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November 11, 2006, 2:30 PM

The Psychology of the Modern Nation-State

Participants: Shukri Abed, Giorgio Freddi, Peter Loewenberg (moderator), Vamik Volkan, Isser Woloch

This roundtable explores imagination as it relates to nationhood. Balkanization of the kind evidenced in the breakup of the former Soviet Union and irredentism (the psychic wish to rejoin and reconstitute, as in the case of East and West Germany) represent polarities within the political sphere. These two tendencies exemplify the ways in which individual psychology can have far reaching consequences as it evolves -- through political action and heightened cultural awareness -- into reflecting the wishes of the polity on a mass scale. Other concepts that translate between the individual and the state, like the concept of boundaries, are scrutinized. From Plato's Republic through Machiavelli and Clausewitz, notions of aggression, ambition and desire, which have usually been considered concerns of individual consciousness, have been described as essential components of political life. The roundtable deals with these classical thinkers in terms of the close association they make between the inner life and decision making in the public sphere.

Shukri Abed is Chair of the Language and Regional Studies Department at the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C., and author and co-editor of Democracy, Peace, and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.

Giorgio Freddi is Professor of Public Policy Analysis at the Political Administration Institute of the University of Bologna, and co-author of Controlling Medical Professionals: The Comparative Politics of Health Governance.

Peter Loewenberg is Dean Emeritus of the New Center for Psychoanalysis in Los Angeles and Professor of History at UCLA. He is Chair of the China Development Committee and the Centenary History Committee (1910-2010) of the International Psychoanalytic Association. He is author of Decoding the Past: The Psychohistorical Approach and Fantasy and Reality in History, as well as numerous articles on history, political psychology, and psychoanalysis.

Vamik Volkan was one of the nominees for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005, and a nominee for the 2006 prize, for his study of conflict and psycho-political theory. He is Emeritus Professor of psychiatry and founder of the Center for the Study of Mind and Human Interaction at the University of Virginia, School of Medicine. He is a former President of the International Society of Political Psychology and is currently the Senior Erik Erikson Scholar at The Austen Riggs Center in Stockbridge, MA. His latest book is Killing in the Name of Identity.

Isser Woloch is Moore Collegiate Professor of History at Columbia University, specializing in 18th- and 19th-century Europe and France. His works include Eighteenth-Century Europe: Tradition and Progress, 1715-1789, The New Regime: Transformations of the French Civic Order, 1789-1820s, and Napoleon and His Collaborators: The Making of a Dictatorship.


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