The malady of the ideal and the assault on nature

  • 7 Accesses


The environmental catastrophe now unfolding challenges the grip that the ideal – a place without time, loss, vulnerability, or dependency – has on us who live in contemporary society, a grip constantly reinforced by the cultural arrangements of neoliberalism. The seductive lure of the ideal faces us with three possibilities: to possess it; to “be it”; or to refuse it. Failure to possess the ideal arouses the grievance and ressentiment of which Nietzsche and Scheler first spoke. Failure to be the ideal arouses shame. Ressentiment and shame destroy the connections we have with each other and with the ecosystems that surround us, while constituting structures of feeling provoked by and provoking a civilization at risk of collapse.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Access options

Buy single article

Instant unlimited access to the full article PDF.

US$ 39.95

Price includes VAT for USA

Subscribe to journal

Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.

US$ 138

This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.


  1. Anderson, K. (2015) The unforgiving math for staying under 2 degrees., accessed 9 December 2019.

  2. Angus, I. (2016) Facing the Anthropocene: Fossil Capitalism and the Crisis of the Earth System. New York: Monthly Review Press.

  3. Becker, E. (1973) The Denial of Death. New York: Simon & Schuster.

  4. Bonneuil, C. and Fressoz, J.-B. (2017) The Shock of the Anthropocene. London and New York: Verso.

  5. Britton, R. (2003) Sex, Death and the Superego: Experiences in Psychoanalysis. London: Karnac.

  6. Chasseguet-Smirgel, J. (1985) The Ego Ideal: A Psychoanalytic Essay on the Malady of the Ideal. London: Free Association Books.

  7. Clarke, S. (2004) The concept of envy: Primitive drives, social encounters and ressentiment. Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society 9(1): 105–117.

  8. Demertzis, N. (2006) Emotions and populism. In: S. Clarke, P. Hoggett and S. Thompson (eds.) Emotion, Politics and Society. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

  9. Duguid, S. (2010) Nature in Modernity: Servant, Citizen, Queen or Comrade. New York: Peter Lang Publishing Inc.

  10. Feldman, M. (2008) Grievance: The underlying Oedipal configuration. International Journal of Psychoanalysis 89(4): 743–758.

  11. Fieschi, C. (2004) Introduction to populism: Special issue. Journal of Political Ideologies 9(3): 235–240.

  12. Freud, S. (1914/1957) On narcissism: An introduction. Standard Edition 14. London: Hogarth Press, pp. 67–102.

  13. Freud, S. (1931/1961) Libidinal types. Standard Edition 21. London: Hogarth Press, pp. 215–222.

  14. Freud, S. (1938/1964) Findings, ideas, problems. Standard Edition 23. London: Hogarth Press, pp. 299–300.

  15. Hamilton, C. (2017) Defiant Earth: The Fate of the Humans in the Anthropocene. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

  16. Hanly, C. (1984) Ego ideal and ideal ego. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 65(3): 253–261.

  17. Hoggett, P. (2017) Shame and performativity: Thoughts on the psychology of neoliberalism. Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society 22(4): 364–382.

  18. Hoggett, P. (2018) Ressentiment and grievance. British Journal of Psychotherapy 34(3): 393–407.

  19. Joseph Rowntree Foundation (2014) Climate Change and Social Injustice: An Evidence Review. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

  20. Kovel, J. (2002) The Enemy of Nature: The End of Capitalism or the End of the World? London, New York: Zed Books.

  21. Lasch, C. (1979) The Culture of Narcissism. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.

  22. Lasch, C. (1984) The Minimal Self. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.

  23. Lasch, C. (1991) The True and Only Heaven: Progress and Its Critics. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.

  24. Lasch, C. (1996) The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.

  25. Latour, B. (2018) Down to Earth: Politics in the New Climate Regime. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

  26. Layton, L. (2014) Some psychic effects of neoliberalism. Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society 19(2): 161–178.

  27. Lichtman, R. (1982) The Production of Desire: The Integration of Psychoanalysis into Marxist Theory. New York: The Free Press.

  28. Lieberman, B. and Gordon, E. (2018) Climate Change in Human History: Prehistory to the Present. London & New York: Bloomsbury Academic.

  29. Lilla, M. (2016) The Shipwrecked Mind: On Political Reaction. New York: New York Review of Books.

  30. Lovelock, J. (2006) The Revenge of Gaia. London: Penguin Books.

  31. Marx, K. (1844/1970) Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844. Edited with an introduction by D.J. Struik. Translated by M. Milligan. London: Lawrence & Wishart.

  32. Mishra, P. (2017) Age of Anger: A History of the Present. London: Allen Lane.

  33. Nietzsche, F. (1887/1956) The Birth of Tragedy and The Genealogy of Morals. Translated by F. Golffing. New York: Anchor Books.

  34. Orange, D. (2017) Climate Crisis, Psychoanalysis, and Radical Ethics. London & New York: Routledge.

  35. Parenti, C. (2011) Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence. New York: Nation Books.

  36. Petit, J., Jouzel, D., Raynaud, N., Barkov, J.-M., Barnola, I., Basile, I., Bender, M., Chappellaz, J., Davis, M., Delaygue, G., Delmotte, M., Kotyakov, V.M., Legarnd, M., Lipenkov, V.Y., Lorius, C., Pepin, L., Ritz, C., Saltzman, E. and Stievenard, M. (1999) Climate and atmospheric history of the past 420,000 years from the Vostok ice core, Antarctica. Nature 399: 429–436.

  37. Roberts, J. Timmons and Parks, B. (2007) A Climate of Injustice: Global Inequality, North-South Politics, and Climate Policy. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

  38. Rorty, R. (1999) Achieving our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth-Century America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

  39. Scheler, M. (1912/1961) Ressentiment. Edited by Lewis Coser. Translated by W. Holdheim. New York: The Free Press.

  40. Scranton, R. (2015) Learning to Die in the Anthropocene: Reflections on the End of a Civilization. San Fransisco, CA: City Lights Books.

  41. Smith, A. (2003) Chosen Peoples: Sacred Sources of National Identity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  42. Steiner, J. (1993) Psychic Retreats. London: Routledge.

  43. Steiner, J. (1996) The aim of psychoanalysis in theory and practice. International Journal of Psychoanalysis 77(5): 1073–1083.

  44. Steiner, J. (2011) Seeing and Being Seen. London: Routledge.

  45. Steiner, J. (2013) The ideal and the real in Klein and Milton: Some observations on reading Paradise Lost. Psychoanalytic Quarterly 82(4): 897–923.

  46. Timpanaro, S. (1975) On Materialism. London: New Left Books.

  47. Ure, M. (2015) Resentment/ressentiment. Constellations 22(4): 599–613.

  48. Waddell, M. and Williams, G. (1991) Perverse states of mind. Free Associations 22: 203–213.

  49. Weintrobe, S. (2004) Links between grievance, complaint and different forms of entitlement. International Journal of Psychoanalysis 85(1): 83–96.

  50. Wurmser, L. (2009) The superego as the herald of resentment. Psychoanalytic Inquiry 29(5): 386–410.

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to Paul Hoggett.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Hoggett, P. The malady of the ideal and the assault on nature. Psychoanal Cult Soc (2020).

Download citation


  • nature
  • the ideal
  • ressentiment
  • shame