The state of depression: the psychoanalysis of Hannah Arendt

Sabatini, J.A. (2022) The state of depression: the psychoanalysis of Hannah Arendt. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

[img] [English] PDF - Accepted Version
Available under License - The author retains copyright ownership and moral rights in this thesis. Neither the thesis nor substantial extracts from it may be printed or otherwise reproduced without the author's permission.

Download (506kB)


In this thesis I propose that depression is totalitarian in nature. That is, depression appears to utilize the same tactics adopted by the totalitarian to situate itself as supreme ruler of, in this case, the psyche, rather than the nation state. Before beginning the inquiry into totalitarianism there first must be an examination of the clinical side of mental illness with discussion focused on the creation of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This text is considered by many as the ultimate authority on mental disorders, with its contents viewed as a kind of religious scripture in the sense of being the authority on mental illness. The DSM will provide a framework for a commonly held under-standing of the elements of the depressive state as a jumping off point; however, the project will examine the creation of the DSM and, more significantly, the challenges facing the text. This critical discussion reveals the limitations in the manual’s ability to offer a holistic, substantial definition of depression. Despite acknowledged limitations, diagnosis of depression as described within the DSM still continues to exert a problematic authority. How can one better account for states of being where the psyche is occupied, propagandized, isolated, and rendered helpless to act in its own best interest? The symptomatological definition of depression within the DSM is in part what prompted this meditation on melancholia; it was made possible, was indeed inspired, by the work of Hannah Arendt, author of The Origins of Totalitarianism, perhaps the most definitive book on totalitarianism. Unlike Plato, Aristotle, Thomas Hobbes, among many others made a connection between a strong state and a strong mind, this thesis I seek to apply Arendt’s work on totalitarianism as it applies to mental illness, specifically depression. Both depression and totalitarianism are entities or states based on control and oppression. In order to discuss this further, I will include in addition to the work of Arendt as a primary source, the commentary of Elisabeth Young-Bruehl on Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism. The conclusive findings are that depression and totalitarianism are alike in their tactics and in their pursuit of complete control such that activities, free movement, the pursuit of interests are not under the direction of the oppressed person and, in fact, where depression is the totalitarian, neither are thoughts.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Item ID: 15925
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 84-85)
Keywords: depression, DSM, Arendt, totalitarian, mental illness
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Philosophy
Date: October 2022
Date Type: Submission
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Arendt, Hannah, 1906-1975; Mental illness--Classification; Psychoanalysis; Totalitarianism

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over the past year

View more statistics