Ambivalence, Democracy & Disappointment

Lord John Alderdice


The first generation of psychoanalysts quickly saw that the insights they were acquiring in working with individuals had much wider application to society as a whole (Freud, S, 1930, Jones, E, 1924, 1964).  Their optimism for the outcomes of the treatment of patients mirrored the high hopes of liberals and the political left for society in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  This was a period when there was a significant expansion in the idea of democracy as an ideal, especially in Europe and North America.  

However, The Great War of 1914-1918 had a paradoxical effect.  On the one hand, the sacrifices of so many ordinary people and the increased involvement of women in employment outside the home that had been required by the war effort, spurred on the process of democratization.  Empires began to unstitch, and people looked increasingly to the expansion of the franchise and the processes of democratic governance to build a better world. At the same time the impact on Freud and some of his colleagues was the increasing pessimism reflected in his correspondence with Albert Einstein.


psychoanalysis, democracy, ambivalence

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