Some Reflections on Political Choice in America

Symbol and Substance
  • Richard M. Zuckerberg


In an unpublished paper written in 1984, soon after the Democratic primary of that presidential election year, I mused on one aspect of the character of the relationship between the populace and its leaders, namely, the decision making that went into choosing political candidates for office. The idea of choice is an interesting one for a psychoanalytic psychologist, since much of my understanding and assumptions of human nature tie me to a vision of man as being moved by unconscious and unforeseen motives. So, my interest is more in the interface of the unconscious with a realm of experience we consider to be very conscious, that is, reality. Freud originally delineated the notion of secondary process, as opposed to primary process, to describe that part of man that was engaged in finding out about reality in an effort to maintain one’s own survival. He even referred to the development of certain reality-oriented mental structures (i.e., thought, perception, memory, judgment, etc.) as so crucial to the survival of the individual and the race that he considered the source of their development as belonging to the self-preservative instincts. These instincts were different from the libidinal instincts, which were more unconscious and unknowable and involved with the dynamics of pleasure and pain. The former set of instincts apparently developed for us to use in the service of judging how we could negotiate reality to keep ourselves alive (and in some complementary way, the libidinal instincts used the ego instincts for their own purposes, i.e., to find in the world that which would be gratifying, which is always that which has been gratifying).


York Time Political Choice Political Candidate Democratic Primary Voter Knowledge 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard M. Zuckerberg
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Brooklyn Institute for Psychotherapy and PsychoanalysisBrooklynUSA
  2. 2.Mental Health ClinicKingsbrook Jewish Medical CenterBrooklynUSA

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