Segal traces the development and use of the psychoanalytic concept of ambivalence from Eugen Bleuler to Freud to Melanie Klein and Wilfred Bion. Segal’s own argument, ultimately, is that ambivalence is an achievement rather than a problem, though only when it is acknowledged and not repressed. Her essay concludes its survey with Freud’s “Civilization and its Discontents” and Segal’s own meditation on the cultural implications of failure to acknowledge ambivalence. In their efforts to overcome ambivalence, groups often depend on the most primitive psychotic mechanisms, dealing with aggression by projecting it outward and thereby creating enmities. Merging with a group superego allows for the perpetrating of atrocities in wars and revolutions that would never be pursued in our personal lives. Segal warns that the price for failing to recognize ambivalence in the nuclear age is very high, perhaps even the survival of the human race.

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