Need, Anxiety and Solidarity

Small Group Project 2024-25


Craig Reeves
Small Group Project 2024-25

Markets increasingly govern social life, encroaching on almost every aspect of the coordination and allocation of resources and satisfaction of needs, on into the liberal citadel of private life, and misshaping and frustrating humanity’s response to global existential threats of its own making. Markets which were supposed to fulfil human needs seem to be promoting unrealistic wishful thinking and primitive anxiety instead. 

Yet our understanding of how markets function and dysfunction is surprisingly limited, impeded by academia’s disciplinary silos and the wider societal division of theoretical and practical labour. Normative theories of the market are often psychologically naïve, while the in-depth psychological research of the object-relations psychoanalytic tradition remains detached from serious study of capitalist market systems. Despite renewed interest in object-relations in psychosocial and Critical Theory, recent work is tentative and piecemeal. 

This project will address this gap in social knowledge, through a sustained, detailed, interdisciplinary investigation of contemporary object-relations and its possible implications for critical understanding of capitalist markets. Object-relational theorizations of wish, anxiety and unconscious phantasy provide the mediating terms to connect subjective experience and objective social forms, potentially illuminating the affective dimensions of market systems that have so far been inadequately thematised, and in this way may offer important insights for a critical understanding of the pathologies of life under markets. They may also offer orientation to resistance and transformed alternative social forms that are realistically rooted in our psychological endowment, to the potential for solidarity in the face of anxiety and thus for hope. 

Practitioners in economics and policy, clinical therapeutic practice, and leading researchers across the social sciences, humanities and philosophy will be convened in a series of Workshops to develop an object-relational psychosocial research programme, leading to, inter alia, the creation of a new interdisciplinary Research Centre.

Contacting Fellows

If you would like to contact any of our Fellows to discuss their ISRF-funded work, please contact Dr Lars Cornelissen (Academic Editor) in the first instance, at [email protected].