Political theorists have increasingly adopted the psychoanalytic language of 'mourning' to characterize experiences of loss and injury, and to legitimate these as claims about a past political or cultural order. Mourning would seek to work through these experiences while opening persons to their shared vulnerabilities. With this article, I return to Freud's original distinction between mourning and melancholia, along with its development through the work of Donald Winnicott and the relational school of psychoanalysis. Although psychoanalytic mourning balances a coming-to-terms with loss against investment in new social relations, when it is extrapolated to a broader community it risks over-determining the social field. The cost is a foreclosure of other modalities for articulating claims about injury and political order, and in particular those that might draw on anger as a resource for political action and solidarity.
- Judith Butler