My work is at the intersection of subjectivity and public life, the ways in which human well-being depends upon people’s abilities and opportunities to help shape their common world — which I take to be central to democracy.  Accordingly, in my view, to be told that one does not matter, that what one cares about will never be heeded, is to be effectively stripped of the title of citizen.  This is the form that political evil takes.

Alternatively, real democracy means that everyone affected by common matters should have a voice and the power to shape these matters. Such power is rarely given but rather claimed. My work focuses on the deep roots that stand in the way of making such claims, on  how such claims are in fact enacted, and on how democracy can flourish even in the face of anti-politial and anti-democratic forces, including the ones that people impose on themselves.



Winner of the 2020 Courage to Dream Book Prize, awarded by the American Psychoanalytic Association for the book that best promotes the integration of the academic and clinical worlds of psychoanalysis.

Fear of Breakdown

Noëlle McAfee uses psychoanalytic theory to explore the subterranean anxieties behind current crises and the ways in which democratic practices can help work through seemingly intractable political conflicts. Fear of Breakdown contends that politics needs something that only psychoanalysis has been able to offer.

“In exploring the fear of breakdown that underlies human existence, McAfee creates a genuine intellectual breakthrough—her book is a stunningly original exploration of the political significance of mourning. This is one of the most thrilling books I have read in years.” MARI RUTI, DISTINGUISHED PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO

You can order it here.



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