About the Society

The Society for Psychoanalytic Inquiry (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 a critical theory of individuality and investigation into the sources of social authority, 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 of individualization and psychologization, and not immune to its currents. Too often it has been a cover for therapeutic adjustment.  The recent pop-philosophical revival of psychoanalysis throws a net of speculative concepts over the world and experience, all the better to keep it them arm’s length. Critical theory aims at the opposite: It discloses the force of a reality through concepts that are, in one stroke, overwhelmed by that reality. To the end of opening the actuality of the unconscious —an actuality concealed in a fragmented history and an uncertain future—SPI engages in activities of inquiry, debate, collaboration and contestation.

The idea for SPI grew out of conversation between students, artists, and social activists who saw the need for self-education, self-exploration, and social-psychological inquiry apart from the existing landscape of academic departments and training institutes. They took as a (problematic) model the Institute for Social Research (the "Frankfurt School"), and combined their dual interests in critical social theory and psychoanalysis through public events and study groups. They have organized around a number of ongoing workgroups. These are, at present: Analytic Social Psychology, Surrealism, and the Politics of Mental Health. These groups meet regularly for scholarly exchange, study, and debate. The groups also regularly organize public events, including the content for SPI's biannual summits. SPI is a nonprofit organization. It has put on a conference, "Which Way Forward for Psychoanalysis?" at the University of Chicago. It has sponsored an experimental procedure, "Experiments in Talking." It publishes a blog, and has a number of forthcoming writing projects. Members are in New York City, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Chicago.