FALL 2015 Vol 43 Issue #2

FALL 2015

To Look or not to Look: The Backward Engineering of Atrocity , Howard Stein and Seth Allcorn

ABSTRACT: The organizational concept of “backward engineering” is used as a hermeneutic device to illuminate processes that were employed to implement the Holocaust. Here we study how rationality can be used in the service of irrationality. In particular, rationalized, engineered and bureaucratically organized inputs, throughputs, and outputs contain unconscious processes embodied in the engineering of atrocity. The process of the “conversion” of experiencing subjects into disposable objects is examined. Finally, the psychodynamics of the inability to look backward and take apart the vast supply chain leading to the actual killing are examined. An understanding of organizational psychodynamics contributes to the psychohistorical study of atrocity on a vast scale.

Political Leaders and Psychohistorical Approaches in a Time of Borderline Polarization, Dan Dervin

ABSTRACT: Since the breakup of the Soviet Empire in 1989, followed by Jugoslavia, many otherwise secure countries have been collapsing and splitting apart. The maps in the Middle East are continually being redrawn, more often than not, in blood. Scotland is poised to break away from the UK, Catalonia from Spain, and here at home several states toy around with secession. Much of this turmoil on the macro level seems to dovetail with my present focus on the micro. Whether the two are related in some fashion is tantalizingly beyond the present scope. In this paper my micro-purpose is to delve into the deeper recesses of our public life and explore the intra-psychic fissures. The key concept for this quest is a relative newcomer to psychoanalytic nomenclature: the borderline. Coming to the fore in the 1970s, the term addresses the widespread splitting both within the self and in relationships, manifest in either-or, all-or-nothing ideation, along with an impulsivity that further distances actions from consequences. These and related features are conducive to an anything-goes politics of us-against-them. Richard Hofstadter’s 1965 “paranoid style,” of political leaders is recalled and modified to a borderline-mode factored into a psychohistorical dynamic which construes politicians as delegates for group-fantasy. Recent presidential elections offer a rich field for testing the aptness of this approach. Then, after brief detours into how Freud and Darwin disrupted polarizing forces in their own cultures, we revisit political turmoil during the Woodrow Wilson years for historical similarities and differences in which repeated recourse to purity serves as a bridge word. The inquiry closes with reflections on how psychohistory may avoid pitfalls in further probing this vexing state of affairs and primes the reader to ponder whether the disaffected young males drawn to ISIS are functioning on borderline levels. If so, we have a plausible bridge between macro and micro realms.

Psychohistory and Slavery: Preliminary Issues, Kenneth Alan Adams

ABSTRACT:  “PSYCHOHISTORY AND SLAVERY: PRELIMINARY ISSUES,” begins an examination of slavery in the antebellum South. The paper suggests that how slavery and the group-fantasy of white male supremacy were perpetuated among slaveholders is a question of fundamental importance for psychohistorians. The family and childrearing are the focus of attention. Given the ferocity of slavery, it is argued that the psychological and emotional consequences of this barbarism were not limited to the slaves themselves, but had significant impact on the slaveholders as well — their parenting, their children, and their children’s parenting of the next generation. In each generation the trauma of slavery was injected into slaveholder children and became a fundamental component of elite Southern personality.

Redesigning Racial Caste in America via Mass Incarceration, Gilda Graff

 ABSTRACT:  This article argues that the era of mass incarceration can be understood as a new tactic in the history of American racism. Slavery was ended by the Civil War, but after Reconstruction, the gains of the former slaves were eroded by Jim Crow (a rigid pattern of racial segregation), lynching, disenfranchisement, sharecropping, tenantry, unequal educational resources, terrorism, and convict leasing. The Civil Rights Movement struck down legal barriers, but we have chosen to deal with the problems of poverty and race not so differently than we have in the past. The modern version of convict leasing, is mass incarceration. This article documents the dramatic change in American drug policy beginning with Reagan’s October, 1982 announcement of the War on Drugs, the subsequent 274 percent growth in the prison and jail populations, and the devastating and disproportionate effect on inner city African Americans. Just as the Jim Crow laws were a reaction to the freeing of the slaves after the Civil War, mass incarceration can be understood as a reaction to the Civil Rights Movement.

Liberty Versus Life: Suicide in the Writings of Montesquieu, Cheryl Cantrell

 ABSTRACT:  Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de la Bréde et de Montesquieu (1689-1755), the French philosopher who had such an enormous impact on the American constitution through his theory of the separation of powers, had an unusually sympathetic view of suicide. Indeed, he is the only major thinker in Western history to have produced a sustained argument against St. Thomas Aquinas’ enormously influential views on this subject. Yet few scholars have attempted to analyze this argument, and none to explain why it was so important to him to make it. This paper demonstrates that Montesquieu’s support for suicide in desperate circumstances is inextricably associated with the love of liberty for which he is justly celebrated, having the potential to radically transform the way we look at suicide and suicidal ideation today.