New Books In Psychoanalysis

Neil Altman, "White Privilege: Psychoanalytic Perspectives" (Routledge, 2020)



Neil Altman’s White Privilege: Psychoanalytic Perspectives (Routledge, 2020) is a slip (80 pages including references and the index) of a book that reads as both addendum and antidote to some of the literature aimed at waking white people (Ta-Nahesi-Coates’ “dreamers”) up to the realities of racism. I say antidote as some of that literature (the work of Robin Di Angelo and Ibram X. Kendi come to mind) seems to depend on commands from the super ego to shed the scales from white eyes. On finishing Di Angelo’s White Fragility (which was required reading last summer) I felt both paranoid and ashamed and had to wonder how self-policing was going diminish my racism? Altman’s book intervenes precisely in this potentially deleterious cycle arguing that anti-racist thinking that relies on “should” and “oughts”, are potentially doomed to fail. By attacking the defenses rather than softening them, such efforts run the risk of hardening the racism they set out to transform. Humans hate. Freud tells us it is our first fee