Freudo-Marxism is a loose designation of several forms of critical theory that attempt to synthesize the philosophy and critique of political economy of Karl Marx with the psychoanalytic theory of Sigmund Freud.
The beginnings of Freudo-Marxist theorizing took place in the 1920s in Germany and the Soviet Union. The Soviet philosopher V. Yurinets and the Freudian analyst Siegfried Bernfeld both discussed the topic. The Soviet linguist Valentin Voloshinov, a member of the Bakhtin circle, began a Marxist critique of psychoanalysis in his 1925 article "Beyond the Social", which he developed more substantially in his book Freudianism: A Marxist Critique (1927). In 1929 Dialectical Materialism and Psychoanalysis by Wilhelm Reich was published, both in German and in Russian in the bilingual communist theory journal Unter dem Banner des Marxismus. As the end of this line of thought can be considered Otto Fenichel's article Psychoanalysis as the nucleus of a future dialectical-materialistic psychology which appeared in 1934 in Wilhelm Reich's Journal Zeitschrift für Politische Psychologie und Sexualökonomie. One member of the Berlin group of Marxist psychoanalysts around Wilhelm Reich was Erich Fromm, who later brought Freudo-Marxist ideas into the exiled Frankfurt School led by Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno.
Wilhelm Reich was an Austrian psychoanalyst, a member of the second generation of psychoanalysts after Sigmund Freud, and one of the most radical figures in the history of psychiatry. He was the author of several influential books and essays, most notably Character Analysis (1933), The Mass Psychology of Fascism (1933), and The Sexual Revolution (1936). His work on character contributed to the development of Anna Freud's The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defence (1936), and his idea of muscular armour—the expression of the personality in the way the body moves—shaped innovations such as body psychotherapy, Fritz Perls's Gestalt therapy, Alexander Lowen's bioenergetic analysis, and Arthur Janov's primal therapy. His writing influenced generations of intellectuals: during the 1968 student uprisings in Paris and Berlin, students scrawled his name on walls and threw copies of The Mass Psychology of Fascism at the police. On 23 August, six tons of his books, journals, and papers were burned in the 25th Street public incinerator in New York, the Gansevoort incinerator. The burned material included copies of several of his books, including The Sexual Revolution, Character Analysis and The Mass Psychology of Fascism. Though these had been published in German before Reich ever discussed orgone, he had added mention of it to the English editions, so they were caught by the injunction. As with the accumulators, the FDA was supposed only to observe the destruction. It has been cited as one of the worst examples of censorship in the United States.
The Frankfurt School
The Frankfurt School (the "Institut für Sozialforschung") took up the task of choosing what parts of Marx's thought might serve to clarify social conditions which Marx himself had never seen. They drew on other schools of thought to fill in Marx's perceived omissions. Max Weber exerted a major influence, as did Sigmund Freud. In the institute's extensive Studien über Authorität und Familie (ed. Max Horkheimer, Paris 1936) Erich Fromm was the author of the social-psychological part. Another new member of the institute was Herbert Marcuse, who became famous only during the 1950s in the USA.
Marcuse's Eros and Civilization (1955)
Eros and Civilization is one of Marcuse's best known early works. Written in 1955, it is an attempted dialectical synthesis of Marx and Freud whose title alludes to Freud's Civilization and its Discontents. Marcuse's vision of a non-repressive society (which runs rather counter to Freud's conception of society as naturally and necessarily repressive), based on Marx and Freud, anticipated the values of 1960s countercultural social movements.
In the book, Marcuse writes about the social meaning of biology – history seen not as a class struggle, but fight against repression of our instincts. He argues that capitalism (if never named as such) is preventing us from reaching the non-repressive society "based on a fundamentally different experience of being, a fundamentally different relation between man and nature, and fundamentally different existential relations".
Fromm and The Sane Society
The culmination of Fromm's social and political philosophy was his book The Sane Society, published in 1955, which argued in favor of humanist, democratic socialism. Building primarily upon the works of Karl Marx, Fromm sought to re-emphasise the ideal of personal freedom, missing from most Soviet Marxism, and more frequently found in the writings of classic liberals. Fromm's brand of socialism rejected both Western capitalism and Soviet communism, which he saw as dehumanizing and bureaucratic social structures that resulted in a virtually universal modern phenomenon of alienation.
Lacan and Marxism
Jacques Lacan was a philosophically sophisticated French psychoanalyst, whose perspective came to predominate in French psychiatry and psychology. Lacan saw himself as loyal to and rescuing Freud's legacy. Lacan's influence has created a new cross-fertilisation of Freudian and Marxist ideas.
Louis Althusser is widely known as a theorist of ideology, and his best-known essay is Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses: Notes Toward an Investigation. The essay establishes the concept of ideology, also based on Gramsci's theory of hegemony. Whereas hegemony is ultimately determined entirely by political forces, ideology draws on Freud's and Lacan's concepts of the unconscious and mirror-phase respectively, and describes the structures and systems that allow us to meaningfully have a concept of the self. These structures, for Althusser, are both agents of repression and inevitable - it is impossible to escape ideology, to not be subjected to it. The distinction between ideology and science or philosophy is not assured once for all by the epistemological break (a term borrowed from Gaston Bachelard): this "break" is not a chronologically-determined event, but a process. Instead of an assured victory, there is a continuous struggle against ideology: "Ideology has no history".
His essay Contradiction and Overdetermination borrows the concept of overdetermination from psychoanalysis, in order to replace the idea of "contradiction" with a more complex model of multiple causality in political situations (an idea closely related to Gramsci's concept of hegemony).
The Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek has developed since the late 1980s a line of thought which uses Lacanian psychoanalysis, Hegelian philosophy and Marxism. Althusser is also among his references. His The Sublime Object of Ideology deals with the original Freudo-Marxist perspective.
Commodity and sexual fetishism
Marx's theory of commodity fetishism has proven fertile material for work by other theorists since Marx, who have added to, adapted, or, as Marxist orthodoxy might see it, 'vulgarized' the original concept. Freud's well-known but unrelated theory of sexual fetishism led to new interpretations of commodity fetishism, as types of sexually charged relationships between a person and a manufactured object.
- Titunik, I. R. (1976) Translator's Introduction, in Freudianism: A Marxist Critique by V. N. Voloshinov, London: Verso, p. xxiv-xxviii.
- "Wilhelm Reich is again the main pioneer in this field (an excellent, short introduction to his ideas can be found in Maurice Brinton's The Irrational in Politics). In Children of the Future, Reich made numerous suggestions, based on his research and clinical experience, for parents, psychologists, and educators striving to develop libertarian methods of child rearing. (He did not use the term "libertarian," but that is what his methods are.) Hence, in this and the following sections we will summarise Reich's main ideas as well as those of other libertarian psychologists and educators who have been influenced by him, such as A.S. Neill and Alexander Lowen." "J.6 What methods of child rearing do anarchists advocate?" in An Anarchist FAQ by Various Authors.
- "In an earlier article (“Some Thoughts on Libertarianism,” Broadsheet No. 35), I argued that to define a position as “anti-authoritarian” is not, in fact, to define the position at all “but merely to indicate a relationship of opposition to another position, the authoritarian one...On the psychoanalytic side, Wilhelm Reich (The Sexual Revolution, Peter Neville-Vision Press, London, 1951| Character Analysis, Orgone Institute Press, N.Y., 1945; and The Function of the Orgasm, Orgone Institute Press, N.Y., 1942) was preferred to Freud because, despite his own weaknesses – his Utopian tendencies and his eventual drift into “orgones” and “bions” – Reich laid more emphasis on the social conditions of mental events than did Freud (see, e.g., A.J. Baker, “Reich’s Criticism of Freud,” Libertarian No. 3, January 1960)." "A Reading List for Libertarians" by David Iverson. Broadsheet No. 39
- "I will also discuss other left-libertarians who wrote about Reich, as they bear on the general discussion of Reich's ideas...In 1944, Paul Goodman, author of Growing Up Absurd, The Empire City, and co-author of Gestalt Therapy, began to discover the work of Wilhelm Reich for his American audience in the tiny libertarian socialist and anarchist milieu." Orgone Addicts: Wilhelm Reich Versus The Situationists. "Orgone Addicts Wilhelm Reich versus the Situationists" by Jim Martin
- "In the summer of 1950-51, numerous member of the A.C.C. and other interested people held a series of meetings in the Ironworkers' Hall with a view to forming a downtown political society. Here a division developed between a more radical wing (including e.g. Waters and Grahame Harrison) and a more conservative wing (including e.g. Stove and Eric Dowling). The general orientation of these meetings may be judged from the fact that when Harry Hooton proposed "Anarchist" and some of the conservative proposed "Democratic" as the name for the new Society, both were rejected and "Libertarian Society" was adopted as an acceptable title. Likewise then accepted as the motto for this Society - and continued by the later Libertarian society - was the early Marx quotation used by Wilhelm Reich as the motto for his The Sexual Revolution, vis: "Since it is not for us to create a plan for the future that will hold for all time, all the more surely what we contemporaries have to do is the uncompromising critical evaluation of all that exists, uncompromising in the sense that our criticism fears neither its own results nor the conflict with the powers that be." "SYDNEY LIBERTARIANISM & THE PUSH" by A.J. Baker, in Broadsheet, No 81, March, 1975. (abridged)
- That he was one of the most radical figures in psychiatry, see Sheppard 1973.
- Danto 2007, p. 43: "Wilhelm Reich, the second generation psychoanalyst perhaps most often associated with political radicalism ..."
- Turner 2011, p. 114: "[Reich's mobile clinic was] perhaps the most radical, politically engaged psychoanalytic enterprise to date."
- For the publication and significance of The Mass Psychology of Fascism and Character Analysis, see Sharaf 1994, pp. 163–164, 168.
- For Character Analysis being an important contribution to psychoanalytic theory, see:
- Young-Bruehl 2008, p. 157: "Reich, a year and a half younger than Anna Freud, was the youngest instructor at the Training Institute, where his classes on psychoanalytic technique, later presented in a book called Character Analysis, were crucial to his whole group of contemporaries."
- Sterba 1982, p. 35: "This book [Character Analysis] serves even today as an excellent introduction to psychoanalytic technique. In my opinion, Reich's understanding of and technical approach to resistance prepared the way for Anna Freud's Ego and the Mechanisms of Defence (1936)."
- Guntrip 1961, p. 105: "... the two important books of the middle 1930s, Character Analysis (1935) by Wilhelm Reich and The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defence (1936) by Anna Freud."
- For Anna Freud, see Bugental, Schneider and Pierson 2001, p. 14: "Anna Freud's work on the ego and the mechanisms of defense developed from Reich's early research (A. Freud, 1936/1948)."
- Sharaf 1994, pp. 419, pp. 460–461.
- Wilhelm Reich, Dialectical Materialism and Psychoanalysis, in Lee Baxandall ed., Sex-Pol; Essays, 1929-1934 (New York, 1972).
- Otto Fenichel, Psychoanalysis as the nucleus of a future dialectical-materialistic psychology. In: American Imago, 1967 Winter; 24(4): 290-311
- Palmier, J.M. (1969) Wilhelm Reich: Essai sur la Naissance du Freudo-Marxisme, Paris.