The World within the Group: Developing Theory for Group Analysis

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The World within the Group is an original and ambitious endeavour to connect group analysis to philosophy, history, and modern social theory. The book argues that group analysis needs theoretical renewal to remain relevant, and that philosophy is a valuable resource for such thinking. In particular, the work of three philosophers is examined: Nietzsche, Dewey, and Gadamer, each being associated with "pragmatic-perspective" inquiry. The author demonstrates that group analysis is compatible with such inquiry, and that we understand and intervene from within the horizon of specific traditions of training and theory. Group analysis typifies an unremitting relational stance, valuing openness of dialogue, and moving in and out of the perspectival worlds of the participants. The book also offers a re-formulation of the concept of social unconscious, seen as a discursive world of production and articulation. Drawing on contemporary social theories, it chimes with the spirit of Elias's historical approach. Considering social worlds markedly different, often incommensurable, with our own, the author provides accounts of the shifting social unconsciousness during the Reformation and revolutionary upheavals in England. The social unconscious generates ideals and exclusions, both model and abject figures, such as those of the witch, the model Christian, degenerates and other "dangerous classes". Returning to clinical concerns, the final two essays address the "narrative turn" in social sciences. The implications of considering persons as story-telling, metaphorical animals is explored, as is the inevitability that personal stories are infused by wider, cultural narratives. Society has changed considerably since Foulkes' day and the final chapter considers how group analysis can help contain as well as illuminate some of the complex issues we face in the modern world, and thus remain relevant.

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CHAPTER ONE Working intersubjectively: theory and therapy

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CHAPTER ONE

Working intersubjectively: theory and therapy*

I do not think we should always try to understand … In this connection I tend to leave things unresolved, in mid-air, incomplete

(“no closure”).

—Foulkes, 1964, p. 287

With his nightcaps and the tatters of his dressing-gown, he patches up the gaps in the structure of the universe.

—Heine, quoted in Freud, 1933, p. 161

W

ith his nightcaps and the tatters …” is how the poet Heinrick

Heine playfully derided the philosopher. It was one of

Freud’s favourite quotations. Classical philosophers were prone to the belief that they could arrive at a state of certain knowledge and/or uncover an irreducible principle; some examples are Plato’s theory of Forms, Descartes’ notion of cogito, or Locke’s tabula rasa self.

One can see in such ideas a manifestation of omnipotent thinking and

* This chapter is a modified version of Working intersubjectively: what does it mean for theory and therapy? In: E. Hopper & H. Weinberg (Eds.) (2011), The Social Unconscious in

 

Chapter One - Working Intersubjectively: Theory and Therapy

ePub

I do not think we should always try to understand…In this connection I tend to leave things unresolved, in mid-air, incomplete (“no closure”).

—Foulkes, 1964, p. 287

With his nightcaps and the tatters of his dressing-gown, he patches up the gaps in the structure of the universe.

—Heine, quoted in Freud, 1933, p. 161

“With his nightcaps and the tatters…” is how the poet Heinrick Heine playfully derided the philosopher. It was one of Freud's favourite quotations. Classical philosophers were prone to the belief that they could arrive at a state of certain knowledge and/or uncover an irreducible principle; some examples are Plato's theory of Forms, Descartes’ notion of cogito, or Locke's tabula rasa self. One can see in such ideas a manifestation of omnipotent thinking and the search for absolutes: in modern philosophy, such thinking might be dubbed “foundationalism”, the notion that what one needs above all else is a secure and knowable foundation, and that once achieved, then all things are fall into place (Rorty, 1980, 1982). At one level, Freud knew such ideas to be pretensions; this is why he resisted trying to convert his psychoanalysis, which he saw as a science, into a new fabricated “view of the universe” or “Weltanschauung”. In fact, Freud believed that psychoanalysis could find its place within the more modest scientific worldview which already existed. It could be argued, however, that Freud fell into a different, but related trap: he thought he had discovered the irreducible principles of mental life, its ultimate structuring principles (of the unconscious, repression, infantile sexuality) or blueprint of the mind (Spence, 1987). The analyst, by virtue of his training, was seen to be in a privileged position and with his interpretations could patch up, so to speak, the gaps in the structure of the patient's mind. At a theoretical level, Freud conceptualised an isolated mind, a “one-body psychology”, and a knowing analyst guided by this new branch of medical science. Of course, this is not to suggest that Freud's thought is consistent or entirely under his sovereign control; clearly, Freud's ideas were constantly worked, re-worked, and amended. In fact, Freud knew something of the irony which links writing and discovering, having remarked, “I invented psychoanalysis because it had no literature” (cited by Roazen, 1971).

 

Chapter Two - Personal Horizons, Unformulated Experience, and Group Analysis

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Hans-Georg Gadamer (1900–2002) is one of Heidegger's most famous students (Gadamer, 1985; see introductions by Johnson, 2000, and Lawn, 2006), whose work is situated within Germanic traditions of existentialism and hermeneutics. Gadamer lived through four regimes—Weimar, Third Reich (briefly), Communism, and the Federal Republic—which make his writings all the more interesting, even though social reality was not his object of inquiry. An influential figure, with pan-disciplinary appeal, he has been criticised for, on the one hand, conservatism, with his emphasis on tradition and authority, whilst praised for the precise opposite, his valuation of freedom, trust in dialogue, and rejection of closure (Gadamer, 2006, in conversation, explores such controversies).

As we saw in the preceding chapter, there is considerable interest in applying hermeneutic (and narrative) ideas to the psychoanalytic project (Spence, 1982, 1987; Steele, 1979), which in part is a reaction against Freud's ideal of the analyst as detached observer and of psychoanalysis modeled on the image of the conquering scientist. This chapter shows how Gadamer's hermeneutics has an equal and compelling relevance to group analysis.

 

CHAPTER TWO Personal horizons, unformulated experience, and group analysis

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CHAPTER TWO

Personal horizons, unformulated experience, and group analysis*

H

ans-Georg Gadamer (1900–2002) is one of Heidegger’s most famous students (Gadamer, 1985; see introductions by

Johnson, 2000, and Lawn, 2006), whose work is situated within

Germanic traditions of existentialism and hermeneutics. Gadamer lived through four regimes—Weimar, Third Reich (briefly), Communism, and the Federal Republic—which make his writings all the more interesting, even though social reality was not his object of inquiry. An influential figure, with pan-disciplinary appeal, he has been criticised for, on the one hand, conservatism, with his emphasis on tradition and authority, whilst praised for the precise opposite, his valuation of freedom, trust in dialogue, and rejection of closure (Gadamer, 2006, in conversation, explores such controversies).

As we saw in the preceding chapter, there is considerable interest in applying hermeneutic (and narrative) ideas to the psychoanalytic project (Spence, 1982, 1987; Steele, 1979), which in part is a reaction against Freud’s ideal of the analyst as detached observer and of

 

CHAPTER THREE Perspectivism, pragmatism, group analysis

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CHAPTER THREE

Perspectivism, pragmatism, group analysis

F

oulkes wrote little on his philosophy, and what there is dispersed and suggestive rather than systematic (Cohn, 1996). This is consistent with a man who travelled light regarding theory and whose pragmatic approach resulted in his keeping a distance from any overarching viewpoint. Dahlin (1991) contends that, “Foulkes might have not felt the need for a covering metatheory. Consequently, he never composed one and left the problem to his followers” (p. 28). Is this a weakness, the consequence of an absence of theory, or a strength, a refusal to be bound by the omnipotence of “one” theory? This chapter favours the latter view, seeing it as advantageous that Foulkes did not anchor group analysis to a master perspective or any single foundation, but by the same token, group analysis cannot be a theoretical and nor can it afford complacency about its existence and need for development

(Weegmann, 2004b). Unfortunately, perhaps, group analysis moved rather slowly away from its parent discipline, psychoanalysis, in its quest to develop new models of understanding and languages with which to characterise group life. Foulkes’ loyalty to psychoanalysis, even “loss of nerve”, may have inhibited attempts to draw upon other potential models or to exploit them more fully (Dalal, 1998; Stacey,

 

Chapter Three - Perspectivism, Pragmatism, Group Analysis

ePub

Foulkes wrote little on his philosophy, and what there is dispersed and suggestive rather than systematic (Cohn, 1996). This is consistent with a man who travelled light regarding theory and whose pragmatic approach resulted in his keeping a distance from any overarching viewpoint. Dahlin (1991) contends that, “Foulkes might have not felt the need for a covering metatheory. Consequently, he never composed one and left the problem to his followers” (p. 28). Is this a weakness, the consequence of an absence of theory, or a strength, a refusal to be bound by the omnipotence of “one” theory? This chapter favours the latter view, seeing it as advantageous that Foulkes did not anchor group analysis to a master perspective or any single foundation, but by the same token, group analysis cannot be a theoretical and nor can it afford complacency about its existence and need for development (Weegmann, 2004b). Unfortunately, perhaps, group analysis moved rather slowly away from its parent discipline, psychoanalysis, in its quest to develop new models of understanding and languages with which to characterise group life. Foulkes’ loyalty to psychoanalysis, even “loss of nerve”, may have inhibited attempts to draw upon other potential models or to exploit them more fully (Dalal, 1998; Stacey, 2003). If group analysis stands in need of new developments and ways of conceptualising and researching its practice, then philosophical perspectives are one way of prompting this.

 

Chapter Four - The Articulated Space of Social Unconsciousness

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Although Foulkes (e.g., 1973–1974) proposed a concept of the social unconscious, traversing an individual, “dynamic unconscious”, it was not developed in theory. Exploring textual tensions within the corpus of Foulkes' work, Dalal (1998) argues that Foulkes ultimately collapses a potentially radical concept of the social unconscious into a more biologically derived, relatively static, “foundation matrix”; a foundation matrix where, in the minimal description of Foulkes (1971), group members, “have the same qualities as a species, the same anatomy and physiology, and also perhaps archaic traces of ancient experiences” (p. 212). As all theories are developed in response to that which is missing, Dalal (2001) reminds us that “the notion of the social unconscious seeks to compensate for…the absence of the social in much psychoanalytic discourse. Thus at the very least, the phrase brings some notion of the social into the discursive frame” (p. 539). However, in Dalal's judgment, Foulkes' concept of the social unconscious remained “weak”.

 

CHAPTER FOUR The articulated space of social unconsciousness

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CHAPTER FOUR

The articulated space of social unconsciousness

A

lthough Foulkes (e.g., 1973–1974) proposed a concept of the social unconscious, traversing an individual, “dynamic unconscious”, it was not developed in theory. Exploring textual tensions within the corpus of Foulkes’ work, Dalal (1998) argues that

Foulkes ultimately collapses a potentially radical concept of the social unconscious into a more biologically derived, relatively static, “foundation matrix”; a foundation matrix where, in the minimal description of

Foulkes (1971), group members, “have the same qualities as a species, the same anatomy and physiology, and also perhaps archaic traces of ancient experiences” (p. 212). As all theories are developed in response to that which is missing, Dalal (2001) reminds us that “the notion of the social unconscious seeks to compensate for … the absence of the social in much psychoanalytic discourse. Thus at the very least, the phrase brings some notion of the social into the discursive frame” (p. 539).

 

Chapter Five - Reforming Subjectivity: Personal, Familial, and Group Implications of English Reformation

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Take any event, process, or fact and place it in history. Once done everything changes, since that event, process, or fact, gains the context of time, location, and movement. In other words, place something in history and it becomes possible to see it as history; history opens the door to contingency. All historical writing involves an interpretive dimension, since we can never be sure that we have comprehended the horizontal context in which the object of study occurred. The past is always there, but the activity of the present, including that of the historian, works upon it. Man is a symbolising creature. We cannot transcend the symbolic realm, and history is a discipline undertaken by those with particular foci and projects; further, the objects of historical study are past symbolic activities. History is the history of previous, meaningful being, and historians are themselves products of history (Burrow, 2007).

The Reformation, the subject of this chapter, is an interesting case in point, as it is a colligatory concept that joins up countless lesser changes into the retrospective, envisaged “movement”, by which people redefined their worlds (Haigh, 1995). Is it though, part of a “continuum of history”, or, “an extraordinary historical moment”? (Collinson, 2003); because the redefining was so extensive, the Reformation came to signify a vast watershed, with new confessional communities feeling invisibly united by images of their greater communion or brotherhood. If meaningful being is always underway, never settled, then an element of scepticism is inherent to the historian's craft. E. H. Carr, in What is History? (1987), gives the example of “the historian who has decided for his own reasons that Caesar's crossing of that petty stream, the Rubicon, is a fact of history, whereas the crossing of the Rubicon by millions of other people…interests nobody at all” (pp. 11–12). Carr thus concludes that the old dogma that “the facts speak for themselves” is untrue.

 

CHAPTER FIVE Reforming subjectivity: personal, familial, and group implications of English reformation

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CHAPTER FIVE

Reforming subjectivity: personal, familial, and group implications of English reformation

T

ake any event, process, or fact and place it in history. Once done everything changes, since that event, process, or fact, gains the context of time, location, and movement. In other words, place something in history and it becomes possible to see it as history; history opens the door to contingency. All historical writing involves an interpretive dimension, since we can never be sure that we have comprehended the horizontal context in which the object of study occurred.

The past is always there, but the activity of the present, including that of the historian, works upon it. Man is a symbolising creature. We cannot transcend the symbolic realm, and history is a discipline undertaken by those with particular foci and projects; further, the objects of historical study are past symbolic activities. History is the history of previous, meaningful being, and historians are themselves products of history

 

CHAPTER SIX An exclusionary matrix: degenerates, addicts, homosexuals

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CHAPTER SIX

An exclusionary matrix: degenerates, addicts, homosexuals

T

he concept of “matrix” is central to group analysis, signifying, as it does, those supposed invisible but highly effective connections which bond persons, “a psychic network of communication which is the property of the group and is not only interpersonal but transpersonal” (Foulkes, 1968, p. 182). Foulkes extends the idea of the matrix to the “mother-soil” of the social unconscious, in which people are said to “share a fundamental, mental matrix (foundation matrix)”

(Foulkes, 1973, p. 228). Two aspects of his views are of relevance to the current chapter; first, that the matrix is (usually) conceived in a positive manner, and, second, that it emphasises that which is shared and disemphasises those excluded and unincorporated elements who exist on another side, as it were, who stand on uncommon ground and who are thus seen as threats to the symbolic social body.

This chapter explores this “other side”, that of a negative matrix and site of non-incorporation. It focuses on the way the nineteenthcentury culture conceived of certain types of deviant persons and groups. Importantly, there is a footnote here concerning correlations between group theories and some actual groups that are to be found in this end-of-the-nineteenth-century cultural mix; the coincidence of the two helped to identify and imagine several feared groups, “dangerous

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Chapter Six - An exclusionary Matrix: Degenerates, Addicts, Homosexuals

ePub

The concept of “matrix” is central to group analysis, signifying, as it does, those supposed invisible but highly effective connections which bond persons, “a psychic network of communication which is the property of the group and is not only interpersonal but transpersonal” (Foulkes, 1968, p. 182). Foulkes extends the idea of the matrix to the “mother-soil” of the social unconscious, in which people are said to “share a fundamental, mental matrix (foundation matrix)” (Foulkes, 1973, p. 228). Two aspects of his views are of relevance to the current chapter; first, that the matrix is (usually) conceived in a positive manner, and, second, that it emphasises that which is shared and disemphasises those excluded and unincorporated elements who exist on another side, as it were, who stand on uncommon ground and who are thus seen as threats to the symbolic social body.

This chapter explores this “other side”, that of a negative matrix and site of non-incorporation. It focuses on the way the nineteenth-century culture conceived of certain types of deviant persons and groups. Importantly, there is a footnote here concerning correlations between group theories and some actual groups that are to be found in this end-of-the-nineteenth-century cultural mix; the coincidence of the two helped to identify and imagine several feared groups, “dangerous classes” (e.g., immigrants, anarchists, women's activists), who, from the dominant viewpoint, represented monstrous possibilities within society (Barrows, 1981; Weegmann, 2008).

 

CHAPTER SEVEN A modern monster? The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

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CHAPTER SEVEN

A modern monster? The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

G

othic fiction emerged as a popular genre in British fiction in the period 1760–1820. It had revivals and a late life, although the stage at which Gothic veers off into detective fiction, horror, or science fiction is a blurred one. Contrasting with its ordered, Classical alternative and predecessor, Gothic is associated with new forms and content, including mythical or semi-mythical settings, social transgression, hyperbolic sensualism, sensationalism, and disturbing disjuncture of narrative where no one is sure of what they are seeing or feeling; even the narrators are victim. The readership is participant to the effects, kept in suspense, rendered unsure, fearful (Hurley, 2002; Punter, 1996a).

Traditionally, “Gothic” concerned questions of history and geography, deriving from the Goths who plagued the Roman Empire. The term revived old, and acquired new, derogatory meanings, linking the Germanic tribes to the medieval world. Although the Goths had disappeared, the presence of unenlightened groups had not; nor had the potential for new “dark ages”. New binaries replaced those of old, such as Northern/Southern, medieval/modern, light/dark, Protestant/

 

Chapter Seven - A Modern Monster? The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

ePub

Gothic fiction emerged as a popular genre in British fiction in the period 1760–1820. It had revivals and a late life, although the stage at which Gothic veers off into detective fiction, horror, or science fiction is a blurred one. Contrasting with its ordered, Classical alternative and predecessor, Gothic is associated with new forms and content, including mythical or semi-mythical settings, social transgression, hyperbolic sensualism, sensationalism, and disturbing disjuncture of narrative where no one is sure of what they are seeing or feeling; even the narrators are victim. The readership is participant to the effects, kept in suspense, rendered unsure, fearful (Hurley, 2002; Punter, 1996a).

Traditionally, “Gothic” concerned questions of history and geography, deriving from the Goths who plagued the Roman Empire. The term revived old, and acquired new, derogatory meanings, linking the Germanic tribes to the medieval world. Although the Goths had disappeared, the presence of unenlightened groups had not; nor had the potential for new “dark ages”. New binaries replaced those of old, such as Northern/Southern, medieval/modern, light/dark, Protestant/Catholic, and the like (Mighall, 1999). The past could carry into the present and, moreover, could return it violently from whence it had come. Man himself was subject to reversals and horrific transformation, undermining the assumption of inevitable progress or constancy; images of metamorphosis, transcendence, and fragmentation enticed and threatened humanity at one and the same time (Hurley, 1996). As industrialisation spread, the early symbols of Gothic space, the castles, ruins, and abbeys, were replaced by the city, with its subregions of the slum, centres of vice and the opium den. Brennan (1997) captures many of the abiding principles of Gothic, when he states that it entails a “reevaluation of the subjective and the sublime”, the presence of terror and confusion, boundary-crossing and play upon liminal states as well as an emphasis on the “aesthetics of the dream and nightmare”. Partly coming to his mind during a dream,1 Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886) is a one of the best known examples of late Gothic fiction, containing many of these elements in an explicit, if highly condensed form.

 

CHAPTER EIGHT “And thereby hangs a tale”: narrative dimensions of human life

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CHAPTER EIGHT

“And thereby hangs a tale”: narrative dimensions of human life

W

hether or not there has been the often-claimed, grand scale

“narrative turn” in social sciences, is open to question

(Atkinson, 1997); that a whole range of disciplines have looked to narrative theory and narrative-based research is undeniable.

In his manifesto of narrative psychology, Sarbin (1986, p. 8) proposed that we all, “think, perceive, imagine and make moral choices according to narrative structures”. Narratives create meanings by organiszing episodes, aspects, and, subsequently, accounts of our actions; in the words of the philosopher, we are “story-telling animals” (MacIntyre,

1984). And just as Tomasello (1999) argued that the human species is distinguishable from other primates by our elaborate intersubjectivity and ability to “mind read” each other, so Bruner (2002) argued that our very collective life depends on our ability to organise and express our experience in narrative forms. Time only becomes human time to the extent to which it incorporates this narrative, lived dimension; simply put, there are no people who exist without narrative.

 

Chapter Eight - “And thereby Hangs a Tale”: Narrative Dimensions of Human Life

ePub

Whether or not there has been the often-claimed, grand scale “narrative turn” in social sciences, is open to question (Atkinson, 1997); that a whole range of disciplines have looked to narrative theory and narrative-based research is undeniable. In his manifesto of narrative psychology, Sarbin (1986, p. 8) proposed that we all, “think, perceive, imagine and make moral choices according to narrative structures”. Narratives create meanings by organiszing episodes, aspects, and, subsequently, accounts of our actions; in the words of the philosopher, we are “story-telling animals” (MacIntyre, 1984). And just as Tomasello (1999) argued that the human species is distinguishable from other primates by our elaborate intersubjectivity and ability to “mind read” each other, so Bruner (2002) argued that our very collective life depends on our ability to organise and express our experience in narrative forms. Time only becomes human time to the extent to which it incorporates this narrative, lived dimension; simply put, there are no people who exist without narrative.

 

Chapter Nine - Group Analysis in Contemporary Society

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“The community is represented”, so argued Foulkes (1966 p. 155), “in the treatment room”, including the “valuations” and “norms” of that community. “Community” has changed immeasurably since this was penned and this chapter considers four domains in which group analysis, as therapy and theory, can play a modest role in containing or illuminating some complex issues of the contemporary world. It is not only a question of “modernity” in the singular, for, as Taylor (2004) argues, we live in an era of “multiple modernities”, consisting of divergent amalgams of practices, institutions, and ways of life. And, as Giddens (1991) argues, “…because of the ‘openness’ of social life today, the pluralisation of contexts of action and the diversity of ‘authorities’, lifestyle choice is increasingly important in the constitution of self-identity and daily activity” (p. 5).

Based on the United Kingdom context, but applicable beyond it, the four domains to be addressed are: (a) democracy, where it is argued that group analysis not only promotes novel democratic processes but that such processes have important effects on subjectivity and experiences of agency; (b) an increasing, older adult population, where the contribution of group analysis in assisting older adults to deal with the pressures they face is explored; (c) identity politics, where it is suggested that group-analytic practice can enable new voices to be heard, in this instance that of “carers”; and (d) values, in which it is argued that group analysis exemplifies values of diversity and difference and can actively contribute to the understanding and enhancement of the plural world(s) we now inhabit. At the same time, what group analysis offers needs to be subject to critical scrutiny, so that its own regulative ideals and historical location can be discerned.

 

CHAPTER NINE Group analysis in contemporary society

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CHAPTER NINE

Group analysis in contemporary society

T

he community is represented”, so argued Foulkes (1966 p. 155),

“in the treatment room”, including the “valuations” and “norms” of that community. “Community” has changed immeasurably since this was penned and this chapter considers four domains in which group analysis, as therapy and theory, can play a modest role in containing or illuminating some complex issues of the contemporary world. It is not only a question of “modernity” in the singular, for, as

Taylor (2004) argues, we live in an era of “multiple modernities”, consisting of divergent amalgams of practices, institutions, and ways of life. And, as Giddens (1991) argues, “… because of the ‘openness’ of social life today, the pluralisation of contexts of action and the diversity of ‘authorities’, lifestyle choice is increasingly important in the constitution of self-identity and daily activity” (p. 5).

Based on the United Kingdom context, but applicable beyond it, the four domains to be addressed are: (a) democracy, where it is argued that group analysis not only promotes novel democratic processes but that such processes have important effects on subjectivity and experiences of agency; (b) an increasing, older adult population, where the contribution of group analysis in assisting older adults to deal with the pressures they face is explored; (c) identity politics, where

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