In this paper, I compare three different views of the relation between subjectivity and modernity: one proposed by Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, a second by theorists of institutionalised individualisation, and a third by writers in the Foucaultian tradition of studies of the history of governmentalities. The theorists were chosen because they represent very different understandings of the relation between contemporary history and subjectivity. My purpose is to ground psychoanalytic theory about what humans need in history and so to question what it means to talk ahistorically about what humans need in order to thrive psychologically. Only in so doing can one assess the relation between psychoanalysis and progressive politics. I conclude that while psychoanalysis is a discourse of its time, it can also function as a counter-discourse and can help us understand the effects on subjectivity of a more than thirty year history in the West of repudiating dependency needs and denying interdependence.