I want to write about the complexities of postmodernist ideas in systemic family therapy. I came to this theory project via practice concerns, and it was practice which was at the same time continuing to interest me in some ideas from psychoanalysis and the kind of space that may be created for them in the current systemic context. This book has come to be an exploration of the postmodern turn in systemic family therapy which intersects with particular psychoanalytic ideas as a way of extending systemic thinking. Though this last sentence is succinct enough, it does not really give much sense of the connectedness of the topic, and so I will use the first part of the introduction to lay things out more carefully, before moving to a discussion of some embedded commitments of the project, then outlining the structure and chapters of the book.
The postmodern turn is both the context and the focus of my enquiry. Postmodernism came belatedly to the systemic field, yet its influence has been dramatic. Some postmodernist ideas initially slipped in the back door in the early 1980s, via second order cybernetics and theories of constructivism drawn from biology (Dell 1985; Efran and Lukens 1985; Keeney and Sprenkle 1982). These ideas were framed in a modernist way-with familiar exhortations that they should become a foundational base for systemic therapy, continuing with systems metaphors drawn from cybernetics and biology. Nonetheless, they introduced the postmodern opposition to the idea of a knowable external reality and moved, through the emphasis on circularity, to contextual and