Political Theory and Mental Health

September 27, 2023 - September 29, 2023
Section for Political Theory and History of Ideas of the German Political Science Association, University of Bremen, Germany

ATLANTIC Hotel Universum, Wiener Str. 4
Bremen 28359

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University of Oxford

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Panel on Political Theory and Mental Health

Part of the conference ‘Political Theory in Times of Uncertainty’ (www.timesofuncertainty.org)

In person, ATLANTIC Hotel Universum, Wiener Str. 4, 28359 Bremen, September 27-29, 2023 

Convenors: Jasper Friedrich and Emily Dyson (University of Oxford)

Please send abstracts of max. 500 words to [email protected] by January 8, 2023.

Panel description:
In recent years, there has, especially in the Anglophone world, been much talk of a ‘crisis’ of mental health. Yet, despite the existence of rich traditions of theorizing across politics and psychology, political theory has yet to deal with these contemporary issues of mental health in much depth. How should we conceptualize this ‘crisis’ and its relation to other crises faced by the contemporary world and the existential uncertainty that comes with them? Is there a mental health crisis or just an ideological medicalization of reasonable discontent with a crisis-ridden social system? Can we see mental health issues as the subjective manifestation of the various objective crises of capitalism? Or are we dealing more specifically with a crisis of care and social reproduction? Does a solution to the mental health ‘crisis’ need to involve the amelioration of the objective conditions of uncertainty, or is it worth trying to equip individuals to better be able to endure uncertainty? What role do mental health care and the disciplines of psychology, psychoanalysis, and psychiatry play – and what are their political stakes? In order to answer these questions, we invite papers that theorize the connection between mental health and politics. We are especially interested in interdisciplinary approaches that combine political and social theory with, for instance, radical psychiatry, philosophy of mind, Mad studies, or (critiques of) the traditional psy-disciplines.

Conference description:
Without exaggeration, uncertainty can be described as the signature of our time. Today, a multitude of crises and challenges confronts us with uncertainty in an often existential manner: from the climate crisis to the COVID pandemic, from the crises of neoliberal hegemony and liberal democracies to the recently re-emerging conflicts about the distribution of power in global society. Not only are possible solutions uncertain, but it is also impossible to anticipate which new crises and challenges may arise soon. This situation demands the reflection by political theory and the history of ideas, as it brings political coping strategies to their limits and casts doubt on established narratives of modern political theory. What is needed, therefore, is an open exploration of problems beyond well-rehearsed paradigmatic positions of contemporary political theory. Uncertainty is not only a pressing problem of our time, but a constant companion of the history of political thought – sometimes more and sometimes less so. Reflecting on the problems of our time therefore not only benefits from a synchronic look at the plural theoretical offerings of the present, but also necessitates a diachronic look at the vicissitudes of the history of political ideas. Moreover, the uncertainty of the present is unquestionably a problem that cannot be approached solely through the perspective of political theory in a narrow sense: exploratory dialogues between political theory and other sub-disciplines of political science are therefore not only appealing, but indispensable. Beyond the disciplinary perspective of political science, it is essential to include other disciplines that push beyond the narrow viewpoint of Western thought from the outset: the uncertainties we are currently confronted with are mostly global problems, and they belong to a world which is itself characterized by massive inequalities, power asymmetries, conflicts, and epistemic dissonances that not only amplify the uncertainties and insecurities, but also constitute them in the first place. The congress takes this complex and challenging situation as an opportunity to invite a joint reflection on the problem. It is open to contributions from all directions and paradigms of political theory and the history of ideas placing a strong emphasis on the exchange between political theory and other sub- and neighbouring disciplines. Formats that bring political theory and other sub- or neighbouring disciplines of political science into a cooperative or controversial dialogue, and that involve international colleagues are therefore particularly welcome. Colleagues interested in theory from other areas of political science or other disciplines are warmly invited to submit proposals. The congress is organized by the Section for Political Theory and History of Ideas of the German Political Science Association (DVPW). Information can be found on the homepage of the congress: http://www.timesofuncertainty.org/ 

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