KARL MET SIGMUND AND THE REST IS POSTMODERN HISTORY
from Dr. Sanity by Dr. Sanity ... Instead, it was about this time that Karl's descendents met Sigmund. In searching around for explanations for the sad failures of Marxism, Freud's theories of the unconscious seemed like a lifeline--a potential explanation of why everything had gone wrong. Instead of blaming the theory, they blamed human nature.
As Stephen Hicks notes (pg 167-8):
...Marcuse concluded [that] capitalism's repression of human nature may be socialism's salvation. Capitalism's rational technocracy suppresses human nature to the point that it bursts out in irrationalisms--in violence, criminality, racism, and all of societies other pathologies. But by encouraging those irrationalisms the new revolutionaries can destroy the system. So the first task of the revolutionary is to seek out those idividuals and energies on the margins of society; the outcast, the disorderly, and the forbidden--anyone and anything that capitalism's power structure has not yet succeeded in commodifying and dominating totally. All such marginalized and outcast elements will be "irrational," "immoral," and even "criminal," especially by capitalist definitiion, but that is precisely what the revolutionary needs. Any such outcast element could "break through the false consciousness [and] provide the Archimedian point for a larger emancipation."
As I noted in this post, Freud argued that human instincts are indeed out of sync with modern civilization; and that aggression and other instinctual needs, once absolutely necessary for survival in a dangerous world, are now frequently only archaic impulses that impede our ability to live happily in the present day and age.
He posited that the same aggression that was once directed towards survival, in the modern era is frequently turned inward, to the self, rather than outward toward the environment, and causes the psychological phenomenon of depression. In psychiatry we refer to this as "aggression turned inward".
But the mistake the Marxists made in marrying their theory with Freud was in thinking that somehow this fundmental aspect of human nature was only present under capitalism. If they thought for a moment, they might have realized that violence, racism, criminality and all the other pathologies of society, are actually pathologies of the individual--independent of the society.
Individual human nature must be taken into account when one evaluates the usefulness and consequences of certain economic and political systems that are advocated in the world today. Humans are clearly well-suited to some things and not to others.
But there are some social, economic, and political systems that like to indulge in biological fantasy and place human beings on a Procrustean bed to try to adjust human nature to their theories. The more out of touch with reality are the biological fantasies, the more the society tends toward catastrophy, human misery, and death. The worse of those societies are engaged in constant war/jihad and domination over others. You can identify them by the accumulation of wealth in the leaders as the followers become more and more impoverished.
The left somehow continues to believe that capitalism is what brings these things to pass, despite all historical evidence to the contrary. The truth is that, among social, political and economic systems, democratic capitalism is probably the one and only system that is most compatible with human nature.
Although portrayed as encouraging the "survival of the fittest", capitalism simultaneously encourages cooperation for mutually beneficial trade as well as competition. Instead of encouraging war and dominance; capitalism encourages trust and human cooperation; as well as alliances to maximize productivity and wealth creation. Far from concentrating wealth in the hands of a few, capitalism makes it possible for anyone to accumulate wealth (contrast for example the number of people who earn over $100,000 a year in the U.S., with those do in Cuba. The only really wealthy person there is Fidel Castro and his cronies.
But the Marxists of the mid 20th century were correct in a way, when they started their love affair with Sigmund. Freud's theories do indeed explain why capitalism is successful in the real world and marxist theory is not.
Capitalism allows the basic nature of man to creatively express itself by mastering the physical world. The instinctual energy Freud spoke of is directed away from the destructive pursuit of power over other people and sublimated toward acts of creation, which further both the individual's life and all of civilization.
The Marxist intellectuals' big mistake was in not recognizing the difference between repression and suppression. And in not understanding the way psychological defense mechanisms work (particularly the healthy or 'mature' defense mechanisms such as sublimation, anticipation, humor, altruism and supression).
They correctly noticed that the instinctual energy of the proletariat was being harnessed both for the individual's good as well as the society under capitalism; and yet were unable to appreciate the fact that unless you accept the reality of human nature and give it the freedom to transform all its most negative aspects into something positive for the individual and the culture/society (which is what the mature defenses do so creatively), then you end up crushing all human initiative, creativity, and productivity.
Societies can either encourage the development of these healthy, mature psychological defenses with which to cope with reality; or they can encourage the development and expression of the worse aspects of human nature--i.e., those which result in violence, racism, criminality and all the other pathologies. Either way, social, political and economic systems can only encourage certain human traits that result in civilized behavior; or, they can encourage those that are barbaric and antisocial. Human nature is the same, though, no matter what type of society or political system it finds itself in. [...]
Capitalism always gets blamed for these crises, and indeed, markets have their ups and downs; as well as their cycles and psychology. But, it is always the government interference that makes the normal ups and downs catastrophic; or creates the hysteria that leads to panic and idiocy. It is the under-the-table deals and winks exchanged between dishonest, immoral businessmen and dishonest, immoral legisislators drunk on the power they wield over others that lead to the unwholesome greed and self-destructive deals; and it is underscored by a willingness--no, a desperate need-- to ignore reality and the long-term consequences/destructiveness of their own behavior.
And behind the scapegoating of capitalism for their own immoral behavior lies the unquestioned premise--held by leaders of both the left and the right--that capitalism is just so evil that it needs to be firmly 'controlled' and 'regulated'--as if it were a horrible monster just waiting to escape from its bonds and kill us all.
Instead of holding individuals and companies accountable for their choices and mistakes; instead of encouraging personal responsibility and allowing failure (which results in learning and changed behavior), our economic policy is geared to reinforce irresponsibiity and encourage victimhood. Everyone is a 'victim' of the 'dog eat dog', greedy capitalist system.
But remember, human nature does not change depending on whether a capitalist or socialist/communist economy is in play. Greed, abuse of power, ruthless behavior and any other failing you may attribute to human beings will be in play whenever humans are involved. As I noted in a recent post Hakuna Matata: [...]
Human nature is what it is. This is not tragic, it is simple truth. The biological fantasies of the utopians; and the delusional fantasies of Marxist, communists and socialists and all their heirs, have lead to incalculable levels of human suffering all over the globe, as the proponents of these theories have tried to force humans to some "ideal" state. All these systems have failed the real-world tests in the last century; and all current versions of these ideologies will also eventually fail and fade away.
Sigmund could have taught Karl that simple truth--but Karl was never searching for truth as much as he was searching for power over--not understanding of--the minds of men. - Diagnosed by Dr. Sanity @ 7:08 AM Comment (1)