barbarians by crisso and odoteo
critique of barbarians by frere dupont
[From the first issue of Blasphegme: An anarchist broadsheet on the walls of Paris. It’s been getting pasted up around the city in the past month. The biggest difficulty faced by anarchist counter-info projects is often distribution — how to get texts into the hands of people who will be interested in them? Using posters as a way of distributing long-format texts has definitely been tried before, either by connecting to a website or by keeping things short enough to fit, but it’s an interesting idea that’s worth experimenting with more.]
“I spit on your idols, I spit on your gods, I spit on the homeland […] I spit on your flags, I spit on capital and the golden calf, I spit on all religions: they’re jokes, I don’t give a shit about them, I don’t give a damn. They only exist because of you, leave them and they’ll fall apart.
You’re resigned, but you’re a force — you don’t even know it, but you’re a force nonetheless, and I cannot spit on you, I can only hate you… or love you. Beyond all my other desires, I want to see you shaken from your resignation in a terrible awakening into life. There is no future paradise, there is no future, there is only the present.”
Albert Libertad, To the Resigned, 1905
Blasphegme: A neologisme designating a blasphemy delivered in the form of spit (or phlegm) on all religions, whether monotheist or polytheist, whether the religion of the state or of capital, the religion of work or of the ego.
The blasphegme spits in the face of all gods and of all prophets, with no distinction between the various collective delusions that poison us, that keep us in awe of a higher power before which we must kneel.
The blasphegme is the individual expression of non-resignation in the face of a society that leaves us no time to breathe, using the power dynamics between individuals to keep the cattle calm, too busy competing and acting out our frustrations, products of lives that have known only the coercion of laws made to regulate social life.
This journal aims to agitate, to spread anarchist ideas, to spread seeds of subversion in a daily life as boxed-in as graph paper.
We’re not trying to teach, rather we hope to spark debates on the ideas that matter to us and that seem essential for any individual seeking to liberate themselves, here and now, from all that shackles that keep us from soaring high.
Emmaüs: Profiting off misery
Four people will be appearing in appeals court on October 3 in Paris, following some events in the summer of 2015 in a shelter operated by Emmaüs on rue Pernety in the 19th arrondissement. A group of migrants, sick of the scorn of this charitable organization that makes money off their situation, decided to block the entrance of the building with the help of a few others acting in solidarity. Like a good charity, Emmaüs called the cops, crying about illegal confinement, which lead to one migrant and three supporters being held in investigative detention before being released on bail and later being handed a four-month conditional sentence, plus fines, in October 2015.
To be clear, Emmaüs is the company put in charge of the migrant issue by Paris city hall, taking over the sites that the government sets up and working to prevent all struggle, sorting and dispersing migrants, or even collaborating in their incarceration in detention centres.
But Emmaüs is also known for its charitable work. It manages a big block of rent-controlled housing in Ile-de-France (1) and there too is known for its desire to force poor people into ever greater misery in order to make a profit. Kicking out tenants, raising rents… usual speculator tactics. That said, we know this organization mostly for its “communities” where they exploit homeless people, called “companions”, offering them shelter and a meal in place of a wage. The strict rules can see “companions” thrown out in the middle of winter if they’re suspected of not obeying. As well, let’s remember that the Emmaüs stores depend on the work of “companions” and make a profit by selling donated or scavenged stuff to poor people.
For this reason, Emmaüs deserves to join the Vultures of Misery club, alongside The Red Cross, France Land of Refuge, the Salvation army, and all the other humanitarian organizations that prosper on the backs of the poor.
The party’s already over?
(excerpt from a poster seen in the streets of Paris these past months)
We’ve had a good time running through the streets these past months, trying to subvert our existing lives and these modern, sanitized cities, these showpieces of capitalism and the society of control.
We didn’t give a shit about this law, just like the results of a presidential election or of a football match, because we don’t want to work, period. We don’t accept our exploitation, whether or not its facilitated by this law.
So why wait for the next “movement” to have fun, when all we have to do is to continue what we started these past months? Why should we each return to our own isolation, submerged in the various alienations that distract us from our self-destructive boredom and loneliness, when we’ve seen that so many of us want to attack the existing world? This society tries to break us down a little more each day, and to frighten away those who have decided they can no longer accept this comedy, no longer blindly follow the union march and the marching orders of good citizens, no longer accept states of emergency, or, for that matter, any states at all.
We have discovered, or rediscovered, what it means to run across the pavement, to play in spaces where policing controls our every movement. We knew that this society of misery depended on our servitude, and our fear of cops, but we’ve learned that we are strong enough to overturn it, that they can’t prevent us from playing like wild children who destroy everything they pass.
We’re off to such a good start, let’s not trade any piece of the present for a fictional tomorrow, and let’s not surrender anything of this moment for the winds of the future!
Solidarity with all those arrested these past months!
Some summer notes
This summer, some sparks of revolt flickered here and there, sending a clear message to power that attack against the established order doesn’t take vacations!
The riot is the most beautiful street art … The art festival on Aurillac street happens each summer and, like last year, took a rather subversive turn. Following a collective refusal by some people to be searched at the entrance to the festival, some cheerful revellers tried to change the tone of the party and to spread their hatred of this society among those in attendance.
Tags against fundamentalists … Twice in July and August in Besançon, anti-religious tags were thrown up on the walls of buildings belonging to a catholic fundamentalist organization, known for its actions against abortion and contraception. Here’s a small selection of the messages left for these religious reactionaries: “Down with robes, up with rubbers”, “No gods no masters” and “Catholic Fascists, out of our lives”(2).
The MEDEF deprived of golf … In Chailly-sur-Armaçon, in Côte d’Or, the golf course that was going to host a tournament for members of the MEDEF (3) was trashed. Two banners were left behind, reading “Done playing” and “200 € = one round of golf or one month of misery”
…and all the rest. We don’t have enough space here to list all the other attacks carried out over the holidays, but we’ve observed that everywhere it’s the cops, the offices of political parties (the Socialist Party, the National Front) (4), banks, schools, journalists, etc who take the blows of those whose hatred of this society is not held back by summer.
1) The province that contains Paris
2) Two of these slogans rhyme in french: the first one, capote (skullcap) rhymes with calotte (condom) ; in the third one, the expression uses abbreviations, “cathos fachos”
3) The acronym translates as the Mouvement for French Business, it’s a lobby group for bosses, very influential
4) The socialist party (partie socialiste, PS) is currently in power. The National Front (Front National, FN) is a far-right party
chapter 3 from Marcuse’s Eros and Civilization, and some questions:
The quest for the origin of repression leads back to the origin of instinctual repression, which occurs during early childhood. The superego is the heir of the Oedipus complex, and the repressive organization of sexuality is chiefly directed against its pregenital and perverse manifestations. Moreover, the “trauma of birth” releases the first expressions of the death instinct — the impulse to return to the Nirvana of the womb —and necessitates the subsequent controls of this impulse. It is in the child that the reality principle completes its work, with such thoroughness and severity that the mature individual’s behavior is hardly more than a repetitive pattern of childhood experiences and reactions. But the childhood experiences which become traumatic under the impact of reality are pre-individual, generic: with individual variations, the protracted dependence of the human infant, the Oedipus situation, and pregenital sexuality all belong to the genus man. Moreover, the unreasonable severity of the superego of the neurotic personality, the unconscious sense of guilt and the unconscious need for punishment, seem to be out of proportion with the actual “sinful” impulses of the individual; the perpetuation tion and (as we shall see) intensification of the sense of guilt throughout maturity, the excessively repressive organization of sexuality, cannot be adequately explained in terms of the still acute danger of individual impulses. Nor can the individual reactions to early traumata be adequately explained by “what the individual himself has experienced”; they deviate from individual experiences “in a way that would accord much better with their being reactions to genetic events” and in general they can be explained only “through such an influence.”1 The analysis of the mental structure of the personality is thus forced to regress behind early childhood, from the prehistory of the individual to that of the genus. In the personality, according to Otto Rank, there operates a “biological sense of guilt” which stands for the demands of the species. The moral principles “which the child imbibes from the persons responsible for its upbringing during the first years of its life “reflect” certain phylogenetic echoes of primitive man.”2 Civilization is still determined by its archaic heritage, and this heritage, so Freud asserts, includes “not only dispositions, but also ideational contents, memory traces of the experiences of former generations.” Individual psychology is thus in itself group psychology in so far as the individual itself still is in archaic identity with the species. This archaic heritage bridges the “gap between individual and mass psychology.”3
This conception has far-reaching implications for the method and substance of social science. As psychology tears the ideological veil and traces the construction of the personality, it is led to dissolve the individual: his autonomous personality appears as the frozenmanifestation of the general repression of mankind. Self-consciousness and reason, which have conquered and shaped the historical world, have done so in the image of repression, internal and external. They have worked as the agents of domination; the liberties which they have brought (and these are considerable) grew in the soil of enslavement and have retained the mark of their birth. These are the disturbing implications of Freud’s theory of the personality. By “dissolving” the idea of the ego-personality into its primary components, psychology now bares the sub-individual and pre-individual factors which (largely unconscious to the ego) actually make the individual: it reveals the power of the universal in and over the individuals.
This disclosure undermines one of the strongest ideological fortifications of modern culture — namely, the notion of the autonomous individual. Freud’s theory here joins the great critical efforts to dissolve ossified sociological concepts into their historical content. His psychology does not focus on the concrete and complete personality as it exists in its private and public environment, because this existence conceals rather than reveals the essence and nature of the personality. It is the end result of long historical processes which are congealed in the network of human and institutional entities making up society, and these processes define the personality and its relationships. Consequently, to understand them for what they really are, psychology must unfreezethem by tracing their hidden origins. In doing so, psychology discovers that the determining childhood experiences are linked with the experiences of the species — that the individual lives the universal fate of mankind. The past defines the present because mankind has not yet mastered its own history. To Freud, the universal fate is in the instinctual drives, but they are themselves subject to historical “modifications.” At their beginning is the experience of domination, symbolized by the primal father — the extreme Oedipus situation. It is never entirely overcome: the mature ego of the civilized personality still preserves the archaic heritage of man.
If this dependency of the ego is not kept in mind, the increased emphasis in Freud’s later writings on the autonomy of the mature ego might be abused as justification for abandoning the most advanced conceptions of psychoanalysis — a retreat undertaken by the cultural and interpersonal schools. In one of his last papers,4 Freud proposes that not all modifications of the ego are “acquired during the defensive conflicts of early childhood”; he suggests that “each individual ego is endowed from the beginning with its own peculiar dispositions and tendencies,” that there exist “primary congenital variations in the ego.” However, this new autonomy of the ego seems to turn into its opposite: far from retracting the notion of the ego’s essential dependency on pre-individual,generic constellations, Freud strengthens the role of these constellations in the development of the ego. For he interprets the congenital variations of the ego in terms of “our ‘archaic heritage’” and he thinks that “even before the ego exists, its subsequent lines of development, tendencies and reactions are already determined.”5 Indeed, the apparent renaissance of the ego is accompanied by the accentuation of the “deposits from primitive human development present in our archaic heritage.” When Freud concludes from the congenital structure of the ego that the “topographical differentiation between ego and id loses much of its value for our investigation,” then this assimilation of ego and id seems to alter the balance between the two mental forces in favor of the id rather than the ego, the generic rather than the individual processes.6
No part of Freud’s theory has been more strongly rejected than the idea of the survival of the archaic heritage—his reconstruction of the prehistory of mankind from the primal horde through patricide to civilization. The difficulties in scientific verification and even in logical consistency are obvious and perhaps insurmountable. Moreover, theyare reinforced by the taboos which the Freudian hypothesis so effectively violates: it does not lead back to the image of a paradise which man has forfeited by his sin against God but to the domination of man by man, established by a very earthly father-despot and perpetuated by the unsuccessful or uncompleted rebellion against him. The “original sin” was against man — and it was no sin because it was committed against one who was himself guilty. And this phylogenetic hypothesis reveals that mature civilization is still conditioned by archaic mental immaturity. The memory of prehistoric impulses and deeds continues to haunt civilization: the repressed material returns, and the individual is still punished for impulses long since mastered and deeds long since undone.
If Freud’s hypothesis is not corroborated by any anthropological evidence, it would have to be discarded altogether except for the fact that it telescopes, in a sequence of catastrophic events, the historical dialectic of domination and thereby elucidates aspects of civilization hitherto unexplained. We use Freud’s anthropological speculation only in this sense: for its symbolic value. The archaic events that the hypothesisstipulates may forever be beyond the realm of anthropological verification; the alleged consequences of these events are historical facts, and their interpretation in the light of Freud’s hypothesis lends them a neglected significance which points to the historical future. If the hypothesis defies common sense, it claims, in its defiance, a truth which common sense has been trained to forget.
In Freud’s construction, the first human group was established and sustained by the enforced rule of one individual over all others. At one time in the life of the genus man, life was organized by domination. And the man who succeeded in dominating the others was the father — that is to say, the man who possessed the desired women and who had, with them, produced and kept alive the sons and daughters. The father monopolized for himself the woman (the supreme pleasure) and subjugated the other members of the horde to his power. Did he succeed in establishing his dominion because he succeeded in excluding them from supreme pleasure? In any case, for the group as a whole, the monopolization of pleasure meant an unequal distribution of pain:… the fate of the sons was a hard one; if they excited the father’s jealousy they were killed or castrated or driven out. They were forced to live in small communities and to provide themselves with wives by stealing them from others.”7 The burden of whatever work had to be done in the primal horde would have been placed on the sons who, by their exclusion from the pleasure reserved for the father, had now become “free” for the channeling of instinctual energy into unpleasurable but necessary activities. The constraint on the gratification of instinctual needs imposed by the father, the suppression of pleasure, thus not only was the result of domination but also created the mental preconditions for the continued functioning of domination.
In this organization of the primal horde, rationality and irrationality, biological and sociological factors, the common and the particular interest are inextricably intertwined. The primal horde is a temporarily functioning group, which sustains itself in some sort of order; it may therefore be assumed that the patriarchal despotism which established this order was “rational” to the extent to which it created and preserved the group — thereby the reproduction of the whole and the common interest. Setting the model for the subsequent development of civilization, the primal father prepared the ground for progress through enforced constraint on pleasure and enforced abstinence; he thus created the first preconditions for the disciplined “labor force” of the future. Moreover, this hierarchical division of pleasure was “justified” by protection, security, and even love: because the despot was the father, the hatred with which his subjects regarded him must from the beginning have been accompanied by a biological affection — ambivalent emotions which were expressed in the wish to replace and to imitate the father, to identify oneself with him, with his pleasure as well as with his power. The father establishes domination in his own interest, but in doing so he is justified by his age, by his biological function, and (most of all) by his success: he creates that “order” without which the group would immediately dissolve. In this role, the primal father foreshadows the subsequent domineering father-images under which civilization progressed. In his person and function, he incorporates the inner logic and necessity of the reality principle itself. He has “historical rights.”8
…one or the other son might succeed in attaining a situation similar to that of the father in the original horde. One favoured position came about in a natural way: it was that of the youngest son, who, protected by his mother’s love, could profit by his father’s advancing years and replace him after his death.9
Primal patriarchal despotism thus became an “effective” order. But the effectiveness of the superimposed organization of the horde must have been very precarious, and consequently the hatred against patriarchal suppression very strong. In Freud’s construction, this hatred culminates in the rebellion of the exiled sons, the collective killing and devouring of the father, and the establishment of the brother clan, which in turn deifies the assassinated father and introduces those taboos and restraints which, according to Freud, generate social morality. Freud’s hypothetical history of the primal horde treats the rebellion of the brothers as a rebellion against the father’s taboo on the women of the horde; no “social” protest against the unequal division of pleasure is involved. Consequently, in a strict sense, civilization begins only in the brother clan, when the taboos, now self-imposed by the ruling brothers, implement repression in the common interest of preserving the group as a whole. And the decisive psychological event which separates the brother clan from the primal horde is the development of guilt feeling. Progress beyond the primal horde — i.e., civilization — presupposes guilt feeling: it introjects into the individuals, and thus sustains, the principal prohibitions, constraints, and delays in gratification on which civilization depends.
It is a reasonable surmise that after the killing of the father a time followed when the brothers quarrelled among themselves for the succession, which each of them wanted to obtain for himself alone. They came to see that these fights were as dangerous as they were futile. This hard-won understanding — as well as the memory of the deed of liberation they had achieved together and the attachment that had grown up among them during the time of their exile — led at last to a union among them, a sort of social contract. Thus there came into being the first form of a social organization accompanied by a renunciation of instinctual gratification; recognition of mutual obligations; institutions declared sacred, which could not be broken — in short, the beginnings of morality and law.10
The rebellion against the father is rebellion against biologically justified authority; his assassination destroys the order which has preserved the life of the group. The rebels have committed a crime against the whole and thereby also against themselves. They are guilty before the others and before themselves, and they must repent. The assassination of the father is the supreme crime because the father established the order of reproductive sexuality and thus is, in his person, the genus which creates and preserves all individuals. The patriarch, father and tyrant in one, unites sex and order, pleasure and reality; he evokes love and hatred; heguarantees the biological and sociological basis on which the history of mankind depends. The annihilation of his person threatens to annihilate lasting group life itself and to restore the prehistoric and subhistoric destructive force of the pleasure principle. But the sons want the same thing as the father: they want lasting satisfaction of their needs. They can attain this objective only by repeating, in a new form, the order of domination which had controlled pleasure and thereby preserved the group. The father survives as the god in whose adoration the sinners repent so that they can continue to sin, while the new fathers secure those suppressions of pleasure which are necessary for preserving their rule and their organization of the group. The progress from domination by one to domination by several involves a “social spread” of pleasure and makes repression self-imposed in the ruling group itself: all its members have to obey the taboos if they want to maintain their rule. Repression now permeates the life of the oppressors themselves, and part of their instinctual energy becomes available for sublimation in “work.”
At the same time, the taboo on the women of the clan leads toexpansion and amalgamation with other hordes; organized sexuality begins that formation of larger units which Freud regarded as the function of Eros in civilization. The role of the women gains increasing importance. “A good part of the power which had become vacant through the father’s death passed to the women; the time of the matriarchate followed.”11 It seems essential for Freud’s hypothesis that in the sequence of the development toward civilization the matriarchal period is preceded by primal patriarchal despotism: the low degree of repressive domination, the extent of erotic freedom, which are traditionally associated with matriarchy appear, in Freud’s hypothesis, as consequences of the overthrow of patriarchal despotism rather than as primary “natural” conditions. In the development of civilization, freedom becomes possible only as liberation. Liberty follows domination — and leads to the reaffirmation of domination. Matriarchy is replaced by a patriarchal counter-revolution, and the latter is stabilized by the institutionalization of religion.
During that time a great social revolution had taken place. Matriarchy was followed by a restitution of the patriarchal order.The new fathers, it is true, never succeeded to the omnipotence of the primeval father. There were too many of them and they lived in larger communities than the original horde had been; they had to get on with one another and were restricted by social institutions.12
Male gods at first appear as sons by the side of the great mother-deities, but gradually they assume the features of the father; polytheism cedes to monotheism, and then returns the “one and only father deity whose power is unlimited.”13 Sublime and sublimated, original domination becomes eternal, cosmic, and good, and in this form guards the process of civilization. The “historical rights” of the primal father are restored.14
The sense of guilt, which, in Freud’s hypothesis, is intrinsic to the brother clan and its subsequent consolidation into the first “society,” is primarily guilt feeling about the perpetration of the supreme crime, patricide. Anxiety arises over the consequences of the crime. However, these consequences are twofold: they threaten to destroy the life of the group by the removal of the authority which (although in terror) had preserved the group; and, at the same time, this removal promises a society without the father — that is, without suppression and domination. Must it not be assumed that the sense of guilt reflects this twofold structure and its ambivalence? The rebellious parricides act only to forestall the first consequence, the threat: they reestablish domination by substituting many fathers for one, and then by deifying and internalizing the one father. But in doing so they betray the promise of their own deed — the promise of liberty. The despot-patriarch has succeeded in implanting his reality principle in the rebellious sons. Their revolt has, for a short span of time, broken the chain of domination; then the new freedom is again suppressed — this time by their own authority and action. Must not their sense of guilt include guilt about the betrayal and denial of their deed? Are they not guilty of restoring the repressive father, guilty of self-imposed perpetuation of domination? The question suggests itself if Freud’s phylogenetic hypothesis is confronted with his notion of the instinctual dynamic. As the reality principle takes root, even in its most primitive and most brutally enforced form, the pleasure principle becomes something frightful and terrifying; the impulses for free gratification meet with anxiety, and this anxiety calls for protection against them. The individuals have to defend themselves against the specter of their integral liberation from want and pain, against integral gratification. And the latter is represented by the woman who, as mother, has once, for the first and last time, provided such gratification. These are the instinctual factors which reproduce the rhythm of liberation and domination.
Through her sexual power, woman is dangerous to the community, the social structure of which rests on the fear displaced to the father. The king is slain by the people, not in order that they may be free, but that they may take upon themselves a heavier yoke, one that will protect them more surely from the mother.15
The king-father is slain not only because he imposes intolerable restraints but also because the restraints, imposed by an individual person, are not effective enough a “barrier to incest” not effective enough to cope with the desire to return to the mother.16 Liberation is therefore followed by ever “better” domination:
The development of the paternal domination into an increasingly powerful state system administered by man is thus a continuance of the primal repression, which has as its purpose the ever wider exclusion of woman.17
The overthrow of the king-father is a crime, but so is his restoration — and both are necessary for the progress of civilization. The crime against the reality principle is redeemed by the crime against the pleasure principle: redemption thus cancels itself. The sense of guilt is sustained in spite of repeated and intensified redemption: anxiety persists because the crime against the pleasure principle is not redeemed. There is guilt over a deed that has not been accomplished: liberation. Some of Freud’s formulations seem to indicate this: the sense of guilt was “the consequence of uncommitted aggression”; and
… it is not really a decisive matter whether one has killed one’s father or abstained from the deed; one must feel guilty in either case, for guilt is the expression of the conflict of ambivalence, the eternal struggle between Eros and the destructive or death instinct.18
Much earlier Freud spoke of a pre-existing sense of guilt, which seems to be “lurking” in the individual, ready and waiting to “assimilate” an accusation made against him.19 This notion seems to correspond to the idea of a “floating anxiety” which has subterranean roots even beneath the individual unconscious.
Freud assumes that the primal crime, and the sense of guilt attached to it, are reproduced, in modified forms, throughout history. The crime is re-enacted in the conflict of the old and new generation, in revolt and rebellion against established authority — and in subsequent repentance: in the restoration and glorification of authority. In explaining this strange perpetual recurrence, Freud suggested the hypothesis of thereturn of the repressed, which he illustrated by the psychology of religion. Freud thought that he had found traces of the patricide and of its “return” and redemption in the history of Judaism, which begins with the killing of Moses. The concrete implications of Freud’s hypothesis become clearer in his interpretation of anti-Semitism. He believed that anti-Semitism had deep roots in the unconscious: jealousy over the Jewish claim of being the “first-born, favorite child of God the Father”; dread of circumcision, associated with the threat of castration; and, perhaps most important, “grudge against the new religion” (Christianity) which was forced on many modern peoples “only in relatively recent times.” This grudge was “projected” onto the source from which Christianity came, namely, Judaism.20
If we follow this train of thought beyond Freud, and connect it with the twofold origin of the sense of guilt, the life and death of Christ would appear as a struggle against the father — and as a triumph over the father.21 The message of the Son was the message of liberation: the overthrow of the Law (which is domination) by Agape (which is Eros). This would fit in with the heretical image of Jesus as the Redeemer in the flesh, the Messiah who came to save man here on earth. Then the subsequent transubstantiation of the Messiah, the deification of the Son beside the Father, would be a betrayal of his message by his own disciples — the denial of the liberation in the flesh, the revenge on the redeemer. Christianity would then have surrendered the gospel of Agape-Eros again to the Law; the father-rule would be restored and strengthened. In Freudian terms, the primal crime could have been expiated, according to the message of the Son, in an order of peace and love on earth. It was not; it was rather superseded by another crime — that against the Son. With his transubstantiation, his gospel too was transubstantiated; his deification removed his message from this world. Suffering and repression were perpetuated.
This interpretation would lend added significance to Freud’s statement that the Christian peoples are “badly christened,” that “under the thin veneer of Christianity they have remained what their ancestors were, barbarically polytheistic.”22 They are “badly christened” in so far as they accept and obey the liberating gospel only in a highly sublimated form — which leaves the reality unfree as it was before. Repression (in the technical Freudian sense) played only a minor role in the institutionalization of Christianity. The transformation of the original content, the deflection from the original objective, took place in broad daylight, consciously, with public argumentation and justification. Equally open was the armed struggle of institutionalized Christianity against the heretics, who tried or allegedly tried to rescue the unsublimated content and the unsublimated objective. There were good rational motives behind the bloody wars against the Christian revolutions which filled the Christian era. However, the cruel and organized slaughter of Cathari, Albigensians, Anabaptists, of slaves, peasants, and paupers who revolted under the sign of the cross, the burning of witches and their defenders — this sadistic extermination of the weak suggests that unconscious instinctual forces broke through all the rationality and rationalization. The executioners and their bands fought the specter of a liberation which they desired but which they were compelled to reject. The crime against the Son must be forgotten in the killing of those whose practice recalls the crime. It took centuries of progress and domestication before the return of the repressed was mastered by the power and progress of industrial civilization. But at its late stage its rationality seems to explode in another return of the repressed. The image of liberation, which has become increasingly realistic, is persecuted the world over. Concentration and labor camps, the trials and tribulations of non-conformists release a hatred and fury which indicate the total mobilization against the return of the repressed.
If the development of religion contains the basic ambivalence — the image of domination and the image of liberation — then Freud’s thesis inThe Future of an Illusion must be re-evaluated. Freud there stressed the role of religion in the historical deflection of energy from the real improvement of the human condition to an imaginary world of eternal salvation. He thought that the disappearance of this illusion would greatly accelerate the material and intellectual progress of mankind, and he praised science and scientific reason as the great liberating antagonists of religion. Perhaps no other writing shows Freud closer to the great tradition of Enlightenment; but also no other shows him more clearly succumbing to the dialectic of Enlightenment. In the present period of civilization, the progressive ideas of rationalism can be recaptured only when they are reformulated. The function of science and of religion has changed — as has their interrelation. Within the total mobilization of man and nature which marks the period, science is one of the most destructive instruments — destructive of that freedom from fear which it once promised. As this promise evaporated into utopia, “scientific” becomes almost identical with denouncing the notion of an earthly paradise. The scientific attitude has long since ceased to be the militant antagonist of religion, which has equally effectively discarded its explosive elements and often accustomed man to a good conscience in the face of suffering and guilt. In the household of culture, the functions of science and religion tend to become complementary; through their present usage, they both deny the hopes which they once aroused and teach men to appreciate the facts in a world of alienation. In this sense, religion is no longer an illusion, and its academic promotion falls in line with the predominant positivistic trend.23 Where religion still preserves the uncompromised aspirations for peace and happiness, its “illusions” still have a higher truth value than science which works for their elimination. The repressed and transfigured content of religion cannot be liberated by surrendering it to the scientific attitude.
Freud applies the notion of the return of the repressed, which was elaborated in the analysis of the history of individual neuroses,24 to the general history of mankind. This step from individual to group psychology introduces one of the most controversial problems: How can the historical return of the repressed be understood?
In the course of thousands of centuries it certainly became forgotten that there was a primeval father …, and what fate he met. … In what sense, therefore, can there be any question of a tradition?25
Freud’s answer, which assumes “an impression of the past in unconscious memory traces,” has encountered widespread rejection. However, the assumption loses much of its fantastic character if it is confronted with the concrete and tangible factors which refresh the memory of every generation. In enumerating the conditions under which the repressed material may penetrate into consciousness, Freud mentions a strengthening of the instincts “attached to the repressed material,” and events and experiences “which are so much like the repressed material that they have the power to awaken it.”26 As an example for the strengthening of the instincts he cites the “processes during puberty.” Under the impact of the ripening genital sexuality, there reappear in the
…phantasies of all persons the infantile tendencies … and among them one finds in regular frequency and in the first place, the sexual feeling of the child for the parents. Usually, this has already been differentiated by sexual attraction, namely, the attraction of the son for the mother, and of the daughter for the father. Simultaneously with the overcoming and rejection of these distinctly incestuous phantasies, there occurs one of the most important as well as one of the most painful psychic accomplishments of puberty; it is the breaking away from the parental authority, through which alone is formed that opposition between the new and old generation, which is so important for cultural progress.27
The events and experiences which may “awaken” the repressed material — even without a specific strengthening of the instincts attached to it — are, at the societal level, encountered in the institutions and ideologies which the individual faces daily and which reproduce, in their very structure, both domination and the impulse to overthrow it (family, school, workshop and office, the state, the law, the prevailing philosophy and morality). The decisive difference between the primal situation and its civilized historical return is, of course, that in the latter the ruler-father is normally no longer killed and eaten, and that domination is normally no longer personal. The ego, the superego, and the external reality have done their work — but “it is not really a decisive matter whether one has killed one’s father or abstained from the deed,” if the function of the conflict and its consequences are the same.
In the Oedipus situation, the primal situation recurs under circumstances which from the beginning assure the lasting triumph of the father. But they also assure the life of the son and his future ability to take the father’s place. How did civilization achieve this compromise? The multitude of somatic, mental, and social processes which resulted in this achievement are practically identical with the contents of Freud’s psychology. Force, identification, repression, sublimation co-operate in the formation of the ego and superego. The function of the father is gradually transferred from his individual person to his social position, to his image in the son (conscience), to God, to the various agencies and agents which teach the son to become a mature and restrained member of his society. Ceteris paribus, the intensity of restraint and renunciation involved in this process is probably not smaller than it was in the primal horde. However, they are more rationally distributed between father and son and among society as a whole; and the rewards, though not greater, are relatively secure. The monogamic family, with its enforceable obligations for the father, restricts his monopoly of pleasure; the institution of inheritable private property, and the universalization of labor, give the son a justified expectancy of his own sanctioned pleasure in accordance with his socially useful performances. Within this framework of objective laws and institutions, the processes of puberty lead to the liberation from the father as a necessary and legitimate event. It is nothing short of a mental catastrophe — but it is nothing more. Then the son leaves the patriarchal family and sets out to become a father and boss himself.
The transformation of the pleasure principle into the performance principle, which changes the despotic monopoly of the father into restrained educational and economic authority, also changes the original object of the struggle: the mother. In the primal horde, the image of the desired woman, the mistress-wife of the father, was Eros and Thanatos in immediate, natural union. She was the aim of the sex instincts, and she was the mother in whom the son once had that integral peace which is the absence of all need and desire — the Nirvana before birth. Perhaps the taboo on incest was the first great protection against the death instinct: the taboo on Nirvana, on the regressive impulse for peace which stood in the way of progress, of Life itself. Mother and wife were separated, and the fatal identity of Eros and Thanatos was thus dissolved. With regard to the mother, sensual love becomes aim-inhibited and transformed into affection (tenderness). Sexuality and affection are divorced; only later they are to meet again in the love to the wife which is sensual as well as tender, aim-inhibited as well as aim-attaining.28 Tenderness is created out of abstinence — abstinence first enforced by the primal father. Once created, it becomes the psychical basis not only for the family but also for the establishment of lasting group relations:
the primal father had prevented his sons from satisfying their directly sexual tendencies; he forced them into abstinence and consequently into the emotional ties with him and with one another which could arise out of those of their tendencies that were inhibited in their sexual aim. He forced them, so to speak, into group psychology.29
At this level of civilization, within the system of rewarded inhibitions, the father can be overcome without exploding the instinctual and social order: his image and his function now perpetuate themselves in every child — even if it does not know him. He merges with duly constituted authority. Domination has outgrown the sphere of personal relationships and created the institutions for the orderly satisfaction of human needs on an expanding scale. But it is precisely the development of these institutions which undermines the established basis of civilization. Its inner limits appear in the late industrial age.
1 Freud, Moses and Monotheism (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1949), p. 157.
2 Alexander, The Psychoanalysis of the Total Personality (New York: Nervous and Mental Disease Monograph No. 52, 1929), p. 7.
3 Freud, Moses and Monotheism, p. 158.
4 “Analysis Terminable and Interminable,” in Collected Papers (London: Hogarth Press, 1950), V, 343.
5 Ibid., pp. 343–344. Italics added.
6 In his paper on the “Mutual Influences in the Development of Ego and Id,” Heinz Hartmann stresses the phylogenetic aspect: the “differentiation of ego and id, developed by whatever process of evolution through hundreds of thousands of years, is in the form of a disposition, in part an innate character of man.” However, he assumes a “primary autonomy in ego development.” Hartmann’s paper is in The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, Vol. VII (New York: International Universities Press, 1952).
7 Moses and Monotheism, p. 128.
8 Ibid., p. 135.
9 Ibid., p. 128.
10 Ibid., p. 129.
11 Ibid., pp. 129–130.
12 Ibid., pp. 131–132.
14 Ibid., pp. 135–136.
15 Otto Rank, The Trauma of Birth (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1929), p. 93.
16 Ibid., p. 92.
17 Ibid., p. 94.
18 Civilization and Its Discontents (London: Hogarth Press, 1949), pp. 128, 121.
19 “Psychoanalysis and the Ascertaining of Truth in Courts of Law,” in Collected Papers, II, 23.
20 Moses and Monotheism, pp. 144f
21 See Erich Fromm, Die Entwicklung des Christusdogmas (Vienna: Internationaler Psychoanalytischer Verlag, 1931).
22 Moses and Monotheism, p. 145.
23 See Max Horkheimer, “Der neueste Angriff auf die Metaphysik,” in Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung, VI (1937), 4ff.
24 “Repression,” in Collected Papers, IV, 93.
25 Moses and Monotheism, p. 148.
26 Ibid., p. 150.
27 Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex, in The Basic Writings of Sigmund Freud (New York: Modern Library, 1938), pp. 617–618. See also Anna Freud,The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense (London: Hogarth Press, 1937), Chaps. 11, 12.
28 Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex, pp. 599, 615; Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego (New York: Liveright Publishing Corp., 1949), pp. 117–118; Civilization and Its Discontents, p. 71.
29 Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, p. 94.
some questions off the top of my head:
it’s easy to say “no gods, no masters” but if god and ideology are connected, how do we worship? are we ideological about being right? about not believing in anything?
how has marcuse been shown to be wrong/right in the our time?
what do people know about/think about freud?
what do you think about the “women’s sexuality is seen as dangerous” explanation for (strict) sexual morality?