Broadcast: 3&4 Nov, 2022

The course will explore psychoanalytic perspectives on the problem of violence. We will focus on war and genocide, poverty (‘the worst form of violence’ according to Mahatma Gandhi), empire and colonialism, the psychology of Fascism, and the destruction of the environment. We will begin from Freud and then follow the development of psychoanalytic thinking on these topics, considering a range of authors, including Reich, Klein, Marcuse, Fromm, Storr and Rustin. Psychoanalytic insights will be brought together with philosophical perspectives on violence, such as those of Marx, Nietzsche, Foucault, Zizek, Girard, and Levinas.

Schedule –

1st Session: We will engage with Freud’s thoughts on the nature of violence – studying ‘Totem and Taboo’ (1913), ‘Beyond the Pleasure Principle’ (1920) and ‘Civilization and its Discontents’ (1930).

2nd Session: We will examine the development of Freud’s ideas by the major figures who followed him, such as Wilhelm Reich and Melanie Klein.

3nd Session: We will explore the writings of later psychoanalytic thinkers on violence, including Fromm, Marcuse, Anthony Storr and Michael Rustin.

4th Session: Finally, we will bring this body of psychoanalytic ideas together with the philosophical perspectives of the classic thinkers who were Freud’s (near) contemporaries – Marx and Nietzsche – and with the current thinking of Foucault, Zizek, Girard and Levinas.

Click here to access course reading material.


Keith Barrett BA PhD received his first degree in philosophy from Oxford University after having spent three years working as a nursing assistant in psychiatric hospitals. It was in this practical context that Keith first encountered existentialism and psychoanalysis. He then began postgraduate studies on both Freud and Heidegger, leading finally to a PhD from the Wellcome Centre for the History of Medicine at UCL for a dissertation on ‘Freud’s Self-Analysis’. Keith has been a philosophy teacher for over 20 years, and has been delivering courses at the Freud Museum for over a decade, where he has developed a series of introductory lectures on Freud, psychoanalysis after Freud, and the overlap of philosophy and psychoanalysis.

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