Psychosocial Histories of Psychoanalysis

Palabras clave

Psychoanalysis; history; psychosocial studies; ethics.


This paper approaches the history of psychoanalysis through the emphasis that psychosocial studies places on reflexivity and ethics. It argues that psychoanalysis has a strong and specific ethic based on the importance of developing and being allowed to use the capacity to understand one’s internal and external situation clearly, without constraint and – to the degree that it is possible – truthfully, and to make that the basis for the relationships one forms with others. This is the case for individuals but also for organizations, including the institutions of psychoanalysis. When psychoanalysis acts in accord with this perception, it is pursuing its own ethical position; when it contradicts it – for example, through aligning itself with socially repressive practices or obscuring the truth – then it loses its integrity. The paper suggests that some of the institutional history of psychoanalysis can be understood as a backing-away from this ethic in contexts of authoritarianism and a defensive denial of this process. Countering this denial by uncovering this history is necessary for reinstating psychoanalysis as an ethical domain. A case illustration is briefly outlined, that of Brazilian psychoanalysis during the civil-military dictatorship of the 1960s to 1980s, focusing on how these events have been obscured or opened up to scrutiny.