Post-Modernism and Psycholanalysis: Fiddling While Rome Burns

By Bader, Michael J | Tikkun, March/April 1997 | Go to article overview

Post-Modernism and Psycholanalysis: Fiddling While Rome Burns


Bader, Michael J, Tikkun


Our culture has increasingly given up on the possibility of alleviating human suffering. When Bill Clinton vowed to "end welfare as we know it"and then did-he was expressing the tip of an iceberg of cynicism about the value and moral imperative of helping the poor, the needy, and the sick. Whatever sense of community and collective responsibility we had during the New Deal or the Civil Rights movement that made helping others seem virtuous and achievable-that we're in this mess together and together we could fix it-has yielded to a collective pessimism and cynicism about fundamentally changing anything.

he collapse of liberal ideals and moral responsibility in the political realm has also been reflected in the academic realm. As writers like Russell Jacoby, Christopher Lasch, Todd Gitlin, and David Lehman have argued, the enervation of the Left, the collapse of progressive movements in the late 70s and 80s, and the increasing conservatism in politics, the media, and academia contributed to a heightened interest in post-modern philosophy. This philosophy, often taken up by former radicals and trumpeted as a sensibility critical of the established order, rejected claims that there were universal truths, an essential canon to be taught, an objective standard of morality and ethics that should prevail, or universal longings and needs that animated human beings regardless of culture, class, gender, or race. The post-modernist was, instead, interested in the particular social context of an idea, the particular cultural point of view of the speaker, and/or the particular and biased interests lying behind so-called "objective" facts. For the post-modernist, universal claims always masked particular interests.

This critique tended to expand to make all idealistic and moral claims untenable and intellectually embarrassing to embrace. In this sense, post-modern theory has contributed to the broader embarrassment in our culture concerning making passionate arguments about Right or Wrong on behalf of progressive causes. It's one thing to argue that right-wing ideology about the universality of Evil, individual responsibility and meritocracy, and the inevitability of class conflict should be deconstructed and made to reveal the hidden hierarchies and elites that really benefit from these values. It's another thing to embrace a philosophy that calls all objective ethics into question, critiques all truth-claims as mere matters of perspective, and makes human suffering anything less than an absolute Evil that we should feel collectively responsible for eradicating. An ethos that emphasizes perspective, context, interpretation, and cultural relativity and particularity can ultimately sanction a retreat from idealism, from a belief in something transcendent and transformative in the social world. It can be used to undermine our right to say "this social condition is objectively wrong and should be fixed," or "this condition violates fundamental human aspirations for connection and mutual recognition," or "it is a moral necessity that the world be changed so that people are treated as ends and not means." By relativizing truth and morality, post-modernism tends to undermine our confidence in the possibility of transformation.

ince the post-modern sensibility can provide a justification for our resignation about practically changing both the world and our own natures, it's not surprising that this sensibility has begun to appear in the ideologies of those professions whose mission is explicitly to help heal human suffering. Psychoanalysis is one such profession. The problem has been transposed from the classroom to the consulting room. Post-modernism has begun to influence psychoanalytic theory in ways that, at first, appear liberating, but eventually tend to sanction a retreat from its mission of practical healing and cure.

In order to understand the receptivity of the psychoanalytic community to the post-modern message, one has to appreciate the predicament in which analysts-and other therapists committed to long-term, depth psychotherapy-find themselves today. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Post-Modernism and Psycholanalysis: Fiddling While Rome Burns
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.