File spoon-archives/marxism-general.archive/marxism-general_1997/current, message 28

Date: Fri, 16 May 1997 23:06:03 +0200
Subject: M-G: Re: Freud and Marx

A few days ago Chris B wrote concerning Freud and Marx:

>Louis Godenas' striking initial post to this thread
>on marxism-and-sciences raised many issues.
>One is the question of why do we speak of the two in
>the same breath? What do they have in common?

Wouldn't it be better to look at who "we" are in this case before assuming
a consensus and assuming the consensus is correct to "speak of the two in
the same breath"?

Anyway, the biggest reason Chris sees for treating Marx and Freud as two of
a kind is the following:

> ... both writers brilliantly asserted against all the
>empiricist tendencies, the *reality* of
>complex inner dynamics, one in the economy/society, the other
>in the human mind. And this is what makes them both giants,
>and also to represent something even bigger than themselves.

But, being Chris, he doesn't specify what dynamics he's referring to. Also,
being Chris, he refers to the human *mind* rather than the *emotions*. But
let's not pick nits.

What the two did that was the same, and matched Darwin's (the other member
of the Whole-y Trinity) work, was look at involuntary development, using a
basically historical and materialist approach like the one used by the
great Indo-European philologists. All of them came to conclusions that were
to make a clean sweep of the delusive masks used to hide the actual
processes at work in their fields. This was experienced by reaction as a
whip across its snout (and still is), hence its snarling fury.

Darwin: the development of species (vs Linne's static classification and,
God bless its socks, Religion).

Marx: the development of capitalism (modern bourgeois society) (vs more
functionalist approaches, and Religion).

Freud: the development of the human personality (vs atomizers,
phrenologists and astrologists, oh, and Religion).

Marx and Freud were also united by a thing about metabolism. And the basics
of keeping alive.

Marx examined the ins and outs of production and consumption. Thanks to
previous work, he was able to establish a basic "cell", the commodity, and
a basic quantitive unit, socially necessary labour time.

Freud examined the ins and outs of the body, and classified their emotional
impact in relation to their more or less primary/primitive character:

Food in -- oral

Food out -- anal

Sperm in -- genital (funny he missed Babies out ;-) )

He was much more of a pioneer in his field than Marx was in economics.

And not only did he concentrate on the bodily functions but of course he
was the first to seriously look at the way the mind dealt with their impact
-- the Interpretation of Dreams is a brilliant analysis of the unguarded
mind at work trying its damndest to get the emotional turmoil raging in the
body into some kind of conceptual order. The apparently aimless swilling
about of dream images is pulled into perspective by humanity's great
gravitational constants of food and love.

And of course the immediate social setting was put under the microscope --
the role of "parents" as the Gods of early childhood, nurturing and
malevolent by turns, capricious and omnipotent.

Freud's real greatness was to go beyond understanding to action. It is only
possible for unfeeling people to read his accounts of analysis and not
realize that his patients (and thousands like them) were being driven by
emotional forces completely out of their control that were gradually
acknowledged and made accessible to examination and finally  contemporized
and brought under control. From being supernatural and timeless, these
oppressive furies were rendered natural (material) and historical.

The beauty of it is, that however much of Freud's detail is wrong, the
basic machinery of cure is there, and *enough* of it works to make it or
any other successful form of materialist (as opposed to supernatural
mumbojumbo) therapy a useful weapon in the arsenal of health versus
sickness. Like most medical care, it's a democratic right. Everyone has the
right to function with "normal" feeling  in a democratic society. Our task
in relation to Freud and Freudianism is not to throw out the baby with the
bathwater. If we can conceptualize the therapeutic foundations and practice
of successful Freudianism, then we will have advanced the science of

The real, material social setting was made much more historical and
generally useful by Reich particularly and others of his generation, as
they examined the effect on parents of working conditions, oppression and
poverty and the way this was transmitted to the kids.

All in all, to take Freud seriously is to question the very foundations of
contemporary bourgeois society for its production of so many sick and
dysfunctional families and individuals.

In the same way, taking Marx seriously brings you into full frontal
confrontation with contemporary bourgeois society.

Reject Marx, and you end up with homo oeconomicus, the autonomous
economically omniscient individual, atomized and dehumanized.

Reject Freud, and you end up with homo insulatus, the autonomous island
individual, scientologically "aware" of everything, feeling nothing,
likewise atomized and dehumanized.



>Yes it is true that prozac helps, yes it is true that every
>person who walks into the consulting room, every person
>who walks into any room, every person who walks into
>this cyber room, has the shadow of their father and mother,
>of their four grandparents lurking dimly behind their shoulders.

>Every where we go we are surrounded by a force field of all
>our previously embodied significant relationships. Just as
>every commodity both in its socially valued use, and in
>its exchange value, is linked to the total matrix of all
>the social interactions that reproduce human society.

     --- from list ---


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