The Cultural Complex

Contemporary Jungian Perspectives on Psyche and Society. Ed. Thomas Singer and Samuel L. Kimbles.   Just published by Brunner-Routledge, 2004:   "Based on Jung's theory of complexes, this book offers a new perspective on the psychological nature of conflicts between groups and cultures by introducing the concept of the cultural complex...."

The Cultural Complex

Edited by Thomas Singer M.D, and Samuel L. Kimbles, Ph.D.
Published by Brunner-Routledge, 2004.

Thomas Singer and Samuel L. Kimbles

Since the fall of the Berlin wall and the collapse of the binary world view of conflicting superpowers that it symbolized, an endless parade of ethnic, racial, religious, gender, national and regional factions have emerged on the world stage with their long simmering feuds bubbling over. Everywhere, disadvantaged and! or disenfranchised groups - whether representing a minority or a majority - have been crying out for justice, healing or vengeance - or all three simultaneously. It seems as if peoples from every continent have been caught in an endless round of conflicts that run the gamut from familial and tribal skirmishes to international hatreds. As these group conflicts flood relationships with highly charged emotions at every level of human exchange - from local to global - we seek explanations, understanding and remedies. More often than not, such seeking leaves us feeling powerless in the face of the intractable nature of these feuds. Political theories, economic theories, sociological theories, religious theories and psychological theories - all provide a partial glimpse of the truth as to what underlies and fuels these conflicts. This book offers a new perspective on the psychological nature of conflicts between groups and cultures. This new perspective is based on an old theory - Jung's theory of complexes which he developed at the beginning of the twentieth century. Our modern version and new application of Jung's old idea make no special claim to having the answer to what causes - or might heal - group and cultural conflict, but they offer a point of view that may be useful to some as they ponder the forces that invariably seem to thwart most human attempts to bring a peaceful, collaborative spirit to the unending strife between groups of people. In our ripe time or kairos, when understanding both the uniqueness and commonality of cultures from around the world has become essential for the well-being of the global community itself, shedding more light on what tears us apart is an essential first step. Much of what tears us apart can be understood as the manifestation of autonomous processes in the collective and individual psyche that organize themselves as cultural complexes.

This book sets out to explore a single notion - what we have called "the cultural complex." The very name of the notion is a synthesis of two very potent words - "cultural" and "complex" - each carrying a long and important history of research, speculation, and multileveled meaning. The notion of a "cultural complex" is a synthetic idea, i.e., it springs from a particular tradition - analytical psychology - and draws on different strands of that tradition to build a new idea for the purpose of understanding the psychology of group conflict. Over and over again in this book, we will underline the premise that the psychology of cultural complexes operates both in the collective psychology of the group and in the individual members of the group. Each chapter in the book should be read as part of a collaborative effort to give flesh and bones to the theory of the "cultural complex." By exploring the notion of a cultural complex in a variety of contexts and crosscultural settings, the reader will be exposed to the concept as it applies to both groups and individuals. In a very real sense, the separate contributions in this book can be thought of as a group effort to define the notion of the cultural complex.

Jungian theory at its best is open and evolving, with a long and meaningful history of modification and adaptation. Jung himself was never static in the development of his ideas and as a result, there are several different "theories" in his life's work that exist side by side: complex theory, the theory of psychological types, the theory of the archetypes and the collective unconscious and ultimately, Jung's theory of the Self. These theories taken together form a whole, but were never intended to be a tight, carefully constructed architectural gem. One can think of the loose collection of separate theories that have grown up to become known as "analytical psychology" as being a bit ramshackle like an old New England farmhouse. Many additions to the original structure have been made over time as different needs emerged. Our theory of cultural complexes is just such a new addition and we like to think of it as being built in the style of a farmhouse addition - we hope as a "great room," although some may see it as a "mud room." Whatever scale and value is given to it, it is clear that we need a new room.

Jung's complex theory was his first original contribution to the young science of psychoanalysis. It is still a vital part of how Jungians understand and formulate the inner and outer experience of individuals. Although Jung included the cultural level in his schema of the psyche, his theory of complexes has never been systematically applied to the life of groups and to what Jung and his followers have been fond of calling the "collective." Applying Jung's theory of complexes to the cultural level of the psyche and the life of the group (and how the life of the group exists in the psyche of the individual) is the new addition that we propose to build and it is hoped that this book will be part of the design and construction of the new room. Those knowledgeable about Jungian psychology will already be protesting that Jung and Jungians have always had a keen interest in the collective and have actively explored diverse cultures, making enormous contributions to understanding the role of the collective in the psyche. Of course, this is true. But when it came to understanding the psychopathology and emotional entanglements of groups, tribes, and nations, Jung did not take advantage of his original theory of complexes and this has left a major gap in analytical psychology.

E-mail:  Tom Singer   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.