Why “¿Authority?” Observations on the Authority/Power Continuum


The title of this work refers to the title chosen by the EPF (European Psychoanalytical Federation) for their congress in Berlin in March 2016 (¿Authority?) and references the themes that were chosen by Serge Frisch, Laurence Kahn and Leopoldo Bleger for a seminar they organised, also in Berlin, in September 2014 (Psychoanalysis in 2025). The questions that underlie these initiatives are numerous. Given the scope of this text, I’ll limit myself to pointing out the question that seems to me the most interesting: what can psychoanalysis offer for the understanding of a topic of such great social relevance as authority?
The following work begins with a series of two hypotheses.
The first assumes that authority and power are not substantially dissimilar manifestations, but constitute the poles of an unbreakable continuum. It is difficult to come across an authority entirely devoid of power, just as it is rare for the power of a subject, group or institution not to come with a certain amount of authority (of course, these terms require precise definitions that will be discussed in the next section).
The second hypothesis postulates that the problem of authority, despite being rarely discussed directly in psychoanalysis, is variously reformulated in several conceptual models that develop essential aspects of psychoanalytic theory and technique (it refers, as we shall see, the effects of the conflict between generations and the development of the Oedipus complex on psychic functioning: the formation of the super-ego and his ordinary and extraordinary maintenance).

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Who do you think you are? Adolescent groups and everyday life


Adolescence is a period of change.  An existential change that is a change in the sense of who one is, a change in one’s identity.  It may be a catastrophic crisis in identity, so that there is an uncertainty about being a person at all.  Adolescence is a process of learning a new identity without knowing clearly where one will get that new identity from. The authors reflect on these issues that nowadays increasingly involve schools, social stakeholders and mental health services when a treatment response is needed for problematic adolescents and their families. Read more


Leading from below? Decisions, responsibility and creativity as a group dynamic


The institution tends to organise the individual in standard ways. And individuals are vulnerable to being organised for the convenience of the institution. Probably psychiatric patients needing hospitalisation are especially vulnerable to this coercive influence.
This has for long been known as a ‘top-down’ authority. A smallish group or single leader at the top of the organisation’s hierarchy makes decisions for those lower down to follow. For 50 years or so from the 1940s, there was, in Western society, an attempt to reverse this structure with what is called ‘bottom-up’ authority. The therapeutic community was one Read more


Caregiver Training


Homo sapiens inherited enormous genetic potential, selected over a great arc of time, which has proved indispensable to his survival but at times also manifests useless or even irritatingly awkward vestigial aspects that create a sort of dissonance, an evolutionary mismatch. Aggressiveness is one of those potentially problematic aspects that, if it is properly channelled does not necessarily have to lead to violence and destructiveness, but can become a resource, a way of adapting effectively to civilised contexts. Humans have evolved the ability to bring conflict to a symbolic level, Read more


Psychotherapy, the family and authority, from the first encounter to the session

AbstractThe crisis of the culture goes along with a crisis of authority in families: the author Read more