Inside the Human Mind
Since the beginning of time, civilizations have established nations and grouped people into organized societies all over the world. However, since the time they were born, people in these societies have clashed due to different ideologies, theories, and cultures. A prime example of this clash can be the rise of communism during the 1900’s. This strong theory was born from the realization that alienation exists between people, forming different classes and statuses. Karl Marx is known as the father of this communist theory. However, one needs to question how this ideology sprung into the minds of many individuals. One theory of this revolutionary mentality can come from Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory. Basically stating the fact that this form of alienation in society has always been engraved into the minds of every individual. However, people tend to repress this ideology and believe that it is simply, the way of life. This repression is the cause that leads individuals to the revelation that alienation is wrong, it is not the way to live a life of justice. In this paper, I intend to prove that Freud’s studies on the repression of the psyche, psychoanalysis, is parallel with Marx’s theory that society is alienated and that class distinction should be eliminated. Many times, our struggles come from our personal inadequacies. With Marx, Freud was able to conclude that the struggle to grasp our self-deceptions of society is equal to our handling our psychological propositions. In other words, it is the struggle between our every day lives that are full of presuppositions, our consciousness, and the psyche, our unconsciousness. In order to relate Marx’s theory of Communism in society with Freud’s
psychoanalysis, I will begin by discussing Marx’s background and theory of society and Communism.
Karl Marx, was a Jewish-German who lived from 1818 to 1883. Marx attended Bonn University to study law. From Bonn, he went to Berlin, where he finished his studies. Not being able to seek employment because of his bad reputation of being an atheist, he decided that he should not "ask himself ‘what to do?’ But ‘what is the meaning of my life and what purpose does it serve?’" (Rius, 1979, p. 19). In order to answer this question, Marx decided to study philosophy. In 1845, Marx was struck by an article written by Frederick Engels called, "The condition of the working classes in England." It was because of this article that Marx and Engels became friends and partners. In 1848, Marx and Engels set up the "New Rhenish Gazette," however; Marx’s unpopularity caused him to be expelled from Germany. Afterwards, Marx and Engels took part in a secret society called the Communist League, which pushed them to write the Communist Manifesto. This Manifesto allowed the world to see the two men’s radical thoughts about society and where it was headed. Now, one must consider the questions, "What is communism and how did it come about?" Marx looked at society and came to the realization that there was class struggle. Marx states in his Manifesto:
The modern bourgeois society that has sprouted from the ruins of feudal society has not done away with class antagonism. It has but established new classes, new conditions of oppression, new forms of struggle...society as a whole, is more and more splitting into two great hostile camps, Bourgeoisie and Proletariat. (Ruis, 1979, p. 92)
Marx came to the conclusion that as long as society has private property, we cannot get rid of class struggle. Private property divides social classes up into who earns all the
money without doing any work and who works and does not earn any. What needs to be done, according to Marx, is to rid our society of this private property and relieve ourselves of this alienation which is the result of these class differences. For example, everyone be his or her own boss. Basically, Marx was propositioning the human society is suppose to behave over the course of time, in a direction towards a focus on science, rather than a focus on how to reach to the top of the social ladder. Frank Scott (2000) states:
A century ago, Marxism was the economic science theory that many academics championed as the rationale for government control, since it appealed to the masses but could be controlled by the elite. (p. A-8)
What Marx wanted to do was to address the bourgeois society that change from alienation was positive and that in the age of industrialization, society must focus more on science than status. These concepts of power over the proletariat can be looked upon as mere windows dressing for a social system whose reality was different (Daniels, 1962).
What did Marx have in mind for society with his concept of socialism? Socialism is not society that is structured and contains streamlined individuals. The aim of socialism, then, is man.
"It is to create a form of production and an organization of society which man can overcome alienation from his product, from his work, from his fellow man, from himself, and from nature; in which he can return to himself and grasp the world. (Fromm, 1961, p. 59)
Paul Tillich describes Marx’s theory on socialism as a " resistance movement against the destruction of love in social reality (Fromm, 1961, p. 59). Therefore, Marx concluded in
Marx’s Concept of Man, by Erich Fromm (1961), "Communism, as such, is not the aim of human development" (p. 58). Clearly, Marx believes that society should be able to grasp their desires and wants in life and be freed from alienation. Therefore, they should not repress their radical ideas by ignoring what society had engraved into their minds from the start. This concept of repression leads me to the discourse on Sigmund Freud and his psychoanalysis. This theory seems to parallel Marx in many aspects.
Sigmund Freud was born into a period where "the ever-growing class began to express its aims politically, and many academics are said to have harbored socialist sympathies" (Olson, 1988, p. 98). This development led to reactionary movements, cultural life became a period of deterioration (Olsen, 1988). Freud was born in 1856, in Freiburg, outside of Vienna. He and his family were part of the German-speaking Jewish lower middle class. There is little information about Freud’s childhood. He moved from Vienna to Freiburg at a young age and remembered his childhood years as "harsh" and preferred not to be reminded of them. In his youth, Freud had developed a passion for literature, which veered him to his interest in dreams and fantasies. Olson (1988) states:
During his first years of study, Freud showed many-sided interests in social and political issues. As could be expected of someone who had personally witnessed the petite bourgeoisie being deprived of its economic foundation. (p. 102)
Freud then became very attracted to the radical ideas that had been flourishing in the universities. Freud believed in the saying "the truth is out there." In the fall of 1885, he went to Paris to study with Charcot. It was there that Freud was introduced to a general tool for understanding hysteria and Charcot’s case studies provided Freud with a good idea of how the same abnormal conscious states and attacks could be affected. His
results underlined the need for a psychological theory to correlate nerophysiological theory (Olson, 1988). This is what led to Freud’s psychoanalysis.
According to Freud, the original orientation of psychoanalytic theory is, as Roazen (1973) states in Sigmund Freud; "conflicts between man and man are resolved in principle by the recourse to violence. It is the same in the animal kingdom from which man cannot claim exclusion" (p. 35). Clearly, Freud stated the fact that man’s conflict will always derive from social influence. Man cannot exclude him/herself from conflict for the mere fact that he/she cannot exclude him/herself from society and it’s influences. The term psychoanalysis is primarily reserved for the study of the unconscious life of the psyche; for example, instinctive impulses, fantasies, and repressed childish affections. Therefore, according to Gemelli (1955) in Psychoanalysis Today, psychoanalysis is "a psychology of the unconscious" (p. 14). He goes onto say:
Psychoanalysis is concerned not only with the unconscious conceived of as something by itself, but also with the whole personality and its dynamic tendencies...it considers the whole personality especially in its relationships of a conflictual nature. (p. 15)
This concept cannot be understood of the humanistic subject concept. Therefore, the origin of psychoanalysis was the result of Freud’s "attempt to understand and treat the crises of the subject, and the process of inception developed as a step-by-step harmonization of concrete theoretical and therapeutic investigations" (Olsen 1988, p. 111). In other words, the basis for psychoanalysis is repression. However, what causes this restrain of the psyche? Before looking at social psychoanalysis, one must understand how Freud came up with his theory.
There are four basic inceptions of psychoanalysis. The first phase is known as the hypnoid theory and the splitting of consciousness. The basic assumption of this phase is that the cause of hysteria comes from the splitting of consciousness. Freud and Breur, after careful consideration, had come to the conclusion that hysteria was not hereditary, rejecting Charcot’s idea. Freud and Breur compared a traumatic memory in a dream system to a foreign body causing the symptoms of hysteria. Olsen states:
The experience itself was associated with strong affects, which had been incompletely or incorrectly abreated. The therapy therefore, aimed to obtain a correct abreation resulting in the removal of the disruptive foreign body. ( p. 116)
Freud was in agreement with this splitting of consciousness, however; he did not agree with Breur’s hypnoid theory as an explanation for the psychic split. Freud believed that the psychic split was caused by two issues: Freud’s insistence on the sexual nature of trauma and his theory of defense. This leads us to Freud’s second phase: the theory of defense and the psychic primary and secondary processes. Freud believed that the hypnosis used to disclose a traumatic event did not necessarily have a therapeutic event. Freud believed that, "If the patient revealed the trauma while under hypnosis, he often refused to accept it in the waking state" (Olsen, 1988, p. 118). Freud soon realized that a trauma always consisted of an experience that was embarrassing or intolerable. Therefore, Freud came to the conclusion that the primary cause of this split was not due to the hypnoid state of the patient before the traumatic experience, but to the traumatic experience itself. This caused a split and released an attempt to forget about the experience, known as defense or repression. Freud then realized that hysteria had a dynamic and genetic aspect to it. The primary processes are an unrestrained tendency to
take over pleasurable memories and avoid unpleasurable ones and secondary processes were biologically taught. Therefore, Freud incorporated the concept of defense into general psychological theory. The genetic aspect showed how, according to Freud:
Typical gratification and defense processes developed from primitive reflexes in a newborn baby to reality-oriented thinking in an adult, in other words concreteness to the abstract.
The third phase of the inception of psychoanalysis is known as the unconscious and the preconscious. This came to comprise the core of psychoanalytical theory. On October 15, Freud had written a letter to Flies stating that "Obsessional neurosis was the result of pre-sexual pleasure" (Olsen, 1988, p. 123). Basically stating that, in theory, there was no defense against pleasurable memories, yet the experience had been repressed. In conclusion to this, Freud formulated a new hypothesis: "The original pleasure associated with the experience, must have been transformed into unpleasure" (Olsen, 1988, p. 123). Thus, Freud believed that the psychic had separate memory systems whose relationship corresponded to temporal deposits. Two genuine memory systems were created, the unconscious and the preconscious. The unconscious contained sense impressions of things and objects in the world. In this sector of the psychic, the unconscious can not become conscious by itself; it can only enter consciousness by transferring its impulses to the preconscious. The preconscious contained main concepts for classifying perceived things. These thought processes could become conscious every time they were sparked by an impulse. Now Freud’s concept of defense could be applied. First, the unconscious was dominated by a reflexive defense, which erased unpleasurable ideas that a person had experienced. Second, the preconscious was dominated by a more highly developed defense, which could anticipate a future and present unpleasure and guarantee a more appropriate mode of function. Third, pathological defense or repression occurred when certain impulses from the unconscious were denied access to the preconscious. Thus, pathological defense was a primitive reflexive defense starting in the preconscious. Now it was a question of the unconscious, ideas being prevented from releasing. The fourth and final phase is known as the Oedipus Complex and infantile sexuality. Throughout this fourth phase of inception, Freud made crucial revisions of his earlier views on his study on hysteria. These revisions led to the formulation of the last and most original part of psychoanalytic theory: the Oedipus complex, infantile sexuality, and the formulation of a general theory of neurosis. Freud came to the conclusion that his belief in the seduction theory was the etiology of hysteria. His conclusion came from constantly encountering cases directly or indirectly, pointing to paternal sexual abuse of children. Freud believed, "Some patients with hysterical symptoms, told of their fathers taking them to bed up until puberty and forcing them to provide some kind of sexual satisfaction" (Olsen, 1988, p. 126). Therefore, Freud concluded that these patients had been subjected to the same type of experiences and had repressed them. A number of hysterical patients who could not remember this trauma had fantasies of seduction scenes. Because of this Freud came to the conclusion that these fantasies were psychic creations that came about between the traumatic memory and consciousness as a defense (Olsen, 1988). This interpretation of these fantasies might uncover the trauma. Freud had achieved his goal, "to construct a general psychological model that applied to normal as well as pathological phenomena" (Olsen, 1988, p. 126). Although, Freud’s theory on sexual abuse and oedipal complex does not necessarily apply to society, what can be applied is the idea that any kind of repression can cause a person a certain type of hysteria. This type of hysteria can range from being entirely pathological to having a radical view or opinion. This is where Freud and Marx come into play, and can be applied to times of social radical changes.
Within social theory, there has been a major relevance of psychoanalytic theory. One reason for this is that the use of psychoanalysis is relative with Marx’s theory of a communist society. Freud has helped to fill the gap for Marxist theories. Paul Roazen (1968), in his Freud: Political and Social Thought, states, "Freud’s thought is coherent enough to comprise a system, centering as it does on the unconscious, and at certain points it is abstract enough to attract speculative minds" (p. 6). Freud’s theory not only filled the gap for Marxism, but it also provided some basis for the reason behind radical aspirations. In order to understand how Freud filled the gaps of Marxism, we must appreciate the attraction that Freud’s ideas had for early generations of cultural Marxists. Bruce Brown (1973) poses two ways in which Marx and Freud can be applied to society during the 1900’s. Firstly, one can look at revolutionary ideas as stemming from repression. Or secondly, theses radical ideas may come from the course of history. In terms of repression, one can look at psychoanalysis as being a revolutionary character of its initial impact in Western Europe (Brown, 1973). Just as Marx had absolutely revolutionized thinking about nature and society during this time, people also began to feel that with Freud, something also critical had occurred within society. His new theory that had come about basically "illuminated the conscious awareness and rationalizations of individuals regarding that the motives of their behavior actually constitute distortions and mystification’s of their real motivations and desires" (Brown, 1973, p. 39). This basically led to the conclusion that through this individual psychological analysis, Freud discovered the existence of an unconscious dimension to psychic life. In so many words, Freud was able to outline a method for psychoanalytic investigation which is both scientific and critical as it creates a dialect between theory and practice at the very core of a therapeutic experience within society (Brown, 1973). Thus, a person was able to develop a new function, that is, acquiring an understanding of him/herself in order to be able to control, guide, and shape his/her actions. Therefore, revolutionary intellectuals such as, Reich, Breton, and Teige were able to see psychoanalysis with its dynamic conception of mental life and of development of the individual personality by adding a new and necessary dimension to the revealing revolution, started by Marx in his critique of ideology (Brown, 1973). It is basically concluded that these irrationalities of everyday life have meaning, if an individual’s conscious behavior is understood in relation to his/her unconscious psychic life. This relation between conscious and unconscious life conflicts. This led Freud to formulate an approach to study mental life in terms of "conflicts, interactions, and mutual adjustments between instinctual drives and the claims of reality as expressed in social conditions and moral codes" (Brown, 1973, p. 41). An individual’s plans, behaviors, directs, etc. relate to Marx’s theory on Materialism. Basically stating that what drives one to change is the cause of desiring what one does not have and wants. This is what shapes society, and according to both Marx and Freud it is done unconsciously, with the help of society’s influence. This leads to the theory on repression and society.
Just like Marxism, psychoanalysis offers a radical critique of the alienated society. This renders a transparency of the various structures, from legalism to civilization and reveals the realities of socioeconomic and psychological repression. For example, Marx’s critique on capitalism is noted by psychoanalysis as an:
Uncompromising attack on the traditional values of bourgeoisie society and its institutions, proclaiming the death of everything this society held sacred and reducing it to its unholy and irrational genesis. (Brown 1973, p. 42)
Thus allowing the psychoanalytic method to explore man’s behavior by questioning the fact why people act radically. In this case of repression it is the desires that people repress into their unconscious due to society’s brainwashing influence that lead people to produce radical and revolutionary outcomes to change social conflict.
Freud shares with Marx, not only a dialectic approach but an emphasis on historicity as well. Brown (1973) states, "...psychoanalysis is, like Marxism philosophy of history, a materialist doctrine; it rests on biology as Marxism rests on economics" (p. 41). This is basically saying that both theories, Marxist theory and Freudian theory, move on the same ground. Understanding that men and women as physical and spiritual human beings, who are involved in a struggle and have to engage all their faculties and abilities in maintaining a state of balance between the opposing powers that govern their lives. In this case, that which governs their lives is the history of ideas and opinions that have been engraved into the minds of every citizen, causing them not to have their own ideas. Their opinions and ideas have been repressed due to history. Just as Marx insisted upon the historical specificity of social systems and the need to understand institutions from the perspective of a genetic structuralism, the essential importance inscribed by Freud was the study of the individual patience’s psychological history and the key to revealing his/her personality structure. And to an even greater degree, Freud’s emphasis in his meta-physiological writings was a necessity for providing a historical explanation for psychic phenomena. Concluding that history needs to be taken into account to provide answers for society’s radical behavior.
Unfortunately there has been a decline in this social psychoanalytic theory. Brown (1973) states, "Even within the Freudian camp, certain pressures toward such a revival and development of psychoanalysis’ critical content were already manifesting themselves by the 1920’s, in response to the failure to Orthodox theory and therapy or of the ever more diluted currents of Freudian revisionism to cope with the human problems generated by the post-World War I crisis of Western civilization" (p. ). Basically saying that due to traumatic events, such as wars, the theory of society’s influence on the repressed psyche that had formed revolutionary acts was now tainted with the aftermath of a traumatic war event. This made many psychoanalysts of this age, renovate a theory of functions in society and culture.
In my opinion, psychoanalysis has paved the way of understanding a society and where it is headed, revolutionary wise. I believe that Marx’s social theory on communism and an alienated society and Freud’s theory that revolutionary ideas come from the repressed psyche due to historical presupposition that had been passed down from generation to generation are in fact linked. Freud had developed a theory of the psyche that can be applied to most anything. In this case, the parallel with Marx and Freud proves that the study of the mind can be applied to the outcome of society’s behavior.
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