"Psychoanalysis, Critical Theory, and the Trump Phenomenon"

The first section of this issue includes relatively informal talks from a panel discussion on “Psychoanalysis and the Trump Phenomenon” (May 27, 2016) and reflects the growing awareness that, in order to come to terms with the powerful appeal of then Republican Presidential Candidate and today President Donald J. Trump, psychoanalytical categories must play some role. The panel was part of our Lecture Series on Psychoanalysis, which, itself, has its origin at the Institute in the early 1990’s. It builds, as well, on previous panels we have hosted on “Psychoanalysis and the Politics of Fear” (October 14, 2011), and symposia on “Psychoanalysis and Aesthetics” (April 27, 2013) and “Psychoanalysis and Social Theory: From Clinical Practice to Social and Political Praxis” (November 15–16, 2013). The latter was held under the auspices of the Joanne Brown Symposium on Violence and its Alternatives.  

In the second section, we feature a number of papers from our “Workshop in Social and Political Thought,” which is a series that enables those at SFU and beyond to present papers, articles, or book chapters that are either “in progress” or finished to their peers, and to receive valuable critical feedback on their arguments. Dr. Am Johal, Director of the Vancity Office of Community Engagement, reflects on the pertinence of the philosophy of contemporary French philosopher Alain Badiou, with whom he worked at the European Graduate School, for the urgent ecological questions that we face. Badiou’s ontology, Johal argues, and conception of militant political action has much to offer in the age of the Anthropocene. Dr. Greg Feldman, of the School for International Studies at SFU, reflects on arguably two of the most important figures in the post-Cold War era of liberal hegemony—Baruch Spinoza and Hannah Arendt—who, in his view, are key to understanding our new global constellation because they understand politics as grounded in particular speaking subjects rather than abstract, universal principles. At the same time, they differ in their approach to questions such as thinking and reason, will and action, and, ultimately, freedom and being. Dr. Ian Angus, Professor of the Department of Humanities at SFU, and former Acting Director of the Institute for the Humanities, investigates phenomenology as the “critical consciousness of modernity,” taking his starting point the moment in the Vienna Lecture at which Edmund Husserl discounts Papuans and Gypsies but includes America in defining Europe as the “home of reason.” By focusing on the idea of “institution” (Urstiftung) in the Crisis of the European Sciences, Angus suggests that the historical encounter with the New World can be seen as an “event” for reason as such an encounter can include elements previously absent in the earlier interpretation of European entelechy. Importantly, Angus concludes, phenomenology must renew itself by becoming a comparative Socratic, diagnosis of the planetary crisis of reason.

We also include an interview conducted by Samir Gandesha and Johan Hartle of the University of Amsterdam with Europe-based American artist Zachary Formwalt on the challenges of representing capital. It is from their forthcoming edited book Spell of Capital: Reification and Spectacle (Amsterdam University Press, 2017). Lastly, Dannemann provides major re-assessment of Lukács’s theory of reification in our post-Communist era in light of major post-Marxist reappropriations of it in the work of second and third generation Critical Theorists, Jürgen Habermas and Axel Honneth. His conclusion is that in an era in which the phenomenon of reification is deepening its hold on contemporary capitalist societies, Lukács' critical Marxism is worth reviving although with a significant democratic supplement. This is a timely contribution insofar as Lukács’ legacy in Hungary is in the process of being erased by the far-right government of Victor Orban.

Psychoanalysis and the Trump Phenomenon

Ecology, Politics, and the Planetary Crisis of Reason