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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

IAS Fellow's Public Lecture - Structural Violence: The royal road to the political unconscious

23rd October 2017, 17:30 to 18:30, Joachim Room, College of St Hild and St Bede, Dr Wahbie Long (University of Cape Town)


Since the late nineteenth century, psychologists have committed themselves towards improving the lives of human beings. For critics, however, that early promise remains unfulfilled: they suggest that after a century of innovation in educational institutions, workplaces, and battlefields around the world, psychology has failed to mitigate some of the major problems of our time, including racism, violence and all-out war. Although some psychologists protest their innocence on the grounds that these are social – and not psychological – questions, an equivalent failure exists in a field located squarely within the ambit of psychological expertise, namely, mental health. For despite the rapid psychologization of modern societies, experts are still undecided on what mental illness is; correspondingly, they rely not infrequently on shotgun approaches to treatment while scores of ordinary people enter such treatment, often overwhelmed by the alienating character of life in the modern world.

Indeed, at the heart of psychology’s difficulty responding to the complexities of real life are problems it has never managed to address – in particular, the atomism behind its culture of experimentalism and an unsolved dualism cast variously as the relationship of the interior to the exterior, the psychological to the environmental, the individual to the social. Accordingly, in this lecture Dr Wahbie Long argues for a reconsideration of the question of psychological suffering. Drawing on psychoanalytic and Marxist thought in particular, he explores the contrasting domains of the psychological and sociological, the dynamic and structural, the political unconscious and economic violence. Dr Long will suggest that an integrated, social-psychological understanding of human distress is the first step towards recognizing the insanity in the world around us – and the creation of a society in which human creativity, autonomy and sociality can flourish.

This lecture is free and open to all.

Details about Dr Wahbie Long

Directions to Joachim Room, College of St Hild & St Bede

Map - College of St Hild & St Bede is denoted as building No. 30

Contact enquiries.ias@durham.ac.uk for more information about this event.