To approach the social dynamics in our time, we need to refer to the concepts of greed, envy and hatred, which are inherent aggressive human tendencies.

Greed comes from archaic fantasies of seizing and destroying what is good and desirable. Melanie Klein (1952) describes the baby’s vampire-like sucking of the breast, as if trying to dig outall the goodness out of it.

Envy is the aggressive urge to seize any goods which the individual believes to be his, although he does not necessarily need them. Yet the anguish of deprivation or the actual deprivation motivates envy and resentment towards the source of “nurturance”, which is perceived as depriving and bad. Deprivation increases the likelihood of persecutory paranoid interpretations, attributing deficiency to a premeditated malice meted out by others who satisfy their own desire. Under stress, it is to be expected that all individuals will experience some distrust in “good objects”.

In hatred the subject denies everything perceived as alien. Through the mechanism of projection the subject renounces any evil and scary parts of the self and attaches them to others. In this way while he ensures internal cohesion, he also feels the threat of the bad parts returning and destroying him from outside. The entire hostility and aggression is directed toward otherness.

Closed and inflexible systems are characterized by the primitive repudiation of the external world and its overwhelming stimuli, and the expulsion of their own bad parts.

But “what appears repellently alien, is in fact, all too familiar” (Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno 1994). Stigma and racism have as their common denominator man’s own fear of disorder directed at others in defence of the self (Clarke 2001).

A group creates a shared identity through the emotional energy invested by its members and by directing their aggression against outsiders. In any collective form there are inherently large reserves of hostility.

When a collective identity comes against a devastating event (crisis), it is destabilized. Under these conditions it can only maintain its consistency by blaming another group. Scapegoating, exclusion and demonization are all inscribed in the core of any declaration of identity.

According to Castoriadis, hatred and destructive tendency within the collectivity are tamed through their permanent diversion towards “constructive” social ends (“peaceful” competitive activities, such as sports, economic or political competition, etc). The remaining part of hate and destructiveness is kept in a reservoir, ready to be turned into formalized, institutionalized destructive activities against other collectivities, i.e.into war (this does not mean that psychic hate is the “cause” of war). And when the reserves of hatred do not find a way out in war, they ’simmer’ in the guise of contempt, xenophobia, and racism (Castoriadis 1996).

The current crisis promotes a fear of paralyzing bankruptcy of the world and triggers the search for absolute truth, ontologically given, not falsifiable, which rejects the chaos of life and provides a foundation for the order of the world (Recalcati, 2005). This tendency activates nationalism and fundamentalism (Bibeau, 1997).

We are before a crucial option that determines the function of all institutions and social bonds: how can the needed confirmation of our peculiarity avoid becoming its own paranoid defense? ‘Belonging’ is essential to define an identity, but when it tends to become obsessively hardened it leads inevitably to a closure against the other and thus to its progressive sterilization (Recalcati, 2005).

References

Bibeau, G. (1997) Cultural psychiatry in a creolizing world: questions for a new research agenda. Transcultural Psychiatry, 34, 9– 41.

Castoriadis Cornelius The Psychical and Social Roots of Hate 277-299 FIGURES OF THE THINKABLE INCLUDING PASSION AND KNOWLEDGE Figures du pensable. Les carrefours du labyrinthe VI. Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1999. 308pp

Clarke Simon Projective Identification: From Attack to Empathy? Kleinian Studies Ejournal

Horkheimer, M. and Adorno, T. (1994). Dialectic of Enlightenment.London: Continuum.

Klein, M.  (1952).Some Theoretical Conclusions Regarding the Emotional Life of the Infant. In (1993)Envy and Gratitude and Other Works 1946-1963. London: Karnac Books. pp. 61-93.

Recalcati Massimo, «Lo stile politico della paranoia. Note psicoanalitiche sull’invidia della vita», Forme di vita 4/2005