If the best thing we do is look after each other, then the worst thing we do is pretend to look after each other when in fact we are doing something else. Psychoanalysis teaches us the dangers of this paradox — and, in doing so, gives us fair warning about the perils of all social endeavors. In one way, the talking cure can be seen as a kind of listening cure. And learning to listen and be listened to is a skill upon which democracy itself depends. Written in his beloved epigrammatic and aphoristic style, Equals extends Phillips’s essayistic probings into the psychological and the political, bringing his trenchant wit to such subjects as the usefulness of inhibitions and the paradox of permissive authority. He explores why citizens in a democracy are so eager to establish levels of hierarchy when the system is based on the assumption that every man is created equal. And he ponders the importance of mockery in group behavior and the psyche’s struggle as a metaphor for political conflict.
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