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.



One thought on “

  1. Wilfried Ver Eecke says:

    Dear Dr Mcaffee:
    I was happy to learn about your work on the intersection of psychoanalysis and philosophy.
    I was a student of Lacan and am both a professor in philosophy at Georgetown University and a Lacanian psychoanalyst.
    I just published a book: Breaking through schizophrenia. Lacan and Hegel for talk therapy. I make use of Hegel’s passage: “The law of the heart” in his Phenomenology of Spirit to argue against the official position of the American Psychiatric Association. I quote their own contradictory positions claiming that schizophrenia is genetic while confessing that if one member of a family is schizophrenic statistically there is no other member of the family schizophrenic. published six laudatory reviews. I attach them. All the best
    Wilfried Ver Eecke
    Reviews: Breaking through Schizophrenia. Lacan and Hegel for Talk Therapy by W. Ver Eecke.
    1. Ver Eecke (Georgetown Univ.) presents an analysis of schizophrenia that places talk therapy at its center, exploring this intervention’s possibilities for enhancing the lives of people who suffer from schizophrenia and those—professionals and family members—who care for them. For Ver Eecke, mental illness is framed in terms of the linguistic challenges that, failing to have been mastered while growing up, account for psychosis and schizophrenia. Through his use of Lacanian psychoanalysis, its points of resemblance to Hegelian philosophy, and the phenomenology of De Waelhens, Ver Eecke lays the groundwork for demonstrations of how schizophrenia may be approached therapeutically. The book concludes by describing three methods for treating schizophrenic patients and offers a reframing of them in terms of the Lacanian ideas discussed earlier in the book. In short, this is a magisterial account of the treatment of schizophrenia, a notoriously intractable condition, and it will have immense appeal to professionals in psychoanalysis, psychology, and social work. The included clinical examples provide fertile material for future conversations about approaches to treatment. Especially illuminating in this regard is Ver Eecke’s reflections on the obligatory example of Judge Daniel Paul Schreber, the most famous case of psychosis in the analytic and psychological literature.

    Summing Up: Highly recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty and professionals. (CHOICE)

    2. This is a very impressive work by Wilfied Ver Eecke, bringing together important studies that witness to the worth of a philosophical approach to psychosis and schizophrenia. Ver Eecke is an honored expert on Lacan and a respected interpreter of Hegel and the relevance of his thought to the psychoanalytic situation. Mental illness is seen in developmental terms and not just in terms of genetic or organic factors. We are offered a positive and hopeful orientation to the power of the word in alleviating the distress of the patient. With a significant stress on language, he makes a deft use of Hegel to provide added heft to the themes. The results are very engaging and illuminating, and the voice of Ver Eecke is not only superbly competent in an academic sense but wise in a humane sense. (William Desmond, David Cook Chair in Philosophy, Villanova University; Thomas A.F. Kelly Visiting Chair in Philosophy, Maynooth University, Ireland; and professor of philosophy emeritus, Institute of Philosophy, KU Leuven, Belgium)

    3. Renowned Lacanian psychoanalyst Wilfried Ver Eecke brings together for the first time a collection of his seminal contributions to the talk psychotherapy of schizophrenic patients. Building on the successful treatment methods of psychologists Karon, Vergote, Villemoes, and Prouty, Ver Eecke provides a therapeutic blueprint that offers hope to patients and their families. This book will prove to be an invaluable guide for all mental health clinicians who wish to obtain the best possible outcomes for their patients who suffer and struggle with schizophrenia and related psychotic disorders. (Gerald P. Perman, M.D., president, The American Academy of Psychodynamic Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis; clinical professor in Psychiatry and the Behavioral Sciences, The George Washington University Medical Center; member, The Lacanian Forum of Washington, D.C.)

    4. Lacan’s insights into schizophrenia were continually reworked and developed throughout his many years of teaching. This book revisits the core of Lacan’s formidable approach to treating schizophrenia by linking Lacan’s thought to a wider field of psychoanalytic approaches and methodologies. Ver Eecke also brings his many years of Hegel scholarship and experience as a Lacanian psychoanalyst to bear on the challenge of treating schizophrenia. This book is a treasure for analysts, philosophers, and those in the wider field of mental health. (Daniel Tutt, PhD, professor of philosophy, Marymount University, and member, D.C. Lacanian Forum)

    5. Ver Eecke has produced a highly sophisticated study of clinical approaches to psychosis and schizophrenia that is informed by Lacanian ideas and a range of related philosophical and post-Lacanian approaches. It is very readable and covers complex ideas well, carefully balancing the conceptualizations of a range of theorists along with the author’s own novel ideas. Very accessible and understandable clinical examples bring the discussions alive and make the arguments seem applicable to real-world clinical work, which is one of the successes of the book, especially given that this is often a challenge for Lacanian theorists. (Paul Cammell, senior fellow and psychiatrist, Royal Melbourne Hospital, University of Melbourne)

    6. Wilfried Ver Eecke is a gifted Lacanian psychoanalyst and first-rate describer of psychoanalytic theories.In this book, he describes effective treatments for schizophrenia. . He also offers real hope to patients suffering from serious mental disorders, who usually have been told they are hopeless. This book will help them know that it is not true. (Bertram P. Karon, PhD., ABPP, professor of psychology emeritus, Michigan State University)

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