Taking Lauran Berlant’s “cruel optimism” as exemplary of recent attempts to integrate psychoanalysis and ideology critique, this essay focuses on the psychological paradigm underlying such an evocative phrase in order to demonstrate that even the most capacious interpretations of psychosocial experience are only ever as radical as their metapsychological foundations. As such, while Berlant’s defense of people’s bad attachments may seem compassionate compared to intellectuals who “shit” on dreams, a deeper analysis of cruel optimism’s metapsychology reveals that this compassion is obtained through the inadvertent dismissal of psychosexuality.
gila ashtor is an instructor in clinical psychology (psychiatry) and an adjunct professor in the School of the Arts, Columbia University. She is the author of Homo Psyche: On Queer Theory and Erotophobia (Fordham University Press, 2021) and Exigent Psychoanalysis: The Interventions of Jean Laplanche (Routledge, 2021). She is on the faculty of the Institute for Psychoanalytic Training and Research and a psychoanalyst in private practice in New York City. She is currently at work on a project about the limits of talk therapy.
Gila Ashtor; Tender Pessimism. differences 1 December 2022; 33 (2-3): 242–261. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10407391-10124788
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