Magazine article Tikkun

The Renaissance of Western Politics: The Good-Enough Leader, Relational Economics, and an Empathic Foreign Policy

Magazine article Tikkun

The Renaissance of Western Politics: The Good-Enough Leader, Relational Economics, and an Empathic Foreign Policy

Article excerpt

I. Hope And Disappointment In Politics- A Personal Memoir

IN 1996, JUST BEFORE THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION OF THATYEAR, I SPOKE at a conference on psyche and politics in San Francisco. I flew back to Britain to attend the Labour Party Convention. There I heard Tony Blair, for whom I was a consultant at the time, tell the party that Britain was a "young country" with everything to look forward to. After we won in 1997, there was going to be an ethical foreign policy, a revitalized concern for citizens from the cradle to the grave, and the harnessing of the best elements from the market economy, as well as from social democracy. Hope was everywhere.

I dared to believe in it I was ecstatic when my proposal for a series of public apologies was accepted, and I was naively dismayed when the media mocked Blair's public apology for the Irish Potato Famine: "He'll be apologizing for the weather next," they sneered.

Well, we all know how badly it turned out: he had the lowest rating of any postwar prime minister. True hatred and contempt were directed against this man from all quarters of British (and world) society. We had idealized him, but our hopes were dashed as his promise transmuted into corruption, as he climbed into bed with the City of London and Wall Street, and as he embraced betrayal and warmongering. It was a crippling and defining experience for me.

I almost loved Mm and then I think I really hated him. And I hated myself, too. What I am remembering from my own experience could be a parable. I'll return to the theme of hope and disappointment throughout this article.

Over the past fifteen years, I have built an international practice as a political consultant working with leading politicians, their advisers, political parties, and activist groups in several countries. In particular, I have gravitated to work in the general area of nationalism, national identity, and nation building (in South Africa, Brazil, Poland, and Russia). My writing is grounded in these experiences.

I mistrust realistic people. They have done a lot of damage, telling us not to imagine a utopic move out of the social and political conditions in which we find ourselves. If we cannot imagine such a move, then there can be no personal growth, change, or transformation, no therapy or analysis in fact. All these things depend on a utopic fantasy of a kind.

All too often, though, so-called realists point to the excesses of idealists as evidence of the dangers of dreaming. But this equating of utopie vision with Stalin or Mao is not a detached and wise perspective- it is a highly political one, making a propaganda point against change and transformation in the polis. From a therapy standpoint, many practitioners now agree that every single client in personal distress has to have or work on a little bit of a utopie social vision. For social conditions to change, clinical practice has to change, and vice versa. And things are changing in the clinic if not as yet in the world.

In terms of the engagement of psychoanalysis with the public sphere, the time has come to break some boundaries. It's time to learn how to transit better the divides we have been told exist between clinical office and the street, between spirituality and politics, between "above" and "below," between the inner world and the outer world, between being and doing, between extraversion and introversion, and even between what people still call "feminine" and "masculine" approaches to life. Working these forbidden zones, and doing it in the company of a growing number of people worldwide, shows that it is legitimate and necessary to reframe the relationship of the public and the private, seeking new back passages between the fantasies of the political world and the politics of the fantasy world.

II. Good-Enough Leadership

I WANT NOW TO LOOK AT ONE SPECIFIC, CONTEMPORARY, POLITICAL DISEASE: THE problem of hierarchical, heroic leadership. …

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