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Title: Political Correctness and Political In-correctness A psychoanalytictic study of new authoritarians
Authors: Dr Simon Western
Political correctness (PC) has been a growing trend since the 1980’s and has been in the spotlight recently, particularly in USA universities where it has taken hold in extreme ways (Schwartz 2010, Lukianoff and Haidt 2015, Hume 2015, O’Neil 2015). Yet those who critique PC, rarely acknowledge that in parallel a thriving amount of Political in-correctness (PIC) is taking place. Whilst PC is pervasive in some contexts, PIC thrives in others. For example, Donald Trump hits the headlines with his misogynist and racist rhetoric whilst fighting for the Republican party nominations. Trump follows a long stream of PIC voices from outside of the liberal PC consensus. In the USA rap stars, right-wing radio and Fox TV are examples of those who enjoy being provocatively politically in-correct. In Europe there are growing PIC right wing political voices and other examples such as social media trolling particularly focused on race, gender, immigration and mental health issues are well documented.
This paper examines the psycho-social dynamics of political correctness and political in-correctness through the lens of how people gain enjoyment through either stance, and how a desire for more authority speaks through both ‘tribes’. This paper raises these issues for these important reasons:
1) The polarisation between the two tribes/positions undermines thinking, dialogue and debate
2) This analysis reveals how new authoritarian ideological positions are hidden within and feed politically correct and politically incorrect positions
3) Kleinian, Object relations and traditional Freudian psychoanalytic accounts that tend to look for defensive and regressive explanations of organisational/social dynamics. This paper also utilises Lacanian theory to explore how enjoyment/jouissance and desire also play such an important role in explaining how organisational dynamics play out and are sustained.
Following Lacan’s theories (2007) this paper explores how enjoyment plays a key part in how we invest and attach ourselves to certain causes, and why we take up certain ways of being (e.g. PC or PIC). To understand the links between emotional investments and our drive, is to explore how jouissance/enjoyment works for each of us, and for the groups we are attached to. For it is enjoyment which sustains our attachment, drive and commitment to a cause or way of being. Lacanian psychoanalysis gives us a particular insight into how enjoyment is gained through experiencing ‘a pleasure in our displeasure’ (Stavrakakis 2007, McGowan 2013). These psycho-social dynamics reveal why rational explanations so often miss the point. In the case of the PC and PIC ‘tribes’ the rational view is that they are poles apart because they espouse opposite views, yet ideologically they are very close to each other, in terms of how they enjoy, and what they desire. This paper finds that both the PC and PIC stance, share similar ways of gaining enjoyment through aggression, idealizing their identities, and both share a desire for a new authoritarian social settlement. Ideologically they share the underlying belief system that we are living in a fallen world, where morality and authority are no-longer strong and clear. The Politically in-correct tribe believe we have fallen from a better past and look to nostalgia for their inspiration and guidance, whilst the Politically correct tribe believe that today’s morality has fallen/failed, blaming hyper-capitalism and its effects e.g. consumerism, greed, powerful elites and a rampant media all which undermine their ‘liberal-progressive’ agenda. Both desire a new authoritarianism to support the specific kind of new morality they wish to impose on others, the PIC do this overtly, the PC tribe covertly.
Keywords: Psychoanalysis, Lacan, Political Correctness, Political Incorrectness
Location: Granada, Spain
Name of Event/Conference: 33rd ISPSO Annual Meeting
Sponsoring Organization: ISPSO
Corresponding author: Simon Western
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