There are a lot of academic intellectuals through the early and late 20th century that seem to wed Marxist concepts to Freudian/Lacanian ones.
It’s something that makes me suspect of some intellectuals who criticize even the idea of going beyond capitalism with ideas around the structural relation of desire and lacking and frame Marxist analysis as this desire for the better tomorrow which I wonder entirely side step things which would drive one to change things.
And all I think back to is Vygotsky’s warning if an eclecticism that seeks to merge two schools of thought where there is excitement of wedding similar ideas. While I’m aware Lacan advances Freud beyond his biological basis, I think the caution/concern remains.
Below is basically a description of problems born from an unconscious eclecticism rather than systematic consideration of concepts within a relation of concepts/system/theory.
Whereas the first method of transposition of foreign ideas from one school into another resembles the annexation of foreign territory, the second method of comparing foreign ideas is similar to a treaty between two allied countries in which both retain their independence, but agree to act together proceeding from their common interests. This method is usually applied in the merger of Marxism and Freudian theory. In so doing the author uses a method that by analogy with geometry might be called the method of the logical superposition of concepts. The system of Marxism is defined as being monistic, materialistic, dialectic etc. Then the monism, materialism etc. of Freud’s system is established; the superimposed concepts coincide and the systems are declared to have fused. Very flagrant, sharp contradictions which strike the eye are removed in a very elementary way: they are simply excluded from the system, are declared to be exaggerations, etc. Thus, Freudian theory is de-sexualized as pansexualism obviously does not square with Marx’s philosophy. No problem, we are told – we will accept Freudian theory without the doctrine of sexuality. But this doctrine forms the very nerve, soul, center of the whole system. Can we accept a. system without its center? After all, Freudian theory without the doctrine of the sexual nature of the unconscious is like Christianity without Christ or Buddhism with Allah.
It would be a historical miracle, of course, if a full-grown system of Marxist psychology were to originate and develop in the West, from completely different roots and in a totally different cultural situation. That would imply that philosophy does not at all determine the development of science. As we can see, they started from Schopenhauer and created a Marxist psychology! But this would imply the total fruitlessness of the attempt itself to merge Freudian theory with Marxism, just as the success of Bekhterev’s coincidence would imply the bankruptcy of the objective method: after all, if the data of subjective analysis fully coincide with the data of objective analysis, one may ask in what sense subjective analysis is inferior. If Freud, without knowing it himself, thinking about other philosophical systems and consciously siding with them, nevertheless created a Marxist doctrine of the mind, then in the name of what, may one ask, is it necessary to disturb this most fruitful delusion: after all, according to these authors, we need not change anything in Freud. Why, then, merge psychoanalysis with Marxism? In addition, the following interesting question arises: how is it possible that this system which entirely coincides with Marxism logically led to making the idea of sexuality, which is obviously irreconcilable with Marxism, into its cornerstone? Is not the method to a large extent responsible for the conclusions arrived at with its help? And bow could a true method which creates a true system, based on true premises, lead its authors to a false theory, to a false central idea? One has to dispose of a good deal of methodological carelessness not to see these problems which inevitably arise in each mechanical attempt to move the center of any scientific system – in the given case, from Schopenhauer’s doctrine of the will as the basis of the world to Marx’s doctrine about the dialectical development of matter.
But the worst is still to come. In such attempts one often simply must close one’s eyes to the contradictory facts, pay no attention to vast areas and main principles, and introduce monstrous distortions in both of the systems to be merged. In so doing, one uses transformations like those with which algebra operates, in order to prove the identity of two expressions. But the transformation of the systems to be merged operates with unities that are absolutely different from the algebraic ones. In practice, it always leads to the distortion of the essence of these systems.
But, maybe, this formal-logical characterization of the two systems is correct? We have already seen how one distills Marxism’s share in the general methodology of the epoch, in which everything is roughly and naively reduced to a common denominator: if both Einstein and Pavlov and Marx belong to science, then they must have a common foundation. But Freudian theory suffers even more distortions in this process. I will not even mention how Zalkind (1924) mechanically deprives it of its central idea. In his article it is passed over in silence, which is also note worthy. But take the monism of psychoanalysis – Freud would contest it. The article mentions that he turned to philosophical monism, but where, in which words, in connection with what? Is finding empirical unity in some group of facts really always monism? On the contrary, Freud always accepted the mental, the unconscious as a special force which cannot be reduced to something else. Further, why is this monism materialistic in the philosophical sense? After all, medical materialism which acknowledges the influence of different organs etc. upon mental structures is still very far from philosophical materialism. In the philosophy of Marxism this concept has a specific, primarily epistemological sense and it is precisely in his epistemology that Freud stands on idealist philosophical grounds. For it is a fact, which is not refuted and not even considered by the authors of the “coincidences,” that Freud’s doctrine of the primary role of blind drives, of the unconscious as being reflected in consciousness in a distorted fashion, goes back directly to Schopenhauer’s idealistic metaphysics of the will and the idea. Freud [1920/1973, pp. 49-50] himself remarks that in his extreme conclusions he is in the harbor of Schopenhauer. But his basic assumptions as well as the main lines of his system are connected with the philosophy of the great pessimist, as even the simplest analysis can demonstrate.
In its more “concrete” works as well, psychoanalysis displays not dynamic, but highly static, conservative, anti-dialectic and anti-historical tendencies. It directly reduces the higher mental processes – both personal and collective ones – to primitive, primordial, essentially prehistorical, prehuman roots, leaving no room for history. The same key unlocks the creativity of a Dostoyevsky and the totem and taboo of primordial tribes; the Christian church, communism, the primitive horde – in psychoanalysis everything is reduced to the same source. That such tendencies are present in psychoanalysis is apparent from all the works of this school which deal with problems of culture, sociology and history. We can see that here it does not continue, but contradicts, the methodology of Marxism. But about this one keeps silent as well.
Finally, the third point. Freud’s whole psychological system of fundamental concepts goes back to Lipps : the concepts of the unconscious, of the mental energy connected with certain ideas, of drives as the basis of the mind, of the struggle between drives and repression, of the affective nature of consciousness, etc. In other words, Freud’s psychological roots lead back to the spiritualistic strata of Lipps’ psychology. How is it possible to disregard this when speaking about Freud’s methodology?
-For Ethical Politics