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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021


The paper attempts to incorporate psychoanalytically-informed thinking and technical interventions when formulating and implementing country wide policies. This work is motivated by an increasing recognition of the failure of policies, - e.g., foreign aid, financial crisis, etc. - that at best, have not led to significant improvements, and at worst, have led to increased political and sectarian tensions in many parts of the world. I propose that, in part, the source of such difficulties can be better understood by incorporating psychoanalytically-informed interventions at country level on the formulation and implementation of specific policies.Furthermore, an evaluation of countries' successful economic and social transformation often seem to point to an 'inflexion point', as if suddenly something clicked at a level of a society that allowed it to move forward. Economists and development practitioners have naturally focused on identifying what it takes to engineer a virtuous economic cycle. The answers provided by economics and political science are thorough and carefully point to all the necessary policy prescriptions that are prerequisite to the transformation of a society. I believe that there is a continuous back and forth feedback between economic and political conditions and a society's state of mind as far as its readiness for change. However, policy formulation cannot be the full story. Often what is missing, and far more difficult to understand, let alone change, is the part played by the nation's psychology.