Large-Group Psychology: Racism, Societal Divisions, Narcissistic Leaders, and Who We Are Now, by Vamik D. Volkan, Phoenix Publishing House Ltd, Oxfordshire, UK, 2020, 139 pp.

Review by Cuneyt Iscan, MD

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Vamik Volkan’s contributions to psychoanalytic literature are numerous. His earlier publications are mainly clinical and a reflection of his extensive work and experience with severely disturbed patients, patients with psychosis, and severe personality disorders. Primitive Internalized Object Relations: A Clinical Study of Schizophrenic, Borderline and Narcissistic Patients was published in 1976. Linking Objects and Linking Phenomena was published in 1981. Six Steps in the Treatment of Borderline Personality Organization and The Infantile Psychotic Self: Understanding and Treating Schizophrenics and Other Difficult Patients was published in 1995. In these publications and other publications that followed he has a unique style of presenting his cases in their totality. These cases are breathtakingly beautiful, deep and moving. His contributions to the treatment of psychotic, borderline and narcissistic conditions are not merely theoretical constructs. They are heartfelt, profound, and genuine, at the same time readily available to a wider audience through most accessible language. Vamik Volkan has the magic of talking about the most complex phenomena plainly. His work in this realm is to inspire not only psychoanalysts, psychiatrists but generations of mental health workers.

Turning our focus to his new book, we are in the territory of his “second career” namely the study of Large-Group Psychology. The psychoanalytic study of the human experience within the context of the group is not entirely a new ground. Wilfred Bion’s important contributions in this area allowed for deep insights about group dynamics by introducing an approach to the group as a unit as well as each individual’s experience within the group (Bion, 2000). Tavistock Model offers ideas about how a group operates as one unit, akin to a biological organism. Moreover, this model based on Bion’s ideas delineates differences between large groups and small groups. Volkan’s approach breaks a new ground by carrying our understanding of the group dynamics to a much larger context and offers a novel application of psychoanalytic theory to study politics, international, ethnic, racial conflicts and beyond<…>

American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 81: 244–248, May, 2021.

Link to Online Publication [fulltext can be requested from the library].

About the Author

Cuneyt Iscan, MD, is a Psychoanalyst Member of BPSI and an Assistant Professor at the Department of Psychiatry, University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, MA.

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