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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

Putnams Paradox: Anti-oedipal politics and the destruction of community

Analyzing the data from a large nationwide survey of the effects of diversity on social capital, which he defined as social networks and the associated norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness,' the eminent sociologist Robert Putnam (2007) found some results that surprised and disturbed him. Diversity negatively affected, not only individuals' propensity to trust members of other groups, but also the extent to which they trusted members of their own group.These results did not concern trust in a simple narrow sense. They characterized virtually the entire range of social engagement. Persons living in areas of greater diversity had, among other things, lower trust in local government and leaders, lower expectations that others will cooperate to solve common problems, less altruism, and fewer friends. Virtually the only social activity enhanced by diversity was the tendency to participate in social protest [...]I will suggest that it is this correlate of diversity, the political protest of our time, manifesting the dynamic of political correctness, that is responsible for the breakdown of social connection, rather than diversity itself. The theory of anti-oedipal psychology (Schwartz, 2010) argues that the dynamic underlying political correctness is an attack upon the father, and specifically the paternal function. The Occupy movement has been seen along these lines as an expression of alienation, in which social order, brought about through the paternal function, is rejected in the name of a primitive mother who seeks to expel the father and his works in favor of her own omnipotence (Schwartz, 2012). It is not a far stretch to extend this to Putnam's findings on the breakdown of trust. The issue here is that it is the paternal function that makes it possible for people to transcend narcissism and engage with each other through mutual subordination to a common framework of understanding. This would be necessary for social trust and collective action.I also plan to use this exploration of the paternal function to generate a distinction between the good father, so defined, and the bad father, paradigmatically the father of the primal horde.'