Narcissism and Its Discontents challenges the received wisdom that narcissism is only destructive of good social relations. By building on insights from psychoanalysis and critical theory it puts forward a theorisation of narcissistic sociability which redeems Narcissus from his position as the subject of negative critique. Following a close engagement with Sigmund Freud’s 1914 paper ‘On Narcissism: An Introduction’, two further critical moments are considered: first, the mobilisation of narcissism in Anglo-American cultural discourse of the 1970s to 1990s where the term functioned as a descriptor for cultural malaise; and second, the discursive shift from narcissism to melancholia associated with more contemporary critical theory. This book pays particular attention to the paradoxical relation between the narcissist and the social world, identifying in Narcissus a figure whose turning away extends a call to others, and who finds in the vulnerabilities of the self the makings of the social scene.
Julie Walsh is a member of the SITE and an Institute of Advanced Study Global Research Fellow in the department of Sociology, University of Warwick, UK.