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How Does Psychoanalysis Help in Reconstructing Political Thought? An Exercise of Interpretation

Authors: Subramaniam Chandran


The significance of psychology in studying politics is embedded in philosophical issues as well as behavioural pursuits. For the former is often associated with Sigmund Freud and his followers. The latter is inspired by the writings of Harold Lasswell. Political psychology or psychopolitics has its own impression on political thought ever since it deciphers the concept of human nature and political propaganda. More importantly, psychoanalysis views political thought as a textual content which needs to explore the latent from the manifest content. In other words, it reads the text symptomatically and interprets the hidden truth. This paper explains the paradigm of dream interpretation applied by Freud. The dream work is a process which has four successive activities: condensation, displacement, representation and secondary revision. The texts dealing with political though can also be interpreted on these principles. Freud's method of dream interpretation draws its source after the hermeneutic model of philological research. It provides theoretical perspective and technical rules for the interpretation of symbolic structures. The task of interpretation remains a discovery of equivalence of symbols and actions through perpetual analogies. Psychoanalysis can help in studying political thought in two ways: to study the text distortion, Freud's dream interpretation is used as a paradigm exploring the latent text from its manifest text; and to apply Freud's psychoanalytic concepts and theories ranging from individual mind to civilization, religion, war and politics.

Keywords: Psychoanalysis, political thought, dreaminterpretation, latent content, manifest content

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