At Public Seminar, Jill Gentile draws some compelling parallels between psychoanalysis as a practice of individual self-understanding, and democracy as a practice of collective self-rule. She highlights, for instance, the paramount importance of speech in both. Here's an excerpt:
Might it be that democracy’s enduring relevance and comparative advantage is a tribute itself to its very own special, maybe sacred, relationship to the practice of free speech? Might democracy’s status as a beguiling master signifier reveal that its mission is essentially also a psychoanalytic and semiotic one? Might psychoanalysis’s commitment to free association — freedom of thought and of speech — instantiate, by its very fundamental rule, an ever impossible and elusive but decidedly democratizing mission? The therapeutic action of speech illuminates the life of the word, of the signifier, the movement of which is a sign itself of the liberation of desire’s democratic impulse. Democracy’s semiotic ascendancy reveals speech’s democratizing action. Speech reveals the contagious, reverberating, and transformational flow of desire and its symbols.
Both democracy and psychoanalysis established imaginative sets of ideas and practices for helping people claim the power of self-rule. And both find mutual resonance, sustenance, and relevance to each other and to humanity in their shared attention to speech. Attention to speech opens our capacity to hear it, to recognize its fundamental status as a democratizing practice. Perhaps, from the vantage point of the far more ancient word “democracy,” our still youthful “psychoanalysis” simply needs more time on our shared planet to disperse, disseminate, and democratize its signifying message and along with that, its replenishing, liberatory pulse of desire. What’s good for psychoanalysis might be just what democracy needs.