The Societal Unconscious

Psychosocial Perspectives on Adult Learning


The Societal Unconscious presents an innovative development of theory and methodology for adult education and learning research, recognizing psychodynamic dimensions of learning processes. With few exceptions the unconscious has been neglected in critical adult education research. The psychosocial approach in this book seeks to re-integrate the societal and the psychodynamic dimensions in analyzing adult learners and learning processes.

The book responds to contemporary awareness of the societal and cultural nature of subjectivity with a new material and dialectic psychosocial theory, comprising conscious as well as unconscious levels. Tracing interdisciplinary inspirations it sets a new broad horizon for in-depth understanding of learning in everyday life.

A number of empirical analyses demonstrate the entanglement of societal and psychodynamic dimensions of learning. Firstly, a part of the chapters deals with the complex subjective continuities and discontinuities in individual learning and career. Secondly, other chapters comprise analyses of leadership and the social psychology of organizational processes, and the psycho-social aspects of institutional regeneration. Thirdly, the book presents outlooks into the social psychology dimensions of wider societal and political processes, including "identity politics" and xenophobia. A last chapter finalizes the theoretical basis of the methodology.
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Henning Salling Olesen is professor in Adult and Continuing Education Research at University of Roskilde, and founding director for the Graduate School of Lifelong Learning. He was the chair for ESREA 1998-2013 and is co-editor of the European Journal for Research on the Education and Learning of Adults (RELA). He is advisory professor at East China Normal University, Shanghai, and was conferred a honorary doctorate by the University of Tampere, 2014.
Laura Formenti
The European Society for Research on the Education of Adults (ESREA)
Notes on Contributors
Kirsten Weber in Memoriam
Introduction: The Scholarly Landscape
Henning Salling Olesen

Part 1: The Psychoanalytic Inspiration

1. Ambivalence and Experience: Un-Conscious Dimensions of Working Women’s Social Learning Women’s Lives and Experiences
Kirsten Weber
2. Everyday Life and the Societal Unconscious
Thomas Leithäuser

Part 2: Understanding Learning and Learning Careers

3. Aggression, Recognition and Qualification: On the Social Psychology of Adult Education in Everyday Life
Kirsten Weber
4. The Relevance of Biographical Studies for Empowerment Strategies
Regina Becker-Schmidt
5. The Milk Lady: A Nurturing Identification Object
Karsten Mellon
6. What Does It Mean to Become a Church Minister?
Sissel Finholt-Pedersen

Part 3: Understanding Interaction and Learning in Organizations and Institutions

7. A Psychosocial Study of Collegial Relations among Secondary School Teachers in Times of Reform
Åse Høgsbroe Lading
8. Effective Leadership? A Case Study in Work Psychodynamics
Peter Henrik Raae
9. The Uses of Objects: Reflexive Learning in the Epistemic Museum
Lynn Froggett

Part 4: Understanding Subjective Dimensions of Political Processes

10. Psychoanalyis, Fundamentalism, Critical Theory and the Unconscious: Adult Education, Islamic Fundamentalism and the Subjectivity of Omniscience
Linden West
11. Cultural Identity, Learning and Social Prejudice: The Politicization of Subjectivity in Former Yugoslavia
Henning Salling Olesen

Part 5: A Psychosocial Materialism

12. Socialization, Language, and Scenic Understanding. Alfred Lorenzer’s Contribution to a Psychosocietal Methodology
Henning Salling Olesen and Kirsten Weber

This book will be essential for scholars and advanced students working in interdisciplinary boundary zones in social and cultural sciences, education and psychology and other disciplines.
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