Send in the Couch Brigades: A Palimpsest of Freud, Phillip Rieff, and the Sandinistas

In my first two years of college, I was very much under the spell of Freud and Hofstadter/Weber. I was convinced that all political and social conflicts could be reduced to questions of sex and status. (Actually, I was probably much more under the spell of high school than anything else.) Anyway, my roommate David Hughes, who was more political and more of an activist than I—as in, he was political and he was an activist, whereas I was neither—summarized my worldview thus: “In your eyes, Nicaraguans don’t need the Sandinistas [this was the mid-80s]; we should just send in the couch brigades.”

Sometimes I think the entirety of my intellectual career has been little more than an extended attempt to extricate myself from that worldview. And probably the most important book for me along the way has been Philip Rieff’s Freud: The Mind of the Moralist, which, to this day, remains the best book ever written on Freud.

29 Comments

  1. Justin Schwartz November 8, 2014 at 2:16 am | #

    It’s been decades, but I really liked Frank Sulloway’s Freud, Biologist of the Mind, if I recall the title. Its a historian of science’s Freud. I liked Carl Schorske’s political interpretation of F in Fin De Sielce Vienna. The Reiff book is good too. For a tediously thorough takedown of psychoanalytical theory, there’s Adolph Grunbaum’s stone by stone demolition job. But Doug likes Freud, without reducing politics to psychic conflict, so it can be done. And sometimes his German is beautiful. Freud’s, I mean.

  2. s. wallerstein November 8, 2014 at 6:31 am | #

    That’s very interesting because generally, the process works the other way: an idealist young person gets involved in movement politics and becomes disillusioned when they perceive the sexual frustrations, the will to power, and the ego games which motivate so many fellow activists. Not that that perception is a good reason to give up on politics, but it does affect lots of young people. What else, besides the book you cite (which I have not read), motivated your conversion?

  3. Roquentin November 8, 2014 at 8:21 am | #

    I’m actually rather interested in this book, both as an interpreter of Freud/armchair psychoanalyst and because it appears I hold views which were largely similar to yours at the time. I wouldn’t be quite so reductive with it though. What exactly constitutes “status” and “sex” after all? That could mean a lot of things. If you just mean the simple act of procreation, that’s way, way too narrow, for example. If by “sex” you mean something akin to “libidinal investment” in the properly psychoanalytic sense I’d tend to think that’s more or less accurate.

    Either way, it made it onto my Amazon wishlist. I should also say I know Amazon is a ruthless corporation with terrible abuses in its warehouse and it would probably be best to find another place to look for books.

    • uh...clem November 9, 2014 at 12:25 pm | #

      the best source for used books is undoubtedly http://www.abebooks.com It got in on the ground floor when the Internet was moving into mass status (c. 1995) and soon was interconnected with thousands of independent book stores and ultimately came to have millions of books available for purchase. It was so successful that it is now under its fourth new owner (unfortunately, Amazon!). ABE stands for advanced book exchange. Check it out.

  4. louisproyect November 8, 2014 at 8:42 am | #
  5. BillR November 8, 2014 at 9:14 am | #

    Dagmar Herzog’s take is also quite interesting:

    “Numerous New Leftists argued directly that sexuality and politics were causally linked; convinced that sexual repression produced racism and fascism, they proposed that sexual emancipation would further social and political justice”. Similar views were widely held in the US and the rest of Europe during that time as well…Freud argued that the repression of instinct is a necessary development of civilization; if we don’t control our impulses we can’t function as a society. Marcuse turns this around and says that we can’t have a truly free, democratic, egalitarian society unless our impulses are liberated and all repression is removed.

    • Benjamin David Steele November 8, 2014 at 8:33 pm | #

      There is also Reich who met Freud in 1919 when he asked him for a reading list for a seminar on sexology. Reich promoted the idea of a full body orgasm as an expression of psychological health. BTW Reich and Marcuse were born about the same time, a year apart.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orgastic_potency

    • jonnybutter November 9, 2014 at 10:04 pm | #

      There is also, in two volumes, ‘Male Fantasies’ which seems to argue that sexual impulses were certainly sublimated in the Reich, but not that sexual repression ‘produced’ fascism.

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but I was under the impression that Marcuse was calling not for the removal of all repression, but for the retirement of ‘excess’ – or ‘surplus’, which has a better Marxian ring – repression; the idea being to open space for a more creative, voluntary or intentional kind of sublimation (my, possibly wrong, paraphrase, obviously). Pretty different! Sounds pretty reasonable to me.

      I seem to remember lots of late 60s/early 70s new leftist promiscuous blather about Marcuse – I think his work was pretty vulgarized. Funny that these people were mostly men with mostly very traditional (i.e. very sexist) attitudes towards the other half of the species: they were interested in sexual freedom alright – theirs!

      • William Neil November 10, 2014 at 9:16 am | #

        jonnybutter:

        I think it is helpful, taking off from your comments about the male vulgarization of sexual liberation – and I think Mr. Hefner’s world is a good baseline for mainstream American culture in that sense – to emphasize that Marcuse had something much broader in mind. Remember, Hefner was if anything, a good capitalist (he started with Aynn Rand but later supported regulation of the economy) and did not end the world of alienated labor – the loss of control of one’s body during work hours, even well paid hours – well, could that be made up for in the consumer utopia presented after work hours, with the rise of leisure time?

        Obviously, Marcuse was interested in something much more transformative, and his ideas, never really grounded in a specific vision, were subject to parody and distortion. The closest he comes to “fleshing it out” is in Chapter 10, “The Transformation of Sexuality into Eros.” We get hints of what he is driving at by the reference to Margaret Meade and the matriarchy organization of some primitive societies and their very different relation to nature than the industrial West’s. He says of his contemporary society (the 1950’s advanced industrial economies): “These constraints, enforced by the need for sustaining a large quantum of energy and time for non-gratifying labor , perpetuate the desexualiztion of the body in order to make the organism into a subject-object of socially usual performance. Conversely, if the work day and energy are reduced to a minimum without a corresponding manipulation of the free time, the ground for these constraints would be undermined,. Libido would be released and would overflow the institutionalized within which it is kept by the reality principle.”

        If I hear the complaints of some feminists today clearly they are unhappy with an economic world of hyper-sexualization of products, the body, and occurring far too young…but the irony here, aside from the fact that I don’t think Marcuse would like that outcome…(and was getting at that in “One Dimensional Man,” 1964)…the irony is that if anything, the realm of alienated labor, pay and hours, is worse in the US at least, than it was in the 1950’s. So the dominant society has been able to seize control of the “sexual revolution,” and drop all the progressive directions of Marcuse and others as to the world of work, pay – and dare we say, income and wealth distribution. What makes this even more poignant is the fact that the actual productive capacity of capitalism is many times what it was in 1950…but if you head down that road you must deal with the ecological implications….

        And in a note to Corey: Marcuse’s Epilogue is a long one, and deals with his critique of the Freudian revisionists: Fromm, Horny, Sullivan, and Clara Thompson. I have read “The Mind of the Moralist,” but so long ago and my copy has disappeared, so I can’t constructively hop in from Marcuse’s Epilogue to Rieff’s point of view. Suffice it to say that Marcuse says the revisionists took the deep civilizational pessimism and criticism out of Freud’s theory, denied his biological determinism, and substituted reform of moral character and uplift – ironically to be carried out by individuals in a society which they admitted was very repressive. And of course, they had various therapeutic techniques. Hefner might have said that was his project, without the moral overtones. He was as obsessed with work as any New England merchant in the 17th century.

      • William Neil November 10, 2014 at 9:44 am | #

        Forgive me readers. I left out the word “manipulation” after “corresponding”…so it should read “corresponding manipulation of free time.”

        I also regret that we have not had the space or apparently reader inclination to explore the connection, if there is one, between sex and violence. The alleged connection is of course presented by the Right as in both being “unleashed by 1960’s permissiveness.” It’s timely on a number of fronts, then today, from feminist worries and allegations to the Right’s near monopoly of “controlling” the threat…

        I spent some time yesterday exploring the bio of Charles Manson, arguably the poster child for the connection between the two…and pivot point for the Right’s attack on all the 1960’s…and I guess, by linkage, all that Marcuse stood for. Take a look readers, at Manson’s outline biography, birthdate, mother (a sixteen year old unmarried prostitute and alcoholic), his early life, how much time he spend in various youth holding facilities….and then how later biographers come in, and, almost mirroring Marcuse’s criticism of the Freudian revisionists, attempt to “brighten up” Manson’s early life, throwing the burden back upon him, and de-emphasizing the fact that he seems to have come from the very bottom of American society (father unknown and disputed), born in the Great Depression. Hmmm…his bio could be the making of a grand left-right struggle: when things go wrong, who do you blame, the individual or the system…?

        His basic bio facts came as a shock to me, to be clear, I don’t recall them as ever being the focus of the cultural maelstrom swirling around him…and still going on…Rolling Stone published a fairly recent and long interview, still in prison…and in “good” form if that is the right term. A monster, to be sure: of who’s making, though? (I don’t recall that he showed up, by being a child of the Great Depression, in Amity Shlaes’ revisionist work.)

        Just another tangent from exploring “Eros and Civilization…”

      • jonnybutter November 10, 2014 at 9:55 am | #

        Hefner …did not end the world of alienated labor

        Thanks William N. This phrase gave me a good laugh this morning!

        ‘Hef’ is a perfect..I don’t know that I’d say ‘baseline’, but ‘point of departure’, for this discussion. Of course he didn’t end the world of alienated labor! Of course he was obsessed with work! Of course he was more Protestant than Luther!

        I think men frequently tend to think of sex as utopian, over and above, perhaps even entailing, politics. At first glance that way of thinking sounds ridiculous (and it is, of course) but then you think about it some more, and…hmm. Anyway, utopian sex is definitely what Hefner was selling.

        BTW, what I thought was vulgarized was Marcuse’s idea, not sexual liberation as a whole, whatever that means. I defer to those of you who have read the whole book (‘Eros…’), which I have not done; I was honestly asking if I had this point right or not.

        • William Neil November 10, 2014 at 10:16 am | #

          Thanks jonnybutter, I think you did get it right, and not to overdue it on the praise of Marcuse, his lack of a specified and more precise vision…opened the floodgates to vulgarization and distortions…seems that goes along with much of the Frankfurt school’s abstract style.

          And the closer you look at Hefner’s life, as this biography does, the contradictions pile up. If anything, not enough attention was paid to his enormous economic power over the women he employed and drew into his “orbit” (pick your choice of terms there)….that imbalance of power, and the meaning of power in our economy, is something Marcuse rightly brings back into perspective – and economic power was arguably more balanced in 1955 than at any other time in our history…except maybe the 1840’s or 1850’s.

      • jonnybutter November 10, 2014 at 10:19 am | #

        [Manson’s] basic bio facts came as a shock to me, to be clear, I don’t recall them as ever being the focus of the cultural maelstrom swirling around him…

        Manson is and always was seriously mentally ill. There is no coherent argument that he stood or stands for anything, politically. The only ghost of an argument would be a commentary about how drug-addled and ethically slovenly some ‘hip’ people in LA were to have ignored and even humored this guy.

        Slip ‘o the day: ‘..Fromm, Horny…’ It’s ‘Horney’.

        Just an attempt to laugh some more….

        • William Neil November 10, 2014 at 10:43 am | #

          The missing “e” in “Horny” stands for Eros. I think I also typed “pubic” instead of “public” in an earlier posting. See, there was something to Freud. Marcuse would have said the “body politic” could have used some Eros, but would have directed it away from focus on the older “regions.”

          Freud might have said Manson’s later patterns and the tornado that was his life were set in the first 5-6 years, and given the horrific outlines of his start (disputed apparently by later biographers, I’ve only recently and skimmingly, have read summaries) it is quite unlikely that the path could have been greatly altered, maybe diminished in effect. And that’s where the political left would break off from Freud…although its hard to imagine any “interventions” working in this case of “extremis.” In a society not very troubled that so many without criminal records can’t find work, is it any wonder that those with extensive ones will seemingly always be at the margins – or worse – and the worse will come back to haunt up too…return of the repressed?

      • Donald Pruden, Jr., a/k/a The Enemy Combatant November 10, 2014 at 10:42 am | #

        My reading of MF isolates the thesis that the facist mind is evidence of a “not yet fully born self” psychology of masculinity that has not undergone the process of complete subject separation, still perceiving the self as dangerously porous, terrorized by the prospect that the body boundary could be dissolved, merged, or penetrated by “filthy” others: women, homosexuals, leftists/communists, foreigners, Jews. The great thing about MF is that it uses the historical detritus of popular culture as evidence of his thesis. As well, MF investigates the family dynamics of German middle life from the late 19th century. This makes it “real” for the attentive reader. This work also makes a great entry into the writings of Deleuze and Gauttari due to being so accessible.

        Some critics have suggested a central matter raised in MF is that the racist/sexist fears that strong boundary integrity must be maintained lest “infection” take place, or that one’s “innards” burst out and merge with the “filth” of the “other”. There is some validity to that understanding (IMHO) if one looks at recent political eruptions of some of the looniest rightist obsessions: the refugee crisis read as immigration-invasion; ebola; the gender wars (or, more accurately, the war on women); Sharia Law statutes; the anti-gay marriage contretemps.

        In defense of the couchies, I would state that it is not an accident that conservatives/reactionaries/facists are totally obsessed with boundaries racial/sexual/geographic/economic. The couchies understood this.

        Seriously, has not anyone wondered what the real reason is that some progressive scholars in recent decades have taken to the literary boundary-jumping clauses that characterize the writings of the post-structuralist critique? You may find it annoying, but I see the serious project at work at offending that boundary respecting tradition of much academic work, while some have accused them of denying politics altogether.

        An aside: It is worth noting that the occupation of the Palestinian territories by Israel carries a lot of the pathologies that Theweliet suggests in his two-volume work. There, I said it (I know some of you thought it).

        The need to control social and libidinous “flows” lest they break their levees/sluices has always been a reactionary concern. The question remaining is answered by Corey in The Reactionary Mind, which is how does all this play out in the lives of actual persons? The answer is the adaptive effort of heirarchy to maintain the project of stratification and inequality, and to try to move that project to a realm — the private (the family, the workplace) — where it can happen with little disruption. Facinatingly, when it does so it breaks its own boundary and goes public — this reactionary project cannot help itself on that, it is just “built in” — thus leaving open to critique and political change.

        Thank, “johnnybutter”, for giving me an excuse to reference Theweleit. His is one of my favorite books of all time, right up there with Said’s “Culture And Imperialism”.

        Lastly, I’d say to Corey that it is true the Nicaraguans did not need the “couch brigades”. But is true, I’d say, that Somoza, the Contras and those in the U.S. and abroad who aided them very much did. My own fantasy is that the couch brigages would have long since visited their subjects to interview them in the prisons where they have been locked up for their war crimes and crimes against humanity, and the results of their studies would be required reading for students of history, political science, and psychology.

      • s. wallerstein November 10, 2014 at 11:46 am | #

        William Neil,

        Marcuse (and other Frankfurt Schoolers) were very learned Germans and wrote like Germans. It’s a bit excessive to blame them because their work was vulgarized in the U.S. In fact, when you consider that they are still read 70 (Adorno’s Minima Moralia), 60 (Eros and Civilization) and 50 (One Dimensional Man) years after they wrote, it’s a sign of a tremendous intellectual accomplishment. How many other social critics from the 1940’s, 50’s and even 60’s are still read today?

      • jonnybutter November 10, 2014 at 11:49 am | #

        DP: my pleasure- I really liked MF too. William: I *did* spot ‘pubic’ earlier! HA

        Back to the OP: I read only a few pages of Reiff’s book, of course, out of context, but..wow, seems to be pretty heavy sledding. Lucky that we have great readers like CR around. Maybe if I start from the beginning I’ll fare better…

  6. D Weisberg November 8, 2014 at 11:32 am | #

    Thanks for the recommendation. In an experimental theater piece I’m working on, I’m exploring the way Freud’s most speculative theories about social development, in works like “Totem and Taboo” and “Civilization and Its Discontents,” articulate with classic social contract theory: Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, etc. It’s as if Freud recapitulated the proto-liberal fantasy of man-in-a-state-of-nature, substituting the interplay of ambivalent innate drives in the place of rational consent to account for both “natural right” and foundational social arrangements. Basically, Freud (and Darwin) offered an alternative account, a re-thinking of liberalism, under the sway of a more anthropological view of social development.

  7. The Gospel of Barney November 8, 2014 at 12:08 pm | #

    I’m afraid Freud wouldn’t help; I say that as a licensed Mental Health Professional!

  8. jonnybutter November 8, 2014 at 12:11 pm | #

    Shadia Drury is also on this case. It’s been a few years since I read it, but as I recall she thinks Freud provides a scientific (or ‘scientific’) explanation of, and therefore justification for, monotheistic – particularly Christian – moralism. I would go back and look at it, but she tends to be concise and convincing.

  9. William Neil November 8, 2014 at 2:03 pm | #

    Better than “Eros and Civilization: A Philosophical Inquiry Into Freud”, 1955, by Herbert Marcuse? Why?

    Corey, the scope of material and issues you raise by your brief posting is enormous and I’ll try to limit my reaction to a few comments and questions.

    First, you implicitly broach the irrelevance of Freud and Marcuse’s handling of him for contemporary events. Two main issues here: where Freud stands today within the various psychological professions, and the place of him in Western philosophy, and based on my reading of Marcuse (I just happen to be re-reading this book now, 80% done) my take he is still relevant for matters of the economy, political and psychological – and Marcuse would maintain they are still inseparable. And they do change over time as the economic system does….

    Second, where do we stand today in matters of the sexual revolution, in its broadest terms and the main one used by Marcuse, the release of Eros from surplus repression, now long, long after the sexual revolution? The Right says it was a disaster and its release is the explanation for the close interconnection between sex and violence and their criminal forms. Any relevance here for the vast debates about rape on college campuses, and elsewhere?

    I think it is fair to say Marcuse would have understood and supported the demands for more sexuality flexibility for sexual dissenters, despite Freud’s placing them in the category of being “regressive,”, that’s not where Marcuse ended up. But note the irony in modern terms: the progress takes place in the public arena within the institution of marriage. Marcuse was looking for a more dramatic change in forms, especially including the economy.

    In matters of political economy, we have gone backwards, in terms of the US at least, and Western Europe, certainly since the Golden decades starting in 1945 (with a time lag for Europe of course.). Today, the Democratic Party cannot even get a New Deal or even a Krugman like deficit spending program through, despite circumstances crying out for it and the fiscal terms being very favorable. Instead, austerity, surplus economic repression is the order of the day. Further irony: the productive capacity of neoliberalism’s economic infrastructure is vastly more powerful today, than in 1955, but the US is headed down the path of inequality and austerity.

    Has there been a turn to the right in matters of sexuality and Eros, underneath the radar of the post-Hefner age, to match what has happened in the political economy? Is this covered by Marcuse’s later term in a later book of “repressive sublimation,” (and that is a huge topic in itself)? This despite the progress in getting civil rights for sexual minorities of a growing list of categories?

    Is it possible to talk about feminism in this light? Which branch, because it seems to have a very sexually conservative element as well as a one closer to the Marcuse sense of the release of Eros? And many in the middle.

    I raise these issues having just read Steven Watt’s biography of “Mr. Playboy: Hugh Hefner and the American Dream,” (2008) as part of my own work on the American Dream. Watt’s handling of the long Hefner story, which began to unfold just before Marcuse’s “Eros” appeared in 1955 (1953) led me to two very interesting articles in the Aug. 25th-Sept.1, 1997 edition of “The New Yorker.” The first, by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., (yes, that Gates) was called “The Naked Republic,” and ended by his calling for, in light of many public sex scandals, but especially the Clinton-Paula Jones one, “enough already, It’s Time to dim the lights.” That was the conclusion, but it took many pages to summarize where the Hefner age led us: to the release of sexual chaos and violence I think is a fair summary. Both the biography and this article are worth a careful read. More than that I’m not going to say now.

    Just by chance, in the very same issue of the New Yorker, was another long piece by the biographer of Alfred Kinsey, James H. Jones, “Dr.Yes.” What was fascinating was the unconventional family life of Kinsey, born in Hoboken, NJ, who then lived in South Orange, became an Eagle Scout and went to Bowdoin College. My reading of this matched the new book review by Sarah Kerr of the biography by Jill Lepore of inventor of the “Wonder Woman” comics, (in the Nov. 20th 2014 print edition), “The Secret History of Wonder Woman.” So that’s a biography of William Moulton Marston.

    What is fascinating about both the Kinsey and Marston history’s is that they seemed to have led, more than a bit secretly, of course, something close to what Marcuse had in mind, and managed to avoid the violence and chaos which some feared and predicted. Marston seemed to have faced up to this with his methods of “restraint,” but that would take us off in quite a tangent to fully comprehend it. But by all means read the review.

    Back to economy. So we have now even greater potential to produce material wealth (with a great dissent that we cannot pursue it without ecological disaster – Naomi Klein and many others on the ecological left) but a distributional system far worse than in 1955, and more repressive labor practices as well.

    Has the release of Eros as envisioned by Marcuse (we never got the changes in the political economy that were also necessary, indeed, inseparable for the Eros “project”) also been diverted into easily controlled, and non-transformative channels, as on the Internet? Is the sexual violence, both on campus and in the streets more generally proof that Freud and not Marcuse was right? Or is the violence which takes a sexual form the product of the economic austerity that so many parts of American society still live under, particularly in urban ghettos, but no longer limited to there…see West Virginia rural life. And the damaged family structures that have gone with the economic disruptions and exclusions.

    And one last question, a bit out of the Marcuse formulation (or perhaps not), but still relevant for the cycles we are trapped in from the perspective of the left: what has the rise and success of feminism done to Marcuse’s forms and the role of men, in the trouble the left seems to have in finding satisfactory leaders? If “leaders” are still relevant in the eyes of a good part of the left. In looking at the fragments and div. of labor on the left, who has found the satisfactory personal traits in psychological terms, a psychic “common denominator?” (Think about the Ken Burns recent series in those terms. Eleanor vs FDR?

    • Roquentin November 8, 2014 at 7:11 pm | #

      A note on where sexual liberation stands today, I’d tend more towards the Dialectic of Enlightenement than Eros and Civilization (which I’ve actually never read. I should say that up front. Too many books in the Frankfurt School and too little time). What I mean by this is that it’s a dialectical relationship. Sexual liberation did an 180 degree turn and became completely commodified, serving to strengthen capitalism rather than blow it apart. Internet porn is the prime example of this. When you say “Brazzers” everyone in the room knows what you’re talking about, and sexual liberation is 100% capable of serving the current order.

      The big mistake was thinking that doing away with sexual repression would change any of that or that capital really gave the first shit about repressing sexuality in the first place. Capital care about one thing and one thing only, producing more capital. It’ll do this with sexual liberation or repression. It doesn’t make a lick of difference.

      • s. wallerstein November 8, 2014 at 7:20 pm | #

        Roquentin,

        Marcuse would agree with you. In Eros and Civilization, he talks about “repressive desublimation”, which is the use of sexual desublimation to create obedient workers and consumers, that is, the so-called sexual revolution.

        Marcuse’s idea of a revolution is not just “freer” sex, which he is well aware can just be another product for capitalism to market, but the freeing of erotic energies to build a freer, more creative society based on art, play and libidinal ties (not necessarily sexual ties) between people. If there is one thing which horrifies Marcuse, it is the commodification of sexuality (or of anything).

      • Roquentin November 8, 2014 at 7:26 pm | #

        That’s what I get for trying to comment on a text I haven’t read. Some day.

        As far as the Frankfurt School goes I’ve only made it through Minima Moralia and the aformentioned Dialectic along with some assorted writings of Walter Benjamin.

      • s. wallerstein November 8, 2014 at 7:51 pm | #

        There is a great interview with Marcuse online. He goes on and on about what a genius Adorno is. The interviewer suggests that Adorno is very difficult, if not impossible, to understand and Marcuse is forced to admit that he never understood Adorno all that well himself, but that he is sure that Adorno is a genius. It’s somewhere in this interview, but I’m not sure if it’s near the beginning or the end.

  10. William Neil November 8, 2014 at 7:55 pm | #

    I can give several reasons why I picked up “Eros and Civilization” off my shelf after so many years (I had read it in 1987.) First, I was frustrated at the lack of philosophical depth in Steven Watts’ bio of Hugh Hefner. Second, I have been reading and writing about the work of Sheldon Wolin, (wee most recently his interviews with Chris Hedges on the Real News Network), and especially. his book “Democracy Inc.: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism.” Consider the impact, then, in browsing “Eros,” when I came across this in the Preface: “The era {remember, this is the 1950’s, just beyond the totalitarian 30’s and 40’s…and deep in the Cold War} tends to be totalitarian even where it has not produced totalitarian states. Psychology could be elaborated and practiced as a special discipline as long as the psyche could sustain itself against the pubic power, as long as privacy was real, really desired, and self-shaped; if the individual has neither the ability nor the possibility to be for himself, the terms of psychology become the terms of the societal forces which define the psyche.”

    I was later moved by this Epigraph which Introduces Part 2, “Beyond the Reality Principle,” by Sean O’ Casey, from his “Sunset and Evening Star,” the sixth and last of his autobiography volumes from 1954. Casey (1880-1964):

    ” ‘What time has been wasted during man’s destiny in the struggle to decide what man’s next world will be like! The keener the effort to find out, the less he knew about the present one he live in. The one lovely world he knew, lived in, that gave him all he had, was, according to preacher and prelate, the one to be least in his thoughts. He was recommended, ordered, from the day of his birth to bid goodbye to it. Oh, we have had enough of the abuse of this fair earth! It is no sad truth that this should be our home. Were it but to give us simple shelter, simple clothing, simple food, adding the lily and the rose, the apple and the pear, it would be a fit home for mortal or immortal man.'”

    It hints at a very different relation to nature, one close to that described later in the book by reference to Margaret Meade’s work on Arapesh culture and Marcuse’s all too brief mention of the implications of matriarchy, which the dominant forces of the society relegate to a feature of “primitive societies.”

  11. Royton De'Ath November 10, 2014 at 10:08 pm | #

    Back to the OP. Were you so wrong, CR? Doesn’t this brief statement capture the essence of what you were arguing?:

    ‘Sexuality and death, linked through power, form a single element.’ (Verhaeghe, P., 1999, Love in a Time of Loneliness: ix)

    (Verhaeghe’s recent book on identity and the market economy is also worthwhile)

    And where’s the recruiting post for the couch brigades?

    • William Neil November 11, 2014 at 7:41 am | #

      Well done Royton. A close echo of the last chapter of Marcuse’s book, “Eros and Thanatos.”

      I’ll toss this out as well, because it was on my mind when I woke about a half hour ago. This whole post and its relation to the election outcome for Democrats, and their lack of both message and persona. I was thinking of the relationship between the rise of feminism, the leadership crisis, and the “try-outs” different persona’s have gotten, thinking in particular of Howard Dean’s rise and fall, the (primal?) scream, anger and aggression, verbal and we hope not acted out too literally with him in other arenas, but ruled out of bounds for future Democrats. And his family background, with his professional wife, a doctor, remaining back in Vermont while he was “immersed” in and out of conventional politics. I don’t believe he ever got his economic message together, harder to do before the financial crisis then after, and seems in general to understand the Democratic failure better today based on what I heard on the recent post-mortems. But far, far from what Marcuse was exploring. Dean, upper middle class with a father’s Wall Street roots, with the tensions and contradictions in his life, once rooted in Vermont with its evocative cultural reformations floating about…hints and suggestions, but no effective synthesis yet.

      Do Sanders and Warren also reflect the fragments, yet to come together in one person?

  12. prism November 12, 2014 at 7:00 am | #

    A book of course that was written by Susan Sontag

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