Skip to main navigation menu Skip to main content Skip to site footer


Vol. 1 No. 1 (2021): From Crisis to Desire: Psychoanalysis for an ethical response to current social scenarios

The affectivization of the public sphere: the contribution of psychoanalysis in understanding and counteracting the current crisis scenarios

April 16, 2021


Current Western societies are characterized by a deep anthropological and socio-institutional crisis. The many signs of this turmoil indicate a creeping affectivization of the public sphere.  Psychoanalysis can play a pivotal role in understanding the current socio-institutional scenario beyond a reductionist splitting between individual and society. The affective valence of the forms of social action stimulates and offers the opportunity, for psychoanalytic psychology, to broaden its horizons concerning problems and processes which are crucial to the future challenges. Addressing affective dynamics enables fundamental advances to be made in understanding the reactions against uncertainty and the loss of social bonds. In a dynamic semiotic perspective, affects are forms of embodied, a-semantic, hyper-generalized sensemaking processes. They pragmatically ground cognition, and their roots are cultural, linking forms of intersubjectivity and ways of thinking and acting. From this standpoint, a model of counteractions and interventions can be organized in terms of the development of  semiotic capital. This consists of intangible symbolic resources that enable people to internalize the systemic bond to the public sphere and experience it as a basic drive for their thoughts and actions. Semiotic capital instantiates what is psychoanalytically defined as ‘thirdness’, namely the acknowledgment of otherness. The promotion and implementation of ‘intermediate settings’, with social practices where meaningful interpersonal bonds are active, can drive social development in terms of thirdness.