Fear of Breakdown: Politics and Psychoanalysis

Fear of Breakdown: Politics and Psychoanalysis

by Noëlle McAfee

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What is behind the upsurge of virulent nationalism and intransigent politics across the globe today? In Fear of Breakdown, Noëlle McAfee uses psychoanalytic theory to explore the subterranean anxieties behind current crises and the ways in which democratic practices can help work through seemingly intractable political conflicts. Working at the intersection of psyche and society, McAfee draws on psychoanalyst D. W. Winnicott’s concept of the fear of breakdown to show how hypernationalism stems from unconscious anxieties over the origins of personal and social identities, giving rise to temptations to reify exclusionary phantasies of national origins.

Fear of Breakdown contends that politics needs something that only psychoanalysis has been able to offer: an understanding of how to work through anxieties, ambiguity, fragility, and loss in order to create a more democratic politics. Coupling robust psychoanalytic theory with concrete democratic practice, Fear of Breakdown shows how a politics of working through can help counter a politics of splitting, paranoia, and demonization. McAfee argues for a new approach to deliberative democratic theory, not the usual philosopher-sanctioned process of reason-giving but an affective process of making difficult choices, encountering others, and mourning what cannot be had.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780231549912
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Publication date: 06/04/2019
Series: New Directions in Critical Theory
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 670 KB

About the Author

Noëlle McAfee is a professor of philosophy and the director of the Psychoanalytic Studies Program at Emory University. Her books include Habermas, Kristeva, and Citizenship (2000), Julia Kristeva (2003), and Democracy and the Political Unconscious (Columbia, 2008).

Table of Contents

By Way of a Preface
1. Defining Politics
2. Psychoanalysis and Political Theory
3. Politics and the Fear of Breakdown
4. Practicing Democracy
5. Democratic Imaginaries
6. Becoming Citizens
7. Definitions of the Situation
8. Deliberating Otherwise
9. Political Works of Mourning
10. Public Will and Action
11. Radical Imaginaries
12. Nationalism and the Fear of Breakdown
Conclusion: Working Through the Breakdown

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