Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Freud and Conservative Discontent

Just one week into my blog and I have already recycled the same title pun. This is either a sign of a perseverative frontal lobe syndrome, or at some point I am going to need to write a lengthier treatment of the subject of Freud and conservatives.

Tonight I noticed that Jonah Goldberg, a favorite of mine, has casually tossed Freud in with Marx, while separating him from Darwin. I think that Freud has much more in common with the latter (both substantively and meta-theoretically).

I have spent a lot of time wondering why there is universal disdain for Freud on the right (which is more than equalled by the disdain for the right amongst contemporary psychoanalysts!). To be sure, in the context of Victorian society, Freud's impact was radical. However, I would argue that his fundamental understanding of human nature as tragic is one that is shared by most conservatives today, and interestingly is rejected by many (if not most) contemporary analysts.

I am by no means a Freudian, nor am I suggesting that Freud was a conservative. However, I would at least say that: 1) many of his views, like Darwin's, are neither liberal nor conservative and should be evaluated in a non-politicized context; 2) while his critique of religion may understandably offend many on the right, he was not advocating a total societal revolution, or revaluation of all values, in a Nietzschean or Marxist fashion; and 3) there is at least room for dialogue between Freud's insights and today's conservative thought.


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