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  Autonomy (Greek, ‘law to oneself’, ‘being self-governed’), in psychology, is achieved by overcoming infantile dependence and creating adult independence. An adult can be neurotically dependent, imagining himself or herself to be dependent on others and not autonymous. Such neurotic reliance is the result of a belief that others have choices and they do not. There are different views in psychology as to how autonomy is gained, though all psychodynamic views would agree that autonomy necessarily includes autonomy from one\'s parents.

Autonomy in psychoanalysis comes through the successful completion of the Oedipal phase (see Oedipus complex). The first part of the Oedipal phase is when the child feels it should have the same-sex parental partner\'s place in the triangular relationship: at this stage, the parent in question is seen as the usurper. Then there is the discovery that it is dangerous to covet this position; the child sees itself as the usurper and fears retribution. This is resolved by sexuality becoming latent and being replaced by an identification with the parent of the same sex. The parent of the opposite sex is then rediscovered at puberty, when the person becomes attracted to the opposite sex. If not resolved this can result in father-or mother-fixated behaviour, as well as in neurotic dependent states.

Autonomy in Jungian psychology, seen through the myths created in fairy tales, views children as given symbolic gifts to help them, and finds children supported by special helpers, but the emphasis is on finding their way themselves and finally finding their own mates. If not resolved, the dependence on the parents is transferred onto the adult partners and autonomy is not achieved. Autonomy means assertion of our own needs, making choices and finding our own partner.

In politics autonomy is a relative concept which refers to the degree of freedom from coercion or outside influence which a state, a region, a group or an individual has over its own actions. The expression the ‘autonomy of the state’ when used by historians or political scientists may also refer to the ability of state officials to pursue state interests, rather than simply reflecting or reacting to the interests of dominant groups in society.

Theoretically all states which are recognized in the world system as sovereign are thought to be autonomous from other states. However, in practice, the autonomy of sovereign states is limited by international organizations, like the United Nations, NATO, ASEAN, supranational organizations, like the EC, and multiple forms of economic, cultural and political interdependence between states.

Regions and peoples within states may seek autonomy, rather than independence, that is, they seek self-government in domestic public policy rather than sovereignty in foreign affairs. Such autonomy may take the form of a developed government within a unitary state, a cantonal or provincial government within a federation, or indeed a nonterritorial form.

The idea of personal autonomy is a central value in most forms of Western liberalism, and in contemporary political philosophy is linked to debates about the justification of state, democracy and law, privacy and questions of distributive justice. Most recently it has played a central part in debates about multiculturalism. MJ BO\'L

See also consociation; democracy; federalism.Further reading Gerald Dworkin, The Theory and Practice of Autonomy; , Hurst Hannum, Autonomy, Sovereignty, and Self-Determinism: the Accommodation of Conflicting Rights; , Charles Taylor, Multiculturalism and ‘The Politics of Recognition’.



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