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On National Identity

On National Identity
A Response to Jonathan Ree

Ross Poole
Jonathan Ree’s ‘Internationality’l makes a number of significant contributions to the sparse philosophical literature
on nationalism. The concept which gives the paper its title
promises, I think, to be particularly useful. Just as we are
now accustomed to think of individual subjects as constituted in and through relations of intersubjectivity, so Ree
suggests we should think of individual nations as constituted
in and through relations of internationality. Only somewhat
paradoxically, it is the system of relations between nations
which explains the existence of nations; not the other way
around. If I understand him correctly, Ree does not intend
to deny that there must be internal structural changes in a
country before its inhabitants – landlords and peasants,
bosses and workers, men and women – begin to think of
themselves as members of the one national community. But
a crucial moment in this process is the existence of an
international framework which demands that its constituent
communities satisfy certain political, legal, military and
geographic conditions of existence. National self-recognition
requires that people begin to think of their nations – and
themselves – as confronted with different and perhaps
opposing others. Otherness is as crucial to the identity of
nations as it is to that of individuals.

Ree’s article also has a particular message to philosophers in that it challenges us to examine the cultural
specificities of our chosen activity. Too often, philosophers
have taken their calling at its own word and treated it as if
it occupied a terrain free of local determination and affect.

Though at one level we are all too well aware of the
differences between French, German and English styles of
philosophy, we rarely pause to consider the extent to which
these differences might be more than matters of style but lie
at the heart of our enterprise. Ree’ s discussion of English
philosophy of the 1950s reminds us that philosophical
speculation and argument always take place within and are
informed by specific social environments and histories. It
invites us to think of the enterprise of philosophy as arising
within and contributing to particular national cultures. This
does not necessarily destroy the pretensions of philosophy
to pursue truths which are abstract and universal; but it must
recognise that its point of departure is always concrete and

There are, however, several issues where I found myself
in some disagreement with Ree’ s position, and I would like


to say something about two of these which seemed to me of
particular importance. The first concerns his dismissal of
the concept of identity as it occurs in the term ‘national
identity’ . This term is, he suggests, ‘one of the great political,
ideological and conceptual follies of our time’ (p. 8).

Against this, I want to suggest that the concept of identity
plays a crucial role in our understanding of nationalism, and
that Ree’ s grounds for rejecting it are based on misunderstanding. The second disagreement concerns the attitude
we should adopt to nationalism. Ree continues a well
established tradition amongst left-wing intellectuals in taking a position opposed to nationalism. The system of
internationality (in his sense) is ‘a deceit, a con and a scam,
a living falsehood’ (p. 10) and we would be well rid of it.

Now it is clearly not possible for us near the end of the
twentieth century to take the kind of naively optjmistic view
of the beneficence of nationalism that was perhaps possible
in the mid-nineteenth century. Still, I wish to argue for a
more nuanced perspective on national identity than Ree
allows for. Nationalism is a much more morally complex
phenomenon than he recognises, and a dismissal of it which
does not take account of that complexity risks throwing out
some babies along with the sewage.

Conceptions of identity
Let me begin with the notion of identity. This term is used
in a bewildering variety of ways in popular sociology,
cultural studies, political discussion (particularly about
ethnic affairs) and the press, and one might well be sceptical
about the possibility of establishing a reasonably unitary
sense. Still, there are two uses (or perhaps tendencies)
which seem to be dominant. In one sense, identity refers to
what is characteristic of and perhaps specific to a particular
group or community: in this sense, national identity designates the particularities of tradition, politics, history,
geography and culture insofar as these enter into a prevailing
conception of a nation. The titles of Fernand Braudel’ s book
The Identity of France and of the collective work edited by
Raphael Samuel Patriotism: The Making and U nmaking of
British National Identity provide good examples of the term
being used in this way. 2 On the other hand, the term is often
used to refer to a mode of individual existence – a way in
which individuals conceive themselves and others. In this

Radical Philosophy 62, Autumn 1992

sense it is individuals who have identities (or sometimes
search for them), and national identity is a certain kind of
shared self-awareness. The term is used in something like
this sense in the title of Charles Taylor’s Sources o/the Self:

The Making o/the Modern Identity, by Perry Anderson in
his very interesting review of Braudel’ s book, and by any
number of other writers. 3
The existence of two (at least) apparently distinct senses
of the term ‘national identity’ might be taken to provide
sufficient reasons to reject the term on the grounds of
ambiguity (though I will say something to connect the two
senses later). Curiously enough, however, this is not Ree’s
worry; indeed he does not discuss the first use of the term at
all. His objections are to the second. He writes
The trouble with this use of the word identity is that
… it tends to remove all pain, awkwardness and
opacity from people’s relations to their own subjectivity: it reduces problems of personality to matters of
self-image …. The possibility that people might be
deceived or mistaken about themselves is excluded a
priori (p. 9).

My initial puzzlement with this charge was that I could not
think of anyone who uses the notion of national identity who
would think that it had these consequences. Indeed, it is a
cliche of recent discussion that identities are socially constructed, conflictual and opaque. No doubt we should be
wary of cliches, and it is important to bear in mind that we
may be committed by the use of concepts in ways which we
are not aware of and might not accept. But Ree does little to
examine recent uses of the term in order to show that it does
have the implications he alleges,4 so it is also possible that
it is Ree who is mistaken. Either way, we need to look more
closely at the relevant concept of identity.

Ree locates the origins of this concept in Locke’s famous
discussion of personal identity in An Essay Concerning
Human Understanding. 5 He provides no evidence for this
genealogy, and for reasons which will become clear shortly
I am very dubious about it. Still, Locke’s discussion provides
a convenient starting point. Locke was concerned to elucidate
a concept of ‘being the same person’ which would explain
the sense in which we think of people as retaining their

Radical Philosophy 62, Autumn 1992

identity over time, a conception which is presupposed by a
number of social practices – e.g. praise and reward, blame
and punishment, promise making and keeping, and so on.

After considering a number of actual and possible examples, Locke suggested that the criterion of personal identity
lies in the fact that persons are able to remember what they
once were and did. The special access that memory gives me
to my own past explains why I am taken to be the same
person as the I who existed in the past and properly accountable for actions that I have performed, contracts that
I have entered into, and the like.

According to Ree what Locke’s account comes down to
is ‘that persons are simply what they remember having
been, or, roughly speaking, that you are what you think you
are’ (p. 8). On this enormously unsympathetic reading of
Locke, identity – and perhaps the person – is nothing but the
intentional object of certain acts of consciousness. There
are many problems with this, including the one that Ree
mentions: it is hard to see how we could ever be mistaken
about ourselves. Even on a more sympathetic reading of
Locke it is pretty clear that he does not provide a coherent
conception of personal identity. Philosophers have long
objected to it on the grounds of circularity: the relevant
notion of memory presupposes the concept of personal
identity; it does not provide an independent criterion of it.

But perhaps a more important problem in the present
context is that it is hard to see how a psychological fact such
as memory could have the enormous social and moral
consequences that are supposed to follow from personal
identity. Why, for example, should my being able to recollect
having done something explain why I should be punished
for it?

While most subsequent philosophy has rejected Locke’s
account, it has accepted his way of posing the problem. The
search for a criterion of identity has consisted in the attempt
to establish a set of physical or psychological relations
which will be sufficient to explain why we choose to treat
an individual who exists at one time as the same person as
an apparently quite different individual who exists at another
time. And by and large there is little reason to suppose that
later accounts, e.g. those in terms of bodily continuity, have
been much more successful than Locke’s. This has been
shown perhaps most decisively by Derek Parfit,6 who argues that there are no such privileged physical or psychological characteristics, and that the interesting relations
which do hold between past and future ‘selves’ (his terminology) are not sufficient to justify the attribution of personal
identity. On Parfit’ s account, the idea that persons retain
their identity through time is at best a loose and misleading
form of expression; at worst, it is a ground level philosophical
mistake with a number of important consequences for our
thinking about ourselves and others.

Parfit’s argument is intended to be a demolition of the
notion of personal identity. Another way of interpreting it,
however, is as a brilliant reductio ad absurdum of the whole
approach to personal identity which began with Locke. The
Lockean tradition assumes that personal identity is a physical
or psychological relation which underlies and helps explain
certain social practices, and has sought – unsuccessfully to discern what that relationship is. A better approach is to


reverse the direction of explanation: it is the social practices
which underlie and explain personal identity. To put the
point simply: identity is not so much presupposed by the
practice of praise and blame as created by it. Or more
carefully: the conceptions we have of the same person
enduring through time and change is an artefact of a vast
range of moral, legal, bureaucratic, social and political
codes of behaviour. We have, I think, little difficulty in
recognising that issues of identity for many items (e.g.

political parties, motor cars, scientific discoveries, works of
art) are resolved by social, bureaucratic, scientific or legal
conventions. So too is the issue of identity for persons. The
important difference between persons and other objects is
that, as we are inscribed into certain modes of behaviour and
we become conscious of our own identity and that of others,
this self- and other-awareness is experienced not as the
consequence but as the precondition of a range of involvements and interactions. Since our self-awareness defines the point from which we become aware of social
relationships, it is difficult for us to recognise it as a product
of just those relationships. But this is precisely what it is.

Understanding personal identity is not a matter of discovering a continuing essence, but of discerning the different
social practices which create and sustain it. Some of these
may be more fundamental than others in the sense that it will
be hard to envisage forms of society in which they are not
maintained – though certain religious beliefs about reincarnation, transmigration of souls and radical conversion
should give us reason not to be too confident that our birthto-death conception is at the core of every account. On the
other hand, there will be identities which are more socially
contingent in that they derive from social structures and
practices which have no claim to universality – though they
may well be experienced as such. On this account we can
begin to understand how identities may well be plural,
contested and conflicting. Individuals are formed within a
variety of social practices – practices which may be complementary, .contradictory or simply diverse. We need to
think here, not just of what it means to be a person (which,
as Hegel observed, is primarily a legalistic notion)1, but of
what it means to be a man or a woman, a husband or a wife,
a father or mother, a worker, a citizen, a tax payer, a
consumer, and – not least – what it means to be English or
French or Australian.

The concept of identity relevant to the notion of national
identity does not derive from Locke but from the alternative
approach I have sketched in. If it needs philosophical
progenitors we could no doubt find them in Hegel, Nietzsche
and Marx, but my guess is that – for better or worse – it has
largely grown up without much assistance from philosophers. At most it bears onl y a verbal similarity to the account
of Locke presented by Ree. It is true that identities exist in
the consciousness of individuals, and that there is a sense in
which they are intentional entities. But they are not reducible
to individual consciousness and the intentionality involved
is a social, not an individual intentionality. In this respect,
identities do not differ from a range of other socially
constituted phenomena. We can only make sense of such
institutions as law courts and banks, authority and money,
not to mention nations and gods, in terms of a framework of


shared beliefs and practices. All of these phenomena have,
however, a great deal of depth, complexity and opacity. So
too with identity. Its existence may depend upon what we
say and think, but this does not mean that it is what we say
and think.s
National identity has been especially significant in the
modem world in that it has claimed to take priority over
other important identities. Individuals have been asked to
make – and have all too often made – sacrifices of their
families, property and even their lives on behalf of the
nation. The demands of the nation have been taken to
override the claims of everyday morality and religion.

National identity is conceived to be inescapable in that
failure to answer its calls is counted as a betrayal, even in the
absence of any explicit commitment. So it is a matter of
some importance to discern the social forces which have
given rise to and sustained this form of identity.9 It is here
that we can begin to glimpse the connection between

national identity as a form of self-identity and that sense in
which it designates the attributes which are conceived to be
specific to a particular nation. The emergence of nationalism has involved the attempt to create for each putative
nation its own unique cultural heritage – comprising the
national history, literature, landscape, ways of life, and so
on. Where this attempt has been successful, these representations are embodied in the educational system, political
and social rituals, cultural institutions, media and forms of
communication, all of which play a key role in the process
by which national identities are acquired and sustained.

Individuals become conscious of themselves as having a
national identity as they acquire a language, an education
and the other cultural resources they need to survive in the
modem world. The nation is thus a component in each
individual’s self- and other-awareness. A given national
culture will provide a gallery of representations and these
will provide some of the external moments of recognition
through which each individual acquires his or her own selfawareness. 10

Radical Philosophy 62, Autumn 1992

Underlying Ree’s rejection of the concept of national
identity is his suspicion that to use it is already to be hostage
to the dark forces which nationalism represents. He suggests that the concept attempts to do in theory what nationalism does in practice: elide the distinction between personal identities and collective ones (see p. 9). He traces to
Hegel a concept of nationhood which serves as ‘a device for
dismantling ordinary conceptual barriers between consciousness and experience, and between individual lives
and universal humanity’ (p. 8).11 No doubt Ree is right to be
wary of the way in which nationalist movements have
overriden the claims of individuals. But this does not mean
that we should ignore the ways in which social relationships
enter into the way in which people come to conceive of
themselves. Even liberals have now come to recognise that
there is no need to assert the existence of presocial individuals
in order to defend the notion of an individual right against
society. Yet Ree seems to think that once we have used the
term ‘national identity’ we have already given up the
individual to the claims of the nation. On the contrary. What
we have done is made a beginning in the task of understanding
why it is that so many individuals have willingly given
themselves up to their nation. What attitude we take to this
form of identity is another question entirely.

The nation: a cultural asset?

Ree leaves his readers in no doubt of his own attitude to
nationalism: he counts himself as one of the ‘haters of
nationhood’ (p. 11). Some of the grounds for his aversion
are reasonable enough. Nationalism has long been the
creature of the state; as such, it has legitimised arbitrary
power and oppression and has played its role in militarism,
colonialism and imperialism. Where national differences
are conceived to be embodied in blood or descent, nationalism slides into racism. It has encouraged bloody and
irresolvable conflicts over territories inhabited by two or
more national claimants. Even in its more benign forms,
nationalism has impeded the development of other affiliations and attachments, especially those that cut across state
boundaries. Insofar as it is experienced as part ofthe natural
order of things, it has preempted debate on and opposition
to those policies which have been waged in its name. And
yet there are other sides to nationalism: sacrifice, love,
heroism, solidarity. 12 It has not only served the interests of
imperialism; it has also provided the forms in which antiimperialist struggle has been most effectively carried out.

Though it has all too often been employed by ruling classes
to stifle or marginalise opposition, it has also provided
crucial rhetorical support for national health, welfare and
education programmes.

This is not the place to tall y ‘good’ aspects of nationalism
to set up against the ‘bad’. Probably the two are inseparable.

My worry is whether we have a clear position from which
to do the assessment. For good or ill, nationalism has over
the past few hundred years appropriated for itself many of
the cultural and moral resources which we need in order to
make such assessments. Of course, there are other moral
positions abstractly available: the universalistic discourses
familiar to philosophers, or the appeal to local community

Radical Philosophy 62, Autumn 1992

and tradition which has been making its appearance in leftwing circles in recent years (and to which Ree seems to give
his adherence). But it is not clear that these have a social or
cultural presence sufficient to set up against the claims of
the nation. This is not just a matter of popular support, but
of the existence of a sphere of shared meanings in terms of
which debate can be carried on. The discourse of the nation
also has certain depth and complexity. It does not exist in a
fixed and determinate form, and is always open to interpretation and change. Nor is it automatically on the side of
a reaction. Insofar as the nation defines itself as a community
comprising all the people in a given territory, those who use
the rhetoric of nationalism must make a commitment to
some notion of popular involvement or assent. This commitment has been all too often abused but is one which a left
cultural politics can and should exploit.

The nation represents, I suggest, a cultural asset that we
should use, and not just hand over to others. I do not make
this suggestion for merely tactical reasons (as hardnosed
Leninists used to suggest that the left should make use of the
rights provided by liberal democracies until it was able to
dispense with them). Nationalism makes certain moral
resources available which will have a place in any desirable
moral outlook. Let me illustrate this with a recent example.

A few years ago there was a fascinating controversy (the
Historikerstreit) between Jiirgen Habermas and a number
of German historians about the significance of the holocaust
in German national history. 13 One position in the debate,
associated with Emst Nolte and other conservative historians, was that it was time for Germans to free themselves of
at least some of the guilt of the holocaust and to reclaim a
continuing German national identity. On~ move in this
argument involved the historical relativisation of the
holocaust: its comparison with other twentieth-century
catastrophes (e.g. Stalin’s purges and his onslaught on the
kulaks, the Pal Pot massacres, the Turkish genocide of the
Armenians). Habermas’s response was an altogether admirable and generally effective exposure of the political
implications of these moves and of different conceptions of
German history. There was, however, an important tension
in Habermas’ s position. His own avowed commitments
were of a universalistic kind. For him, the appropriate
relationship between citizen and polity was that of ‘constitutional patriotism’, the rational allegiance each person
owes to a properly constituted state, and the appropriate
identity for the individual was not that provided by the
nation, but the ‘post-conventional’ identity of the morally
mature (neo-Kantian) rational agent. But he also wanted to
emphasise the fact that the holocaust had a specific relevance
to Germans just because they were Germans. As he wrote
in a passage worth quoting at length:

There is the simple fact that subsequent generations
also grew up within a form of life in which that was
possible. Our own life is linked to the life context in
which Auschwitz was possible not by contingent
circumstances but intrinsically. Our form of life is
connected with that of our parents and grandparents
through a web of familial, local, political, and intellectual traditions that is difficult to disentangle – that


is, through a historical milieu that made us what and
who we are today. None of us can escape this milieu,
because our identities, both as individuals and as
Germans, are indissolubly interwoven with it. This
holds true from mimicry and physical gestures to
language and into the capillary ramifications of one’s
intellectual stance. As though when teaching at universities outside Germany I could ever disclaim a
mentality in which the traces of a very German
intellectual dynamic from Kant to Marx and Max
Weber are inscribed. We have to stand by our traditions’ then, if we do not want to disavow ourselves. 14
From this perspective, the issue of whether Hitler killed
quantitatively more or less Jews and Gypsies that Stalin
killed peasants, or whether in terms of percentage of the
target population annihilated, Pol Pot holds the genocide
record, is for Germans beside the point. Hitler, Nazism and
the holocaust are episodes in German history, and therefore
contemporary Germans have a special responsibility to
work the matter through. What was morally abhorrent in the
attempt by German historians to relativise the holocaust
was not so much the political agenda that lay behind it, nor
their failure to live up to the obligations incumbent on all of
us who live in the post-Nazi era to remember those who died
and why. It was their disowning of the special involvement
that they as contemporary Germans have in those past
horrors. In precisely the same way, the English have a
special responsibility for Ireland, white Australians for the
expropriation and slaughter of the aboriginal population,
and so on. This is not a matter of whether present individuals
have benefited in some way from the past actions of their
compatriots. In the case of Germany, this is highly unlikely.

It is rather that because we live in a certain society and have
acquired a certain identity, we find ourselves inheriting
specific cultural and historical responsibilities – whether or
not we would have chosen these.

The point is that we can only begin to make these points
from within the discourse of national identity, and it is not
at all clear that this is consistent with Habermas’ s official
commitment to universalistic moral doctrines. Indeed, it is
arguable whether someone who had achieved Habermas’ s
desired ‘post conventional’ moral identity could think of
national identity as anything but a mark of moral immaturity and a failure of autonomy. And yet, as Habermas
recognised, there is something both superficial and reprehensible in the attempt by a contemporary German (or
Englishman or Australian) to disavow any responsibility
for episodes in his or her national past.

I have only sketched here the first steps in what would
have to be a complex moral debate. My point is that there is
a moral discourse associated with nationalism, and that we
are inscribed into that discourse whether we want to be or
not. What is more, at least some of the resources which we
will need to use in political and other debates are provided
by that identity. It locates the individual in a larger social
context, ascribes moral responsibilities beyond the sphere
of self, family and friends, and it implies that individual
well-being is bound up with that of a larger grouping.

By entering the terrain of the nation, we are not committed


to accepting prevailing definitions of the nation any more
than to accepting the history of triumphs and glories we all
learned at school. Moral debate should involve not just the
use of but also reflection on the resources available so that
we become aware of their limitations as well as their
potentialities. We must be especially prepared to resist
certain of the closures which have been all too characteristic
of many nationalisms. If national identity assumes the
existence of a common culture, then it must be inclusive and
pluralistic, and not the product nor the property of a privileged group. It must be conceived of as a tradition which is
open to development, change and cross-fertilisation. If
nationality is to be a criterion of citizenship, then acquisition of that nationality (,naturalisation’) must be available
to as many of those who desire it as possible, and certainly
not restricted on ethnic or racial grounds. Nations must be
conceived as existing alongside other nations with different
cultures and histories, with none having any intrinsic claim
to superiority.

There are, of course, significant limitations to nationalism.

The claim of each nation to sole occupation and political
sovereignty over its own territory has proved tragically
incompatible with the realities of ethnic and cultural intermingling in some areas. There may be limits to the extent
to which even the most accommodating national identity
can be transformed. Ethnic and other forms of diversity may
be such as to resist inclusion within the frame of a common
culture, however tolerant and pluralistic. It may be that the
multicultural polity is the way of the future. This would
mean the end of nationalism as we know it, and states would
need to discover new principles of legitimation and societies new principles of social cohesion. These are not small
tasks, and it is dubious whether proponents of
multiculturalism have so far faced up to them.

Certainly there are tendencies in the advanced capitalist
world which suggest that we may be moving into a
postnationalist epoch.15 But we are not there yet. For the
time at least, the nation state is a political reality, and
national identity provides one of the most important perspectives available to us. It is there to be used – critically and
reflectively. To jettison it completely is to risk shutting
oneself out of the debate.

Radical Philosophy 60 (Spring 1992), pp. 3-11. Page references
to this article will be given in the text.




See Femand Braudel, The Identity of France, 2 volumes (London, Fontana, 1989); Raphael Samuel (ed.), The Making and
Unmaking of British National Identity, 3 volumes (London and
New York, Routledge, 1989).

See Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self: The Making of the
Modern Identity (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1989);
Perry Anderson, ‘Nation-States and National Identity’, London
Review of Books (9 May 1991), pp. 3, 5-8; and Ross Poole,
Morality and Modernity (London and New York: Routledge,
1991), especially Ch. 5.

Ree does quote a passage from an essay ‘What is National and
Ethnic Identity’, by Uffe 0stergard according to which ‘most of
us have come to believe that identity is only what we say it is’ (p.

Radical Philosophy 62, Autumn 1992

8), so it may be that 0stergard at least holds the view criticised
by Ree. But the passage quoted is surely not intended to suggest
that my identity is what I say it is. Indeed, 0stergard goes on to
say that ‘sociologists and historians have learned to understand
identity primarily as a discourse’, and whatever this means it is
a long way from the subjectivist view attributed to him by Ree.


Book 11, Ch. XXVII, Section 9.

1984). Parfit’s views on personal identity first appeared in
‘Personal Identity’, Philosophical Review Vol. 80 (1971), pp.



See the discussion in Hegel, The Philosophy ofRight, First Part,
Para 34-40 (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1965).


A point recognised by Ree who criticises the mistake (which he
attributes to 0stergard) of holding that ‘intentional objects …

have no ontological depth’ (p. 9).


The key contributions here are Ernest Gellner, Nations and
Nationalism (Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1983) and Benedict
Anderson, Imagined Communities (London and New York,
Verso, 1983; revised edition 1991).


Nationalism has the mirror structure which Althusser – under the
influence of Lacan – suggested was constitutive of all ideology.

See his ‘Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses’, in Lenin
and Philosophy and Other Essays (London, New Left Books,

1971), especially p. 168.


Though it is not explicit, there is a strong suggestion in Ree’ s
article that Hegel should be counted as a nationalist. This is not
true. Hegel was strongly opposed to the nationalist currents
which were making themsel ves fel tin Prussia and other German
states in the Napoleonic and post-Napoleonic periods. His own
political views – in The Philosophy of Right and elsewhere should properly be seen as a development of the civic republican
tradition in which political obligation is the rational commitment of a citizen to a properly constituted state.


It is one of the many refreshing aspects of Benedict Anderson’ s
Imagined Communities that he emphasises these aspects of the
nationalistic imagination.


Habermas’s contributions to the debate can be found in Jilrgen
Habermas, The New Conservatism: Cultural Criticism and the
Historians’ Debate (Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press, 1989). For
an account ofthe debate, see Charles S. Maier, The Unmasterahle
Past: History, Holocaust, and German National Identity
(Cambridge, Mass. and London, Harvard University Press,


Habermas, The New Conservatism, pp. 232-233.


I have discussed some of these in a paper ‘Nationalism and the
Nation State in Late Modernity’ given at a conference on
Germany in Europe in Sydney, July 1991. This will appear in a
selection of papers from the conference edited by Bernd Hilppauf.

Jean Laplanche
Seduction, Translation and the Drives
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