Topic 6, Psychoanalysis and Social Theory, is a particularly interesting one in many ways as it shows how ideas that are not necessarily first and foremost associated with “the social” can not only be influential in the development and application of social theory but give rise to its own brand of social theories. Freud’s extensive theories of the nature of humankind and the relationship between the psyche and personhood is a very prominent example of this, and can make for an interesting analysis of the relationship between nature and the social (topics which we have spent a fair bit of time discussing already, particularly in the context of natural or human sciences). Most of the readings on this topic consequently represent critical engagements with Freudian principles and ideas from various social science perspectives; Marcuse provides a very interesting take on this as do the theorists like Grosz and Zizek who approach their analysis via Jacques Lacan. A key starting point, then, could perhaps be: 1. While psychoanalysis has a central place in a lot of contemporary social theory, its presence often seems to be mediated by other social theories and principles (Marxism, feminism, post-structuralism etc). In other words, the allure of psychoanalysis always seems to be compromised by its lack of something crucial for social analysis. In light of this claim, what are the limitations of psychoanalytic perspectives in explaining humans as “social beings”? (Hint: this is perhaps most explicitly dealt with in Marcuse’s reading). 2. Much of Jacques Lacan’s appeal for social theorists appears to be his insistence on the social aspect of selfhood and identity formation. Based on some of our readings here, which aspects of Lacanian theory seems particularly useful for social theory? 3. Finally, is psychoanalysis a social theory, a professional practice, a research methodology, or something completely different? As usual I do not want you to feel constrained by these questions – they are mere suggestions for how you can start off your discussion postings. TOPIC 5 – Post-structuralism and Post-modernism Covering the perspectives of Post-structuralism and Post-modernism. Compared to some of our earlier topics and theories these paradigms are relatively new in the sense that have only emerged after the mid-1900s. As the names of them indicates they are also best considered reactions against many earlier paradigms (such as structuralism or modernism) and often explicitly dealing with changes and dynamics that defines our contemporary society. Writers from these traditions are diverse and associated with a number of academic disciplines and are sometimes difficult to compare. We also need to be vary not to consider post-structuralism and post-modernism that same thing. A good starting point for our discussion may be to reflect on these similarities and differences. 1. Weedonargues that “While different forms of poststructuralism vary both in their practice and in their political implications, they share certain fundamental assumptions about language, meaning and subjec¬≠tivity” (1997: 20). What are these assumptions, and to what extent do they make post-structuralism stand out from other theories we have discussed? 2. Both post-structuralism and post-modernism relies on an understanding of our current society as distinctly different from the eras the preceded it. Discuss the validity of this assumption, and whether there are some problems (ethical, theoretical, political, practical) associated with leaving “modernity” and its problems in the past. 3. Usher et.al (1997) attempts to highlight how postmodernism influences a particular field of professional practice (adult education). Use their ideas as a starting point for understanding how postmodernism might inform your own professional practice or address particular challenges in your own field.

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