Science and the Marxist movement: The legacy of Freud

36 posts / 0 new
Last post
Fred
Science and the Marxist movement: The legacy of Freud
Printer-friendly versionSend by email

The discussion that follows was prompted by the article: Science and the Marxist movement: The legacy of Freud. The discussion was initiated by Fred.
Below is the discussion so far. Feel free to add your own comments!

Fred
I like this unusual article

I like this unusual article even though it has for me a "now you see it, now you don't" teasing aspect to it. But then that's the subject matter isn't it? And for once, even that arch-explicator, Trotsky, appears also to have trouble saying exactly what he means even though he takes Freud very seriously. But given that we've got a thread on our site about "poetry"; and questions elsewhere about the "unemployed" and what can they do; and a poster, Sam, was asking about the relationship between individual thoughts and action and wider class actions under the heading : Capitalism has no Future, that's why we need a Revolution; and then of course the never-ending saga of maturing consciousness - is it subliminal or not, happening or not - and then the somewhat angst-ridden "How to read Capital" thread; an indication from Freud via this piece, that there's more to the mind and to being than might initially meet the eye, and that there is (or might be?) a whole lot of stuff going on in our heads that we only know a little about as yet, is a useful reminder of our human condition and our frailty even as militant revolutionaries.

Quote:
...as long as we live in world where mankind's "evil passions" can still explode with terrifying force; where sexual relations between human beings, whether brutally held in check by mediaeval ideologies or cheapened and prostituted in the global marketplace, continue to be a source of untold human misery; where for the vast majority of mankind the creative powers of the mind remain largely buried and inaccessible - then the problems posed by Sigmund Freud must not only remain as relevant today as when they were first raised, but their resolution will surely be an irreplaceable element in the construction of a truly human society

It would be a mistake I suppose to single out the bourgeoisie as the great exponents currently of the obvious "evil passions" stemming largely now from the downfall of their economies: their non-stop war mongering; their insistent imposition of cruel austerities on their exploited populations? And then there's sexual prostitution - an extension of their commodity relationships - and the child-abuse they secretly go in for as if a perk of their privileged life-style.

But Freud was not just concerned about the peculiarities of ruling classes; and what he says, or hints at, or doesn't say exactly about our human life and it's purposes, understood, admitted, or confessed to or not, clearly has implications for us all.

But this requires a lot more thought; especially as we are living in revolutionary times, even though there's no visible sign as yet; but isn't the expectancy a powerful force? (I suppose I'm asking to be bashed!)

Alf
uncle sigmund

My dad was also a Jewish doctor. He had a practice in Hampstead too, and in the same area of Hampstead, though separated by Fitzjohn's Avenue. It was a bit later on, from the late 40s till the end of the 1970s. He was a GP not a psychiatrist, although he always insisted that the greater part of his treatment of patients was psychological, and that medicine was an art not a science. 

 

 

Thanks, Fred, for your encouraging words. Perhaps we can use this thread to muse about the subconscious (a term which Freud almost never used, but the preconscious is more or less the same thing)

 

mhou
It seems pertinent that

It seems pertinent that several Old Bolsheviks were friendly to psychoanalysis; that it was a useful science to compliment our understanding of society. Some communists have used terms like 'Jungian' as a smear, but it doesn't seem to be a negative trait. I think the 'Freudo-Marxists' went a bit overboard, but some communists are pretty into Lacan (probably because of Zizek). What do people think about psychoanalysis, is it complimentary to Marxism?

mikail firtinaci
otto gross

mhou wrote:

 What do people think about psychoanalysis, is it complimentary to Marxism?

I think it definitely is. At least psychoanalysis has a lot to contribute. Otto Gross, who might be conceived as the radical wing of psychoanalysis was close to anarchism but he also wrote in Die Aktion in 1920s; the journal edited by the LC Pfemfert. He has a very interesting article in which he tried to define communism as a return to an earlier, primitive communism in a more advanced form. I think this very close to Marx and Engels who saw class society as a transitiory stage preparing the way for full communism, only this time on a worldscale level. Gross further argued that communism, by freeing the women from family -and undermining the inferiority complex- will (to put in a simplistic way) would overcome the neurosis -the normal condition under the class society.

There is a very interesting article centred on this arguement - presenting it way better than me:

http://libcom.org/history/otto-gross-anarchist-psychoanalyst

Also, a collection of his essays has been published very recently, which was unavailable before in English:

http://www.amazon.com/Selected-Works-1901-1920-Otto-Gross/dp/0970423675/...

Alf
Gross

Mark Kosman also mentions Gross in this context in an article that has been published on libcom:  

 

http://www.libcom.org/history/marx-engels-luxemburg-return-primitive-com...

 

Gross also has a role in the A (Very) Dangerous Method - both the film and the book, which is well worth reading: not a novel or a screenplay but a work of scholarship. 

 

Fred
pain

Regarding his father Alf wrote: "My dad was also a Jewish doctor... He was a GP not a psychiatrist, although he always insisted that the greater part of his treatment of patients was psychological, and that medicine was an art not a science."

The idea that "part of his treatment was psychological" though we don't know exactly what this means, or what he did, or said, that could be interpreted as "psychological", and to be distinguished from the non-psychological, is appealing as an idea because it gets us away from the notion of "psychoanalysis" or psycho-therapy as special activities to buy into and engage with. (Though I am not saying they are a waste of time, but they make me suspicious!) A character who is dying at the end of a novel by Dickens, comments to the effect that: "There's a pain in the room but I can't say that I've got it!". I think this expresses the wider implications of "pain" very well, and acknowledges that not all pain need have a purely physical starting point, despite symptoms of a physical kind.

In N.East Thailand some Buddhist Temples provide for the alleviation of pain by having specially made cavities in the ground, round the outside of the temple, where sufferers can deposit their agonies and troublesome pain in the form of bulky and ugly sacks, dumped in the hole, covered over, and then perhaps forgotten, or at least given some separation from the suffering individual. It probably works for some people.

For some of us, it is enough, or a good start, to realize the true nature of this awful society in which we live, to find then some release from troubling pain and restless thoughts that may have disturbed us for many years.

 

Fred
Trotsky has Freud peering

Trotsky has Freud peering into a well, and trying to make out what's going on in the depths, as an image for Freud's approach to analyzing the unconscious. But surely what he really did was to jump in feet first and try and grab whatever was passing by with a view to investigation? But, in any case, I rather find the "well" image unsatisfying, as an image for the unconscious, much preferring that of a cave. By and large, caves are largely as yet unexplored. The largest known cave , "Mammoth Cave" in Kentucky, has the greatest length of surveyed passages at 628 km. But there's more there to be discovered. Isn't this more like the unconscious? A vast labyrinth of dark passages, stretching for miles, some connected, some not, some liable to sudden flooding, some decorated with marvelous paintings by our ancestors who appear to have found caves fascinating too.

Werner Herzog's film about Chauvet Cave in France is called "Cave of Forgotten Dreams", and is about the beautiful paintings our ancestors put there many aeons ago. Forgotten Dreams is an evocative expression, seeming to point right at the unconscious mind. Why did our forbears choose to paint in the obscure darkness of almost inaccessible corners of not particularly inviting caves? Is it possible they felt an affinity between the difficult secret darknesses of the unknown corners of the cave, and the difficult secret darknesses of their own psyches, prompting them to intuitive acts? Did the secret corners of the cave somehow reflect their secret musings?

Baboon has a review of Werner Herzog's film elsewhere on this site. Here is a paragraph.

Baboon wrote:
.
When the cave mouth was open there is, in the half-light of the Chamber of Bear Hollows, a wall that would have been perfect for painting. There is nothing painted here and instead the painting and engraving begin in the chambers and galleries that would have been in total darkness. The film shows the dots and “signs” that evoke insects and birds and there is the absence of any human figure with the exception of a “sorcerer”, a female pubic triangle, a female silhouette associated with a composite bison being. The film, like most popular research, doesn’t deal much with the geometric signs that are ubiquitous in cave art over a twenty thousand year period; circles, dashes, broken lines, dots, etc. In some parts of Chauvet these signs are a dominant feature while animals are relegated to the background. There are “signs” on many of the animals and some seem to have blood coming out of their mouths or noses, again characteristic of shamanistic rituals even relatively recently. There are themes going on here, a narrative and it seems to me that these “signs” are the closest thing we have to a written language over thirty thousand years ago. I think that it’s reasonable to assume that where the drawings and engravings are concentrated that ceremonies, rituals and religious practices would have taken place.
.

When it came to the unconscious, was Freud a mere peerer into wells, or not more of a speleologist, penetrating ever deeper into the caverns of the mind, and finding there not only the initially inexplicable, but beautiful paintings too?

baboon
well, well

Fred, I'll return to the question of a "language" of these prehistoric signs in a future text that, in part, looks at the question of "Structuralism" raised by Jens recently. Looking at Upper Palaeolithic cave art (indeed some "portable" art also) it is in the greatest depths, the most inacessible parts of the cave, that the most profound and strangest works are created. The shamanistic elements here of altered states of consciousness are more obvious. There is a much wider and deeper social context to the cave and the paintings and symbols that adorn them.

But your "well" analogy got me thinking and I remembered a simile made by Socrates in Plato's "Republic" in David Lewis-Williams "The Mind in the Cave". Socrates imagines a deep cave (or a well-like structure) looking up towards the light. There are prisoners tied up at the bottom who have been there since infancy - it's all they've known. They can only see shadows of men and things that they are carrying whose shadows are thrown down by the light onto the walls. They know nothing beyond the cave and believe that these shadows are reality.  They would have talked much about the shadows and one or two amongst them would have had a keen eye for them, explaining how they were real, or if they were carrying statues for example, look like giant monsters. If another of them were to escape and come back and report on what he had really seen above, no-one would believe him, no-one would doubt the keen-eyed observers, although they were only observing shadows and illusions. In DL-W's version, the light streams into the cave, hits the minds of the prisoners, and throws shadows of their minds onto the wall and these mix with the shadows of the external objects. Even in Socrates' views the prisoners in the cave could confirm to each other what they seeing even if it wasn't real. If the people carrying objects across the cave entrance were to speak, and their voices were to echo down the cave walls, the bound prisoners at the bottom would believe that the voices came from the shadows in front of them. There's a real combination here in this story of both rational and irrational belief at the same.

jk1921
The status of psychoanalysis

The status of psychoanalysis as a "science" is extremely controversial. Moreover, its relationship to Marxism is far from straightforward. There has been considerable debate on this question within the ICC itself and not all comrades share the taste for Freud that comes across in this article.

In terms of psychoanalysis as a "science"--it has largely been transcended within the practice of psychiatry and clinical psychology today by biological theories and/or the resort too cognitive behavioural therapy. Psychoanalysis is just too damn time consuming and to expensive for insurance companies and government health plans. CBT is cheaper and shows more promise for getting people back to work faster. Still, the spectre of psychoanalysis continues to loom over modern medicine and not always in a good way--witness the current revisions to the DSM, which is set to include a new Somatic Symptom Disorder (SSD)--a diagnosis that would label many chronic pain patients as suffering from a "mental disorder."

This is a very throny subject and anyone who wants to defend the critical side of psychoanlysis will also have to account for the many myriad ways it has gotten caught up with social domination and state power since its inception. Then again, that might be true for Marxism itself.

 

 

Fred
Alf said on another

Alf said on another thread 

Quote:
This is probably why I don't agree with jk1921 when he lumps parapsychology in with the rest of the pseudo-sciences. The methodical study of the strange and 'outside' is not the same as falling into it headfirst, without any proper introduction.
<p>

What do you mean by "parapsychology " Alf?  Do you mean things like "intuition"  "mind reading"  and powerful feelings of "empathy" ( solidarity?).  Or do you have in mind matters like "hauntings" "ghosts" the "x - files" type of thing and unexplainable "spiritual" events?  Can you help? <p>

Years ago it was only women who had "intuitions" men were much too strong and sensible.  But I think probably they're fairly common, and too easily dismissed. <p>

Shakespeare understood ghosts. Macbeth saw the ghost of Banquo whose murder he had arranged. But only Macbeth saw  the ghost, though there were others present,  which we can thus conclude  was the product of Macbeth's own fevered and guilt - ridden psychology. But a number of people witness - or at least hear - Hamlet's father's ghost. Is this small group hysteria: or a sort of empathetic sharing of thoughts? A sort of "solidarity" in  a very heightened and emotional situation? <p>

Did Marx believe in "hauntings"?   "A spectre is haunting Europe..."  But it's the bourgeoisie who is  haunted in this case; and they have every reason to feel guilty about their relationship to the working class.  Perhaps GUILT, fully conscious or otherwise, presents a sort of key to some kinds of  unusual or paranormal events? <p>

And then of course there's Sorcery and Witchcraft, where some people manifest understandings (intuitions?) which may give them a consciousness of reality far in advance of most of their contemporaries.  Rather like the Communist League in 1847. So communism becomes sorcery! I'm sure that would appeal to the bourgeoisie. <p>

So can you elaborate just a bit, Alf?

 

Alf
Interesting that you should

Interesting that you should post this on the Freud thread. Although during the time of their growing divergences, Freud reacted strongly against Jung's fascination with strange phenomena, in his later life he became more and more convinced that there was a foundation to experiences of telepathy. He shared with Jung a view that the unconscious was not restricted to the individual and posited that it might be a medium for such 'messages' (it was  largely the dreams of his patients which convinced him that there was something real going on). The chapter to read would be 'Dreams and Occultism' in the New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis (1932/3). Freud is supposed to have said that if he could live his life again, he would have paid much more attention to these phenomena, although I haven't found a quote to support this. 

My point was that parapsychology is - or could be - a scientific study of such phenomena. Admittedly the results from repeatable lab experiments so far have been meagre, but these experiences are notoriously hard to reproduce in a laboratory setting, and perhaps that is not the only way these questions can be investigated. Certainly they imply a number of theoretical questions: such as, to what extent is the idea that all the phenomena of consciousness can be reduced to the activity of individual brains a product of a reified and egoistic world view?

LBird
Dreaming of speed

Alf wrote:
Certainly they imply a number of theoretical questions: such as, to what extent is the idea that all the phenomena of consciousness can be reduced to the activity of individual brains a product of a reified and egoistic world view?

Reducing 'consciousness' to the 'individual brain' is a prime example of bourgeois reductionism. Or, as you prefer, "a product of a reified and egoistic world view".

Consciousness is a product of society: the brain, left to its own development, would not produce a 'mind'. One might as well search for the source of a car's 'speed' in the Spirit of Ecstacy, whilst stationary upon the bonnet of a Rolls-Royce. The source is in the specific relationship of all the car's components. 'Speed' emerges from 'structure'. 'Consciousness' emerges from 'society'.

I would like to acknowledge that I know very little about Freud, but that's because, as far as I'm aware, he was not any sort of Communist/Socialist/proletarian thinker. Mustn't his work be located historically in his society? Perhaps some comrades think that his work can be useful, and I'm prepared to read a short summary posted here, but I'm very sceptical.

No links to long articles or book recommendations at this stage, thank you, comrades!

Alf
great minds....

Well, there's a definite agreement there, regarding the social nature of consciousness, something Marx affirmed very early on his work. 

Regarding Freud, have you read the article that launched this thread? It does try to show some areas where marxism and psychoanalysis converge. Maybe we could start there, although there is no substitute for reading Freud himself. An Outline of Psychoanalysis is one of his later works which tries to give a very succinct summary of his ideas. 

However, I can't agree with your idea that Freud can't be of interest because he is "not any sort of Communist/Socialist/proletarian thinker". Neither were Aristotle, Democritus, Shakespeare, Goethe, Spinoza, Darwin....  and yet Marx never hid his respect for them and often quoted them to illustrate his own ideas. There seems to be a hint of workerism, of "proletkultism", in your thinking on this point. 

LBird
Freud is an individualist ideologist

Alf wrote:
However, I can't agree with your idea that Freud can't be of interest because he is "not any sort of Communist/Socialist/proletarian thinker". Neither were Aristotle, Democritus, Shakespeare, Goethe, Spinoza, Darwin.... and yet Marx never hid his respect for them and often quoted them to illustrate his own ideas. There seems to be a hint of workerism, of "proletkultism", in your thinking on this point.

Oh, no! Not that accusation, again! We've done this one already, Alf.

The point is, we must locate any thinker in their society, and its thinking. That doesn't mean we ignore them, or that they are of no interest, but that we understand them from the perspective of 'social-objectivity'. The fact that someone is not a Communist is of the greatest importance, not just a minor political detail which can be left to one side.

Alf wrote:
Well, there's a definite agreement there, regarding the social nature of consciousness, something Marx affirmed very early on his work.
[my bold]

I'm with Marx versus 'individualist' Freud, on this one, Alf.

 

Alf
You're right your idea that

You're right your idea that we can't learn much from thinkers who aren't communists came up before. But I still don't understand your answer. 

Why do you define Freud as an individualist? Some of his most creative (and subversive) ideas are a result of his efforts to develop what he called a 'metapsychology', ie to discover common traits in the psychic life of mankind as a species, and not simply of this or that individual patient. 

LBird
Round in circles, again?

Alf wrote:
You're right your idea that we can't learn much from thinkers who aren't communists came up before.

And what's 'come up' again, Alf, is your mistaken insistence that 'locating a thinker in their society' means 'ignoring' them or claiming that 'we can't learn much' from them.

Alf wrote:
But I still don't understand your answer.

Once again,

LBird, post 15, wrote:
The point is, we must locate any thinker in their society, and its thinking. That doesn't mean we ignore them, or that they are of no interest, but that we understand them from the perspective of 'social-objectivity'. The fact that someone is not a Communist is of the greatest importance, not just a minor political detail which can be left to one side.

Alf wrote:
Why do you define Freud as an individualist? Some of his most creative (and subversive) ideas are a result of his efforts to develop what he called a 'metapsychology', ie to discover common traits in the psychic life of mankind as a species, and not simply of this or that individual patient.

Once again,

LBird, post 13, wrote:
Perhaps some comrades think that his work can be useful, and I'm prepared to read a short summary posted here, but I'm very sceptical.

No links to long articles or book recommendations at this stage, thank you, comrades!

Would you care to provide 'a short summary' of 'his most creative (and subversive) ideas', please, Alf? With especially reference to the alleged 'common traits in the psychic life of mankind as a species'.

And, as a starter, I'd define Freud as 'an individualist' because he's not a Communist. Or if you think that he is, could you outline why you think this.

Because I employ the ICC's scientific method of 'social-objectivity', I want to know Freud's class and ideology before I study his hypotheses, experiments and research results. I regard him as bourgeois and liberal. But I might be wrong, so I'm happy to read a post which corrects this belief of mine. If you fail to do this, I will continue to regard his 'science' as 'bourgeois liberal science', and build upon that basis.

If you disgree with this scientific method that I've outlined elsewhere, that's fine, we can discuss it further. If you disagree with the notion of 'social-objectivity', we can return to that discussion, too.

But, please, no more claims of 'proletkultism' or (its contrary which is also alleged!) 'radical social science', on my part! I'm a Communist, and we need to take the 'best' from bourgeois thinkers (and earlier ones!), but we must define 'best', not them.

LBird
Gross in many ways?

mikail firtinaci wrote:
mhou wrote:
 What do people think about psychoanalysis, is it complimentary to Marxism?

I think it definitely is. At least psychoanalysis has a lot to contribute. Otto Gross, who might be conceived as the radical wing of psychoanalysis was close to anarchism but he also wrote in Die Aktion in 1920s; the journal edited by the LC Pfemfert. He has a very interesting article in which he tried to define communism as a return to an earlier, primitive communism in a more advanced form. ...

There is a very interesting article centred on this arguement - presenting it way better than me:

http://libcom.org/history/otto-gross-anarchist-psychoanalyst

Why do you think it is 'complimentary to Marxism', mikail?

libcom article wrote:
"I have only mixed with anarchists and declare myself to be an anarchist," Otto Gross said in 1913....The incomparable revaluation of all values, with which the imminent future will be filled, begins in this present time with Nietzsche's thinking about the depths of the soul and with Freud's discovery of the so-called psychoanalytic technique. This latter is a practical method which for the first time makes it possible to liberate the unconscious for empirical knowledge: i.e., for us it has now become possible to know ourselves....Gross saw Freud's psychoanalysis as a continuation of Nietzsche's philosophy. For example, he credited Nietzsche with the realization of society's pathogenic influence on the individual - what Gross termed the conflict between that which is one's own and that which is the other's. In Gross' view, Freud then developed Nietzsche's insight further by discovering the pathogenic influence of repressed affects

Most of this article consists of rubbish, in my opinion. Why would a Communist bother to recommend it, other than for a specific, biographical interest in Otto Gross?

If that's one's purpose, fair enough, but what use is it for our political purposes?

A.Simpleton
A fool rushes in

Just some thinking out loud trying to help : I can glimpse why the work of following explorers of mentality might be useful in informing something or other at some point but ... 

Freud (and Jung):  

I mention them together because they were 'contemporaries' -at first Freud being Jung's mentor- and some of the best introductory information about Freud's 'place' in academic circles and 'ideology' can be gained from Jung's chapter V ( just 34 pages) in 'Memories, Dreams and Reflections'( his autobiography). ( like you comrade I tend to want knowledge of the author before reading the book) 

1 ) Yes he was 'just' an individual: and yes he was perforce acting within the 'academic' establishment' of his time ( mostly shunned by it !): but that is not to say that he in some way promoted 'individualism' 

2)  Freud's field of focus and investigation was the mind and mental illness but he started from a critical point of view: against the odds against accepted/establishment 'science': one of the first to challenge the 'doctor(expert)-patient(idiot) relationship by taking careful note and giving complete precedence to the patient's account/feelings/dreams: from which he then worked.

3) Even more 'outrageously' for his time he suggested that 'reality' was not as it had so far been described: things were not just as they seemed: 'this' effect was not the result of 'that' apparently obvious cause

Before getting into all the 'unconscious' , 'repression' terms this is just to give a taste of the stance .

If you like - in Kuhnian terms - he focussed on the anomalies and challenged the paradigm.

Jung writes:

'Freud's greatest achievement probably consisted in taking neurotic patients seriously ( I would expand on that by adding that his very starting point was to put "neurotic" in quotes : AS)

He undertook to overthrow false gods, to rip the veils away from a mass of dishonesties and hypocracies, mercilessly exposing the rotteness of the contemporary psyche. He did not falter from the unpopularity and rejection such an enterprise entailed'

AS

 

 

 

 

 

LBird
Missing the point?

A.Simpleton wrote:
Just some thinking out loud trying to help...

Thanks for your attempt, AS, but I'm still not really any the wiser about why Communists should look to Freud.

AS wrote:
...but that is not to say that he in some way promoted 'individualism'

So, he didn't 'promote individualism'? But then:

AS wrote:
...giving complete precedence to the patient's account/feelings/dreams: from which he then worked.

This sounds to me like Freud 'started from the individual'.

But as a Communist, I would expect any method of psychology to 'start from the society (within which the individual lives and is formed by)'.

AS wrote:
Jung writes:

'Freud's greatest achievement probably consisted in taking neurotic patients seriously ...

I'd be rather more impressed if Jung had written 'Marx's greatest achievement probably consisted in taking exploitative society seriously ', and had gone on to situate 'neuroticism' within 'bourgeois society', rather than within individual 'patients'.

Am I still missing something about Freud which is essential for Communists to understand? I'm still confused, comrade.

A.Simpleton
If you are missing something

Then so am I !

When I first waded through Freud's voluminous works ( like the 'good little student' I was fighting my inner self to be ) it was very soon after my 'eureka' moment 'discovering' Marx: all manner of confusions, the chaos of an amorphous mass with every kind of conflicting, supposedly important 'theory' of this or that in 'Bourgeois Academia', was thrown into sharp and profound focus by Marx's starting point for the analysis of history: the all pervading nature of the Class Struggle.

With the daring of a bus pass holder I will stick my neck out and say:

There is nothing about Freud that it is essential for Communists to understand with regard to the huge task of insurrection and revolution.

AS 

 

A.Simpleton
Freud-'ish'

Here is a passage from Jung : The Undiscovered Self : chapter 6 page 74 : 1957

'The question of human relationship and of the inner cohesion of our society is an urgent one in view of the atomisation of the pent-up mass of man, whose personal relationships are undermined by general mistrust. Wherever police spying and terror are at work, human beings fall into isolation,which of course is the aim and purpose of the dictator State, since it is based on the greatest possible accumulation of dis-empowered social units. ( could almost be Marx writing ..AS.)

But then he continues:

'To counter this danger, the free society needs a bond of an affective nature, a principle of a kind like charity, the Christian love of your neighbour.

..er.. Surely you would denounce this as dangerous Bourgeois reformist twaddle ?

I am at a loss as to see how such an insightful figure as Jung could not fail to see how Marx is relevant. 

Why didn't Jung or Freud ever mention Marx whose revolutionary writing explained exactly why 'the atomised pent-up mass of man were 'atomised'/ f***ed up ?

Yes they explored -radically- the 'pre-conscious' the 'collective unconscious' et alia - Jung in particular studying all cultures, all history -  and in such depth that to leave out the all-pervasive class struggle and the mighty works of Marx on man's nature and history, is puzzling to say the least and 'easy meat' for counter-revolutionary tendencies.

Has not the comrade got a good point that they were starting 'at the wrong end'?

AS 

LBird
Gauntlet thrown

A.Simpleton, post 21, wrote:
With the daring of a bus pass holder I will stick my neck out and say:

There is nothing about Freud that it is essential for Communists to understand with regard to the huge task of insurrection and revolution.

Thanks for that advice, AS!

You seem to have actually read Freud and Jung, whereas I've already openly admitted I haven't, and it appears I can get on with reading other works more useful for Communists (not least more stuff on science and its method).

A.Simpleton, post 22, wrote:
But then he continues:

'To counter this danger, the free society needs a bond of an affective nature, a principle of a kind like charity, the Christian love of your neighbour.

..er.. Surely you would denounce this as dangerous Bourgeois reformist twaddle ?

I am at a loss as to see how such an insightful figure as Jung could not fail to see how Marx is relevant.

Why didn't Jung or Freud ever mention Marx whose revolutionary writing explained exactly why 'the atomised pent-up mass of man were 'atomised'/ f***ed up ?

....

Has not the comrade got a good point that they were starting 'at the wrong end'?

Yes, AS, it's now up to those comrades, who would recommend Freud and Jung as useful for Communists, to make a case for them.

Of course, anyone can read anything from just curiosity, or for personal interest, but I mean specifically 'Why for Communists?'.

Alf
AS wrote about Freud and

AS wrote about Freud and Jung:

Yes they explored -radically- the 'pre-conscious' the 'collective unconscious' et alia - Jung in particular studying all cultures, all history - and in such depth that to leave out the all-pervasive class struggle and the mighty works of Marx on man's nature and history, is puzzling to say the least and 'easy meat' for counter-revolutionary tendencies.

There are references to Marx in Freud's work and as the article we published showed Freud was extremely interested in the early experiments of the Soviet power. The Book Freud and the Bolsheviks by Martin Miller is worth reading about the mutual links between the Russian revolution and the psychoanalytical movement prior to the Stalinist counter-revolution. However, what is more interesting to me is the fact that precisely because Freud was pursuing questions which bourgeois society could not answer, precisely because he was prepared to follow his thinking  - his science - to its most daring conclusions, he ended up reaching essentially the same conclusions as Marx on some vital points, as we show in the footnote to the article:  

Contrary to the oft-repeated cliché that Freud "reduced everything to sex", he made it clear that "the motive of human society is in the last instance an economic one; since it does not possess enough provisions to keep its members alive unless they work, it must restrict the number of its members and divert their energies from sexual activities to work. It is faced, in short, by the eternal, primeval exigencies of life, which are with us to this day" (Introductory Lectures, Lecture 20, "The sexual life of human beings"). In other words; repression is the product of human social organisations dominated by material scarcity. In another passage, this time from The Future of an Illusion (1927), Freud showed an understanding of the class nature of "civilised" society and even permitted himself in passing to envisage a stage beyond it: "If a culture has not gone beyond a point at which the satisfaction of one portion of its participants depends upon the suppression of another - and this is the case in all present-day cultures - it is understandable that the suppressed people should develop an intense hostility towards a culture whose existence they make possible by their work, but in whose wealth they have too small a share...The hostility of these classes to civilisation is so obvious that it has caused the more latent hostility of the social strata who are better provided for to be overlooked. It goes without saying that a civilisation which leaves so large a number of its participants unsatisfied and drives them into revolt neither has nor deserves the prospect of a lasting existence" (Chapter 2). Thus the present order not only has "no prospect of a lasting existence", but there could perhaps be a culture that has "gone beyond a point" at which class divisions (and, by implication, the hitherto existing mechanisms of mental repression) might become superfluous.

LBird
Yet to be convinced Freud is worth our time

Thanks for your post in reply to my request, Alf.

However,

Alf wrote:
However, what is more interesting to me is the fact that precisely because Freud was pursuing questions which bourgeois society could not answer, precisely because he was prepared to follow his thinking - his science - to its most daring conclusions, he ended up reaching essentially the same conclusions as Marx on some vital points, as we show in the footnote to the article:...
[my bold]

Isn't this 'over-egging the pudding' a bit, given the context of the article's conclusions (which surround the footnote):

The Legacy of Freud wrote:
Freud did, on one or two occasions, allow himself to envisage a society which had overcome the endless struggle against material scarcity and therefore would no longer have to impose this repression on its members.[11] But on the whole, his outlook remained cautiously pessimistic, seeing no social avenue that could lead to such a society.
[my bold]

If anything, I think the wider conclusion can be drawn, notwithstanding Freud's 'one or two occasions' of deeper critical thought, that Freud has very little to offer to Communists, and that he focussed essentially on 'individuals' and 'their problems' rather than outrightly condemning the bourgeois society, which in fact was (and is) the root of those alleged 'individual problems'.

Surely Freud is a paradigmatic example of the failure of bourgeois science to reach justifiable conclusions, rather than an example of 'good science' that Communists could benefit from reading?

Alf
Individuals

Individuals exist, they have their own particular history as part of world history; marxism can provide the general social and historical framework for understanding the actions and responses of individuals, but it has never claimed that it can tell the entire story of each individual's emotional and psychological make-up. A psychology which didn't take the specific history of the individual as a central focus would be no use as a psychology. 

LBird
The isolated individual?

Your reply seems a bit 'limp', Alf.

The assertion that 'individuals exist' seems almost Thatcherite in its finality! There is certainly room for debate on the historical, ideological and essentially social construction of the very concept of 'the individual'. Of course, we can always revert to 'common sense' - "no discussion is needed, it's obvious that we're all individuals!".

Alf wrote:
Individuals exist, they have their own particular history as part of world history...

Yes, but surely that 'particular history' is still a 'social history'?

Alf wrote:
...marxism can provide the general social and historical framework for understanding the actions and responses of individuals, but it has never claimed that it can tell the entire story of each individual's emotional and psychological make-up.
[my bold]

Has it ever been tried?

Can you perhaps elaborate on your implicit claim that it can't be done? Are these other 'emotional and psychological' factors in an individual's 'make-up' not social? Are they organic?

Alf wrote:
A psychology which didn't take the specific history of the individual as a central focus would be no use as a psychology.

Yes, but it would still be a 'specific social history', wouldn't it? And thus, amenable to an analysis based upon a 'general social and historical framework', like Marxism?

As I've said constantly, Alf, I haven't read Freud or Jung, but these seem to be reasonable questions of their work, to me.

Alf
It would be amenable to,

It would be amenable to, consistent with, a general social framework but it would be distinct. Marxism is not a system of psychology. 

I make the admittedly banal point about individuals because marxism does not see the individual as the mere passive product of general social forces. There are more specific elements, which are also social, of course, like family history (this is where Freud in particular enters the equation). There is also consciousness as an active factor. Otherwise individuals with identical class backgrounds would mechanically have the same ideas and emtional reactions. 

LBird
Conclusion?

Alf wrote:
It would be amenable to, consistent with, a general social framework but it would be distinct. Marxism is not a system of psychology.
[my bold]

This is an assertion, Alf, not an explanation of 'why it isn't'.

I suppose it raises the issue of 'is any psychology outside of political ideology?'.

If the answer is 'no', than it seems entirely reasonable to claim, in contrast, that 'Marxism is a system of psychology'.

Alf wrote:
Otherwise individuals with identical class backgrounds would mechanically have the same ideas and emtional reactions.

There is a case to be made that this is exactly what most individuals do! That is, their 'ideas and emotions' do broadly reflect their social conditioning.

Whoever said 'social being determines social consciousness'?!

Joking aside, Alf, you don't have to answer anymore. I think that I've come to my conclusion, that Freud, Jung, et al, are not worth spending my precious time on. We all have to make choices.

I've tried to give comrades who think otherwise the space to convince me, but the most useful contribution has come from A.Simpleton, who obviously has read Freud. I think that I also share a similar framework regarding the wider issues of 'science' with AS, so it's probably not surprising that I think their posts have been the most effective and convincing. None of the other posters have even tried to give an account of Freud's usefulness, despite my requests.

Thanks anyway, comrades, even if my first suspicions have been merely confirmed by this thread.

Alf
waste of time?

I don't think it's reasonable to ask comrades on this thread to come up with  a neat summary of something as vast as Freud's ideas. Unless I'm mistaken, Lbird, you haven't taken up my alternative suggestion to discuss the article that started this thread, or to read Freud's short work An outline of psychoanalysis, which summarises his ideas much better than I can, and discuss that. If you have now concluded that, without reading a word by Freud (or Jung for that matter), it's a waste of time talking about them, so be it.   

Alf
double post deleted

double post deleted

LBird
Odd ending to the thread

Alf wrote:
I don't think it's reasonable to ask comrades on this thread to come up with a neat summary of something as vast as Freud's ideas.

And I think it's entirely reasonable! That's exactly what I do with subjects I know a bit about, as I did on the science threads with Schaff's tripartite theory of cognition and Lakatos' theory of research programmes and its hard core.

I've come across this attitude before, a strange unwillingness to summarise and explain subjects which comrades say that they know about. It seems to be an attitude of 'I've taken years to learn this, why should I give you a short cut?'. Almost a mentality of 'why should I share my hard work?'. I find this strange, especially amongst Communists, because I'm keen to help comrades learn new ideas in as short a time as possible. If I can circumvent the need for someone to study for five years, and someone can benefit from my labours, I'm happy to help.

Alf wrote:
 Unless I'm mistaken, Lbird, you haven't taken up my alternative suggestion to discuss the article that started this thread, or to read Freud's short work An outline of psychoanalysis, which summarises his ideas much better than I can, and discuss that.

I've repeatedly asked you why you think it's worth reading Freud, because I don't think it is. I've given you the chance to change my mind, by explaining your odd comments about Freud earlier on the thread. And another comrade, who has read Freud, has given the advice not to bother, and you've had the chance to challenge that advice. You haven't done so.

Alf wrote:
If you have now concluded that, without reading a word by Freud (or Jung for that matter), it's a waste of time talking about them, so be it.

Why bother to participate in the thread at all, if you're not prepared to back up your suggestion to read Freud with some help? I've asked comrades to read Schaff, for example, by outlining one of his central ideas, and then giving precise page references to his book, so that comrades are orientated to his ideas rather than coming to them by being thrown in the deep end, and so that they can check up on my own summary of his cognitive model, if they wish to take it further. But they don't have to read Schaff, if they don't have the time or inclination, or prefer reading other subjects in depth.

Well, at least comrades have some idea why Schaff is worth the time for Communists to read, but I'm unfortunately at a loss as to why you think Freud is worth my political time.

As you say, 'So be it'. I'll take the advice of another comrade, and not bother.

And I'll continue to challenge those who look to Freud with questions about his bourgeois political background and ideological focus upon individuals, which both seem to be relevant context to a discussion of his ideas, although you don't seem to agree.

This has been a strange encounter, Alf.

Fred
I haven't read any Freud

I haven't read any Freud either LBird. But then there's masses of stuff I haven't read and never will. But I am curious that Trotsky and Alf find him interesting, that you just dismiss him as bourgeois, and that AS says that as he (Freud) has no relevance to communism then that's enough reason to ignore his novel ideas.  (If this is what AS meant? ) 

 

And his ideas are novel, are they not.  You're interested in Feyeraband aren't you LBird, but was he a communist?  I used to be very fascinated by the writings of George Eliot and Charles Dickens among others. They weren't communists, but you can find many communist "leanings" in their works, if you only look. Marx loved to read Shakespeare. Was he wasting his time? Shakespeare certainly wasn't a communist, not in the sense we understand the word now.  But he was a great critic of his society. Like Marx, and even, occasionally, Jane Austen, who couldn't have been a communist because she died before the emergence of the proletariat. 

 

Freud's "discovery" - or his critics might say "invention"  - of the subconscious has surely  produced a potentially  fascinating field. That there is a whole area  of the psyche, of the brain, of mental being, of the previous history of the human species in the form of possibly buried memories, that we carry, or may carry,  around inside of us, that possibly effect what we do and think, and that could perhaps be rendered more accessible to consciousness one day, must have some bearing on our individual and social and political attitudes to the world we live in. 

 

 

That Freud was bourgeois doesn't mean that his "ideas" all have to be bourgeois and thus rubbish. Wasn't Darwin bourgeois too?  Weren't Marx and Engels children of the bourgeoisie?  Wasn't Schaff a Stalinist?  You can't get much more bourgeois than that, can you? 

 

I think that if we are prepared to take a more "open" view of what constitutes science and the scientific endeavor, then this "openness"should be liberally extended to the wider world of ideas - even ideas stemming from individuals who can be labeled "bourgeois" - because we don't always know what we're missing. And I for one do not fear contamination because I can resist. I think. 

LBird
Beyond parody

LBird: A study of the aircraft carrier operations of the Royal Navy’s Mediterranean Fleet during WW2 is very illuminating.

Alf, Fred (not convinced): Oh, is it? Why, LBird? Could you give us a quick summary of those operations, to help us orientate ourselves? We were under the impression that a study of the navy has nothing to teach us.

LBird: They reveal ‘common traits in the psychic life of mankind as a species’. Why are you so opposed to the study of naval operations?

Alf, Fred (baffled): We’re not opposed to the study of naval operations, we’re just not sure why such a study would be relevant to Communists. Could you give us a quick pointer to why you think naval operations have some relationship to ‘the psychic life of mankind’?

LBird: Why are you both prepared to throw away the lessons of history? Do you want a replay of Pol Pot’s policy in Democratic Kampuchea of a return to ‘the Year Zero’?

Alf, Fred (concerned): No, no, no! Why are you alleging such a ridiculous thing? We merely would like some help from you, comrade! You seem to know something we don’t, and we’re keen to learn, but remain a bit sceptical about us taking the time to plough through the RN’s Mediterranean campaign without a bit of a idea of why it’s relevant for us as Communists. If someone is interested in naval history, that’s fine, read away! But why would a Communist in particular find it instructive?

A.Simpleton: I’m an expert on WW2 naval strategy, I’ve read, and indeed written, numerous books on the subject, and don’t think the Mediterranean naval campaign holds any lessons for today’s Communist. My advice to Alf and Fred is to give it a miss!

Alf, Fred (relieved): Thanks for that, AS! We know nothing about those operations and we were not convinced by LBird’s somewhat evasive answers. But, if LBird can put together a short post, we will reconsider our tentative decision not to read up on the carrier operations! We’ve so many other, more relevant, books to read, in our opinion!

LBird: Ah-ha! But ships exist! Why would you deny the facts of history? Why do you seem to think that the Royal Navy is a figment of my imagination?

Alf, Fred (worried): Yes, ships do exist, and we accept the Royal Navy was engaged in carrier operations in the Med in WW2. But, why is it relevant to Communists?

LBird: I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect me to tell you everything about the numerous events between 1940 and 1943 concerning aircraft carrier operations involving the British and Italian fleets. If you’ve concluded that you won’t read about these useful historical lessons, then so be it.

Alf, Fred (exasperated): Is there anyone else out there who can quickly explain the relevance? We’re minded to listen to AS’s advice, and concentrate upon more important works. Of course, if any comrades are just interested in naval strategy, be our guests and read away! There’s more to life than just studying Communists works, after all! We’d just like to have some help, first, from a comrade who can persuade us of the use of the study that LBird is suggesting.

LBird: I haven’t actually read anything about WW2 naval operations either, but why are you so closed minded, Fred? You shouldn’t fear using your brains, Fred! We don’t always know what we’re missing – try critical thinking, Fred.

 

[the part of LBird was played by Alf and Fred, and the parts of Alf and Fred were played by LBird. A.Simpleton, in a guest appearance, played himself.]

Hawkeye
Freud article and comments

It might be helpful, to all pondering, that according to the Russian psychologist A.R.Luria, Lenin once said that every word is a generalisation. I will also mention Sartre's statement that 'hell is other people', although that seems contrary  marxist aspirations, but conclude with the Millwall saying that 'no one likes us and we don't care' !!! Cheers.

Alf
thanks Teivos

Thanks Teivos for your thoughtful contribution. I read the Freud text a long time ago but have ordered a new copy....with  the aim of commenting on your post, which already reminds us that Freud was able to distinguish between Le Bon's 'crowd'  - which looks like a pogromist mob - and other, more conscious expressions of collective activity. 

If you thought about further developing your text as you indicate at the end, it might be more suited to the category of 'Reader's Contribution'.