Freud Today

11 , 2018

Is Freud still relevant today or is he something from the past.

It is commonplace nowadays to state that Freud certainly had some value at his time but not anymore. Today the world has changed.

Has it ? Is human being not a sexual being anymore ? Religion e.g., can it definitively and generally be considered as an illusion ? Are there no slips of the tongue anymore, no unconscious wishes. Is there no childhood sexuality anymore, no more libido-stasis... Has modern man really become that perfect being, only thinking and acting rationally ? Of course not.

Only society has, probably temporarily, succeeded in repressing the basic elements of Freudian psychoanalysis from the general public awareness (consciousness).

Why ?

First it is striking that humanity learns so little from her own great thinkers and discoveries.

For instance our western society is nowadays almost completely ruled by money. Everything has its price. Repression does not come directly  from the authority anymore but indirectly from the authority that governs the emission and flow of money. Which is much harder to identify (everybody finds it normal that we must pay). This was already said by Mr Karl Marx in 1848 : capitalism reduces every human relation to a financial transaction. Examples  : the evolution in the Western judicial systems where financial transactions replace and fines and imprisonment; driving a car will become related to the number of miles crunched (the richer you are, the more freedom, for you can drive more and further), all climate change seminars, and grand declarations are useless unless the underlying financial system is changed... Briefly stated, an apple is not an apple anymore, it has become a financial product (where cost and revenue determine the product instead of the nutritional and natural qualities of the apple)

When we refer to Marx here, this does not mean that we agree with all his political and /or other views and theories. But one cannot but state that on this point he was right. Our society becomes more and more regulated through money and financial regulation instead of authoritarian laws. Identification in moulding society has lost value. Whatever the character trait only the amount of money at one’s disposal is of importance. For money and the rule of money  are abstract concepts, we do not see the authority anymore, we accept the rule of money as the normal rule

In the 19th century man was clogged down in big factories. Nowadays we are put an 'annual report' in our head, for constantly we must calculate how much things cost, what is the price of what we are doing and what influence it will have on our finances. It is not anymore the values and rules of the patriarchal society that repression comes from, but the regulations and organisation of the  financial system.

The financial system has become the new authority. Politics and morality have become of secondary importance as ordering factors of society …). For example the recent ‘Greek’ debt crisis of 2015. The Greek people voted 3 times, but in the end the Greek government just applied the financial requirements of three financial institutions. Whatever the Greek people voted for.

Another great economist, who has been put aside in mainstream thinking, albeit an undisputed libertarian, is F. Hayek (Austrian school of economicscontemporary of Sigmund Freud whom he might have met at café Landtmann on the Ringstrasse

Hayek makes a brilliant distinction between nomos and cosmos; the difference between a centrally governed society versus a society organised by the individual actions of many individuals without central government ("The confusion of language in political thought').

This line of thought is nowadays also swept under the carpet, for the sake of ever more loose money and...for  the sole benefit of the (actors in) the financial system itself (see Financial Times, tuesday 22 september 2015, "Cental banks have made the rich richer', article by Mr Marshall Wace). The financial crisis of 2008 and the current handling of the financial system by the central banks of Europe and the USA shows one trend : ever more loose money being put in the financial system in order not to let it collapse. The problem is that this money stays in the financial system (banks, funds, central banks, stockmarkets,...) and does not flow into the 'real economy' which clearly fails to lift off.  Also pointing out that the current policy of the ECB obviously fails because inflation does not get at the target of 2% ! (as of : october 2015)

This loose money policy is clearly contrary to the Austrian school, which is more in favour of deflation (less money in the system resulting in money getting ever more value). This explains why Mr Hayek fell out of favour with mainstream economic and financial thinking. More money is to be made with a contrary opinion (loose money versus scarse money)

It is not the liberalism and the free market that causes modern “malaise” in society.

On the contrary. It is the “financialisation” of all human relations and transactions. Whereby money and the financial regulation of its creation and flow becomes the HIDDEN REPRESSION. We do not see it. We do not experience it directly. We just accept it as we accept gravity, the daily sunrise and sunset, and other physical laws.

The repression itself does not originate in the money as such but in the crony capitalism, corporatist connexion between governement and big business. Where both benefit from ever larger structures and ever more rules and regulations at the expense of the free market and the middle and small economic actors, ordering society. Put otherwise : big business and government act together, more or less consciously to order and regulate society by financial means (e.g. imposing tax on one kind of activity or one kind of company subsidizing others, making agreements (so called ‘tax rulings’) with particular (big) companies to exempts them from paying taxes,…

All this new repression comes not by direct coercion or through referring to some kind of divine order but via money control. Whereby money and paying us generally accepted and seems never tot be subject of discussion. The former point of Freud stated in “Totem & Taboo” : "when there is a prohibitive rule there must be some drive to be prohibited" does not apply anymore.

On the more political side we refer to Plato's 'Politeia' (the second part) where he makes a comparison between the character structure of the indivudual in a given society and the political system of that society, and the inevitable evolution downwards. It could have saved numbers of books and trees cut down only by referring to Plato's book and by inetgrating these views in mainstream education when considering any politcal system anywhere and at anytime.

But it is not. Time and again we find new books about a dictator here, a ruler there, about communism, capitalism etc... On an abstract level it is all to be found in Politeia.

The same goes for Freud and psychoanalysis. Not much (easy) money anymore is to be made from it

There are of course some reasons inherent in psychoanalysis for this.

First : PsA is not a coherent and unified paradigm. Freud's works show a continuous evolution in his thinking and sometimes even radical changes of previous ideas. Perhaps the best works  as a unity come from Herman Nunberg (Principles of Psychoanalysis) and Otto Fenichel (The psychoanalytical theory of neuroses).

In fact there is a serious theoretical dichotomy in the works of Freud. Before 1920 it was dominated by the libido theory, the instinctual basis of conduct (instinct trying to get satisfaction in reality through ‘mediation’ of the Ego) and thus the pleasure principle. Repression came essentially from society (interiorised in the Ego and Superego)

From then on (1920) death instinct appeared, taking over the pleasure principle and libido theory; words, language and other abstract categories related to the Ego (instead of the Id) started to dominate psychoanalytic thinking, especially in the Viennese psychoanalytical society (which at that time was the most important and influential of all PsAnalytical societies). Repression came from an inherent death instinct

Several reasons can account for this : the death of his favourite daughter Sophie, his jaw cancer, the carnage of WWI and the fact that PsA became more and more famous and 'institutionalised'

Second :There is also not any theoretical basis to start from. Before the Interpretation of dreams and Five Psa’s there was no theory which directly led to PsA.

Third :The Freudian paradigm also exists without physical evidence. One can only rely on his own mind to understand PsA. No physical instrument can show or measure the Oedipuscomplex, the Ego-Id-Superego, etc….

The facts are communicated and stated from mind tot mind, from consciousness to consciousness, whereby the main problem is that in order to be able to grasp PsA one’s conscious must be that reality oriented and free from repressed thoughts to be able to accept, ‘to see’ the reality of the Unconscious and its thought contents

 Fourth : PsA is, in our opinion, in the first place the science of libido and how this libido influences and infiltrates our rational, conscious thinking. This is of course a fundamental paradox, for libido is by itself not capable of being investigated by rational, scientific methods.

In the first place because it is not directly observable by sensory means (hear, see, taste, feel, smell) and therefore not measurable.  Second, there is only one instrument capable of identifying and analysing the libido, which is human mind itself and therefore if that mind is flawed itself (which in most cases it is…), mostly by libidinal thoughts, a correct thinking of and about libido will be flawed.

But any basic theory about social and human action cannot be complete and misses reality if the libido is not taken into account

Freud is therefore also timeless. For he provides a message of intelligence about our humanity. In several writings Freud pleads for a balance between the libidinal satisfaction of the individual and the rules  of society which must repress it. When society tends towards too much repression it needs more individual freedom (e.g. communist societies), too much freedom for the individual inhibits progress (e.g. the Trobiand people of the South sea)

[to be continued]

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