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Are there any anarchist criticisms of the ideas of Sigmund Freud?

+3 votes
if so then what are they?
asked Feb 4, 2011 by anonymous

this is not a direct answer to this question, but it is very interesting nonetheless.
more more more about psychology (not as a field but as a kind of interest) and anarchy.

i know that anarchists tend to be more excited by reich than by freud -- but the critique of freud is usually implicit in that choice, rather than stated. we like reich because he was iconoclastic, and rejected the status quo, and was a freak and a target of the state--none of which could really be said for freud (at least not to my limited knowledge).
Thanks for the comment dot. I was wondering if the question was too dull or not controversial enough (don't get me wrong I like controversy and "drama" also but....). Or perhaps I was missing point how to pose a relevant question. It seems that it would be useful for debates on that topic if there is something.
yea, why people weigh in on some questions and not others is always a curiosity.
for me, i don't know enough about freud. the criticisms that i have heard about him come from a certain kind of feminist (this is old, of course), and then there is implicitly a critique of freud in the pro-madness/anti-psychiatry tendency, and there is the century of the self, which i have mentioned before in another thread. (that is a series of documentaries done by adam curtis, available online and definitely worth watching, although very clearly not anarchist.)
when you get a chance to look at the trotter review, let me know what you think...
I finally read the trotter review and it's really quit awesome dot! I'm reading Stirner now so I can definitely appreciate this.

I do think much of the ideas of Freud and establishment psychology easily fall prey to critique of objectivity or ultimate truth.

I'm not familiar with Reich though, and he's not mentioned in the review either.

By the way Adam Curtis' documentaries are excellent too.
These two may be of interest:

Small, Martin (1962). "Freud, Anarchism and Experiments in Living." Anarchy 20: 300-319

Goodman, Paul (1977). Nature Heals: The Psychological Essays of Paul Goodman. Ed. Taylor Stoehr. New York: E.P. Dutton. <--Substantial compendium of Goodman's work in psychology, including his clashes with C. Wright Mills and Wilhelm Reich over neo-Freudian "ego psychology" and left-wing Freudian theory.

I'd definitely recommend checking out Dennis Fox's writings when it comes to anarchism and psychology... this one seems like a good place to start?


2 Answers

+5 votes
While not a specifically anarchist criticism, Deleuze and Guattari's book 'Anti-Oedipus' puts forward the idea that 'oedipalisation' serves to regulate the activities of individuals in capitalist society by training them - from birth onwards - to understand all social relations in terms of the Oedipal nuclear family.

The authors see this particular familial structure as a repressive force that breeds docile individuals who don't pose too much of a risk to the current order: if people are trained by the nuclear family to repress their desires or to divert certain psychological drives, then, the reasoning goes, they will generalize this repression in relation to capitalism, which becomes a kind of social oedipal family, and only express their desire in ways that are encouraged by capitalist relations.

Deleuze and Guattari propose, as an alternative, something they call schizoanalysis, which they see as a kind of radical unleashing of desire that defies the channels of expression afforded by capitalism or the State. Schizoanalysis is explored in a specifically anarchist way in Rolando Perez's 'Anarchy and (Schizo)analysis': http://www.amazon.com/Anarchy-Schizoanalysis-Rolando-Perez/dp/093675639X

Soma therapy, a Brazilian form of capoeira mixed with some group therapy ideas from schizoanalysis and from Wilhelm Reich, is also critical of Freud and is explicitly anarchist. Many South American anarchists attest to the value of this practice, although some also express concern that it 'depoliticizes' people.
answered Feb 25, 2011 by aragorn23 (360 points)
I should add that Deleuze and Guattari are critical of psychoanalysis because they see it as shoehorning people back into repressive Oedipal relations and, therefore, as being in the service of capitalism / the State.
yep, i totally forgot about perez's book, which is published (and available) from autonomedia as well as the ubiquitous amazon.
glad someone was here to speak up for the  big D&G.
+4 votes
Foucault wasn't an anarchist, but he was far closer to that position than to any other. He pointed out that Freudian psychoanalysis was a creative discourse that helped to produce sexuality, a concept that didn't exist until a couple of centuries ago, where peoples' momentary sexual attractions and behaviors are essentialised into a few narrow identities placed at the center of who they are. Think of the homosexual who is supposed to do *everything* in a gay way. To walk gay, talk gay, dress gay, think gay, commit crime because they're gay. These identifications are internalised by the subjects of psychomedical authority, so they end up performing these identities to themselves and others. Freudian ideology becomes reality.
Freud's basic thinking is that sexuality exists prior to discourse as a multitude of dangerous passions produced by peoples' inhereted sexuality plus their family relations during childhood. These passions are repressed by civilisation and build up nervous energy that can be put to productive use, which he sees as pretty cool, although their repression also means that there's a lot of unbehagen in der kultur. Then Reich comes along and says 'It would be cooler if we could liberate sexuality from repression and in fact it is the way society treats sexuality that makes it dangerous. Also Orgone.'
Then Foucault says 'Fuck you both. I like leather-daddies as much as any straight man and Freud, you're creating what you're describing. (Despite having ambiguous elements in your work like 'basic bisexuality'. What the fuck?) Reich, liberation isn't finding better ways to conform to Freudian identities. Now if you'll excuse me I'm off to Frisco to get AIDS before I can write more masterpieces destroying your sad, Hippie worldview. Enjoy your irrelevance.'
But then most people still think in thoroughly Freudian terms and regard medicine as a neutral discourse. :(
Actually, it's worse than that. Thanks partially to Reichian gay liberation movements they think in terms of Freud *minus* upbringing (Born this way!), so absurdities like the whole world being neatly split into gay/straight/maybe-bi-but-probably-actually-gay-or-straight seem perfectly reasonable to most people. Despite being contradicted by even a cursory glance at history and anthropology.
You win this round, science.

answered Apr 19, 2012 by Animalevolent (270 points)
edited Apr 20, 2012 by Animalevolent