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New Left Review I/173, January-February 1989

Michael Rustin

Post-Kleinian Psychoanalysis and the Post-Modern

In a number of papers written in the early 1980s, I attempted to explore the social and political affiliations of Kleinian psychoanalysis in Britain. [1] See, for example, ‘A Socialist Consideration of Kleinian Psychoanalysis’, nlr 131, January–February 1982; ‘Relational Preconditions of Socialism’ (with Margaret Rustin), in Barry Richards, ed., Capitalism and Infancy, Free Association Books, 1982; ‘Psychoanalysis and Social Justice’, Free Associations, Pilot Issue, 1984. I characterized some of the leading themes, both implicit and explicit, of Kleinian work, and suggested some connections between these and the social preoccupations of the post-war welfare state in Britain. The purpose was partly to explore these connections as matters of fact and explanation, but also to establish the positive values of these psychoanalytic ideas for a democratic socialist vision. These papers, it is clear now, were already historical in their reference when they were written, since the age of Thatcher had begun, and the dismantling of the post-war consensus and settlement of the welfare state was in its first stages. However, in 1981 it seemed reasonable to hope otherwise, for an early resumption of the admittedly uneven progress towards full social citizenship which had been initiated during the Second World War. It was not obvious at the time that the social programme to which one’s arguments sought to relate psychoanalytic practice, especially in the public health field, had stopped in its tracks, or still worse, been put into reverse.

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