Hilma af Klint, The Swan (1914)
Whether we take the psychology of individuals to be genetically determined, or leave room for the impact of our surroundings, broader social or political institutions in their historical genesis seem to have little relevance. When philosophers (let alone proper psychologists) center experiences such as love, sexual desire, shame, or submission, they tend to describe isolated individuals or their immediate environments. In a liberal framework, this descriptive tendency is often coupled with a normative assumption: the emotional or intimate life of the individual is simply not the business of political institutions, and therefore of little interest for political philosophy.
Pushing against this widespread outlook, my research revolves around what I call political psychology. Drawing on Hegel’s dialogue with other post-Kantian figures, this research program is premised on two ideas. First, psychological configurations (and pathologies) are political in the sense that, while rooted in organic properties, they are thoroughly shaped by historically variable social and economic conditions. The second idea is normative: a free (“rational”) political order should support the psychological wellbeing of its subjects. Such wellbeing is an integral part of full-fledged individual freedom.
This program builds directly on my dissertation, Personal Freedom and Its Discontents: Hegel on the Ethical Basis of Modern Skepticism (Columbia, October 2017). For a brief summary click here.