2004-12-15

Interminability

Those of you fortunate enough to read Italian might find this interview of Christophe Solioz by Luka Zanoni interesting. He is working on a metaphor for the international presence in Bosnia-Hercegovina modelled on Freud's concept of "interminable analysis." The metaphor raises a good number of potential questions for exploration: Is "nation building" a form of therapy? Who is being treated, and for what? Do any of the parties willingly see themselves as therapist or patient? Maybe the issue could be raised of whether the insurance program covers the sessions?

Generally I am not fond of psychological metaphors as a way of discussing social phenomena, but this seems potentially very rich.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting take, but I think it's very productive to turn things around a bit, as Eric has alluded to in his comments on the article.

We know the joke about psychoanalysts being crazy... In this case, I think the big question is why the US is feeling it necessary to go around "curing" countries, and when the countries are not "cured" according to the prescribed views of the US they are denounced as pathological.

It seems that this obsession, this need, on the part of many Americans to go around "curing" other countries and societies is a form of escapism and reflects pathologies in their own society. I haven't totally worked this out yet but Solioz's approach is an interesting one that might add something -- and like Eric, I too tend to be skeptical of psychological approaches in general. But how else to explain the f***ed up stuff coming out of the US these days?

Anonymous said...

Very interesting take, but I think it's very productive to turn things around a bit, as Eric has alluded to in his comments on the article.

We know the joke about psychoanalysts being crazy... In this case, I think the big question is why the US is feeling it necessary to go around "curing" countries, and when the countries are not "cured" according to the prescribed views of the US they are denounced as pathological.

It seems that this obsession, this need, on the part of many Americans to go around "curing" other countries and societies is a form of escapism and reflects pathologies in their own society. I haven't totally worked this out yet but Solioz's approach is an interesting one that might add something -- and like Eric, I too tend to be skeptical of psychological approaches in general. But how else to explain the f***ed up stuff coming out of the US these days?

Chip

Eric Gordy said...

Yes, Chip, I think you put a lot of that better than I did. Probably the whole therapy image is a little misleading, but then I am pretty sure that Christophe is not uncritical about it. He came into the area as a peace activist, and I think like a lot people liked the idea of a temporary international administration as a way of cooling things down and stopping the violence. Then also like a lot of people, he became disturbed by the way that the international administration seemed to take on a life of its own and constantly find reasons to expand its power and set local political actors on the margins. The local political actors complied because 1) they had no real responsibility to prevent them from acting irresponsibly, and 2) people kept voting for them largely out of frustration with the internationals. Sumantra Bose and David Chandler both have good takes on this process.
Then the big unexamined question is what are the motivations and self-perceptions of the internationals, and who is treating the therapist?

christophe said...

Well, I'm so sorry make (again) troubles, I hope no confusion...

I made a first attempt to review (only) few aspects of what I call restistance to changes in the Balkans (in may paper "Bosnia and Herzegovina beyond Dayton: from Intervention Towards Integration," Geneva: FDA Working Paper, No. 2, 10 September 2004 - http://www.christophesolioz.ch/papers/2004.html. This is in fact a paper that will be published by the Swiss Fribourg University beginning of 2005 (I mention this just to emphasis on the fact that I had only few pages space)). The “freudian” part is only a very short one:

“The question of how to end an intervention such as that in Bosnia may not be all that different from another one: how to end psychoanalysis. In an essay first published in 1937, Freud discussed various ways of shortening the duration of analysis. One way of doing so, with the wolf-man case, was to place a limit on the therapeutic intervention. Freud pointed out this was not good enough, simply because residuals of the transference remained. Thus, this method cannot guarantee the complete accomplishment of the task. Therefore the question still remained: is there such a thing as a natural end to a therapeutic intervention? Freud stated that termination occurs when the patient no longer suffers from his/her symptoms, and when the analyst judges that so much repressed material has been made conscious that there is no need to fear a repetition of the pathological processes that are involved. The Bosnian case may well follow the same pattern as the Ferenczi case - Freud's “golden boy”: the therapeutic intervention was successful at first, and was considered as terminated, but the problem that was supposed to have been resolved surfaced again! The reasons were that there was never a purely positive transference between patient and analyst, and the patient became ill once more from the same source that caused the original illness, because the initial impulses were only incompletely resolved. Thus, analysis is never thorough enough and, as such, can be only partially successful. Its success depends essentially on the strength and the depth of the roots of the problems that initially bring about the alteration of the ego. Therefore, Freud pointed out that the analysis changes from a terminable to an interminable task (See Freud, Sigmund (1968; 1st ed. 1937): Analysis terminable and interminable. In: The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Vol. 23. London: Hogarth Press, pp. 211-50). Against this background, the relation between foreign and local actors in Bosnia, the efficiency of the intervention, and the time it requires may be conceived rather differently. Certainly, time is needed. What Freud refers to as “ego” or “self” may be understood in our context as recovered sovereignty. And this is precisely the objective of the foreign intervention, explicitly mentioned in the Mission Implementation Plan of the OHR.”

My friend Luka kinapped me in Venice on my trip back from Sarajevo... And I accepted to deliver some (may be partly confusing) ideas only in order to be free (the venue of the seminar was a former psychiatric clinic, nowdays a conference center…). I initially thought he would use that in order to think about and to write his own paper.

Nevertheless. I want to emphasize on some interesting points: “local” resistance may be considered in a different way, time also (let us remind of an episode involving Lakhdar Brahimi and Colin Powell: when the Secretary of State expressed impatience about the process of reconstruction in Afghanistan - “The message is speed, speed, speed” - Mr Brahimi's response was, “it has to be slow, slow, slow”), but my main point is: the “analysant” matters (he does his analysis, and not the therapeut - despite “comonsense”...).

Of course, this “other” viewpoint w/could invite us to reconsider the role, the position of the “analyste”, the foreign actor. Once I have time, I will try to write something clever on the issue. I hope this is not bringing more confusion.
For the moment: merry X-mas and happy new year !!!

Christophe

Eric Gordy said...

Christophe, thank you very much for these very interesting explanatory comments. I think that the whole model really does look like it has tremendous potential. Let me follow up the references you have here (aargh! when the computer gets back from the shop!) and see how this dialogue can be carried on.
Also, I'm happy you have found the blog!
Srecna nova godina and sve najbolje,
Eric