And what of the value of dreams in regard to our knowledge of the future? That, of course, is quite out of the question. One would like to substitute the words: in regard to our knowledge of the past. For in every sense a dream has its origin in the past. The ancient belief that dreams reveal the future is not indeed entirely devoid of the truth. By representing a wish as fulfilled the dream certainly leads us into the future; but this future, which the dreamer accepts as his present, has been shaped in the likeness of the past by the indestructible wish.
— Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams
SPI exists in order to reevaluate lines of thought and practice abandoned when the critical edge of psychoanalysis became blunted. We live in times of general exhaustion, confusion and reaction. Political and social ills appear as an avalanche of personal troubles. Psychoanalysis, treated as critical theory of individuality, opposes conformist psychologies. Psychoanalysis can evaluate the significance of the current situation—how we have arrived here, why it is so—and provide tools for analysis from within. Yet, psychoanalysis is itself a part of this history and not immune to its currents. Contemporary uses of psychoanalysis, for therapeutic adjustment or speculative ornamentation, grasp the world with firmly established concepts—all the better to hold it at arm’s length. Critical theory aims at the opposite: it seeks to expose itself to the force of a reality that at once discloses itself through, and overwhelms the concepts of, that theory. To the end of opening the multiple and critical potential of psychoanalytic concepts—a critical potential concealed in a fragmented history and an uncertain future—SPI engages in activities of inquiry, debate, collaboration and contestation.
— Summer 2014
The idea for the Society for Psychoanalytic Inquiry (SPI) grew out of conversation between students, artists, and social activists who saw the need for a new kind of project to foster self-education, self-exploration, and social-psychological inquiry apart from the existing landscape of academic departments and training institutes.
Taking as inspiration the Institute for Social Research (the “Frankfurt School”), we combined our dual interests of critical social theory and psychoanalysis through our public events and study groups, including a seminar in Chicago on Reading Freud’s Dreams. Our prenatal event was a panel discussion on the social and political implications of psychoanalysis with philosopher Robert Hullot-Kentor (School of Visual Arts) at the Left Forum conference in New York City in March, 2012.
We registered as an education nonprofit organization in March, 2013, and held our first major conference the following May, “Which Way Forward for Psychoanalysis?” at the University of Chicago. Our conference featured over 30 analysts, scholars, and students as speakers, and drew nearly 200 visitors from the general public.
Since then, we have formed a study group on Analytic Social Psychology, which meets regularly to discuss readings and ongoing research, and host biannual national summits to discuss work in progress and include more individuals in our conversations. We have members in New York City, Philadelphia, and Chicago.
Some happenings, this last year: Website launch (Oct. ’14); “In the Trenches with Marx and Freud,” with Peter Hudis and Robert Galatzer-Levy, Chicago (Aug. ’14); Summer Summit, with political theorist Isaac D. Balbus, Chicago (Aug. ’14); “Final Solutions: On the Roots of Violence in Modern Society,” political writer Sabby Sagall in conversation with analyst Alan Scholom, Chicago (Jun. ’14); “Insight for All: Psychoanalytic Help for Homeless People and their Families,” with analyst Deborah Anna Luepnitz, Philadelphia (May ’14); Inaugural Winter Summit, with analyst Tracy Morgan, Philadelphia (Jan. ’14) “The Science of Sex Today,” with J. Michael Bailey, Stuart Michaels, and Erika Schmidt, Chicago (Dec. ’13); Pilot “Summer Institute” project, with analyst Michael Garfinkle, Philadelphia (Aug. ’13); “Which Way Forward for Psychoanalysis?” Inaugural Conference, University of Chicago (May ’13); Incorporated as educational and scientific nonprofit organization (Mar. ’13)