The theme of this issue is the contribution that psychoanalysis can make to contemporary social debate. The authors unpack some of the unconscious mechanisms and defences at work in social, cultural and political life. Alan Shuttleworth contrasts the humanistic aspect of the psychoanalytic tradition, with the more instrumental and standardizing methodologies associated with other sciences, particularly neuroscience. He argues that the two are coming closer together in a dialogue which is creative for both. Andrew Cooper analyzes some of the anxieties and fantasies that underpin New Labour's obsessional monitoring and auditing. He suggests that the transition from the well-established structures of the welfare state to new and uncharted waters has generated intense anxiety in policy makers and managers around fears of loss of control, hence the defence of controlling measures. Helen Lucey and Diane Reay look at unconscious anxiety in a different context, that of the world of secondary school children growing up in a stressed inner city area.
The authors describe how deeply children living in neighbourhoods beset by poverty, social antagonism and crime take into themselves their experience of damage and danger. Richard Graham provides a psychoanalytic critique of Dennis Potter's Karaoke, focussing on the metaphor of karaoke as symbolic of inauthentic kinds of performance or impersonation. Jennifer Wakelyn reflects on objects, their meaning for us and our feelings towards them. She finds, in her study of still life painting, an evocation of our most basic relationships to sensory experience.