bookReview: Analysis and Activism: Social and Political Contributions of Jungian Psychology

Emilija Kiehl, Mark Saban, Andrew Samuels (Eds.)
Routledge, 2016


Reviewer Natalie Clarke

My ears pricked up when I heard the title of this book, having rather consigned Jung to the backwater of my mind, where I bin off the various approaches studied in my therapy training which haven’t set me alight. I don’t mean, in this sweeping and unsubstantiated generalisation, that I saw absolutely no value in any of the thoughts that Jung espoused, but rather I felt him to be a little old-fashioned; a little backwards. All that emphasis on binary and heteronormative male/female archetypes bored me, and seemed irrelevant to my interests in queer readings of traditional psychoanalytic thought. So when confronted by this collection of twenty-three articles detailing diverse social and political contributions of Jungian psychology I was initially a little skeptical.

However on starting it I was brought up short by the epigraph “[w]e are living in times of great disruption: political passions are aflame, internal upheavals have brought nations to the brink of chaos. The analyst feels the violence even in the quiet of the consulting room” (Jung, 1946, p.11, quoted in Kiehl, Saban and Samuels, 2016, p.xxvi). I couldn’t ask for more relevance than Jung, in 1946, seemingly speaking directly to me, and our current political turmoil. I am sure I am not the only therapist whose consulting room has been crowded with the spectres of Brexit, Trump’s latest abusive move and, latterly, the #metoo campaign in response to the exposure of Harvey Weinstein. Ignoring the political environment our clients are living in seems especially reckless now. And so perhaps I have misjudged you Jung, and maybe you do have something to offer to 2017.

I began with the article that excited me most, on Jung, feminism and the ‘gendered imagination’ (Rowland, 2016, p133). This was a skillful analysis of a disappointing quote by Jung on the subject of women, the animus and rape (which I’m glad I hadn’t heard before tackling this book or I might have refused to read it at all) which, through the delicate understanding of the ‘gender-fluid’ psyche (Rowland, 2016, p138) draws out a discussion of the desire for power in relationships. Another piece which affected me deeply was Craig San Roque and Joshua Santospirito’s depiction of the idea of a ‘cultural complex’, through a powerful visual narrative of a long weekend in Australia. The images, combined with the slow build of a story in which nothing much happens, had a dreamlike quality, which became more impactful than first noticed.

There isn’t space in this review to give more of an overview of the variety of interesting articles within this book. But if you are someone who thinks about social justice and therapy, or who (like me) wondered how a Jungian approach might be relevant to work with disenfranchised and diverse communities, I think it will have something for you.


Natalie Clarke is a fourth-year trainee therapist studying at the Minster Centre.


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