The Social Unconscious: Selected Papers

The Social Unconscious: Selected Papers

The Social Unconscious: Selected Papers

The Social Unconscious: Selected Papers


The social unconscious and its manifestations in group analysis are the focus of this important new book of Earl Hopper's selected papers. Drawing on sociology, psychoanalysis and group analysis, he argues that groups and their participants are constrained unconsciously by social, cultural and political facts and forces. These hypotheses are illustrated with clinical vignettes concerning anti-Semitism, racism, the politics of class and gender and the effects of rapid social change.


Earl Hopper’s mastery of the theories and facts of formal sociology is evident in the early papers of this collection. We can follow his evolution to mastery of the different but related theories and facts of group analysis and psychoanalysis in the later papers. He does not jettison ideas and perspectives, but continues to integrate the old with the new in ways that are both conservative and innovative.

When I read the proposal for the publication of this selection of papers, I suggested that readers would appreciate a more personal note, an introduction to the person of the author. I am pleased that my suggestion was accepted. In his Acknowledgements, he has paid generous tribute to his mentors and teachers. In fact, we should all acknowledge such indebtedness, especially if we proclaim the primacy of social factors, and if we regard personal creativity as part of social and cultural processes.

Earl Hopper weaves a fascinating and complex tapestry from the threads of the social and of the individual. Although explicit in the papers on aggression and social constraints, and on the large group, this group analytical perspective is brought out most fully in the papers on context and countertransference processes.

‘Wounded Bird’ discloses the depths to which the author plunges into his own subjectivity in following the group’s unconscious dynamics. He does this in a way that exemplifies Keats’ ‘negative capability’, the quality possessed by a person who is ‘capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after facts and reasons’. Hopper held his grip on his uncertainties, mysteries and doubts until he felt able to reach a deeper understanding of the communications in his group, which he then expressed with passion. We can see the response that his intervention brought about.

This book concludes with a paper on hope, which Hopper understands as the exercise of the transcendent imagination within a particular social, cultural and political context. He draws ideas from various fields of knowledge that are essential to our work as psychoanalysts and group analysts. Hopper has understood my own papers on hope in connection with . . .

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