Psycho-societal Interpretation of the Unconscious Dimensions in Everyday Life

Henning Salling Olesen, Thomas Leithäuser

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This article presents an approach to researching subjective dimensions of everyday life with the ambition of understanding the unconscious dimensions of social life and social relations, drawing on psychoanalytic theory and interpretative practices, while at the same time theorizing these unconscious dimensions as imprints of societal relations mediated through social interaction.
It combines a theory of subjectivity and an interpretation methodology based on hermeneutic experiences from text analysis and psychoanalysis. One element is a theory of socialization which conceptualizes subjectivity as an individually specific capacity, with conscious as well as unconscious levels built on experience of social interactions. The other element is a methodology for empirical research of social agency and communication in everyday life which takes advantage of hermeneutic experiences from psychoanalysis, condensed in the notion of scenic understanding, attending to conscious meanings as well as unconscious meanings that may relate to sensual and bodily experiences

The article introduces Alfred Lorenzer’s theory and methodology for interpreting cultural phenomena and highlights his most important ideas about the early societal influence in the psyche, and the framework for interpreting the connection between this early social genesis of the psyche and later interaction with social environments throughout the life course. The approach emphasizes the bodilyness of socialization, but extends it to the understanding of language acquisition and language use, working out an unconscious dimension within the Wittgenstein’ian notion of language games. Finally the article describes a practical implementation of scenic understanding, and gives a couple of examples of interpretation of mundane cases
Translated title of the contributionPsyko-social tolkning af hverdagslivets ubevidste dimensioner
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMethods of Research into the Unconscious : Applying Psychoanalytic Ideas to Social Science
EditorsKalina Stamenova, R. D. Hinshelwood
Number of pages17
Publication dateNov 2018
ISBN (Print)978-1-138-32661-3, 9781138326620
ISBN (Electronic)978-0-429-44975-8
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018


  • psycho-societal, deep hermeneutics, unconscious, interpretation

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