A Psychoanalytical and Philosophical Enquiry into the Dynamics of Social Exclusion and Discrimination
Lene Auestad

Published by Karnac February 20th 2015:
link to the book on Karnac    on Routledge     on


This book helps us understand the current resurgence of social prejudice against ethnic minority groups, the logics of scapegoating and the resulting violence.

Our time is characterised by a growth in expressed hostility and violence towards people who are perceived as ‘others’. Hatred towards and discrimination against minorities is on the rise. This book presents a new understanding of prejudice, racism, antisemitism, xenophobia, islamophobia, sexism and homophobia. It combines philosophy with psychoanalytic thinking, sociology and psycho-social studies, analysing the unconscious elements of social processes.

 The author makes a case for framing a questioning of prejudice, not in terms of normality versus pathology or deviance, but in what is socially unconscious. Hypocrisy and double standards are inherent in our social practices, reflecting the contradictions present in our thinking about these issues: that we both believe and do not believe in equality. Thus this study takes account of conflicts between theory and practice, layers of implicit- and explicitness, pre- and unconscious experience and the power differentials that shape these constellations.

There is no neutral point of view from which prejudice can be addressed. The chapters in this study approach the problem of how to understand prejudice from different angles, aiming at ways of enabling listening to voices that are rarely heard. It questions how to reshape society so as to make room for people who appear to embody so-called contemptible qualities – for extension of respect across differences and inequalities.


“With great intellectual rigour and audacity, Lene Auestad offers a politically engaged analysis of the complexities of the experience of prejudice. Navigating through phenomenological, psychoanalytical and sociological accounts, Respect, Plurality and Prejudice, connects the subjective with the political and the social with the unconscious.  Critiquing contemporary forms of racisms and violences and facing the ethical challenges that derive from the theorising of ‘being among others’, this book is a wonderful and necessary addition to the emerging field of Psychosocial Studies”.
Dr Margarita Palacios, Senior Lecturer,
Psychosocial Studies, Birkbeck, University of London

“The sophisticated mix of examining prejudice refracted through the lenses of Philosophy, Social Theory and Psychoanalysis makes this book so important for our times.
Whilst tackling a dark subject, it provides hope in thinking about the experiences of mutuality and respect between the Self and the Other.”
Dr Jonathan Sklar
Training Analyst, British Psychoanalytical Society

“Lene Auestad’s present work is an eminently important scholarly contribution to the understanding of prejudice, hate speech, discrimination and social exclusion – phenomena that challenge and threaten  democracies in Europe, “old” and “new”. Investigating prejudice and related problems, she combines philosophical, sociological and social psychological inquiry with psychoanalytic reflections. She applies the ideas of Sigmund Freud, Sándor Ferenczi, Michael Balint and of the object relational school to examining prejudice and other social phenomena in a highly original and productive way. She integrates these approaches in the framework of psycho-social studies. Lene Auestad’s  excellent book must be read by all social scientists, psychoanalysts, psychologists who are obliged to fighting against prejudice and racism – in practice as well as in theory.”
Professor Ferenc Erős
Department of Social Psychology, University of Pecs

“Auestad’s book offers a penetrating analysis of the mechanisms – often unconscious – at work in various cases of prejudice in contemporary society. Ranging from the individual as well as collective dynamics of racism to the debate over freedom of speech, the book demonstrates the usefulness of drawing on psychoanalytic insights in order to understand the deeper layers of the aggression against stigmatized “others” in today’s Europe.
Professor Arne Johan Vetlesen,
Department of Philosophy, University of Oslo, author of “Evil and Human Agency”



Chapter 1 Subjectivity and absence – prejudice as a psycho-social theme

Chapter 2 Primary process logic and prejudice

Chapter 3 Contagion, conflict and ambivalence – prejudice as transfer of shame and guilt

Chapter 4 Injurious speech and frames of mind

Chapter 5 Basic trust and alienation, or “we have nothing to reproach ourselves with”

Chapter 6 Adaptation, containment, experience – Adorno, psychoanalytic developments and the potential for social critique

Chapter 7 Perspectivism and Plurality – Arendt’s contribution to thinking about respect and prejudice

Chapter 8 Responsibility and the unconscious – sketches for a psychoanalytically informed ethics

Interview with me about the book by Richard Brouilette on New Books in Psychoanalysis, podcast, published September 11th 2015

The book is based on my dissertation for the degree of PhD, Department of Philosophy, Institute of Philosophy, History of Arts and Ideas and Classical Languages, IFIKK, University of Oslo, 2013.


Review by Evelien Geerts in Feminist Legal Studies First online:

Review by Edward Weisband in Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society, Advance online publication, 17 March 2016

En antirasisme for det nye året – bokomtale av Magnus Eriksson i Radikal Portal, open access, in Norwegian