Reading Martin Weegmann's book has been a pleasure. His assured writing style flows, opening vistas and horizons for group analysis by moving elegantly from philosophy to history to cultural studies. He has an inquiring mind, not hemmed in by established "givens".
My own journey through psychoanalysis and group analysis began some sixty years ago. As an ardent student of psychoanalysis, I found the theory of the time restricting but enjoyed exploring the historical context out of which psychoanalysis had evolved. I discovered group analysis, established by S. H. Foulkes, who was my training analyst. The "givens" of group analysis were bringing together the "vertical" psychoanalytic exploration of personal depths with the "horizontal" dimension of persons as social agents; foregrounds and backgrounds, figures/grounds, our existence as social entities. Group analytic theory licences freedom to search the disciplines of social theory, historical psychology, economics, and neuroscience, the latter as developed by Kurt Goldstein. Foulkes was assistant to Goldstein's network theory of brain physiology which laid the ground for Foulkes' proposal that humans are intrinsically interconnected as nodes, "synapses", in social networks, later described by his collaborator, Norbert Elias, as "figurations". Martin Weegmann draws from philosophers Nietzsche,
Gadamer, and Dewey to illuminate the depths and widths of our subjectivity in ever-moving contexts. I used to wonder at his interest in medieval and reformation history, witchcraft, and the history of addiction, and now I see how they help us recognise shifting social fields of inclusion and exclusiveness.
My own professional journey has led me to explore and appreciate self psychology, as established by Heinz Kohut and his collaborators in the 1970's, finding a "good fit" with our group analytic theory and clinical practices as applied to small groups, and later with median and large groups and therapeutic community practices. Martin Weegmann acknowledges other group analysts who have widened our horizons.
At the same time as reading this deep and sensitive text, I am reading Skidelski and Skidelski's (2012) "How Much is Enough?", a superbly crafted exploration of humans as subjects to economic theory and practices. It is indeed refreshing to follow good, clear expositions of how we are always enmeshed in societies which practice differing economic approaches.
Another book, by Kuriloff (2013), is an important study of how psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic societies have dealt or not dealt with the aftermath of Nazi domination and its atrocities. She has studied the impact on psychoanalytic societies in a range of countries and, to my mind, has shown us how much they differ in their immersion in their cultural histories.
I bring these works in, as they illuminate our recent history, as does Martin Weegmann with his knowledge of early-modern and reformation history. We are always repeating former histories, as Santayana wrote, if we fail to see our historical origins. And the history of group analysis is being written as we better understand our origins.
My own exploration of the place of group analysis in contemporary society has led me to both overlapping and separate narratives. I have gained so much pleasure and knowledge from this book, which merits wide readership and discussion. I deeply appreciate Martin Weegmann's invitation to introduce his essays, explorers saluting each other as our journeys cross and pass.
Malcolm Pines London