrent “New Social Movements,” where it encountered large public reverberance. Followed by an interim phase of silence, at least in the German-speaking world, psychoanalytic theory and psychoanalytically oriented research methods are once again being used in the Cultural and Social Sciences, as a consequence of interrelated crises manifesting themselves globally. All the while the field remains hardly represented within academic psychology.
Even though there is no pre-defined scope of Psychoanalytic Social Psychology, some main fields of research have emerged:
- Nationalism, racism, and antisemitism as well as research on authoritarianism
- Gender and sexuality
- Causes and consequences of (political) violence
- Socialization and enculturation
- Research on work and institutions
- Critical diagnosis of the presence
The Society of Psychoanalytic Social Psychology (GfpS) wants to provide an institutionalized framework to promote the revival and resurgence of discussions in Psychoanalytic Social Psychology and facilitate networking. It is open for anyone with an interest in the theory and praxis of Psychoanalytic Social Psychology.