Cultural Complex


Intense collective emotion is the hallmark of an activated cultural complex at the core of which is an archetypal pattern. Cultural complexes structure emotional experience and operate in the personal and collective psyche in much the same way as individual complexes, although their content might be quite different. Like individual complexes, cultural complexes tend to be repetitive, autonomous, resist consciousness, and collect experience that confirms their historical point of view. And, as already mentioned, cultural complexes tend to be bipolar, so that when they are activated, the group ego or the individual ego of a group member becomes identified with one part of the unconscious cultural complex, while the other part is projected out onto the suitable hook of another group or one of its members. Individuals and groups in the grips of a particular cultural complex automatically take on a shared body language and postures or express their distress in similar somatic complaints. Finally, like personal complexes, cultural complexes can provide those caught in their potent web of stories and emotions a simplistic certainty about the group's place in the world in the face of otherwise conflicting and ambiguous uncertainties. To summarize, cultural complexes are based on repetitive, historical group experiences which have taken root in the cultural unconscious of the group. At any ripe time, these slumbering cultural complexes can be activated in the cultural unconscious and take hold of the collective psyche of the group and the individual/ collective psyche of individual members of the group. The inner sociology of the cultural complexes can seize the imagination, the behavior and the emotions of the collective psyche and unleash tremendously irrational forces in the name of their "logic."


Samuel L. Kimbles;  Thomas Singer (2007-03-20). The Cultural Complex (pp. 6-7). Taylor & Francis. Kindle Edition. 


For the non-Jungians reading this,  a "complex" is an unconscious, core pattern of emotions, memories, perceptions, and wishes organized around a common theme. For me, this notion of a cultural complex helps me to understand where the energy for the so-called "war on obesity" is coming from. Notice how the themes are repeated again and again along with images that are intended to support the the [dominant] group's place in the world in the face of otherwise conflicting and ambiguous uncertainties. The images of headless fatties, the constant drumbeat about the dangers of fat, the assumptions that fat is due to a failure of will and self-control all act to keep fat as Other. 


© CHERYL FULLER, 2010. ALL  RIGHTS RESERVED.