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Category: psychoanalysis

Behind our Backs: Moishe Postone in Conversation

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Moishe Postone, who was Thomas E. Donnelley Professor of the College, History, and the Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Chicago, passed away in March of 2018 after a long battle with cancer. A founding editor of Critical Historical Studies, he is best known for his important and novel reinterpretation of Marx in Time, Labor, and Social Domination. His passing is a serious blow; his mind and his person will be deeply missed.

In the spring of 2015, we sat down with Professor Postone to talk about everything except Marx. Our conversation focused on the authors read in the Social Sciences Core (Soc Core) sequence that he chaired from 1990 to 2016, “Self, Culture, & Society.” Professor Postone was the most formative influence on the “Self, Culture, & Society” curriculum during his tenure as chair and was a passionate advocate for general education requirements.

All undergraduates at the University of Chicago are required to take a year-long, three-quarter course in the Soc Core. “Self, Culture, & Society” (“Self”) is one of the three most popular Soc Core sequences at the University, the others of which are “Classics of Social and Political Thought” (“Classics”) and “Power, Identity, and Resistance” (“Power”), both of which are mentioned below. The reading list for “Self, Culture, & Society,” circa 2015, was roughly as follows:

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Reification and Utopia in Mass Culture (Jameson, 1979)

by FREDRIC JAMESON

The theory of mass culture-or mass audience culture, commercial culture, “popular” culture, the culture industry, as it is variously known-has always tended to define its object against so-called high culture without reflecting on the objective status of this opposition. As so often, positions in this field reduce themselves to two mirror-images, and are essentially staged in terms of value. Thus the familiar motif of elitism argues for the priority of mass culture on the grounds of the sheer numbers of people exposed to it; the pursuit of high or hermetic culture is then stigmatized as a status hobby of small groups of intellectuals. As its anti-intellectual thrust suggests, this essentially negative position has little theoretical content but clearly responds to a deeply rooted conviction in American radicalism and articulates a widely based sense that high culture is an establishment phenomenon, irredeemably tainted by its association with institutions, in particular with the university. The value invoked is therefore a social one: it would be preferable to deal with tv programs, The Godfather, or Jaws, rather than with Wallace Stevens or Henry James, because the former clearly speak a cultural language meaningful to far wider strata of the population than what is socially represented by intellectuals. Radicals are however also intellectuals, so that this position has suspicious overtones of the guilt trip; meanwhile it overlooks the anti-social and critical, negative (although generally not revolutionary) stance of much of the most important forms of modem art; finally, it offers no method for reading even those cultural objects it valorizes and has had little of interest to say about their content.

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Anxiety and Politics (Franz Neumann, 1957)

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Franz Neumann (1957)

Anxiety is, or ought to be, a central problem of the sciences. Anxiety impairs the freedom of decision, indeed it may make such freedom impossible—only a fearless man (or woman, ed.) can decide freely. The discussion of the problem of anxiety should be open to all the disciplines, not reserved to any one of them, for the great concern of science is the analysis and application of the concept of human freedom. My task today is to discuss the problem of anxiety in politics, a task which is confronted with many obstacles. In contrast to the traditional disciplines, the science of politics has no method of its own—it has, in the last analysis, only a focus, namely the dialectical relation between domination and freedom. In other words the science of politics revolves solely around a problem and uses all kinds of methods to attack this problem. However, with this approach the political scientist runs the danger of dilettantism, a danger which he can avoid only by being conscious of his limitations and by giving hearing to authorities from other disciplines. Thus this contribution will often consist merely in a synthesis of the results of research or perhaps in a felicitous hypothesis. [READ PDF]

Authority and the Family (Horkheimer, 1936)

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by Max Horkheimer (1936)

THE history of mankind has been divided into periods in very varying ways. The manner in which periodization has been carried out has not depended exclusively on the object, any more than other concept formations have; the current state of knowledge and the concerns of the knower have also played a part. Today the division into antiquity, Middle Ages, and modern times is still widely used. It originated in literary studies and was applied in the seventeenth century to history generally. It expresses the conviction, formed in the Renaissance and consolidated in the Enlightenment, that the time between the fall of the Roman Empire and the fifteenth century was a dark era for mankind, a sort of hibernation of culture, and was to be understood only as a period of transition. In contemporary scholarship this particular periodization is considered highly unsatisfactory. One reason is that the “Middle Ages” were in fact a time of important progress even from a purely pragmatic viewpoint, since they saw decisive advances in civilization and produced revolutionary technical inventions. A further reason is that the usual criteria for making the fifteenth century a dividing point are partly indefensible, partly applicable in a meaningful way only to limited areas of world history.  [READ PDF]

The Dialectic of Sex (Shulamith Firestone, 1970)

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Shulamith Firestone  – The Dialectic of Sex (1970)

In the following chapters we shall assume this definition of historical materialism, examining the cultural institutions that maintain and reinforce the biological family (especially its present manifestation, the nuclear family) and its result, the psychology of power, and aggressive chauvinism now developed enough to destroy us. We shall integrate this with a feminist analysis of Freudianism: for Freud’s cultural bias, like that of Marx and Engels, does not invalidate his perception entirely. In fact, Freud had insights of even greater value than those of the socialist theorists for the building of a new dialectical materialism based on sex. We shall attempt, then, to correlate the best of Engels and Marx (the historical materialist approach) with the best of Freud (the understanding of inner man and women and what shapes them) to arrive at a solution both political and personal yet grounded in real conditions. We shall see that Freud observed the dynamics of psychology correctly in its immediate social context, but because the fundamental structure of that social context was basic to all humanity – to different degrees – it appeared to be nothing less than an absolute existential condition which it would be insane to question – forcing Freud and many of his followers to postulate a priori constructs like the Death Wish to explain the origins of these universal psychological drives. This in turn made the sicknesses of humanity irreducible and incurable – which is why his pro posed solution (psychoanalytic therapy), a contradiction in terms, was so weak compared to the rest of his work, and such a resounding failure in practice – causing those of social/political sensibility to reject not only his therapeutic solution, but his most profound discoveries as well. . . [PDF]

See also: Further Adventures of the Dialectic of Sex: Critical Essays on Shulamith Firestone

 

The Psychopharmacology of Everyday Life

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by Jamieson Webster (2018)

Everyone is on drugs. I don’t mean the old-fashioned, illegal kind, but the kind made by pharmaceutical companies that come in the form of pills. As a psychoanalyst, I’ve listened to people through the screen of their daily doses; and I’ve listened to them without it. Their natural rhythms certainly change, sometimes very dramatically—I guess that’s the point, isn’t it? I have a great many questions about what happens when a mind—a mind that uniquely structures emotion, interest, excitement, defense, association, memory, and rest—is undercut by medication. In this Faustian bargain, what are we gaining? And what are we sacrificing?

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Omnipotence or Fusion? A Conversation between Axel Honneth and Joel Whitebook

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Madonna Lita – Leonardo da Vinci 1490

Constellations Issue 23. Number 2 – 2016

Joel Whitebook: This discussion has a long history. In fact, it’s almost twenty years old now. It goes back to the academic year of 1995–1996, when I was teaching in the philosophy department in the psychoanalytic studies program at the New School, and Axel [Honneth] was the Theodor Heuss Professor for the year. Axel’s book The Struggle for Recognition had been translated into English and was being widely discussed. And in psychoanalysis, this was the heyday of the relational movement. “Relationality” had become the hot topic. Steve Mitchell and Jay Greenberg’s text had become something of a basic text of psychoanalysis which everybody was using. In The Struggle for Recognition, Axel drew on material from the relational psychoanalysts, from infant research, and from Donald Winnicott, and tried to integrate that into his analysis of the young Hegel and Aristotle. But the use he was making of analysis, the analysis he was appropriating at the time, was from this very lively world of relational psychoanalysis and infant research. Jessica Benjamin had tried to do something similar before that with her synthesis of Winnicott and Hegel around the theory of recognition. . .  [Read PDF]

 

The Scientific Standing of Psychoanalysis

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by Mark Solms  (2018) BJPsych International, Volume 15Issue 1,February 2018 , pp. 5-8

This paper summarises the core scientific claims of psychoanalysis and rebuts the prejudice that it is not ‘evidence-based’. I address the following questions. (A) How does the emotional mind work, in health and disease? (B) Therefore, what does psychoanalytic treatment aim to achieve? (C) How effective is it?

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