Phantasy and social movements: an ontology of pro-space activism

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Psychoanalysis has a long history of influence in the study of collective behaviour, and this paper argues that it has a great deal to contribute to the study of one vitally important and under-researched aspect of social movement activity; the fantasies activists have about life in the social worlds they would like to see in the future. The paper uses empirical research findings to show that, in the case of activists campaigning to further the human exploration, development and settlement of outer space, these fantasies can be fundamental to activists' motivation. Psychoanalysis helps us understand these fantasies as conscious manifestations of unconscious phantasies. However, the paper also addresses the criticisms social movement theory has made of reductionist psychoanalysis, arguing that the study of activists' fantasies must include accounts of the ways in which social forces influence unconscious processes, the discourses used by activists to understand their cause, and the organization of the movement.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-129
Number of pages15
JournalSocial Movement Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • Fantasy
  • Narcissism
  • Psychoanalysis
  • Pro-Space Movement


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