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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.