Individuality, deliberation and welfare in Donald Winnicott

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This paper expands on the political vision embedded in Donald Winnicott's psychoanalytic work. It comments on Winnicott's notion that individuality is produced by society, and adds that such production inevitably involves power asymmetry. It is argued that Winnicott values rights and property as communicative devices rather than as private enclosures held against society. However, it is also maintained that Winnicott thinks that social deliberation itself depends on a preceding objective instance that may be referred to as justice. Lastly, aspects of Winnicott's outlook that touch on ideas of welfare and distribution are examined, especially those concerning the relationships between the market and social agencies, and between the household and the state. It is suggested that these attributes point to an affinity Winnicott has with a progressive liberal trend dating back to Mill, the later manifestation of this liberalism being evident in the design of the 20th-century welfare state. It is concluded that it is for this polity that Winnicott wrote his psychological theory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-126
Number of pages20
JournalHistory of the Human Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2005


  • Object relations
  • Participation
  • Social democracy
  • Winnicott

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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