Psy-Complex in Question

Psy-Complex in Question

Critical Review in Psychology, Psychoanalysis and Social Theory

Tracing a series of key debates in and against the psy-complex.


Psy-Complex in Question traces a series of key debates in and against the psy-complex through critical reviews of twenty-five key texts over the last twenty-five years, with an emphasis on recent critical psychological, psychoanalytic and critical social theory contributions to how we think about human agency and subjectivity. The reviews together set out the unfolding context for the debate, and situate the texts under discussion in the cross-cutting debates that define critical psychology today. It also provides an accessible introduction to how psychoanalysis and social theory, with a particular focus on the work of Jacques Lacan and Slavoj Žižek, bears upon work carried out by a new generation of researchers.

Ian Parker's book is written from the perspective of a critical insider to the discipline of psychology, psychoanalysis and social theory, and it will serve as a primer for those new to the ideas searching for compass points and radical arguments, as well as examples of how to write and how not to write a book review.


This is an unusual book, drawing together reviews that Parker has written of other books. In each chapter, he offers us a model of the kind of critical engagement that turns a review into a dialogical contribution to debate, enlivening the works of others and bringing them into conversation. Taken as a whole, the book presents Parker’s characteristic take on the psy-complex, developed across time through disciplinary crossings and collegial exchange across a wide international range of contexts, including Japan, South Africa, the US, Europe and the UK. It is a wonderful book to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Discourse Unit and Ian Parker’s unique voice and sustained contribution to rethinking the intellectual psy-terrain. ~ Professor Jill Bradbury, School of Human and Community Development, University of the Witwatersrand

Ian Parker takes us on a critical adventure through the dense undergrowth of the psy-complex exploring the perennial and important questions of psychology and psychoanalysis’s relations to knowledge, ideology, social theory and political practice. This is an unusual book which positively invites the reader not only to think for themselves but to actively question the psy-professions’ construction of the world. ~ Ron Roberts, author of Psychology and Capitalism

One of my favourite challenges in Professional Masterchef is when the contestants are presented with a wide array of left-overs (admittedly seriously generous, varied and up-market ones) and asked to invent an exceptional plate of food in the usual ridiculous timescale. The results are generally much more impressive than you’d expect - real elegance, inventiveness and panache on a plate! This book is in much the same vein as those invention tests, woven from the best part of a life-time’s book reviewing into a extraordinary collection of intriguing, fascinating and inspirational texts. Each one is ‘complete’ in itself - an entertaining, informative and satisfying read; but brought together the collection offers so much more than the sum of its parts. It takes you on a rich and stimulating voyage into the ‘psy’ complex and (way) beyond - to give you insights and experiences far outside of what you may originally expect. Enjoy! ~ Wendy Stainton Roger, Professor Emerita, Faculty of Welfare, Education & Health, The Open University

Extraordinary. All the right (left) names are in place and the volume simultaneously teaches readers how to review books properly. Parker should get a gold (red) star. ~ Craig Newnes, editor, Journal of Critical Psychology, Counselling and Psychotherapy

Parker’s text opens with a question concerning how one writes reviews. This seeming pedagogical question is in fact one that scholars should ask, and its importance weaves itself through this collection of book reviews which Parker has assembled for us in Psy-Complex in Question: Critical Review in Psychology, Psychoanalysis and Social Theory. This is, of course, a case of reading and writing. Indeed the latter permeates a number of reviews in terms of how the reviewed piece actually reads; is the book well written. Parker’s interest in the well written is both the object of sharing these reviews (as well as a conceptual project indexed in the title) and of how the author himself is drawn to a text, even in light of conceptual differences. The reader of this book should be quite pleased in Parker’s preoccupation because it shows in how fabulously readable these reviews are. Reading these reviews is a great pleasure so that one might pick this book up like one might a Sunday paper. Do not think this ease of entry means that Parker’s has simplified ideas or his commitments. There are strong questions about the discourse of the university, of politics, and of the psychoanalytic clinic. How does one write, think or read across these forms of discourse. Parker’s insight into their difference and the often facile fusion of these domains is one of the smartest of the questions he brings to the reviewed texts. There are others. He queries texts that often remain unquestioned, Lacanian ideas that are often scotomized, critical psychological ideas that are often complacently re-iterated, and the marriage of psychanlysis and politics, which appears to attract so many (this list is not exhaustive). Parker’s book is a careful tour of the territory of critical psychology- and students and scholars should read t for that alone. It is also a text that contains in itself the question of reading and writing. In this second task, Parker indicates his brilliant and responsible grasp of a wide spectrum of subjects and, ironically, his clinical acumen, in that he questions the obvious, the impasse, and the style, not with the self-studied style of a literary critic, but rather with the keen eyes of someone, in whatever discourse, is committed to reading its critical edge. Psy-Complex in Question: Critical Review in Psychology, Psychoanalysis and Social Theory presents a collection of book reviews where the author reflects on the seemingly pedagogical question of how one writes reviews. Parker’s interest in the well written is both one reason for assembling these reviews and reflects how the author himself is drawn to a text, despite conceptual differences. The reader of this book is the lucky recipient of Parker’s preoccupation because it shows in how fabulously readable these reviews are. One picks up this book like the Sunday paper, without a single review in the book being intellectually compromised. Nonetheless, there are strong questions about the discourse of the university, of politics, and of the psychoanalytic clinic. In this really careful and important tour of some of the terrain of or adjacent to critical psychology, Parker remains true to the title’s aim; he shines a light on what is often swept under the rug in a given book by its usual readership or by its author(s). As a result, he does a really significant service for student and scholar alike. The reader is much the better intellectually after reading Parker’s work, so skilfully done that one encounters difficult tangles and ideas with an ease and engagement that any reviewer of a book would cherish. ~ Kareen Ror Malone, Professor- Emerita Psychology, Founding Director of Doctoral Program University of West Georgia

Ian Parker
Ian Parker Ian Parker is an activist and academic, a revolutionary Marxist, and practising Lacanian psychoanalyst in Manchester, involved in various po...

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