Presentation on theme: "ES2302- Education: Social and Political Thought II Sigmund Freud - an overview in relation to the second assignment. ‘We have reason to assume that there."— Presentation transcript:
ES2302- Education: Social and Political Thought II Sigmund Freud - an overview in relation to the second assignment. ‘We have reason to assume that there is a primal repression, a first phase of repression, which consists in the psychical (ideational) representative of the instinct being denied entrance to the conscious ….'
These are your 2 nd. assignment resources for Freud:- The essay itself – your primary text. This week’s web-notes – offering an interpretative gloss on selected sections, together with a reading guide for sections not re-presented in the web-notes. This overview, which tackles the issue of interpretation. The web-notes relating to Freud’s Autobiography – intended as a context reader for his work. A related PowerPoint providing a brief summary and selected discussion topics taken from the Autobiography.
With Freud it is impossible to avoid the issue of interpretation. He inaugurated a new discourse form, as did Marx. Subsequent writers on the self have conducted projects of exploration in the domain Freud first identified. So far, there have been two broad pathways followed by these writers and practitioners which Elizabeth Grosz has characterised as ‘realist’ and ‘narcissistic’. These notes follow her lead, ending with the Oedipus Complex. Before starting, it will be helpful to briefly indicate the consequences of these ‘pathways’ for your reading of Civilisation and its Discontents.
The Realist Pathway - assumes two fixed and opposed components, separated by a pre-existent structure – the sense of self – which mediates between the two. 1) human nature in general, and particularly the instincts and physiological processes of the body, and opposing them, 2) a naturalised and static conception of the basic form of all social life.
The Narcissistic Pathway – produces a sense of self that has neither a fixed ‘biological’ nature deriving from the realities of humanity’s ‘fight’ for survival, nor any necessary features of social structure. It is instead amorphous and contingent – an ever-changing artefact of personal socio-biological experience. For Freud, the ‘social’ essentially consists of moral laws and cultural institutions.
The realist pathway leads to ‘therapies’ aimed at strengthening the individual’s ability to keep opposing forces in balance so that the self is not overwhelmed – the basic aspects of this work never change. The narcissistic pathway leads to a self that is more tactical in its immediate responses, and more self-serving in its over-arching strategies. It is a product of circumstances which may change fundamentally; and there is no ‘cure’, only the ‘freeing up’ of desire.
In terms of your 2 nd. assignment, these consequences lead to a question which you must answer for yourself: Do I think that fundamental social change is possible? Note that Freud’s ‘biologism’ leads him, via the Oedipus Complex, to assert that social life is dominated by issues relating to sexuality and gender, and one consequence of this is unsymmetrical social experience.
The realist pathway – adopted by most American psychoanalysts – will entail that your reading of Civilisation and its Discontents is understood as a statement of what will always be the case so long as human beings live in societies. The narcissistic pathway, closer to the work of Continental analysts and, particularly, Jacques Lacan, entails that the same essay will be understood as a description of the tensions experienced by gendered subjectivities under patriarchy in Western Europe during the 1930s.
For the following summary my principal source has been Elizabeth Grosz’s text: Jacques Lacan: a feminist introduction. This was published by Routledge in 1990, and in some respects now shows its age. Nevertheless, I still consider it one of the best accounts of Freud and Lacan in relation to the analysis of feminist-focussed social change.
Freud’s essay addresses adulthood and gendered relations within society. However, as Freud himself said, ‘the child is father to the man’. This insight emphasises the significance of two developmental ‘events’ in the lives of each of us as part of our entry into adult social life.
The first of these events is the formation of the ego – the sense of self as separated from the world. The second is the break away from the typical mother-child dyad, and the entry into adult social life. Both Freud and Lacan call this event the Oedipus Complex and connect the primary repressions it produces with the formation of the unconscious.
As we have seen, for the realist ego matters are simple: it is formed as a natural biological feature, like a bodily organ or a mental capacity, such as seeing or hearing.
The Realist Ego – rational compromise:- A pre-given, natural outcome of the interaction of psychical (biology) and social (moral- cultural) relations; One agency amongst others competing for gratification within the organism; The reasoning mediator between antagonistic forces, arbitrating as an outsider between the pleasure-seeking demands of the id and a hostile, repressive reality; As reasonable mediator, it is responsible for the ‘higher’ accomplishments of culture; Its role is to modify the urgency of demands and to seek compromises.
Freud’s account of the narcissistic ego solves a problem he faced in describing human instincts. He understood these as the subjective accompaniments to the essential survival functions of the body, i.e., drinking, fighting, defecating, etc. The sexual instinct was different because a) it was inessential for bodily survival, and b) its object was said to be external to the body. But on this definition narcissism itself couldn’t exist because it entailed that the subject also became the subject’s object of desire.
Freud concluded that primary narcissism must be different from autoeroticism – some new psychic action had to be added. Freud therefore came to picture a ‘narcissistic’ ego – one which was a dynamic store of libido – of psychic ‘energy’ – that could be projected onto external objects or brought back within the self.
The narcissistic ego – a sediment of images:- Primary narcissism is distinct from auto-eroticism in its unpredictability; It is simply the boundary establishing the libidinal reservoir – it may therefore take itself or a part of the body as one of its libidinal objects; It is not a separate entity or agency within the subject; The contours of the ego are not fixed – they vary over time and social relationships; The ego is inter-subjective – it depends on the subject’s relations with the other (metaphor of the amoeba); The ego is governed by fantasy, making it amenable to the desires of the other.
Clearly, the two ego-types have differing consequences for your assignment. The realist ego may strike you as being more consistent with Foucault’s notion of ‘discipline’ and power, while the narcissistic ego may appear more consistent with his notion of ‘discourse’. The second formative event to consider here is the Oedipus Complex - the individual’s ‘gateway’ to society. The first account is Freud’s own – essentially a realist version and, strictly speaking, the only one you need. However, a second, ‘narcissistic’ version is also provided here based more on Lacan’s work – and note - Foucault attended Lacan’s seminars!
Grosz sums up the changes brought about to the pre- Oedipal Freudian child in the following way:- It introduces the sexually indifferent child to the sexual/genital differences between the sexes; and it must adopt one of these. It attempts to ‘match’ the child’s ‘biological’ sex with its socially determined ‘gender’, and along with this the assumptions of active or passive agency. It introduces the reality principle, social law, and considerations of material existence – over-riding the dominance of immediate gratification. It severs the constricting mutuality binding the child to its parents, especially the mother, enabling the child to establish relations, including sexual relations, with others outside the family.
Lacan transcribes Freud’s socio-biological explanation into one of language: the individual is said to enter the symbolic order. Prior to this entry the child has emerged from two previous states: the Real, and the Imaginary. The state of the Real exists before language acquisition, and for the purposes of your essay can be taken as corresponding to a sense of non-separation between itself and the world, i.e., Freud’s ‘oceanic feeling’.
After its passage through the Real, the child moves into a pre-social, familial set of relations – principally with the mother or primary carer; this Lacan calls the order of the imaginary. This state is pre-social in that the child’s sense of self is dominated by its perception of significant and/or ideal others which it attempts to incorporate or repudiate as part of its attempt to form a unitary self- conception. Without this attachment to the m(other), the child’s sense of self is fragmented.
In the closed-circuit of the mother-child dyad, mutual identification is immediate and satisfying to both, but incapable of extension. In particular, it is incapable of admitting the social, linguistic, and economic exchanges which characterise adult life. Lacan, following Freud, sees this need being typically met by the father – or a father substitute. However, the imaginary father serves as a token of its symbolic equivalent – Lacan uses the phrase, ‘the law of the father’ and symbolises it as the Other.
Like Freud, Lacan conflates patriarchy with culture, and like Freud, Lacan has difficulties in theorising the experience of girls relative to this complex. However, he does assert two different conclusions:- 1.The perception of female ‘castration’ does not literally happen – instead the child comes to recognise that women act through delegated patriarchal authority. 2.The child becomes a subject only by reference to ‘the name of the father’ – and the sacrificed body of the mother – and this perception of the Other is Lacan’s equivalent to Freud’s super- ego – the moral law within.